Rav Lichtenstein on Academic Trends

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In the recently published Orthodox Forum book (I was at this one), The Relationship of Orthodox Jews with Jews of Other Religious Ideologies and Non-Believing Jews, R. Aharon Lichtenstein comments on two academic trends. Regarding the recent surge of limitation or denial of Jewish dogma, R. Lichtenstein writes (p. 189):

In actual fact, however, this position [that there is no Jewish dogma] constitutes a skewed misrepresentation both of what had been and of what could have been. It is, of course, true that dogma occupies a less prominent station in yahadut than in Christianity—particularly, if the basis of comparison is Lutheran “justification by faith.” It is, further, equally true that we encounter in Hazal little of systematic theology, whose efflorescence gained momentum only after Rav Saadyah Gaon and the Rambam. But there is also little of systematic morality in Hazal, and Spinoza’s Ethics was as alien to their spirit as Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses. Would anyone therefore deign to assert that the ethical dimension did not constitute an authentic and integral facet of yahadut?

And then in an endnote (p. 220 n. 4):

Mendelssohn’s position [questioning the notion of Jewish dogma] was in all likelihood oriented to his specific Jewish background and agenda. Beyond this, however, it probably reflects the pallid character of the Enlightenment. Recently, this position has been energetically pressed by Marc Shapiro, but it can hardly be defined as a variant of avowed Orthodoxy.

Regarding the idea that Orthodoxy in the Modern Era has redefined itself, he writes (p. 219 n. 2):

This chapter in German Jewish history [the debate over Austritt] has been widely studied and is the subject of a considerable literature. For our purposes, a recent book which combines detailed attention to this topic with analysis of its broader context—Adam S. Ferziger, Exclusion and Hierarchy: Orthodoxy, Nonobservance, and the Emergence of Modern Jewish Identity (Philadelphia, 2005)—is most helpful. One need not adopt the book’s theses—foremost among which is the assertion that in the modern era, the Orthodox community did not content itself with classifying outsiders but, in effect, built a new identity and molded fresh categories—in order to benefit from this study.

I don’t know that you can infer disagreement with this prevalent theory that I believe was advocated by Prof. Jacob Katz, but R. Lichtenstein certainly seems hesitant about it.

These are, of course, tangents in a fascinating and important book that deserves extensive treatment, hopefully at a later date.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

280 comments

  1. Rav Lichtenstein’s hesitancy with Prof. Ferziger’s theory is similar to the perspective offered within the writings of Prof. Judith Bleich, whom Rav Lichtenstein cites at the start of his article (and whose research forms the cornerstone of Prof. Ferziger’s volume), which offers an alternative perspective to the theory of Prof. Katz z”l that the halakhic situations that began during the modern era required entirely new categories, a point to which even a casual reader of the writings of Rav Lichtenstein and of Rav J. David Bleich (husband of Prof. Judith Bleich) would clearly see how they would offer a disagreement, and in Prof. Judith Bleich’s case, an alternative perspective on the rabbinic responses to modernity.

  2. As for Rav Lichtenstein’s critique of Prof. Marc Shapiro, in what sociological category is “avowed Orthodoxy”?

  3. Does Mark Shapiro really believe that Judasim has not dogmas, or just that defining those dogmas has been more complex and greater source of contention that many in the contemporary community believe?

  4. i always thought that shapiro’s book was a continuation of his argument with r’ parness view that the 13 ikarim are now indisputable and if you don’t agree you are a kofer and not orthodox. shapiro showed many disagree with the rambam and that there different views in chazal and after the rambam. not that you do not have to beilieve in anything (that was menachem kellner’s book)

  5. Moshe: I guess that you’ll have to read his book to find out…

  6. >Does Mark Shapiro really believe that Judasim has not dogmas, or just that defining those dogmas has been more complex and greater source of contention that many in the contemporary community believe?

    He always says its the latter, but it’s certainly interesting how often people simply do not believe him, or if they haven’t followed his clarifications of the question (likely R. Lichtenstein did not) then that is what they get from reading the book.

  7. Lawrence Kaplan

    I am troubled by what appears to me to be Rav Lichtenstein’s
    oversimplification and dismissal of both Mendelssohn’s and Marc Shapiro’s positions.

  8. It’s not about Mendelssohn. It almost never was. In Jay Harris’s PAAJR article on the image of Maimonides in the 19th century he refers, correctly, to Shadal’s attacks on the Rambam as really using Maimonides as a “signifier of tendencies.”

    Mendelssohn is a powerful symbol (just as he was for the 19th century maskilim and Reformers). In fact, the later enfant terrible attacks on Mendelssohn by Smolenskin and other maskilim themselves was also for the same reason he was adulated; he was used as a symbol.

    If Mendelssohn didn’t exist they’d have to invent him.

  9. Josh: related to your post from 2006, see where Marc B. Shapiro, “Rabbis and Communism,” the Seforim blog (31 March 2008), available here (http://seforim.blogspot.com/2008/03/rabbis-and-communism-by-marc-b.html) wrote:

    I am certain that R. Lichtenstein knows that there are indeed voices in the ‘tradition’ that approximate the common Greek view of women. R. Lichtenstein is in general opposed to positing outside influences on Hazal’s outlook. See, for example, the following (“Of Marriage, Relationship and Relations,” in Rikvah Blau, ed., Gender Relationships In Marriage and Out [New York, 2007], 23): “To be sure, post-Hazal gedolim, rishonim, or aharonim may be affected by the impact of contact with a general culture to which their predecessors had not been exposed and to whose contact and direction they respond. Upon critical evaluation of what they have encountered, they may incorporate what they find consonant with tradition and reject what is not. In the process, they may legitimately enlarge the bounds of their hashkafa and introduce hitherto unperceived insights and interpretations.” Note how outside influence upon Jewish thought is limited to the post-Hazal era. While this may be good theology, and in some circles is even viewed as obligatory, it is certainly bad history. To mention only one example, Yaakov Elman’s groundbreaking work is revealing all sorts of influences that provide us with a completely new picture of talmudic law and thought. See Yaakov Elman, “The Babylonian Talmud in Its Historical Context,” in Sharon The Talmud in Translation” in Sharon L. Mintz & Gabriel M. Goldstein, eds., Printing the Talmud: From Bomberg to Schottenstein (New York: Yeshiva University Museum, 2005), 19-27.

  10. Prof. Kaplan: how come Shapiro warrants a first name designation, but Mendelssohn does not?? (and yes, this is a joke.)

  11. Last winter, wnen we visited our daughter, SIL and granddaughter at Gruss, one of the shiurim that I attended was RAL’s shiur on Ramban on Sefer Devarim. RAL very cogently rejected R D M Shapiro’s theological views with respect to Jewish dogma.

  12. >RAL very cogently rejected R D M Shapiro’s theological views with respect to Jewish dogma.

    Here he evidently mischaracterized them, so how could he have cogently rejected them?

  13. Rav Lichtenstein’s conclusions regarding Chazal do not in any way confront the last few decades of scholarship on the rabbinic period. The nature of Chazal’s approach to the laws and customs of marriage, contracts, dispute-resolution, inheritance, menstrual purity, the distinction between possession and ownership, etc., has been studied extensively, and pervasive engagement with other cultures (whether Near Eastern, Greek, Roman, Sasanian, etc.) has been asserted in all of these cases.

    Furthermore, when I think of people who refer only to “Hazal” and do not seem to admit of any sort of systematic differentiation between the various generations of attributed sources subsumed within that category, I think of Shalom Albeck, but also of Jacob Neusner…

    The excuse to the effect of “Well, Halivni does that stuff, and much of his scholarship is very speculative” seems hollow in the year 2010, with the advances made by other scholars since then.

    I don’t mean to suggest that all scholars are right, and Rav Lichtenstein is wrong, God forbid. I simply wish Rav Lichtenstein would engage with this scholarship instead of either ignoring it or dismissing it on the grounds that one scholar’s work contains some speculative material.

  14. As Prof. Shapiro wrote (in the text noted above): “While this may be good theology, and in some circles is even viewed as obligatory, it is certainly bad history,” Rav Lichtenstein is not an historian, but rather a theologian, among other crafts.

  15. >>I don’t mean to suggest that all scholars are right, and Rav Lichtenstein is wrong, God forbid. I simply wish Rav Lichtenstein would engage with this scholarship instead of either ignoring it or dismissing it on the grounds that one scholar’s work contains some speculative material.

    As nice as that may be, that’s tantamount to a wish that he himself became an academic Talmudist, or that he’d somehow refute academic Talmud or embarrass himself in failing to do so.

  16. And anyone who know’s R. Aharon knows he is more likely to leave Gush to take up a chair in English literature (or math, for that matter) than do academic talmud.

  17. Menachem and S.,

    I’d like to think that this needn’t be an either-or situation. “Academic Talmud” (or whatever) is not, or at least does not need to be, strict history. I mean, it IS history, but in my opinion Orthodox Jews (or anyone who has a vested interest in Torah study that transcends the academic), in ignoring critical methodologies, miss out on a major theological opportunity.

    Many are so focused on the bottom line of “were Chazal wrong or right in positing interpretation X for Mishna Y, and what does that mean for the authority of Chazal.” But that seems to me to be a relatively boring question (much like all “woulda, coulda, shoulda” scenarios), and the least interesting of the implications of these methodologies. More interesting might be an exploration of the cultural contributions of various tannaim or amoraim, or their intellectual or legal contributions. Or we might talk about the theological interests of the stama d’gmara, and how they differ from those of earlier chachamim. Or we can talk about rabbinic confrontations with “modernity” (or what to them was modernity).

    These are all highly relevant and interesting theological questions, perhaps even more than they are historical questions. For example, the methodological proclivities of R’ Zera – the subject (at least in part) of several academic studies that come to mind – are not especially important for historians, since R’ Zera was not a major figure in the way that, say, Abaye and Rava were, or Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel were (institutionally speaking), and thus, knowledge of R’ Zera is not, I would think, particularly useful in constructing a historical narrative. But Orthodox Jews care deeply about R’ Zera for theological reasons, so for us, this is an important question.

    …So ignoring the possibilities presented by these methodologies because “I’m a theologian, not a historian” is a pretty flimsy excuse. And a real shame.

  18. >> As nice as that may be, that’s tantamount to a wish that he himself became an academic Talmudist, or that he’d somehow refute academic Talmud or embarrass himself in failing to do so.

    Does it really have to be a choice between a complete decimation of the discipline, and an epic fail in attempting to do so? Can’t he also accept that these methodologies are not the “bad guy” (just like the “New School of Pshat” is not the bad guy) and just accept what is useful and deal with the rest?

    In other words, why does Rav Lichtenstein have to play to the lowest common denominator that wants to see him fight a steel cage match, professional wrestling style, with all academics?

  19. Jerry-Let me pose an observation,which you can either accept or reject in whole or in part,as apart to viewing Academic Talmud as somehow required for anyone who views himself as a Ben Torah.

    Perhaps, RAL recoils at the notion of TSBP being viewed and reduced to merely a literary, sociological,comparative religious and academic enterprise.All of the aforementioned considerations and orientations have the built in potential for placing TSBP in an archaelogically preserved museum for the “learned” as opposed to unvarnished masses who merely learn for a long time in a yeshiva , depend on a chavrusa and rebbe for deciphering the ins and the outs of any Blatt Gemara and the views of the Rishonim and Acharonim .

    There is simply nothing wrong in viewing TSBP as being a Toras Chaim transmitted from Rebbe to Talmid with its written format simply a matter of convenience, which Klal Yisrael has struggled to preserve and transmit through the ages, regardless of the fact that other groups contemporaneous with the Amoraim may have also used oral and written means of transmission of knowledge, which are the subject of learned professsors and their works but noone outside of their immediate circles of students in terms of influence and eternal value. This latter view views TSBP as a mere ancient text that one can decipher as one does with any other body of literature or in understanding a body of science.

    Having an awareness of the realia on the ground contemporaneous with the Amoraim is fascinating reading for those who interested, but one can raise a simple question-of what practical effect would the same have either on understanding Pshat or Halacha LMaaseh? More importantly, how would such knowledge aid the average Posek, Rav, Magid Shiur and Talmid in developing the Yiras Shamayim that is a hallmark of being a Ben Torah, as opposed to being a student in Amoraic literature , its cultural contemporaries and influences, and how the interaction between the two “invariably” affected the development of Halacha?

  20. >>Perhaps, RAL recoils at the notion of TSBP being viewed and reduced to merely a literary, sociological,comparative religious and academic enterprise.

    Steve, we’ve argued in the past about this sort of thing, and I want you to know that as much as I may sometimes respond snarkily to this sort of comment, I really do take it very seriously. I understand the premium you place on the sense of yirah that pervades a place like the YU Beis Medrash, and I join you in projecting this concern on to any methodologies that are previously unfamiliar to me.

    But I just wish you would try to see things from another perspective. Consider this: imagine that the Briskers had never existed, and the Netziv’s vision for derech halimmud had dominated within the yeshivos of the day. At the same time, an enterprising young Jewish scholar – an ideologically committed secularist – began to advocate the conceptual approach to learning, seeing fundamental concepts as pervasive throughout rabbinic literature, and insisting that all rabbinic literature consists of one statement of “rabbinic” thought, and no differentiations within generations are possible (we’ll call this scholar “Leopold Neusbeck”).

    I can imagine the Steve Brizel in this parallel universe castigating the Neusbeckian scholars for their insistence on imposing their own, anachronistic obsession with universal legal concepts on our holy, sacred TSBP. How can someone be so impudent as to assume to put words and thoughts into the mouths of the Baalei Hamasorah, by implicitly insisting that what they actually said is too crude for our refined, modern sensibilities. Trying to force Chazal to become modern legalists may even border on the heretical!

