Friday, June 26, 2009

Some Questions

How do we know that the Torah was the same for everyone before the invention of the printing press? Maybe there's some archaeology out there that I'm not aware of ...

How do we know that the rules in the Torah aren't man made chumrahs like present day kasharut shabbat etc?

Where in the Torah does it say that followers are rewarded for practicing chumrahs? Or in another way, how do we know that followers are rewarded for practicing chumrahs, from the Tanach?

Why is it that followers are not allowed to test God? Doesn't that sound a little too convenient for the clergy to say?



10 comments:

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

> How do we know that the Torah was the same for everyone before the invention of the printing press?

Spend some time in Beit Hatfuzot, the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv, and the Israel Museum in Yerushalayim where all the old handwritten manuscripts are kept.

> Maybe there's some archaeology out there that I'm not aware of ...

Oh I think we can take that as a given!

> How do we know that the rules in the Torah aren't man made chumrahs like present day kasharut shabbat etc?

Take kashrus for example. Go and look in the books Sefer HaShitos or the Aruch HaShulchan which brings the development of the halacha from the original chumash through the gemara, the rishonim and the acharonim, showing how the rules we follow today are derived.

> Where in the Torah does it say that followers are rewarded for practicing chumrahs?

Nowhere. But it does say that a person should strive to sanctify himself and make himself holy. If being stringent with oneself makes one a better person, then it's a good thing.

> Or in another way, how do we know that followers are rewarded for practicing chumrahs, from the Tanach?

There are no chumros in the Tanach, just the basic rules.

> Why is it that followers are not allowed to test God?

Because God said so. Free will is based on a lack of immediate reward and punishment, otherwise people would simply do things either out of fear of suffering or hope of reward, instead of from the heart.

> Doesn't that sound a little too convenient for the clergy to say?

Clergy doesn't say it. The Torah does, in last weeks parsha.

SJ said...

1) I'm aware of the Dead Sea Scrolls, I don't think it proves that the Torah was the same for everyone, let alone, for every time.

And for the manuscripts at these museums, we talking the whole tanach or just parts?

2) Development = change & adding on to the rules. I think the Torah already said you aren't allowed to add on.

3) Saying you aren't allowed to test God to me still seems very convenient.

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

1) I'm aware of the Dead Sea Scrolls,

They aren't the sum total of the old manuscripts. There are also very old handwritten gemaras and non-Dead Sea pieces of text. No, there is no complete Torah. However, if you look at the various Torah quotes (I am specifically saying Torah because there are tremendous variations in the rest of the Bible) found in the Gemara, it's clear they were working from a text extremely similar to what we have today.

2) Development = change & adding on to the rules. I think the Torah already said you aren't allowed to add on.

You are allowed to add safeguards as long as you leave the original mitzvah alone. Four species in the lulav, that's it, for example.

3) Saying you aren't allowed to test God to me still seems very convenient.

No, it's philosophically very necessary.

Ahavah Gayle said...

The short answer is that it wasn't the same for everyone. Many late prophetic era and Hellenistic books that used to be considered canon in most Jewish communities were not accepted as "canon" by the pharisee-led yavneh reinvention of Judaism after the Roman invasion.

Judah ha-Nazi cut a deal with the Romans - and as a reward got to rewrite Judaism to suit himself and exclude writings from all sects he didn't agree with (that is, non-pharisee supporting sects). Rather like the Jews who collaborated with the Nazi to save their own skins and willingly sent their neighbors to the camps, Judah ha-Nazi was a shrews power-mongering Rabbi and saw an opportunity to crush his "opposition." And, as you know, history is written by the "victors," - it doesn't make what they're writing correct, however.

Not all the Torah was written by Moshe, either. Parts of the Joseph story are clearly written in 1st person from Joseph's point of view - Moshe put together accounts of the patriarchs from sources no longer available to us.