    Now, I understand that this would probably not be a fair assessment of the “Neusbeckian” methodology (so let’s not get bogged down in the details, because, I repeat, this is NOT my point!). But to my mind this is a pretty good approximation of what would happen were “Brisk” invented by people lacking yirah.

    If your response to this is: “that would never happen because Brisk is intrinsic to the Masorah, so it could never have been invented by anyone else,” then we really have nothing to say to each other. I think that’s an obviously absurd and tautological argument, so there’s nothing to discuss.

    What I hope we both might consider as a result of this thought-exercise is: 1) There is no such thing as evaluating a derech simply “on the merits.” Too much is at stake in Talmud Torah to only consider the objective. We need to look at the subjects involved in creating the derech, because their influence often affects the discourse used to conduct that derech, which in turn may influence the spiritual character of those who utilize it; and…

    2) There is no such thing as a “pure” derech halimmud. But while any derech can be polemicized against as detrimental to Yahadus given the right context, the fact of the matter is that we all recognize that given the RIGHT context, that derech can yield many benefits. Therefore, since our community (hopefully) heartily endorses the doctrine of “kabel es ha’emes mi’mi she’omro,” and, for centuries, has thirsted for any possible way to gain insight into the nature and content of both TSBK and TSBP, I think it is absolutely CRUCIAL that our Torah leaders play the role of Nachshon at the Yam Suf, and engage new darchei halimmud – which may have dangerous subjective environment – in order to begin to build the infrastructure for a more positive and wholesome subjective environment, so that the objective content can be appreciated by Bnei Torah everywhere.

  21. “Having an awareness of the realia on the ground contemporaneous with the Amoraim is fascinating reading for those who interested, but one can raise a simple question-of what practical effect would the same have either on understanding Pshat or Halacha LMaaseh?”

    First of all, with regard to Halacha L’Maaseh, Rabbi Sperber famous responded to this question in the Orthodox Forum volume edited by R. Carmy. It’s on the first page of his article.

    With regard to Pshat: there are literally dozens, if not hundreds of studies dedicated to demonstrating how an awareness of realia (and related subjects) are not only useful for understanding pshat, but INDISPENSABLE for understanding pshat. I think the better question is how Bnei Torah can, in good conscience, justify NOT utilizing these disciplines in lernen! (By the way, if you require references, please let me know – also, maybe Menachem can help you out, since he has bekius far superior to my own!)

    >> More importantly, how would such knowledge aid the average Posek, Rav, Magid Shiur and Talmid in developing the Yiras Shamayim that is a hallmark of being a Ben Torah

    Ahhh, I see what you did here… I thought you were going to say “how can any of this study help poskim, rabbanim, etc. in a practical way.” But you know as well as I do that 95% of what we all learned in shiur (say in YU) and continue to learn has close to zero relevance to practical halacha.

    …So instead you made a sharp turn into “how can this help inculcate proper values, etc.?” For the answer to this, see my previous post!

  22. Jerry,
    I believe that there was initial resistance to R’ Chaim along the lines you outline, it was overcome iiuc by the popularity of the methodology (HKB”H paskining through history, the outside world scientific method impacting us, a combination….?)

    IIUC what R’SB is saying that psak( halachic) reality and historic reality are not the same and so one who looks outside the “traditional” halachic sources is by definition no longer part of the pure halachic mesora.

    Since I am not a baal horaah this has no practical impact on me (in halachic practice) but I have to admit I find it troubling.

    KT

  23. RAL is confused. It is Kellner who offers the position he critiques.

  24. Joel,

    >> IIUC what R’SB is saying that psak( halachic) reality and historic reality are not the same and so one who looks outside the “traditional” halachic sources is by definition no longer part of the pure halachic mesora.

    I understand this, but my point is that this argument is, at least in some ways, constructed specifically as a convenient way of ignoring this methodology in toto.

    Thus, while it rings true to say “we can’t look ‘outside,’ because that dilutes the ‘purity’ of our derech,” that argument cannot work in practice, as I think I demonstrated above. In other words, aren’t the “Neusbeckians” looking “outside” the halachic sources by imposing modern notions of how legal systems SHOULD and MUST work onto the pre-modern system of Chazal?

    I can envision one arguing that at least the hypothetical “Neusbeckians” are less obvious about “looking outside,” than real-life modern academics. But to me, the force of this argument lies in our already-ingrained prejudices (which aren’t always wrong!) against academics whom we “know” to be lacking in yirah. If the “Neusbeckians” were real, I’m sure we would find their waywardness just as obvious.

    What I’m asking Steve to do is to try to separate the scholars from the scholarship. I acknowledge that this is difficult, and not entirely possible. But that is why I think the onus is upon people like Rav Lichtenstein (and others) to engage this scholarship, in order to create the proper environment for regular Bnei Torah to benefit.

  25. In the introduction to Kellner’s Must a Jew Believe Anything (the reprint) doesn’t he mention that his view is the most radical (compared to Berger and Shapiro) and yet he is the one who has NOT been attacked?

  26. Jerry-Thanks for your kind , imaginative and sensitive response. Let me pose the following response:

    1)Imagining a Torah world without Brisk is akin to saying that if my grandmother had wheels , she would be a bicycle. Imagining the study of Torah without the requisite degree of Yiras Shamayim as to the what one is studying has far graver consequences and carries with it, even in the right hands, the strong potential for untrained and unsophisticated students to develope what will fester into Apikursus and Minus, as opposed to the ideal of being Mkabel es HaEmes-a phrase that one should see exactly what Rambam says in the Perush HaMishna and elsewhere on related subjects before coopting it to one’s intellectual methodology

    2)I read R D Sperber’s article, which is essentially replays a discussion between R M Bleich and R D S Leiman as to the view of the CI as to manuscripts and suggests a reading in the Talmud that he claims that the MB could not have had access to . Have you read R K Auman’s article in Tradition in which he took issue with R D Sperber’s approach?

    3)The knowledge of realia is appropriate for graduate level study ala Revel, but the assumption that it will aid in one’s understanding of Torah or Halacha and especially Toras Emes remains an unproven assumption, especially when there are no shortage of people determined to view Halacha and TSBP as not being received by Moshe Rabbeinu and transmitted by each subsequent generation, but rather a body of knowledge that assumed the cultural, academic and sociological biases and background of each surrounding society. Such a body of knowledge is a great on the graduate level, but I question whether the same will aid or detract from one’s striving for greater Torah knowledge and Yiras Shamayim.

  27. I understand this, but my point is that this argument is, at least in some ways, constructed specifically as a convenient way of ignoring this methodology in toto.
    ================================
    That’s the part that troubles me.

    I might also add that it often seems like:1. the person making the case is more important than the case itself and 2.that only in retrospect is it kosher or not. The whole space/time continuum thing gives me a headache.
    KT

  28. BMRS-have you read R D Berger’s review of RD Kellner’s book?

  29. >I’d like to think that this needn’t be an either-or situation.

    So would I, but there’s a reason why traditional roshei yeshivot (bearded or not) generally can’t stand it, at best. They’re not all crazy.

  30. By the way, let me just clarify that I’m not on the side against peshat, philology, realia, critical thinking, manuscripts, convincing source and text criticism, etc. But I do realize that they’re not all obscurantist fools for opposing these things, even though excellent examples and proofs can be mined from every phase of Talmudic learning showing where and how these tools were used. It *is* a threat to their style of learning and psak, even if it wasn’t *yet* when, eg, the Vilna Gaon engaged in heavy duty text criticism. We are not living in innocent early and pre-wissenschaftlich times. They’re not fools. The clever ones will sneak a peek at some of these things without making a show of it, but they cannot and will not promote it or openly “engage” it.

  31. Steve:

    My pleasure. Allow to consider some of the points you made.

    >> Imagining a Torah world without Brisk is akin to saying that if my grandmother had wheels , she would be a bicycle.

    This is a pretty extreme example of triumphalism. And I’m sure the Netziv and the Seridei Eish (to take just two famous examples) would have disagreed. I think we need to be realistic and conclude that, while we all readily acknowledge the admirable accomplishments of the proponents and students of Brisker lomdus, the Torah world would have survived and thrived just fine without Brisk – as indeed it had for centuries before that.

    >> Imagining the study of Torah without the requisite degree of Yiras Shamayim as to the what one is studying has far graver consequences and carries with it, even in the right hands, the strong potential for untrained and unsophisticated students to develope what will fester into Apikursus and Minus

    I already considered this and agreed with you about this, so now it’s your turn to consider my point, namely, that – as I demonstrated above – the same is true of the conceptual derech. In the wrong hands, it could have been disastrous (I’ll develop this in my next comment), but since it is in the right hands, it is very beneficial. No derech is “pure” as you seem to claim. What is important is that Talmidei Chachamim stake a claim to that derech.

    >> Have you read R K Auman’s article in Tradition in which he took issue with R D Sperber’s approach?

    Unconvincing in the extreme!

    >> but the assumption that it will aid in one’s understanding of Torah or Halacha and especially Toras Emes remains an unproven assumption

    I don’t know what this means. What proof is required other than a demonstration of how this knowledge can be used when interpreting a sugya, and how without this knowledge, a key component of understanding a sugya is missing. If this is the standard of proof, then there are literally DOZENS if not HUNDREDS of works that do this.

  32. Here’s where I take the other side.

    >Having an awareness of the realia on the ground contemporaneous with the Amoraim is fascinating reading for those who interested, but one can raise a simple question-of what practical effect would the same have either on understanding Pshat or Halacha LMaaseh? More importantly, how would such knowledge aid the average Posek, Rav, Magid Shiur and Talmid in developing the Yiras Shamayim that is a hallmark of being a Ben Torah, as opposed to being a student in Amoraic literature , its cultural contemporaries and influences, and how the interaction between the two “invariably” affected the development of Halacha?

    It’s a case by case thing. Prof. Sperber produced a beautiful article demonstrating, in my opinion, that there are actually practical cases where realia matter. But even if he didn’t, there is an entire Brisker yeshiva devoted to learning Kodashim. Practical? Well, let’s just say there’s a reason why the tradition rejecting study of Kodashim. It is a delicious, impractical indulgence. But it too is Torah.

    For that matter, not long ago I read an approbation to a grammar of Aramaic written by R. Nosson Kamenetsky. In it he quoted the halacha le-ma’aseh opinion of his father that you are obligated to say a birchas talmud torah on studying dikduk. Now I know that others disagree (in fact R Yaakov Emden permits reading didkuk books in the bathroom even though, IIRC, they inevitably contain words of Torah) and also that dikduk is not realia. But of course we as Modern Orthodox Torah im Derech Eretz Torah u Maddah individuals recognize that even study which is not talmud Torah per se has intrinsic worth, and what could be more worthwhile than immersing oneself in the streets of Yavneh and Pumbedisa to try to get close to the actual lives and persons of the Tannaim and Amoraim?

  33. It is no surprise that someone so invested in tradional yeshiva study of the talmud, particularly its analytical, Brisker style so popular in modern times, is unlikely to be enthusiastic about the academic approach to talmud. The formation of logical categories then becomes the issue rather than an attempt to understand the viewpoints from a historical and cultural perspective. As Steve would argue, there is also a difference between the reverential attitude towards the conventional talmud text and the viewpoint of Rishonim propagated in yeshivot, and the more objective attitude characterizing academic scholarship.

    I was interested, however, in the comment by MDJ as to the mathematical abilities of Rav Lichtenstein. What is his attitude towards the errors in mathematics (I don’t mean reasonable approximations such as sq.rt 2 = 1.4) found in talmud? For example in Eruvin, pi is treated as exactly equal to 3 based on a verse in Kings I. Also in Eruvin 76 and Succah 8, there is a misunderstanding of the sages of Caesaria who considered the area of a circle to be 1.5 that of the enclosed square (really pi/2 with pi given as 3). The Gemara, however, is under the impression that those sages were discussing perimeters. Finally, in various discussions in Eruvin the clear impression is given that the sages (at least some of them) had no idea how to calculate the length of the diagonal of a rectangle given the length of the sides (except in the case of a square where it is taken as 1.4 times the side). In fact, a crude approximation to the sum of the sides appears to be used despite its logical difficulty. Here the sages of talmud appear to be deficient in mathematical knowledge compared to Greek and Helenistic scholars. Even the ancient Egyptians were aware that the diagonal of a 3×4 rectangle was 5.

  34. Let me add to the picture I painted above:

    The famous, early, 19th century Neusbeckians – in service to an incipient Reform movement – understand that their conceptual analysis has major theological implications. After all, the recognition that while Chazal may have not spoken of EXPLICIT principles, but nonetheless IMPLICITLY formulate principles that can be used to understand a broad swath of apparently disparate, unrelated sources, can be used very effectively to justify religious change.

    Thus, “Leopold Neusbeck,” in his pioneering research “discovers” that even though Chazal do not seem to allow Practice X – and normative Judaism until then had adopted this as a bona fide prohibition – the underlying concept formulated by Chazal (not explicitly, of course…) should make it “obvious” that Chazal would, in fact, permit Practice X. Thus, the Reform movement is completely justified in permitting Practice X. In this manner, handled by this type of scholar, conceptual analysis presents a very dangerous challenge to traditional Judaism.

    My point here is that there is nothing inherently “pure” about the conceptual derech. Under slightly different historical circumstances, or in slightly different hands, the hypothetical posited above could easily have been a reality. Then, as I indicated earlier, the polemic against this derech – by Orthodox Jews – would have been that a resort to conceptual analysis is positing “outside” notions on the rabbis (i.e. modern notions of what Chazal MUST do or say in order to conform to modern standards of universal legal concepts).

    …And yet – back in reality – we know that our hypothetical opponents of “Neusbeckian scholarship” would be wrong to assume no underlying value to the Neusbeckian approach!

    All I ask, therefore, is that Talmidei Chachamim recognize the underlying value of current critical methodologies, and – duly cognizant of the danger posed by a dearth of yirah among contemporary leading academics – fight the good fight in attempting to create a safe theological space for regular talmidim to utilize these methodologies with due yirah.

  35. The halakhic case presented by R. Shapiro is very much “in’yana di’yoma”, since – as a proof to his position that not all poskim agree with Rambam’s 13 principles – he cites the widespread practice of reciting “makhnisei rachamim” in the Selichot, in obvious contradiction to Rambam’s fifth principle.
    I acknowledge that R. Shapiro is a tzaddik gammur and that his sefer is an excellent resource which immeasurably enriches our understanding on this halakhic issue. At the same time, regarding the particular issue of Rambam’s eighth principle, I have spoken with R. J. David Bleich and he has told me that he believes that the Halakhah follows the countervailing opinion of R. Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot Mosheh, Yoreh De’ah III. nos. 114-115; Orach Chaim IV, no. 24) that a Jew is indeed absolutely required to accept Rambam’s eighth principle, viz. that every single word in our Sefer Torah was dictated by HaKadosh Barukh Hu to Mosheh Rabbeinu. The reason for R. Bleich’s ruling this way was explained by this student in a posting on Tradition’s “Text and Texture” web log earlier this year. As mentioned there, upon being further asked by this student for clarification, R. Bleich also holds (like R. Feinstein and *not* like R. Shlomo Zvi Schuck in the latter’s Torah Shelemah [-of course, as distinct from R. Kasher’s Torah Shelemah, who actually cites R. Schuck in Parashat Balak, only to disagree with him] that it is permissible to believe that we have lost track of an extra vav or a missing vav in the Sefer Torah, when it does not change the meaning of the word.
    At this point, I would like to offer a further insight. Although I myself do not recite “makhnisei rachamim” (precisely out of fear of contradicting Rambam, as excellently noted by R. Shapiro – and I must apologetically add tongue-in-cheek that it is easy for me to be “machamir” about this), I think that a case can be made in favour of harmonizing “makhnisei rachamim” with Rambam’s fifth principle. See R. Zalman Sorotzkin’s Oznayim LaTorah on the verse “vikhol adam lo yihiyeh bi’ohel mo’ed” where he explains at length that the Kohen Gadol – before entering the Inner Sanctum – is obligated to abruptly dismiss the two angels that always accompany him. Thus, “makhnisei rachamim” could be simply construed as an instruction to angels (as in barking orders at the angels) and *not* a request or an entreaty.
    Kol tuv.

  36. One more point halakhah lima’aseh: Some have questioned what to do about the inspiring melody that is sung to the lyrics of “makhnisei rachamim” if we are to omit the “makhnisei rachamim” tune. [R. Shlomo Brody raised this issue last year in a different posting on the “Text and Texture” web log.] A suggested solution: R. Hershel Reichman (a Rosh Yeshiva at RIETS) uses the same tune for “mimkomkha” in kedushah on Shabbat morning. I use it for ya’aleh vi’yavo on the yamim nora’im.

  37. >> R. Bleich also holds (like R. Feinstein and *not* like R. Shlomo Zvi Schuck in the latter’s Torah Shelemah [-of course, as distinct from R. Kasher’s Torah Shelemah, who actually cites R. Schuck in Parashat Balak, only to disagree with him] that it is permissible to believe that we have lost track of an extra vav or a missing vav in the Sefer Torah, when it does not change the meaning of the word.

    Rabbi Spira: He holds this position even though it does not fall under the rubric of the Rambam’s eight principle (since the Rambam, as is known, did not believe that we necessarily have letter perfect sifrei Torah)?

    Alternatively, one might allow for letter mistakes, but believe in word-perfect sifrei Torah. In my view, once one has conceded the former, one can concede the latter.

    I might add that at a certain point this comes down to a matter of fact, or at least likelihood. In other words, if R’ Feinstein’s premise can be demonstrated to be incorrect (or extremely likely to be incorrect), then on what grounds should one nonetheless accept R’ Feinstein’s insistence that one believe in letter-perfection (or, alternatively, word-perfection)?

  38. ” the Halakhah follows the countervailing opinion of R. Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot Mosheh, Yoreh De’ah III. nos. 114-115; Orach Chaim IV, no. 24) that a Jew is indeed absolutely required to accept Rambam’s eighth principle, viz. that every single word in our Sefer Torah was dictated by HaKadosh Barukh Hu to Mosheh Rabbeinu.”

    If that is indeed the halachah, when did the halachah change? Or was Ibn Ezra not an observant Jew?

    ‘Thus, “makhnisei rachamim” could be simply construed as an instruction to angels (as in barking orders at the angels) and *not* a request or an entreaty.’

    The pshat of “makhnisei rachamim” sure looks like a request directed at angels.

  39. Charlie,

    Having followed some of Rabbi Spira’s comments on other sites (always interesting and informative!), I think the response is as follows (and I apologize in advance for putting words in his mouth!):

    R’ Feinstein believed that Ibn Ezra was, in fact, on his side on this issue. Thus, Ibn Ezra does not present a problem.

    Personally, I think that reading the Ibn Ezra to be in concert with R’ Moshe’s position on post-Mosaic authorship is completely untenable, and is almost certainly not what the Ibn Ezra meant. Therefore, if one follows R’ Moshe, but also admits (as I think one must) that Ibn Ezra believed in some post-Mosaic authorship, then Ibn Ezra, indeed, is out.

    I hope Rabbi Spira will weigh in on this, as his perspective may shed light on the issue.

  40. >I have spoken with R. J. David Bleich and he has told me that he believes that the Halakhah follows the countervailing opinion of R. Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot Mosheh, Yoreh De’ah III. nos. 114-115; Orach Chaim IV, no. 24) that a Jew is indeed absolutely required to accept Rambam’s eighth principle, viz. that every single word in our Sefer Torah was dictated by HaKadosh Barukh Hu to Mosheh Rabbeinu. The reason for R. Bleich’s ruling this way was explained by this student in a posting on Tradition’s “Text and Texture” web log earlier this year. As mentioned there, upon being further asked by this student for clarification, R. Bleich also holds (like R. Feinstein and *not* like R. Shlomo Zvi Schuck in the latter’s Torah Shelemah [-of course, as distinct from R. Kasher’s Torah Shelemah, who actually cites R. Schuck in Parashat Balak, only to disagree with him] that it is permissible to believe that we have lost track of an extra vav or a missing vav in the Sefer Torah, when it does not change the meaning of the word.

    This is but impossible for someone who has studied even a moderate bit about textual issues and the history of the text transmission, and you don’t have to introduce the Septuagint or Dead Sea Scrolls into the picture (only an occasional vav and only one that didn’t change the meaning of a word? Seriously?). I am pretty sure that a perusal of the Minchas Shai renders that view impossible. So that’s a view for the masses, and indeed that is their view. What is one who knows otherwise to do?

  41. Dear R’ Jerry,
    Thank you for asking. Sorry if I was ambiguous. To clarify: our Sifrei Torah are word perfect, but R. Bleich and R. Feinstein hold that it is permissible to acknowledge that they are not letter perfect.
    What makes this sugya amusingly confusing is the paradoxical position of R. Schuck in his excellent sefer Torah Shelemah. On the one hand, R. Schuck is “mari’sh reki’im” to say that we must believe that our Sifrei Torah are 100% letter perfect. He offers a brilliant explanation to turn the whole sugya in Kiddushin 30a upside-down on its head to this effect. And on the other hand, R. Schuck thinks that we can say that Parshat Balak was added (chas vichalilah) by a post-Mosaic editor! [It is on the latter point that R. Kasher disagrees with R. Kasher.] And so I asked R. Bleich (who quotes R. Schuck in Contemporary Halakhic Problems Volume 5 regarding the kashrut of giraffe) what’s going on here. Here is a transcription of R. Bleich’s exact response by e-mail (Nov. 23, 2009, 9:29 a.m.):

    “I have no idea who Rabbi Shuk is and have never seen his Torah Shlemah. As a matter of halakhah he is wrong on yesiros and chasiros. A Torah scroll will definitely not be removed on that account. He is also wrong as matter of Hilchos De’os regarding bila’am. Why could he have not simply said that after writing that section in separate work Moshe incorporated it in the Torah at the divine command?

    Kol tuv”

  42. (Sorry for being horribly pedantic, but it is pronounced Shick. If you use an umlaut ü, that works, but people shouldn’t think that it is Rabbi Shuck rhymes with Chuck.)

    Of course he’s treife-possul since he was a Status Qvuoer, so it’s all academic. 😉

  43. In case that was too esoteric, for those who are reading, Rabbi S.Z. Schick (Shück, Schueck) was a 19th century Hungarian rabbi (1844-1916), a student and relative of the Maharam Schick. He was a rabbi in a so-called Status Quo congregation. Status Quo were the Orthodox who refused to separate communally from Reform (known as Neolog in Hungary) and were therefore regarded as minim and apikorsim by those who did secede (many of whom were students and students of students of the Chasam Sofer, although many of the same were Status Quoers).

    The memory is long, and not many years ago someone reprinted R. Elijah Levita’s Tishbi, including many wonderful additions (such as the author of Pri Megadim and R Yaakov Emden’s annotations). Also included was R. SZ Schick’s virulent, well, screed against R. Levita (which also accused him of converting to Christianity). The sefer had to be published in two versions. One included an Eda Charedis haskama, but could not include R. Schick’s piece from his Torah Shelemah. The other include the piece, but not the haskama.

  44. Dear R’ Charlie,
    Thank you for your very kind words. Yes, Ibn Ezra is a big issue. There is no question that R. Feinstein did not deal with all aspects of the Ibn Ezra (i.e. he only quoted the Ibn Ezra when it supported him and not when it contradicted him), thus creating a situation of “makom hinichu li avotai lihitgader bo” (as per the gemara in Chullin 7a) for us to deal with the Ibn Ezra. In my posting, I offered an explanation to the Ibn Ezra. The “Text and Texture” web log was not able to keep all the postings. Maybe I’ll repost it in another forum. I did ask an agent in Eretz Yisra’el to speak to R. Eliashiv (who was one of R. Feinstein’s interlocutors when this issue arose with R. Yehudah Hachassid’s manuscript in 1976) about what he thinks of my approach to the Ibn Ezra. So, we’ll see what he says. But I think, Halakhah lima’aseh, it is clear from the gemara in Megillah 2b “she’ein hanavi rasha’i lichadesh davar me’atah” that the Halakhah is in accordance with R. Feinstein. And as for the Ibn Ezra, “he’s either with us or against us”, to paraphrase President George W. Bush. By that I mean, the Ibn Ezra will not inform us of the Halakhah on this matter, when the gemara has already clarified what the Halakhah is. Instead, it is appropriate to give a forced explanation to the Ibn Ezra in order to judge him favourably that he was an Orthodox Jew.

  45. And by the way, when I say a “forced explanation to the Ibn Ezra”, it’s not necessarily so forced, since everything here is a matter of “sod”, as the Ibn Ezra wrote. When it comes to Kabbalah, we ascend from the realm of the rational to the super-rational.

  46. By the way, anyone reading this forum who happens to live in R. Eliashiv’s neighbourhood is more than welcome to pre-empt me and ask R. Eliashiv directly. Thank you for anyone who can help.

  47. “Why could he have not simply said that after writing that section in separate work Moshe incorporated it in the Torah at the divine command?”

    Is this the end of the email? Did R’ Bleich provide any evidence for this claim? It sounds to me like rampant speculation to me, but I may be wrong.

    Also, I have to agree with S. Insisting on letter-perfect/word-perfect sirei Torah is a completely absurd position for anyone who has even a semblance of expertise in these issues.

  48. Dear R’ S.,
    Firstly, thank you for clarifying the spelling and the biography of R. Schuck/Shick. I see that he also created quite a sensation in the Hakirah journal (Vol. 4, pp. 256-258), so there’s much to discuss about this fascinating scholar in the noble spirit of milchamtah shel Torah.
    Secondly, I’ll take a close look at the Minchat Shai and get back to you. Thanks.

  49. R’ Jerry,
    Yes, the e-mail ended with his greeting “Kol tuv”. He has a concise manner of writing (-though on one occasion I was pleasantly surprised when he generously sent me a lengthy letter about the position of the international dateline. Specifically, I asked him why in his Bircas Hachammah he outlines a time for the benediction in Melbourne, Sydney and Honolulu, when those places are all a safek and so cannot recite the benediction in the normal form. He graciously provided analysis on the topic.)

  50. Shalom Aleikhem R’ Jerry,
    Okay, I’m sorry, I didn’t really answer your excellent question and so I should elaborate a little bit more regarding Bilaam. The issue there is that the gemara in Bava Batra 14b states that Mosheh Rabbeinu wrote the Sefer Torah and also Parashat Bilaam. So this is the problem: why is the gemara distinguishing “Parashat Bilaam” from the rest of the Sefer Torah? This quandry led R. Schick to say what he said. Other sources (quoted in my post) explain that Mosheh Rabbeinu first wrote Parashat Balak (a.k.a. “Parashat Bil
    am”) for his own personal interest (not as part of Scriptural canon) and then later was informed by HKB”H that this, too, deserves to be incorporated into the Sefer Torah, and – to that effect – was re-dictated to Mosheh. So R. Bleich is just asking why didn’t R. Schick take the latter route.

  51. >And by the way, when I say a “forced explanation to the Ibn Ezra”, it’s not necessarily so forced, since everything here is a matter of “sod”, as the Ibn Ezra wrote. When it comes to Kabbalah, we ascend from the realm of the rational to the super-rational.