Linguistic analysis shows the oldest book in the Tanakh is actually Iyov - it has more archaisms and words not found elsewhere in Hebrew literature than any other book. It clearly pre-dates the writing of the laws received on Sinai/Choreb.

The text itself also mentions sources that are no longer available, such as the "book of the wars of adonai" and the "book of jubilees" (though there is a hellenistic text of that name floating around).

The dead sea scrolls have some minor differences from the present day text. There's a book called the "Dead Sea scrolls Bible" you can buy which shows all the differences in italics and gives explanatory notes. There are discrepancies between the texts even amoung the dead sea scrolls themselves, by the way, noted in this book.

Continued...

Ahavah Gayle said...

Part II

Also, the Masorites purposefully changed the text in many places, altering the original text from "YHWH" to "Adonai" in literally hundreds of verses to alter the meaning of the text so it would never appear as if God was talking to himself by name, which he clearly is in these numerous passages.

My position is that the books we have today are the books we are supposed to have today - what they had was what they were supposed to have.

And actually, in the book of the prophet micah God DOES challenge us to put Him to the test - on the issue of tithing.

Note: Now, real tithing is supposed to go to the Temple and the Levites and to the poor and could be used to observe moedim, NOT to any Rabbis who are not real Levites (which excludes most of them). [That's what the TEXT says, of course - I'm sure the Rabbis have graciously allotted themselves the tithes in the Talmud because, after all, they have given themselves the authority to do that.]

But to get back on topic, the written text is the terms of our covenant with God and there are NO other terms. How we interpret those terms is our personal responsibility, as each individual is judged by his or her actions, as the Tanakh says in numerous places. I don't think "because Rabbi so-and-so told me to do it that way and I didn't realize it was wrong" is going to cut it. We are made in the image of God which means we ALL have the ability to read and reason and interpret and our responsible for our own choices.

Certainly the Bronze Age people who received the Torah had no other view. Any other view we impose on it is a product of our own time and culture and should be viewed with skepticism. There never was any such monolithic things as JUDAISM, there was only each tribe's traditions and precedents and interpretations which were all considered equally valid as long as they didn't contradict the actual written text. These migrated away to various north african, near eastern and european communities - again, with no race to "out-frum" others until the relatively modern day. This imperialistic stream of Judaism comes from Western Culture and is foreign to the Near Eastern Hebrew thought of our original ancestors.

Those are historical facts you can find in any academic history book - but don't expect the Rabbis to admit them.

jewish philosopher said...

My blog has all the answers.

The only thing we don't know: How could God have taken Michael Jackson away from us, just before his comeback?

Ahavah Gayle said...

One other thing - the Torah we have to day is the Torah that God wants us to have today, as I said above. The same concept applies to halacha - what we have today is what we are supposed to have, meaning the ENTIRE EXTENT of halacha we have today, from the most lenient forward, is available to us because God wants it to be available to us, as part of our decision making process.

What I object most strenuously to is the UO or Chereidi Ravs who force the stringencies-du-jour down everyone's throat and claim it has "always" been the correct way to do things. That is simply a factually incorrect position, to put it politely (a lie, to be a bit more blunt).

I believe their motivations are political, social and monetary and have NOTHING to do with truly wanting people to live in harmony with God. God's harmony is far more diverse and inclusive than they want. They have remade God in their own image as a nitpicking OCD control freak - but that's THEIR view and it arises from the shtetl mentality and not from any historically valid philosophy of Judaism.

There are two ways to look at any set of laws, civil, religious or otherwise. One, what is not expressly forbidden is permitted. Two, what is not expressly permitted is forbidden. These two philosophies fight one another for domination. Historically, the former has been the rule of Jewish communities. But the UO/Chereidi adopt the latter to the detriment of the Jewish people overall and converts in particular.

Their goal is to make everyone Chereidi "or else," but God never commanded any such thing. Halacha is broad because it was intended to be adaptable to every situation. The Chereidi try and insulate themselves into incestuous (philosophically speaking) little enclaves and try and prevent any new situations from ever happening. It can't and doesn't work.