    Why do you equate Ibn Ezra’s “sod” with Kabbalah? Was he then involved with kabbalah?

  52. Good question. That’s another reason I’d like to speak to R. Eliashiv. Apparently he is a student of Kabbalah.

  53. R. Eliashiv, maybe. But Ibn Ezra?

  54. Rabbi Spira,

    I’ve heard R’ Jeremy Wieder – on more than one occasion – refer to the Tosfos in Shabbos that collects all of the variants within rabbinic literature that differ from our text, the “Masoretic text.” He said that the Gilyon Hashas on that Tosfos – the longest one in Shas – collects other variants not found in Tosfos.

    Maybe ask R’ Wieder what he thinks, as I assume he has a great deal of expertise in this issue.

  55. R’ S,
    I guess the question to R. Eliashiv is how he deals with the Ibn Ezra, and if he is familiar with the Kabbalah that explains the Ibn Ezra, or – alternatively – if he holds that Ibn Ezra cannot be explained as I have suggested and therefore, either (a) the Halakhah does not follow R. Feinstein (-which I regard to be an absurd possibility, since the gemara in Megillah 2b supports him), or (b) the Ibn Ezra was not an Orthodox Jew.
    R’ Jerry,
    Good point. In fact, the Torah Shelemah thinks that Tosafot did not write this comment at all, and it was placed into Tosafot by “one of the disciples of Bil’am”. I commented to R. Bleich (half-jokingly) that it is perhaps no coincidence that the Torah Shelemah refers to Bil’am, since the Torah Shelemah got into trouble with R. Kasher precisely over this theological issue in the context of Parashat Bil’am.

  56. Sorry… that should have read “absurd impossibility”… clearly, I am not as precise as Sefer Torah scribe…

  57. Of course, when I say “got into trouble”, it is meant with all due reverence for R. Schick, kidarkah shel milchamtah shel torah.

  58. Rabbi Spira,

    The Gemara in Megillah in no way, shape or form supports R’ Feinstein’s position.

    All that Gemara indicates is that no post-Mosaic additions are allowed (in some Gemaras where this appears, it seems to refer only to law, but in Megillah it seems to refer to anything at all). This does not have ANYTHING to do with the question of transmission. No one here who argues against a letter-perfect/word-perfect Torah contends that changes were introduced on purpose, as a conscious attempt to change the text. The argument is that mistakes inevitably creep in, and different textual traditions therefore develop. This is not a conscious process. R’ Feinstein’s argument against this can find no support in the Gemara in Megillah.

    As for how this Gemara affects Chazal’s position on post-Mosaic authorship (if indeed “Chazal” had a single, monolithic position, which I do not think is the case), that is a different story entirely.

  59. “ruvie on August 26, 2010 at 9:52 am
    i always thought that shapiro’s book was a continuation of his argument with r’ parness view that the 13 ikarim are now indisputable and if you don’t agree you are a kofer and not orthodox. shapiro showed many disagree with the rambam and that there different views in chazal and after the rambam. not that you do not have to beilieve in anything”

    Agreed

  60. The whole discussion of is our Torah word- and letter-perfect etc. and asking Rabbonim what the halakhah is seems somewhat strange to me. There are two separate issues here: the reality, which is a historical question and should be investigated by historical and other such methods; and what is acceptable to believe as a religious Jew. A Rav can say it is unacceptable to believe that the Torah is not word-perfect or there are no post-Mosaic editions, if one assumes one can pasken on machshavah (and if one doesn’t, the pesak can be nogea to halakhic issues in the Rav’s kehillah for example), but that pesak seemingly has no bearing on history. A professor at Hebrew University wrote me the following: “I believe we are commanded by God to exhaust our tools and acquire knowledge, and to accept the hard evidence wherever it leads us in all questions pertaining to the realm of the empirical. Religion has no voice whatsoever in the realm of the empirical, just as science has none in the realm of the normative. Only science can tell you if there is life on Mars; only religion can tell you if you need to observe Shabbat there. If a scientist expresses an opinion on the latter question we find that ridiculous; if religion expresses an opinion on the former question, it is equally meaningless.” I think he is correct. One can believe what he wants, and normative traditional Judaism obligates belief in certain ikkarim such as all of the Torah was given at Har Sinai and in the midbar from 2448, but someone who has historical or other difficulties with this won’t find religion providing an answer to the questions. One’s choice to believe in Torah min ha’shomyaim etc. is religious in nature; it is “belief in” as Martin Buber defines it, i.e. faithfulness, and I think that has to be separated from belief that – i.e. that it historically happened which is something that has to be investigated through historical and other means since we are dealing with a question of reality.

  61. R’ Daniel,
    Very eloquently said; you have really captured the essence of the matter. Epistemologically speaking, history is a matter of belief – not science (because all evidence we have regarding events that occurred prior to our birth is circumstantial and second-hand in nature), and the Torah governs how we are to appreciate history. When the Ribbono Shel Olam reveals Himself at Mount Sinai with the declaration “Anokhi… asher hotzeitikha me’eretz mitrayim”, it is a declaration that we must interpret history in accordance with the theological norms of Judaism. And one of those norms is to recognize that our Sifrei Torah are word perfect.

  62. But historically speaking how do you know that the Ribbono Shel Olam reveals Himself at Mount Sinai with the declaration “Anokhi… asher hotzeitikha me’eretz mitrayim”. That is a matter of belief; historically you can’t prove it, and many historians reject it ever happened.

  63. R’ Jerry,
    Thank you for your excellent insights. We are in agreement, then, that Megillah 2b categorically rejects the possibility of post-Mosaic additions, thus settling the Ibn Ezra issue. [Incidentally, thank you for previously observing that my posts – except the final one of Dec. 13, 2009 addressing the Abarbanel and Ilana Goldstein Saks – are still available on the “Text and Texture” log. My apologies for my oversight and I thank the log for keeping good track; I’ll rewrite the Abarbanel one.]
    With regard to mistakes that inadvertently enter, it is my contention – based on the analysis presented in that posting – that these only affect the realm of “chaseirot vi’yiteirot” which are of no consequence the validity of a Sefer Torah (leaving aside the minority ultra-conservative [and self-contradictory] position of R. Schick which appears to be rejected). There is no reason to assume doubt regarding the validity of any of the words in our Sefer Torah, and indeed the gemara in Sanhedrin 99a requires us to believe every verse in our Sifrei Torah comes from HaKadosh Barukh Hu. A verse is not the same verse if there is a change in word meaning; thus, R. Feinstein cogently affirms Rambam that we must recognize that our Sifrei Torah are word perfect.

  64. I would just add that in terms of the theological mechanism of how this works (i.e. how it is that, amazingly, over millenia, Jewish Sifrei Torah are word perfect) is Divine Providence as promised in Deuteronomy 31:21 – “ki lo tishakhach mipi zar’o”. We have a guarantee from the Ribbono Shel Olam that the Sefer Torah will be eternally maintained.

  65. Are you kidding?

    >Epistemologically speaking, history is a matter of belief – not science (because all evidence we have regarding events that occurred prior to our birth is circumstantial and second-hand in nature)

    Oh really? That is frighteningly postmodern.

  66. >> There is no reason to assume doubt regarding the validity of any of the words in our Sefer Torah

    Rabbi Spira, this is simply incorrect. Even more important, I don’t believe that R’ Feinstein (or R’ Bleich) have the requisite expertise to determine the facts of the matter with regard to this question. As many people have pointed out on this thread, Talmidei Chachamim – even major geonim like Rav Lichtenstein – are not academics, and don’t necessarily have expertise in certain areas where academics may indeed have expertise (and vice versa).

    Since determining whether or not our sifrei Torah are letter-perfect/word-perfect is a matter of textual history, most of the sources for which are not a part of what these Talmidei Chachamim study (and have indeed mastered), I don’t think it is reasonable to expect them to “pasken” on this issue.

    I’ve heard R’ Wieder at YU make a similar point with regard to issues of Keriat Hatorah. He was annoyed that rabbanim (who are otherwise major chachamim) were “paskening” about certain readings and related issues even though they don’t have the requisite understanding of grammar, or the mechanisms of Keriat Hatorah.

    In any event, to factually assert that this issue “only affects chaseiros v’yeseiros,” even though this is simply false is meaningless for all those who have studied the matter and KNOW that this is wrong.

    And again, the Gemara in Sanhedrin only speaks to what is definitely part of the Torah, and has nothing to do with mistakes (whether words or letters).

    With regard to post-Mosaic authorship: while the Gemara in Megillah seems decisive, the matter is much more complicated, since other Gemaras accept (limited) post-Mosaic authorship, and the source in Megillah is not even raised! I think the matter is completely clear that there is actually a machlokes about this amongst Chazal. What this means for us is less clear, but certainly if Chazal themselves argue about a matter of machshava, there is no warrant to consider the matter settled!

  67. There is a wonderful teshuva in Noda Beyehuda OC #2 regarding the pronunciation of adonay.

    Although the Noda Beyehuda *does* offer a response, as is proper, he makes what is a remarkable statement (but should not be):

    והנה אני תמה על שבחרו לשלוח שאלות הללו לחכמים ולרבנים זיל קרי הוא שאלו לבעלי מקרא, וגם אני מבחוץ ולא ידעתי מי הוא איש ריבו שכנגדו החולק עליו

    In other words, you have a grammar question, why are you asking a rabbi? Ask a grammarian.

    Positive statements regarding the actual integrity of text of the Torah, in my humble opinion, should be made by those who are experts in the text. Rabbi Mordechai Breuer z”l, for example, probably was among the most qualified persons to say things about the Torah text.

    Which leads me to another issue, the Aleppo Codex. When someone wrote Neviim based on the Aleppo Codex and all hell broke loose, one of the gedolei yisrael said that we don’t know the provenance of this Codex so you can’t rely on it. (And another one said, its by Ben Asher? avada you can rely on it)

    With respect to the first gadol, that is not true. There is a great deal we know about its provenance and that should be taken into account and not act like it’s Joseph Smith’s golden tablets. The rav who said we don’t know anything about it didn’t know that we do and he didn’t know that he didn’t know. Which is fine. But why was he asked? Arguably one of the plagues of the generation is to impute expertise in every tangentially Torah area to those who are not experts in those areas.

    It’s also great to know that you don’t know (and that includes myself: a friend – who knows – emailed me and corrected a very big error that I made. R. SZ Schick was not himself the rabbi of a Status Quo congregation, but rather he defended the legitimacy or was not sufficiently stridently opposed to Status Quo_.

  68. >> The rav who said we don’t know anything about it didn’t know that we do and he didn’t know that he didn’t know.

    The latter, to my mind, is far more detrimental than the latter. After all, when a balabos asks a rav about something like this, and therefore already presumes knowledge on the part on the rav, he can be forgiven for the mistaken presumption. But the rav should be able to perform an honest self-assessment.

    >> Arguably one of the plagues of the generation is to impute expertise in every tangentially Torah area to those who are not experts in those areas.

    Yes. A thousand times, yes.

  69. Thank you, R’ S., for the valuable insights from Rabbi Shapiro. And I reiterate my previous assertion that Rabbi Shapiro is a tzaddik gammur. At the same time, in defense of the Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Lichtenstein, it could very well be that he was really focusing on the issue of the eighth principle, and positing (like R. Bleich) that the Halakhah follows the countervailing opinion of R. Feinstein.
    Admittedly, with all due reverence to R. Feinstein, he slightly exaggerated when he poured fire and brimstone on R. Joshua Falk about this issue (Iggerot Mosheh, YD 3:114); as explained in my “Text and Texture” posting, R. Falk can be entirely harmonized with Rambam’s eighth principle. Thus, R. Feinstein’s pesak halakhah needs to be a little updated, and Rabbi Shapiro’s chapter thus serves as an important supplement to Rabbi Feinstein’s ruling. But still, Rabbi Feinstein’s conclusion seems entirely correct. History, too, is a matter of Halakhah, since history is a matter of belief, and Halakhah governs how a Jew believes, including the belief that our Sifrei Torah are word perfect. If there is evidence to the contrary, let’s see it.

  70. It seems to me that history as a matter of belief has to be established before proceeding further from there. Think of the frightening possibilities if history, indeed, were a matter of belief. Imagine a religion of Holocaust denial with piskei halacha requiring it.

  71. >> History, too, is a matter of Halakhah, since history is a matter of belief

    This is a very dangerous position, and is not to be adopted. If history is simply a matter of belief, would you have a problem if R’ Bleich, let’s say, paskened that a Jew is mechuyav to believe that the Gra moved to Philadelphia at the end of his life and founded a restaurant there? Would you find it unreasonable for someone to believe this, since history is just a matter of belief and faith?

    Or, to take a somewhat more believable possibility, let’s say the next Satmar Rov were to adopt your argument, that history is only a matter of belief, and “pasken” that it is assur to believe in the Holocaust. Since history is merely a matter of belief and faith, would this be unreasonable?

    …And to forestall a possible objection, let’s say this occurs, oh, say, two decades after the last survivor is niftar. There are no eyewitnesses left. And history is a matter of belief, and thus halacha. That, to me, is a frightening possibility.

    >> If there is evidence to the contrary, let’s see it.

    Are you serious? Do you have RAMBI? I suppose that if you truly are serious, I and many others can surely provide you with a reading list, but I cannot believe that anyone could seriously make this argument in the year 2010. Maybe I misunderstand what you mean. Do you really mean to argue that there is no evidence that the sifrei Torah we use today have any words that are different than in the days of Moshe?

  72. Aha! I see someone else got to the Holocaust example first…

  73. Someone needs to Godwin both of us.

  74. what’s more “agenda driven” than chazal and the talmud post destruction? such an old old horse to flog.

  75. >It seems to me that history as a matter of belief has to be established before proceeding further from there. Think of the frightening possibilities if history, indeed, were a matter of belief. Imagine a religion of Holocaust denial with piskei halacha requiring it.

    I think that the above formulation/assersion regarding history as belief is rather extreme and can as has been pointed out lead to dangerous consequences. But does that mean that we must accept history as natural science?? This was of course a major debate in turn of the century Europe with great minds on either side of the historicist debate.

    Of course we must concede that the trade of the historian, while it should not be relegated to belief is indeed highly subjective in its methodology. At the very core of the critical-historical method is the need to contextualize every historical event or idea – such a method presuposes certain philosophical orientations. Do we believe that everything can be – in fact – reduced to the influence of historical context or are there other forces at work? Can the critical-historical method allow a place for purely conceptual forces or does it reject such forces as a regression towards metaphysics?

    These are not simply questions and while the debate from 100 years ago has pretty much stopped progressing … the issues it raised are every bit as relevant today as they were 100 years ago.

    So while history is most definitly not a matter of belief … are we sure we want to raise it to the status of verified knowledge? The above holocaust example is at its core an appeal to consequences and a fear that I share with S. However, I think, like most appeals to consequences, the extreme flip side has its own baggage which I also fear.

  76. I think with regard to questions of Biblical text, the position of my teacher, R. Mordechai Breuer z”l should be given at least as much weight as the leading poskim who have been cited thus far.

    R. Breuer was with out question the Torah worlds leading expert on the transmission of the Massoretic Text. He held that our text certainly does not reflect a “photo-duplicate” of the original. He held that this position was entirely consistent with the belief in Torah Mi-Sinai. This is the is the position of just about every talmid chachim who has sophisticated knowledge of Biblical studies of whom I am aware.

  77. “History as a matter of belief”

    Undoubtedly there are empirical elements to history, which a belief system cannot deny. Thus arguing the the GRA moved to Philadelphia can be tested empirically, as can the truth of the Holocaust (just ask David Irving, or mor accurately Justice Grey). On the other hand, not everything in history is “provable” historically. The “gaps” are almost certainly filled in with conjecture based in part on the general evidence and in part based on (shock horror) the historians prejudices and personal agenda (i.e. belief).

  78. Thank you, all, for your excellent insights. The Holocaust is reflected in the she’elot uteshuvot that appear among the poskim, and thus Orthodox Judaism affirms the truth of the Holocaust. The truth of the word perfect nature of the Sefer Torah can be compared to the promise that the Ribbono Shel Olam will send a bounty crop on the sixth year to allow Jews to survive the Shemitah year. Obviously, a human author could never make such a promise; but the Author of the Torah is the Ribbono Shel Olam and He can indeed make the promise. Likewise, the Ribbono Shel Olam can promise that the Sefer Torah will remain word perfect (“ki lo tishakhach mipi zar’o”). The ruling of R. Feinstein, R. Bleich and apparently R. Lichtenstein is that one can only be called an Orthodox Jew if one believes this. I humbly agree with them.

  79. “The Holocaust is reflected in the she’elot uteshuvot that appear among the poskim, and thus Orthodox Judaism affirms the truth of the Holocaust.” I suppose the same can be said about 9/11 since there are agunah sheilos in various journals!

    “Likewise, the Ribbono Shel Olam can promise that the Sefer Torah will remain word perfect (“ki lo tishakhach mipi zar’o”).” That’s an interpretation of the passuk; it doesn’t have to be understood that way.

  80. >Likewise, the Ribbono Shel Olam can promise that the Sefer Torah will remain word perfect

    Which sefer Torah? The Ashkenazi one, Sefardic one, or Yemenite one? You know there are some consonantal differences. Further, which masoretic text/codex is the perfect one? I just want to know. Also, what should we do when Rashi or another mefaresh (or the gemara) quotes a slightly diffenent text than the one we have? Should we assume that we have the correct word for word text or that they had it and our books got corrupted? There are many other questions I have for someone who takes your position but lets start with these questions.

  81. Also can you clarify some questions for me:

    1) Did the original torah have
    פוטי פרע OR פוטיפרע

    2) Did the original torah say
    ויהיו כל ימי נח OR ויהי כל ימי נח

    These are some of the diffences between the yemenite Torah and the standard ashkenazi Torah.

  82. I haven’t read the whole thread yet, but to respond to Steve’s request for examples where realia are necessary for Torah study:

    I’ve been learning Kelim. Listening to R’ Grossman’s tapes, and/or using texts. R’ Grossman’s tapes are usually really good, on normal subjects like Moed or Nezikin. But on Kelim, it keeps boiling down to “a XXXX, um, a kind of pot, if it has a handle… a YYYY, another pot, …” I have no idea what the different things are, and neither does R’ Grossman, so what am I learning? The whole difficulty of Kelim is the unfamiliar nouns. Now, if I learn with the Albeck commentary, it understands that you have to distinguish between this pot and that pot, what they are, and how the rules about when something is sufficiently broken down as to lose the shem keli work in this case. Otherwise, you just have a long list of indistinguishable cases.

    Similarly, in Shabbos, a friend & I were learning about hotza’ah, and a number of things are discussed in terms of loom parts. Neither of us has ever woven a garment, aside from a potholder on the little plastic frame you get as a kid. What is this loom part, what is that loom part, how big is it, etc.?

    There are books that talk about realia. R’ Sperber has 2-3 books that describe the material culture of Roman Palestine. There are some old books from between the Wars that do go through all the loom parts etc., I bought them but they disappeared in my clothing midden. If I could remember the name, two of them are on hebrewbooks.org.

    Set aside the thought exercise that Steve was having such trouble with [- if the realia approach and the Brisker approach had been reversed, where the realia/critical approach supported by the Netziv had been promoted in the yeshivas, and the Brisker approach had been the one supported by the radicals, Steve and other traditionalists would be fulminating against the Brisker approach because of who was proposing it, rather than because of any real difference in the holiness of one approach over the other -] this is where it is absolutely necessary to understand the material culture of Chazal in order to understand their writings.

  83. Re history not being a hard science, I don’t think anyone here is really claiming that. Naturally we’re tons more sophisticated and critical and rational than some Herr Professors were 150 years ago, and we know that many things we “know” about history rest on slender reeds indeed. However that should not cause us to forgot that we do indeed know many many things which happened. Maybe we don’t know what the exact contours of the expression on George Washington’s face were as he took the oath of office, but that doesn’t mean that we “believe” rather than know that it happened. For that matter, speculation plays an important role in all sciences and in Torah study as well. Complex philosophical questions of what knowledge is shouldn’t cause us to accept R. Spira’s suggestion that, for example, we believe the Holocaust happened because we believe it did, and by implication sifrei she’elot u-teshuvot pasken in favor of our belief.

  84. BTW, steve, the expression is, “if my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a trolley car”. If the Brisker derech maps modern concepts on to antique reality, that’s an example of it – who among us in the NY area thinks in terms of trolley cars? they stopped running in NY area about 55 years ago, except for Newark.

  85. Thanbo-No-the exact phrase is “if my grandmother had wheels, she’s be a bicycle.”

  86. Well, I have a kabballa from my rebbe, R’ Wohlgelernter, shlita, that it’s “If my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a bus.” At least, that’s the version put into a shpiel that was written for him once. (He used it to dismiss various forms of pilpul- of which Brisk, despite it’s protests, is a kind.) And that’s my da’at Torah.

    I remember a Daf Yomi shiur off YU Torah a short time back, end of Sanhedrin. “Ben Sira…well, I don’t know anything about Ben Sira, but…” and thence on to a whole sugya on Ben Sira.

    Excuse me? You have time to fish for barely-related Tosfot in other sedarim, you can look up a bit about the subject of the sugya.

  87. There is no official version of “If my grandmother had…” but according to Urban dictionary.com it derives “fromthe hebrew language”!

  88. Shalom Aleikhem R’ Chardal,
    Thank you for the excellent question. The answer is: the Sefer Torah revealed to Mosheh Rabbeinu was the Ashkenazic-Sefardic Sefer Torah, to the exclusion of the Yemenite Sefer Torah. [The difference between the aleph and hay in Deut. 23:2, is merely a question of chaseirot vi’yiteirot.] This point is discussed in my “Text and Texture” posting. The cases where Rashi or the gemara have different readings also appear to be cases of chaseirot vi’yiteirot.

  89. R. Spira,
    I was unable to find the Text and TExture post you refer to. What evidence to you have that the torah given at sinai was not the yemenite text?

  90. Shalom, I’m afraid you’re really revealing your ignorance here:

    “The difference between the aleph and hay in Deut. 23:2, is merely a question of chaseirot vi’yiteirot.”

    Actually, that’s the only one that’s *not* a male/chaser issue.

    I’m shocked that you can write what you just did. The differences in Rashi and the Gemara are certainly *not* male/chaser issues. Indeed, that’s the whole point of the famous Rashi on the subject- he thinks his difference is significant. The Gemara says that male and chaser doesn’t matter.

    And you really think Yemenite Sifrei Torah are pasul? Uh-oh, I’ve gotten aliyot from them.

    Also, the Rambam, for starters, would disagree: The Aleppo Codex follows the Yemenite tradition.

  91. >Thank you for the excellent question. The answer is: the Sefer Torah revealed to Mosheh Rabbeinu was the Ashkenazic-Sefardic Sefer Torah

    May I ask you why your messorah is better than theirs? They are a community which has proven a much stronger abbility to maintain traditions than most any other which can be seen from a far more accurate pronounciation than other communities as well as other countless traditions long abandoned my ashkenazim (see R’ Kapah’s books on yemenite traditions for more on this). Why should we conclude that they well LESS carefull in their transmission of the Torah text than the rest of the community? Further, since they employ the same exact safety techniques to safegaurd against corruption as the rest of the Jewish world, on what basis can you say that this system can break down for them but not for anyone else.

    Further, based on which methodology do you base your assertion? Do you have ancient texts that support ויהי over ויהיו or פוטיפרע שד as one word? And if so, do you follow those ancient texts in all areas or only for this particular word? I read your comments from your link and you seem to be making a consistent genre error in thinking that 20s century poskim are the most qualified people to decide how texts change over time – an assertion that requires a basis not provided by you. It is nice and scholastic of you to point our that R’ Moshe paskens that todays sefer Torah is word for word identical to the one from 3300 years ago, but this contradicts everything we know about and should expect from textual transmision. Any critical edition of the Tanach is filled with variant readings many of which are of Jewish origin – you don’t find it odd that there is not ONE word for word identical text that is older than 1000 years old. Is every text older than that need to be assumed to be corrupted but the later texts are perfect? This is an absurd suggestion to say the least! Heck, the ben asher family whom we count on for our current consonantal text had internal disagreements about these matters and do not always agree – so are we to assume that the one tradition from within the ben asher family is the one correct one.

    This might work for you if you willfully want to maintain yourself in a state of ignorace, but for those of us who are actually interested in studying these topics it is a rediculously untenabble position. It leads to such absurd pseudoscholarly conclutions such as R’ Moshe’s suggestion that the peirush of R’ Yehuda HaHasid is a forgery or other targets painted around the arrows of factual data. What you position basically amounts to is a rallying cry for all religious Jews to willfully maintain themselves in a state of ignorace. If you trully believe that this is what halacha demands then I fear – unfortunatly that anther schism is on the way.

  92. >Actually, that’s the only one that’s *not* a male/chaser issue.

    I pointed some other not chaser/maleh ones above.

    >Also, the Rambam, for starters, would disagree: The Aleppo Codex follows the Yemenite tradition.

    The reverse is acrually true. The yemenite tradition follows teh Aleppo Codex.

  93. Shalom Aleikhem R’ Chardal,
    The questions you raise are important. However, I believe “yesh li ilan gadol al mi lismokh”. R. Ovadiah Yosef is the one who declares the Yemenite Sefer Torah to be mistaken, as explained in my posting.

  94. Or, to put it in a more postive sense, “…who declares the Ashkenazic-Sefardic Sefer Torah to be correct…”

  95. R. Spira, the problem here is that these assertions ignore the facts. In addition, why should not the words of the Noda Beyehuda, which I quoted above, be paid heed to? (“If you have a dikduk question, consult a medakdek, not a rav”) At the very least offer an argument why his words should be dismissed before asking us to accept R. Ovadya and R. Moshe as the most qualified to make such determination.

  96. Shalom Aleikhem R’ S.,
    You are correct. The Noda Bi’yehudah has taught us that a grammar question must be submitted to a grammarian. Similarly, a theology question must be submitted to a theologian, hence the qualification of R. Feinstein.

  97. And a textual question?

  98. I think a question of text is a question of theology, as per the gemara in Sanhedrin 99a. This is why R. Feinstein was so concerned about the manuscript attributed to Rabbi Yehudah Hachassid.

  99. >The questions you raise are important. However, I believe “yesh li ilan gadol al mi lismokh”. R. Ovadiah Yosef is the one who declares the Yemenite Sefer Torah to be mistaken, as explained in my posting.

    Last time I checked, althoguht R’ Ovadiah is an accomplished posek and talmid Haham, he has not displayed much knowledge regarding the history of texts. Someone who spent a lifetime studying these issues such as R’ Breuer z”l would seem to me to be a much more relevant address for such a question.

    >Similarly, a theology question must be submitted to a theologian, hence the qualification of R. Feinstein.

    I am not sure I would categorize R’ Feinstein a theologean as much as a posek. I am not aware of any major work of theology that R’ Feinstein produced. If he is paskening, however, that Jews who have studied these matters must ignore what is right in front of their eyes, then we have a problem. Most likely, he was not so aware of these issues nor was he aware that there are so many observant Jews who study these topics.