Those who are disgusted with the power-mongering and social terrorism of the Rabbis can't separate in their minds that the Rabbis and God are two separate things and end up walking away from God when walking away from the Chereidi would have been sufficient. I suspect you are one of these.

You don't need them to have a relationship with God. And there is, as I have posted before, sufficient logical evidence that evolution ALONE cannot explain the world we see and especially cannot explain the world we do not directly see. Just think about it.

SJ said...

>> No, there is no complete Torah.

I see. Without 2 complete Torahs found in different places, from way back, to corroborate, I don't think there's real proof.

>> You don't need them to have a relationship with God.

Let's replace the word God with the words what-could-be. Does it make sense to say, you don't need hem to have a relationship with what-could-be?

>> You are allowed to add safeguards as long as you leave the original mitzvah alone. Four species in the lulav, that's it, for example.


This appears more to be an interpreted power on the part of the rabbis than an actual given power.


>> No, it's philosophically very necessary.

I can see how, but perhaps for different reasons than you Garnel XD


>> And there is, as I have posted before, sufficient logical evidence that evolution ALONE cannot explain the world we see

I don't think there's any rule that the creation of the universe has to be a supernatural thing.

Ari said...

Hey, SJ,

I like where you're going with the post although I'm not sure I get eveyrthing you're saying.

I don't want to respond conclusively b/c I don't think I know enough about the realities of some of the points you raise. As well as some of the points you make. And same for Ahava's comments (especially combined with the fact that my attention span only allows for reading about 1/3 of her comments per sitting).

All that being said . . .

>>How do we know that the Torah was the same for everyone before the invention of the printing press? Maybe there's some archaeology out there that I'm not aware of ...

I was under the impression that there are Torah scrolls around from before the time of the printing press.
Meaning I'm not sure exactly how old it would need to be to satisfy you that the Torah was actually one document.
In fact, one of the personal issues I have accepting the DH is that it claims to be a redaction of several texts yet no copies of those separate texts exist separately.

As to your other questions regarding Rabbinical authority & chumrahs . . . I'm not exactly sure what point you are contending with.

And for AhavaGayle:

"meaning the ENTIRE EXTENT of halacha we have today, from the most lenient forward, is available to us because God wants it to be available to us"

Just to clarify your opinion. You believe all representations of Judaism (Humanistic to Conservative to Charedi) are available b/c God wants it to be . . . or is that limited to "the entire extent of HALACHA"?

Ahavah Gayle said...

"Just to clarify your opinion. You believe all representations of Judaism (Humanistic to Conservative to Charedi) are available b/c God wants it to be . . . or is that limited to "the entire extent of HALACHA"?"

Do you mean I accept all the current "Branches" of Judaism as within halacha? The answer to that would be no. Reform, for example, is a glorified social club for people whose forebears used to practice Judaism. In this case, you have to separate Jewish as a race from Judaism as a religion. Judaism as a religion has minimum standards that Reform and other groups don't even try to uphold. Those who can argue their position from halacha, on the other hand, are practicing Judaism even though the Chereidi would not agree with them. I hope that answers your question, but I don't want you to misconstrue what I just said.

A Jew has a right to religious freedom just like any other human being. A Jew has a right to freedom of religious conscience and can practice whatever branch of Judaism they wish, or no branch at all. On the issue of Conversion, a person should be able to convert to any sect of Judaism they wish, and that includes a right of Aliyah even for Reform Jews, born or converted. That is what a Democratic State of Israel MUST be, a haven for ALL Jews regardless of sect. If it can't be that, then it deserves to collapse. If the Chereidi don't like it, then they certainly don't have to accept people from other sects into theirs, without their uber-stringent conversion process. But that should not in any way interfere with any Jew's basic human rights to be married, get divorced if need be, and practice their sect (or no sect at all) according to their own conscience. Hope that clears things up for you.