  100. By the way, it’s also a halachic question. As I am sure you know, the proper pronunciation of adnonay features in MANY she’elot u-teshuvot, going back half a millenium or more, and is treated as a halachic question. But a posek has to know grammar or ask someone who does. Why shouldn’t the same goes for textual issues? The author of Minchas Shai was certainly not one of the greatest posekim of his, much less any, age. Yet posekim consider his textual investigations to be highly authoritative. Why? The reason is self evident.

    Neither R. Ovadya nor R. Moshe claimed or could claim expertise in the text (and perhaps not even passing familiarity) so it is not in their hands to determine which text is correct, much less obligate one to believe it as a fundamental of Judaism.

  101. >I think a question of text is a question of theology, as per the gemara in Sanhedrin 99a

    It is an issue that may have a theological consequences – but at its core it is a textual/historical issue. These are the core of any methodology we should follow and our theology should conform to the reality of our investigations – it should not be the methodology by which we decide textual issues.

  102. >the proper pronunciation of adnonay

    don’t you mean of adonoy? 🙂

  103. >The author of Minchas Shai was certainly not one of the greatest posekim of his, much less any,* age.

    I meant to say “much less EVERY age,” meaning that even if he was one of the great 17th century posekim (and he was not) he still isn’t one of the greats of all times – and yet his judgments in the text are authoritative, because he was recognized as an expert.

    Also, I wish to make clear that this is not a slight. He was of course a distinguished talmid chochom, as evidenced by the wide array of sources he quotes in Minchas Shai.

  104. Our very own R. Gil Student has written an article [in response to R. Shapiro’s excellent book] in which he makes the case that theology is indeed subsumed within the parameters of p’sak halakhah. [Maybe he can even post us the link if he is following this discussion…] Therefore I maintain that R. Feinstein is qualified.

  105. >in which he makes the case that theology is indeed subsumed within the parameters of p’sak halakhah

    Of course there is cross-over among these issues but neither theology nor halacha can be seen as constructive elements of reality. Isn’t this pashut? Can someone pasken that the sky is yellow? In the same vain, can someone pasken that all the varient texts don’t exist or that it is reasonable to assume that one variant reflect the original text and all the others are corrupted?

    Doing so is approaching the issue backwards.

  106. You are correct. That the sky is yellow we see before our eyes. There is no need to believe when it comes to the question of atmospheric conditions, and thus no posek can instruct us in this department. But the same cannot be said regarding history. We believe what happened in the past. And the Torah guides us how to believe.

  107. Sorry… an absurd typo on my part… that should have read “That the sky is blue we see before our eyes”. Thanks.

  108. >Our very own R. Gil Student has written an article [in response to R. Shapiro’s excellent book] in which he makes the case that theology is indeed subsumed within the parameters of p’sak halakhah. [Maybe he can even post us the link if he is following this discussion…] Therefore I maintain that R. Feinstein is qualified.

    I don’t understand the logical connecter that leads to “therefore…” He’s qualified if he knows the sugya.

  109. Shalom, do you realize that the Sefer Torah in your shul does not have the same text as that of the Rambam or Rashi?

    Nowhere in the Iggeros Moshe does he say that we are obligated to believe that our sifrei Torah are letter perfect and R. Ovadiah doesn’t say this either. All R. Moshe says is that we have to believe that everything was given from Hashem, but he is not referring to possible errors that might have crept in over the centuries.

    No posek in history has ever said that it is an ikkar to believe that our sifrei torah are the same as that of Moshe rabbenu. Every posek knew that there were lots of different nuschaot, and these are not only in male and chaser.

  110. >We believe what happened in the past. And the Torah guides us how to believe.

    So we are back to history as belief? Do you really believe this? There is no empirical basis to history at all???

    Of course such a position is untenable. Yes, conjecture and subjectivity are indeed part of historical methodology but that does not make all positions equal! Some positions, such as the one you are espousing, are simply not tennable.

  111. R’ Benny,
    There may be differences between our Sefer Torah and the Sefer Torah revealed to Mosheh Rabbeinu in letters that have no impact on the meaning of the word, i.e. chaseirot vi’yiteirot (e.g. the aleph vs. the hay in “daka”), as per the gemara in Kiddushin 30a. However, the words are exactly the same, as per the gemara in Sanhedrin 99a. Thus, our Sifrei Torah are word perfect, though not necessarily letter perfect.

  112. Also, Shalom, did you ever take Prof. Leiman or Prof. Bernstein’s or R. Wieder’s Intro. to Bible course at YU? I can’t imagine you did, or you could not be saying what you are. I hate to say it, but there is an enormous amount you are unaware of. Before commenting on these matters, why not give Prof. Leiman a call and tell him your ideas, and he will correct you.

  113. But, R’ Benny – thank you for the raising the important point -I will double-check with the Minchat Shai to review what he has to say.

  114. We wouldn’t need R. Moshe Feinstein (1895-1986) to tell us something that was so pashut if it were so pashut. Therefore he is telling us something that is not to pashut. And that can be tested with evidence.

  115. Shalom, do you do Shnayim Mikra? If yes, then you should be aware of a Rashi that cites a word not in our text, an entire word. And see Sifse Chachamim there. Again, please call Prof. Leiman. Alef and Hay in Daka has nothing to do with chaserot and yeterot and is not what the gemara is referring to. What do you mean by word perfect? Is ויהיו the same as ויהי

    Do you regard these Torahs as word perfect?

    Do you know that there is a Yerushalmi that speaks about machlokes over words and Chazal tell us that the halachah was determined acharei rabim, not through nevuah.

  116. You are correct that I did not take those courses. Indeed, this is the very halakhic question at hand. R. Feinstein certainly “shepped nachas” from his son-in-law’s achievements in professing biology at YU (as per the many responsa in Iggerot Mosheh on this subject) but he never endorsed the academic study of biblical text. R. Feinstein saw a difference between science and history.

  117. How is learning Rashi, or Yerushalmi, or the writings of the Masoretes or looking at a page of the Dead Sea Scrolls “academic study of the biblical text”?

  118. And one final question. If you wanted to know the metzius of old sifre torah, not halakhah but metzius, do you feel it is better to ask R. Moshe or R. Mordechai Breuer? I think your answer to this question will tell us about your assumptions, and how they differ from ours.

  119. Thank you, R’ Benny, for the important questions. In addressing them, I would submit that:

    -On p. 95 of his excellent book, R. Shapiro notes that the Dead Sea Scrolls, Samaritan Pentateuch, Septuagint, Peshitta, and Targumim, differ from our Sefer Torah. This is indeed so, but those items are not our Sefer Torah, and – of all of them – only the Targumim are part of the Orthodox Jewish mesorah. The Targumim themselves are obviously not a verbatim translation of the Sefer Torah, and so no epistemological proof can be brought from the Targumim. Indeed, R. Shapiro refers us to the remarks of R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg in the latter’s Shu”t Seridei Esh, IV, p. 103. There, R. Weinberg unequivocally affirms that authenticity of the words of our Sefer Torah, and rejects the legitimacy of any variations suggested by outside sources. Thus, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Samaritan Pentateuch, Septuagint, Peshitta, and Targumim are all compatible with R. Feinstein’s ruling.

    -On p. 103 of his book, R. Shapiro quotes R. Abraham ben Mordekhai Halevi (the Ginat Veradim) as stating that “once the halakhah has been decided we treat our Torah text as if (ke’ilu) it is from Sinai, even though in reality it is the product of our scholars’ decision.” But a careful examination of the Ginat Veradim reveals that he explicitly says “Vinimtza bazeh shedivrei ha-Rambam ba’u al nakhon…. Zeh chashiv lan kenetinato mi-Sinai…” I.e. Maimonides is correct, our Sefer Torah is indeed the Sefer Torah, literally word for word, as the scroll revealed by HaKadosh Barukh Hu to Mosheh Rabbeinu at Mount Sinai. We are not proficient in chaseirot and yiteirot, but we are proficient in the words, and the Oral Torah tells us to follow the majority in determining how to write chaseirot and yiteirot. Therefore, he continues “vikhol chaser vi’yeter shenimtza hefekh mimenu havei pasul min hatorah ligamrei vi’ein bo kedushat sefer torah klal”.
    I guess the tricky part of this Ginat Veradim is how we apply this principle to the “za’atutei” vs. “na’arei” question of Exodus 24:5 raised by Mesekhet Sofrim 6:4. Apparently, the Ginat Veradim is saying that “za’atutei” and “na’arei” are really the same word, even if some of the consonants orthographically differ. The “za’atutei” vs. “na’arei” question was also a case of chaseirot and yiteirot. Thus interpreted, the Ginat Veradim accepts an expansive understanding of what “chaseirot” and “yiteirot” mean.
    However, there is another approach to interpret the Ginat Veradim, one which enjoys the significant advantage of avoiding having to understand “chaseirot” and “yiteirot” in an expansive manner. R. Menachem Kasher, in his Torah Shelemah, Vol. 19, p. 377, explains that the Sefer Torah that read “Za’atutei” was a Sefer Torah whose scribe-writer held that words in the Sefer Torah may be written in Aramaic. [As R. Kasher further notes, the normative Halakhah does not follow this position, and a Sefer Torah must be written in its pristine original Lishon Hakodesh.] Thus, there never was a divergence of opinions whether the word should be written “Za’atutei” or “Na’arei”. It is definitely “Na’arei”, and the only question is whether it is permissible to substitute an Aramaic word for clarification purposes.
    Either way, the Ginat Veradim is entirely compatible with R. Feinstein’s ruling.

  120. I wish Benny hadn’t mentioned the Dead Sea Scrolls, because the external evidences concerning the history and state of the text needn’t be introduced for the impossibility of R. Spira’s understanding of R. Moshe’s position (or the position itself) to be clear. The issue does not depend upon the Samaritan text or the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Targumim, but rather on accepted codices, Torah scrolls and rabbinic manuscripts. Of course someone might posit that truth is served by introducing examination of those other elements as well, but the point is that even without them the evidence does not bear out that todays Torahs are a word by word copy of Moshe’s Torah, or Rabbi Akiva’s Torah or Rashi’s Torah, even if it is close and no one has suggested that somehow maybe Yishmael really got the blessing in the original, uncorrupted text.

    As an aside, harmonizing interpretations such as that of Rav Kasher may or may not be good on their own merit. We can always be mefalpel any source to ultimately agree with us, but don’t expect it to be convincing to everyone, especially not in the face of contrary evidence.

  121. I repeat: R. Moshe never gave any ruling that our Sifre Torah are identical to that of Moshe Rabenu.

    re. Ginat Veradim, if Rambam is correct, you have a problem, since the Rambam’s sefer torah is not the same as yours.

    I just looked at the Ginat Veradim 2:6 and your description of what he says is incorrect.He never says anything about our sifrei torah being identical to that given to Moshe. And he does use the word ke’ilu. All he says is that this is a halachic matter and needs to be decided acharei rabim, in accordance with the majority. That is why he has to say ke’ilu.

    What you say about zaatutei and naarei is complete nonsense. I can’t believe you are saying this with a straight face. According to the gemara there was a machlokes if the word zaatute or naarei should appear and Chazal poskined like the majority. That is exactly what the Ginas Veradim says to do in all cases.

    There is no such thing as an “expansive understanding of what chaserot and yeterot mean”. I can’t believe you really mean this. Are you joking? Again, I suggest to call Dr. Leiman.

  122. Regarding what you quote in the name of R. Kasher, it is a nice pshetlach. But every rishon and acharon in history who discusses this gemara intereprets it the way the Ginas Veradim does, which is that there were different sifre torah and they decided to poskin like the majority. R. Moshe knows this gemara too. It is not a “problematic” gemara. I don’t know why you find it a “problem” that there were different versions and Chazal poskined which one we should use. Lo bashamayim hi applies to all of Torah.

    Would it bother you if you learnt that Chazal’s understanding of what melachah is is not identical to what Moshe Rabbenu thought? Isn’t that the point of tanur shel achnai? If you can accept that there is a machlokes about Hilchos Shabbos and we don’t know what Hashem wants us to do, then why not about Hilchos Sefer Torah?

    And please answer me, why won’t you call Dr. Leiman and have him explain to you these things.

  123. I am also confused. At times you seem to be saying that there is only one authentic Torah scroll but at other times you seem to be going further and denying that there were different ones at all.

  124. I think Rabbi Weinberg of Baltimore has something relevant in his sefer.

  125. R’ S.: I think you have eloquently captured the key halakhic point. It is R. Feinstein’s position that a person who believes that so much as a single word differs between our Sefer Torah and Mosheh Rabbeinu’s Sefer Torah is just as passul li’edut (due to heresy) as a person who believes that Mosheh Rabbeinu Sefer Torah (chas vichalilah) says that Yishma’el was chosen over Yitzchak.

  126. Thank you for the reference from Rabbi Weinberg. My understanding is that he’s referring to letters but not words. Logically it makes sense… you have to draw a line in the sand that separates Orthodox Judaism from other religions. And here it is: Believing that our Sefer Torah is word perfect (albeit not letter perfect) is a prerequisite for being an Orthodox Jew. That’s what the gemara is really saying in Sanhedrin 99a.

  127. R’ Benny, I think – by reference to tannur shel akhna’i – you are really invoking the gemara in Menachot 29a. This is indeed an excellent question that you are posing. Namely, how come Mosheh Rabbeinu didn’t initially understand Rabbi Akiva’s lecture? See the sources the Schottenstein Talmud quotes in elucidating that passage. Actually, to me, the simplest and most straightforward approach to that sugya (beyond the Schottenstein) would be based on what Rashi writes: that – at that point in time – Mosheh Rabbeinu had not *yet* learned the contents of Rabbi Akiva’s lecture. The implication of Rashi is that later on during the 40 days on Mount Sinai, Mosheh Rabbeinu would indeed learn it.

  128. My apologies for my error in reference… it’s Menachot 29b.

  129. Incidentally, I also asked R. Bleich regarding Mosheh Rabbeinu’s comprehension of Rabbi Akiva’s lecture, since this is a subject he addresses in his introduction to Benetivot Hahalakhah I (KTAV Publishing, 1996). Here’s the telephone message R. Bleich left me in response:

    “I think if you were to ask Mosheh Rabbeinu whether you can open a refrigerator door on Shabbos, his immediate response would be ‘What’s a refrigerator?’ And even if you told him the Hebrew word for refrigerator, it wouldn’t help. But if you explain to Mosheh Rabbeinu the engineering of a refrigerator, then of course he knows the answer. But that’s being a little flippant.
    I know, as anyone who says a shi’ur knows, that you can say can a shi’ur, and you can profess that ALEPH is not the same as BEIS. And there’s a talmid in the shi’ur who doesn’t understand, he doesn’t see why ALEPH is different from BEIS, and he presses you with questions. So you elucidate – you explain in a manner you never before thought possible – to satisfy the talmid. Before the shi’ur you knew the material biko’ach, and after the shi’ur you know it bifo’al.
    There’s a chassidic cartoon depicting the Brisker derekh, where the Rambam and Reb Chaim are walking arm-in-arm in Gan Eden, and Reb Chaim is explaining to the Rambam why two halachos he wrote in the Mishneh Torah don’t contradict one another. It’s not just a cartoon… that’s the reality of what’s happenning. If you were to ask the Rambam about Reb Chaim’s analysis, he would look at you in astonishment and say ‘You’re spending time thinking about these things? These are devarim peshutim!’ And that’s exactly what Chazal are telling us about Mosheh Rabbeinu.”

  130. r’ spira – in the aggadic story in menachot moshe was confused and didn’t understand what was going on – there were no dvarim peshutim.. chazal was dealing with the issue of how expansive torah became and yet we believe that it originates from moshe – the talmud was grappling with the paradox. it offered a solution to that issue while also discussing the issue (in the same aggadic story) of reward and punishment (r’akiva’s death even though he may have been on as high or higher level than moshe- according to the story) that had no good answer according to the aggadatah.

  131. To add another traditional rabbinic authority to the mix here. Please see R’ Dovid Zvi Hoffmann zt”l (who was both a great posek AND textual scholar) in his introduction to his commentary of the Humash (in the German, the Hebrew translation left some key points out) where he writes that while, of course, we never ammend our text, it is due normative halachic concerns and not due to a theological problem. He concedes that the original text may very well have had versions that differed from the massoretic text.

    R’ Spira, you seam intent on turning this issue into a sociological/political tool to seperate your own religion from other denominations. When a person is motivated by narrow political concerns rather than to a commitment to proper reasoning and truth, then it becomes impossible to argue.

    Here are the facts:

    (a) Anyone who spends any time engaging in textual studies is aware of multiple variants WITHIN the masoretic text and WITHIN the commentaries of the great mefarshim.

    (b) Anoyone who spends time engaging in textual studies is aware that the great standardizers of the biblical texts (R’ Abulafia, Minchat Shai, Keset haSofer) followed a rule of ‘majority of authoritative texts’ when establishing our standard text.

    (c) Anoyone who spends time engaging in textual studies is aware that when texts are copied by hand, mistakes inevitably occur. The very system described in (b) assumes such corruptions WILL occur.

    (d) There is no compeling piece of evidence or argument to suggest that at any given point, the majority of authoritative texts available to the great standardizers of our Holy Torah were identical to the original Torah.

    (e) The conclusion from all of the above is that while is is rediculous to break the system by ammending the text – we must remain open to the possibility that our variant does not necessarily reflect the original text.

    (f) Any attempt to force the issue by threatening schism [eg. “Believing that our Sefer Torah is word perfect (albeit not letter perfect) is a prerequisite for being an Orthodox Jew] is much more likely to cause an actual catastrophic schism than cause anyone to decide to ignore all that he knows (a-e above) in favor of bad arguments and ignorance.

    (g) I hope, though must admit I am increasingly unsure, that the majority of talmidei hachamim within orthodoxy (in all its stripes) are aware that the cost of such a schism is much greater than any imagined benefit.

  132. “(d) There is no compeling piece of evidence or argument to suggest that at any given point, the majority of authoritative texts available to the great standardizers of our Holy Torah were identical to the original Torah.”

    All other arguments make sense. but this one does not.

    By going with the majority, you make the assumption that the majority matches the original.

  133. “Believing that our Sefer Torah is word perfect (albeit not letter perfect) is a prerequisite for being an Orthodox Jew.”

    I don’t know a lot about textual variants so I’ll leave that discussion for those with knowledge. It was this comment, though, that I found extremely troubling. One thing in the discussion that seemed pretty clear to me was that there is plenty of support for the argument that that the Torah we have is not word perfect. But then, in the middle of the discussion/argument of whether nit is or is not, we get this attempt to write people out of Orthodoxy if they think differently. Unfortunately, that has become all too common on this blog.

  134. >By going with the majority, you make the assumption that the majority matches the original.

    No, that assumption is necessary in order to have a unified normative text, and perhaps to have the most accurate text possible (assuming that you give different weights to manuscripts based on their quality), but it in no way assumes that such a method will in fact result in zero corruptions. In fact, inherent in this method is the assumptions that texts get corrupted over time. We want to do our best to preserve the best possible text but that is not the same as assuming that it will perfectly preserve the original in the long-haul.

  135. Moshe Shoshan suggested based on the article by R D B Septimus, that Ramban really meant what he said at the disputation, that can be found in Kisvei HaRamban re Aggados being sermons, as opposed to halacha. ( Moshe also was kind enough to provide me with a copy of R D B Septimus’s fascinating article on Ramban, which is excellent in its discussion of Ramban’s hisorical, sociological and halachic antecedents. However, the article is not a surprise for anyone who carefully learns Ramban every week and is familiar with Ramban’s other works.) I don’t see a difference between the comments of Ramban in the disputation and his commentary on the Torah, which is replete with comments as to when, where and why Ramban either accepts or rejects Aggados cited by Chazal or mentioned by Rashi. It is not as if Ramban was setting forth some PC and ultra rationalist view of Aggados to a gentile audience and using such sources elsewhere. I think that one must read the disputation in question with a full realization that unlike R Yechiel of Paris, Ramban was granted the equivalent of complete freedom of speech to marshall sources , attack and defend his POV, which in essence, was a victory, but one which led to his exile and aliyah to the Land of Israel, where many believe that the commentary on the Torah was written, as opposed to Ramban’s other works such as the Milchamos, Chiddushim, Toras HaAdam and liturgical poems.

    If one learns Ramban carefully, as R D Septimus clearly has, Ramban is as critical of Rashi as he is of Ibn Ezra but for wholly different reasons. However, when Ramban is convinced that a certain Aggadah is not merely a nice drasha, but there is no basis for disagreement, Ramban states so and views the same as “Kaballah”, as in the case of Nimrod, where he clearly differs from Ibn Ezra.

  136. Thank you, all, for the excellent insights. I will definitely have to study the Minchat Shai carefully and see what it is exactly he says. My feeling is he’s probably dealing with chaseirot vi’yiteirot, but I will investigate to be sure because this is a very important sugya.
    R’ Chardal, from the fact that – as you mention – the Hebrew translation of R. David Zvi Hoffman’s original German remarks deleted his comments regarding textual authenticity, this indicates that the Hebrew translator recognized those original remarks to be beyond the pale of Orthodox Judaism.
    It is precisely on these considerations that we reject the authority of the Koran. Mohammed also thought of himself as a great posek; he thought he had the textually accurate edition of Scripture. But Mohammed made a mistake (-to judge him favourably: I’m sure it was a well-meaning oversight) because he forgot to look at the gemara in Sanhedrin 99a. Barukh Hashem, we know better.

  137. Shalom Aleikhem R’ Joseph Kaplan,
    You are 100% correct that I am endeavouring to write out of Orthodoxy those who believe that our Sefer Torah is different in terms of words than the Sefer Torah that was written by Mosheh Rabbeinu. It would seem to me that this is R. Feinstein’s psak halakhah.

  138. R’ Chardal, you are 100% that I am motivated by a political consideration to separate Orthodox Judaism from other religions. My feeling is that this political consideration which is motivating me is also a bona fide halakhic consideration revealed by the Ribbono Shel Olam: “va’avdil et’khem min ha’amim lihi’yot li” (Leviticus 20:26). And this is precisely what R. Feinstein is ruling. I believe I have vindicated R. Feinstein with my “Text and Texture” posting. Still, I recognize that there may be countervailing halakhic evidence (particularly the Minchat Shai) so I will check it.

  139. To clarify: that should read “R’ Chardal, you are 100% correct that I am motivated…” Thanks.

  140. >R’ Chardal, from the fact that – as you mention – the Hebrew translation of R. David Zvi Hoffman’s original German remarks deleted his comments regarding textual authenticity, this indicates that the Hebrew translator recognized those original remarks to be beyond the pale of Orthodox Judaism.

    !!!!!!!!!

  141. Shalom, you may be a troll, but I have to say that “it would seem to me” and “I believe I have” and “there may be” are pretty shaky grounds to be making yourself into a little Torquemada, hmm?

    And let me echo S.: You have no idea who the translator is, do you?

  142. R’ Nachum,
    The concern you raise is certainly significant. Namely, the declaration that a certain belief automatically disqualifies the individual from Orthodox Judaism needs to be delivered by Gedolei Haposkim (to the exclusion of a student such as Shalom Spira). I did contact R. Bleich in an effort to achieve this, but still one can proceed even further. This is why I feel that R. Eliashiv should evaluate R. Shapiro’s book and (-lihavdil, ani hakatan) my response, and rule accordingly.
    You are correct; I am not familiar with the translator of R. Hoffman’s German remarks.

  143. ..and, in truth, this entire Torah Musings forum – with all the excellent insights therein which challenge me – needs to be included in the evaluation, as well.

  144. lawrence kaplan

    Nachum: Alas, R. Shalom Spira is no troll. Rabbi Spira, who is from Montreal, took several courses with me at McGill, one in Jewih Law, the other a reading course in Talmud, IIRC, and is kind enough to refer to me at times as Mori ve-Rabbi. But, in truth, as is clear, R. Spira now takes his hashkafic bearings from Rabbi Bleich.

    Indeed, it is fitting that this is so. Both Rabbis Bleich and Spira have no doubt much more energy and rabbinic learning than I, but they both have a regrettable tendency to adopt rigid positions and force the facts to conform to a pre-conceived thesis. In fairness to Rabbi Spira, he is much kinder to his ideological opponents than is Rabbi Beich, who deals with his critics sharply and dismissively R. Spira can imply you are a kofer and in the same breath thank you for your excellent observations. A Torquemada with a human face!

    I have already crossed swords with Rabbi Spira re ibn Ezra. As far I and pretty much all students of the ibn Ezra are concerned, it is clear as day that the ibn Ezra believed in post-Mosaic additons, and all explanations to the contrary are forced and unconvincing. Why Rav Elyashiv’s expertise kabbalah means he has any particular expertise in this matter and his views should be accorded any special authority escapes me.

    The translator of Rav David Tzvi Hoffman’s Commentaries is R. Asher Wersteil, a”h, a fine rabbi and scholar. See the biography of him in the newly translated Peirush of Rav Hoffman on Bereishit.
    But that he would be in a position to rule a view of Rav Hoffman, the great gadol and posek aharon of German Jewry, beyond the pale of Orthodox Judaism, boggles the mind. Speaking of apikorsut, R. Spira’s remarks here come perilously close to bizzui Talmidei Hakhamim.

    Re naarei and zatutei: Even if, for argument’s sake, one wishes accept Rav Kasher’s rather forced explantion, does R. Spira really wish to place all the rishonim and aharonim who understand the gemara ki-peshuto “beyond the pale of Orthodox Judaism?!” Atmeha! Say it ain’t so, Shalom.

  145. I thank Mori ViRebbi R. Kaplan for his very kind and generous remarks. It’s halakhic food for thought…

  146. Prof. Kaplan, viewed with his other statements, the overly polite tone (note the profusion of “R'”s, for example) comes across as phony and “stabbing with a smile.”

    Interestingly, I was a student of R’ Bleich’s in Cardozo.

  147. lawrence kaplan

    Nachum: I could see where you would think this, but I know R. Spira personally and can state definitively that in this case your judgment is off-base. It’s his style. Trust me on this. Sometimes in private converation, he even addressed me in the third person!!! “The Rav once said this,” etc. It took me a while to figure out to whom he was referring.

  148. Thanks; I am honoured from the words of both R’ Nachum and Mori ViRebbi R. Kaplan.
    Regarding R. David Zvi Hoffman, I am no connoisseur (much to my loss), but I just took a glance at his Wikipedia page and – lo and behold – the following quote is attributed to him.

    “I willingly agree that, in consequence of the foundation of my belief, I am unable to arrive at the conclusion that the Pentateuch was written by anyone other than Moses… We believe that the whole Bible is true, holy, and of divine origin. That every word of the Torah was inscribed by divine command is expressed in the principle Torah min Ha Shamayim…”

    Given the reference to “every word of the Torah”, it sounds to me like R. Hoffman is on the same wavelength as R. Feinstein.

  149. Still, it could be that R. Hoffman says something different in the place quoted by R’ Chardal. I will investigate.

  150. lawrence kaplan

    “Every word in the Torah” does not mean every word in our Torah Scrolls. But let me check my volumes of Rav Hoffman’s peirushim at home.

  151. Full disclosure: I stopped following this thread a couple of days ago, and just checked back quickly to see where things stand, so I may not be up on everything that has been said.

    Rabbi Spira: You are once again confusing two extremely different issues. 1) Belief in post-Mosaic authorship, 2) Belief in word-imperfection.

    Denial of one does NOT equal denial of the other. Number 1 means that people after Moshe wrote parts of the Torah. Number 2 means that the Torah, in its original form, differed – both in terms of words and letters – from our Masoretic text.

    There can be some overlap – let’s say, if some words might be different because they were changed on purpose, and with conscious knowledge that they were not the original words written by Moshe – but this does not necessarily need to be true. For instance, many words might have been changed simply due to the difficulties of maintaining exact transmission of a lengthy document in archaic eras, when the sophisticated record-keeping tools of the modern era were unavailable.

    Most importantly: those who do NOT believe that we have word-perfect Torahs, but DO believe in exclusively Mosaic authorship, are completely consistent. This is the point you seem to have trouble grasping.

    Conversely just because one argues for exclusively Mosaic authorship, does NOT mean that he believes in word-perfect Torahs. You also seem to have trouble grasping this, as you constantly assert that those (like R. Hoffman) who apparently believe in exclusively Mosaic authorship must THEREFORE believe in word-perfect Torahs (even if, as in R. Hoffman’s case, he has made explicit assertions to the contrary), and thus conform to Rav Moshe’s position. This is absolutely incorrect.

  152. Just to clarify, my point in the second and third paragraphs above is that a person can believe that every word of the Chumash was written by Moshe, and yet ALSO believe that we have word-imperfect Torahs, simply because every mistake is due to mistakes on the part of the text’s transmitters across the millenia.

  153. Well, I never approved of the third person shtick either, but chacun a son gout.

    I remember a talk with R’ Lamm once: “Does Rav Lamm think…” and R’ Lamm looked all confused and said, “Does Rav Lamm do what?” 🙂

  154. Let me stress that I think he was joking. 🙂

  155. >“I willingly agree that, in consequence of the foundation of my belief, I am unable to arrive at the conclusion that the Pentateuch was written by anyone other than Moses… We believe that the whole Bible is true, holy, and of divine origin. That every word of the Torah was inscribed by divine command is expressed in the principle Torah min Ha Shamayim…”

    R’ Hoffman was highly critical of 19th century higher textual criticism (Wellhausen, etc.) which argued for a composite post-mosaic text. R’ Hoffman, however, did not reject out of hand some of the conclusions of lower textual criticism which of course just sets our to establish the most correct text. He felt that on a normative level, we may not deviate from the massoretic text but he was open to to the possibility of varient readings in the text. He felt that the Torah was given word for word to Moshe but the text we have today is not necessarily word for word identical. Further, he feld there is no halachic or theological problem with this stance.

    and BTW, your suggestion above that R’ Dovid Zvi Hoffmann thereby wrote himself out of orthodoxy is one of the most outrageous statements you have made yet. R’ Dovid Zvi Hoffmann was the greatest German Posek of his generation and was widely respected in all circles.

  156. Chardal,

    Here is R. Hoffmann in the Hebrew introduction to Vayikra

    ואפילו אם נודה, שמקומות מסוימים בטקסט לא נשמרו מטעויות, הרי חסרים אנו אותם האמצעים הדרושים בשביל לשוב ולהעמיד את הנוסח שנכתב ברוח הקודש

    He also writes

    ואם גם נמצאו באי-אלה מקומות נוסחאות שונים (השוה ירושלמי תענית סח: ×’’ ספרים מצאו בעזרה ×”’ מעון וספר זעטוטי וס’ היא וכו’), הרי קבעו את הנוסח לפי רוב הספרים

    I guess this is all kefirah according to Shalom. From my perspective, by saying what he did about R. Hoffmann, I don’t think that Shalom can be regarded as Orthodox anymore. I also think that his comment means that he is no longer suitable to teach at Orthodox shuls.

  157. Thank you, R’ Benny, for the reference from R. Hoffman.
    All R. Hoffman appears to be saying is that our Sefer Torah may not be accurate in terms of chaseirot vi’yiteirot. We follow the majority of Sifrei Torah in terms of establishing which chaseirot vi’yiteirot system we follow. As such, he is simply recapitulating the gemara in Kiddushin 30a, viz. that our Sefer Torah may not be letter perfect. This is entirely compatible with the recognition that our Sefer Torah is word perfect, and such would appear to be the implication of R. Hoffman’s Wikipedia citation. I thank Mori ViRebbi R. Kaplan for investigating with his volumes of R. Hoffman. My German language skills are dismal, so its better that Gedolim Vitovim Mimeni conduct the research.
    R’ Jerry, you are 100% correct that there are two separate issues: intentional post-Mosaic authorship (addressed by the gemara in Megillah 2b) and accidental error (addressed by the gemara in Sanhedrin 99a). The key point that R. Feinstein is advancing in his responsum in elucidating the gemara in Sanhedrin 99a and the Rambam in Hilkhot Teshuvah 3:8 is that a verse is not the same verse if a word has been changed. Therefore, when the gemara in Sanhedrin 99a says that every verse in our Sefer Torah was dictated by the Ribbono Shel Olam to Mosheh Rabbeinu, this means that every word in every verse was dictated by the Ribbono Shel Olam to Mosheh Rabbeinu. Ergo, our Sefer Torah is word perfect.

  158. R. Spira, all you have to do is open a Koren Tanach to the back (which, by the way, in the first edition bore an approbation from the Brisker Rav). It very clearly notes that in Gen. 9:29 the word ויהיו also appears as ויהי in another version. The fact that it ends with a vav does NOT make it a matter of maleh and chaser. The two versions are pointed differently, which means that the variant is two completely separate words.

  159. R’ S., thank you for illuminating information. At the same time, the variation of cited originates from the Yemenite scroll.
    Okay, just for the sake of intellectual honesty, I must admit that R. Feinstein does state in the midst of his ruling in Iggerot Mosheh YD 3:114 (p. 358, left hand column, 16 lines from top) that “ein kashrut Sefer Torah shelanu berurah kol kakh” – the validity of our Sefer Torah is not entirely clear. What R. Feinstein means, in context, is that although our Sefer Torah is definitely word-perfect, it is not certain whether writing a word-perfect but letter-imperfect Sefer Torah is sufficient to fulfill the mitzvah di’oraita of “vi’atah kitvu lakhem et hashirah hazot”. Apparently R. Feinstein sees this as a sfeika didina. Still, we apparently have no choice but to keep on trying to fulfill the 613th commandment with the letter-imperfect tradition we have, because (as the Rambam writes in Hilkhot Shemitah Vi’yovel 10:6 regarding the accuracy of our calculation which year is the Sabbatical year) “shekabbalah vihama’aseh amudim gedolim bihora’ah, uvahem ri’uyim liheetalot”. We follow what our received tradition says, even if there may be hypothetical room to argue. Moreover, continues R. Feinstein (as elucidated by Shalom Spira), when the Anshei Knesset Hagedolah ordained the recitation of blessings over the public reading of the Sefer Torah, they specifically stipulated that – given the recognition that our Sefer Torah is letter-imperfect – we will tolerate a Sefer Torah which varies from the accepted norm in matters of chaseirot vi’yiteirot, as per the Rema in Shulchan Arukh Orach Chaim 143:4, but we will never tolerate a Sefer Torah that is word-imperfect, since by the very definition of Orthodox Jewish theology, our Sefer Torah is word-perfect.
    [Incidentally, the Arukh Hashulchan to Orach Chaim 143, se’if katan no. 6, takes a much more ultra-conservative approach to the Rema, like R. Shlomo Zvi Schuck. Still, the simple meaning of the Rema seems to be like R. Feinstein and not like the Arukh Hashulchan.]

  160. >All R. Hoffman appears to be saying is that our Sefer Torah may not be accurate in terms of chaseirot vi’yiteirot

    No he is not! You are completely misunderstanding the entire point of his introduction. He was discussing it in the context of lower textual criticism which deals with varient WORDS, not just male and haser. Where in the world in his intro do you see him limiting the discussion to such a narrow topic???? You are applying your own misconceptions to what he wrote.

    Can you not admit, at the very least, that according to R’ Hoffman, belief in a word-perfect transmission of the Torah text is not a prerequesite for orthodoxy???

  161. To further elaborate the dispute between the Arukh Hashulchan and R. Feinstein: Arukh Hashulchan claims that when we find a deviation in chaseirot vi’yiteirot during the public reading of the Torah in synagogue, the Sefer Torah is really disqualified. However, because there is such a high statistical chance that any replacement Sefer Torah that we will try to bring to the bimah will also possess an error in chaseirot vi’yiteirot, there is no point trying. Instead, we will rely on the Teshuvat HaRambam who allows reciting blessings on a passul Sefer Torah in the first place. Arukh Hashulchan is clearly driving at the point that he thinks that our Sefer Torah is really letter-perfect (like R. Schuck).
    R. Feinstein disagrees with the Arukh Hashulchan. He interprets the Rema to mean that a deviation in chaseirot vi’yiteirot is tolerated when discovered in the midst of the public Torah reading because we simply can’t say with certainly that our Sefer Torah is letter-perfect. And thus, in terms of Hilkhot Berakhot, the Anshei Knesset Hagedolah built flexibility into the system by allowing the recitation of blessings on a Sefer Torah which deviates in terms of chaseirot vi’yiteirot.
    But the upshot I wish to highlight is that both Arukh Hashulchan and R. Feinstein agree that our Sefer Torah is word perfect.

  162. R’ Chardal, you are correct that I will have to look at the entire passage of R. Hoffman in context in order to arrive at a final conclusion of what R. Hoffman is saying. The particular exerpted sentences could be interpreted as this student has interpreted them, though.

  163. Incidentally, we have now discovered a potential deflection to R. Bleich, based on the Arukh Hashulchan. R. Bleich dismissed R. Schuck because R. Bleich knows that the universally accepted Halakhah is that we don’t replace a Sefer Torah in the middle of the public synagogue reading on account of a deviation in chaseirot vi’yiteirot. Ergo, R. Bleich understood that R. Schuck must be mistaken. But now we see a way of reconciling R. Schuck with the universally accepted Halakhah, viz. based on the Arukh Hashulchan’s approach. Still, I personally think that the simple peshat is like R. Bleich and not like the Arukh Hashulchan. After all, why should we be afraid that every alternate Torah scroll will also be disqualified (as Arukh Hashulchan claims), when there is a chezkat kashrut?

  164. >R’ S., thank you for illuminating information. At the same time, the variation of cited originates from the Yemenite scroll.

    What difference does that make? There is no way for us to be certain which version is correct (=original). That makes the statement that there is no doubt on the word level to be factually incorrect. Furthermore, even if you suggest that somehow the obligation to follow the majority of codices means that we can discount the Yemenite Torah, there is no one who has ever suggested that they use pasul sifrei Torah or even that they are supposed to disregard their own majority. Thus there is one well known doubt about a word in the Torah. This is entirely separate from the probability that in reality the Yemenite Torah is the correct one, since it follows the Aleppo Codex and there is no text more correct.

  165. >>The particular exerpted sentences could be interpreted as this student has interpreted them, though.

    Only if that student is Humpty-Dumpty. טעויות just means mistakes. Where do you get from this that his is talking about malei and chaser, something the Gemara already says we are not expert on, in which case, he would never say “ואפילו אם נודה”. Please tell me you aren’t basing it on the word that follows “טעויות” in the excerpt.

  166. MDJ, Rabbi Hoffmann quotes the gemara which discusses finding different sifrei torah with different WORDS.

  167. Also I don’t understand why R. Spira is choosing R. Moshe as the final word. For that matter there is a famous Avnei Nezer which claims that we today are experts in maleh and chaser because of the Ramah’s Masores Syag le-Torah, which made order out of disorder and clarified them. Why not claim that his view is authoritative?

    The only reason I can think of is because it does not match the facts. This applies to R. Moshe as well (or at least R. Spira’s understanding).

  168. Benny,
    That just makes my point even stronger. I was going only on the text you excerpted above.

  169. By the way, p’shat in that gemara is that they had three sifrei Torah, one of which presumably was “original”- and the one we have today resembles not a single one of them 100%.

  170. R’ S., thank you for the excellent point regarding the Yemenite scroll. This is addressed by R. Ovadiah Yosef in Shu”t Yechaveh Da’at 6:56. However, R. Yosef’s responsum is confusing because he seems to pursue two distinct approaches to the question of reconciling the Yemenite orthography with the Sefardic/Ashkenazic orthography. On p. 292 (second and third lines of the page), he appears to declare that the differences between the Yemenite Sefer Torah and the Sefardic/Ashkenazic Sefer Torah are so trivial that they are halakhically considered as mere cases chaseirot and yiteirot, and therefore the Yemenite scroll and Sefardic/Ashkenazic scroll are both equally word-perfect, and thus halakhically one and the same. Both scrolls are therefore equally suitable for synagogue use. By contradistinction, on p. 293 (starting from the twelfth line), he suddenly and unexpectedly switches gears by asserting that the two scrolls are *not* halakhically the same, and that it is the Sefardic/Ashkenazic scroll which is the true Sefer Torah. [In other words, R. Yosef evidently appreciates that it is this Sefer Torah used by Ashkenazim and Sefardim alike today which HaKadosh Barukh Hu dictated to Mosheh Rabbeinu word for word, for it is the textus receptus of the decisive majority of contemporary Jewry. The Yemenites – while being completely righteous and scholarly – constitute a minority who (through no fault of their own) were isolated from the balance of world Jewry and from the normative pesak halakhah process of the Oral Torah for centuries, and therefore do not possess an accurate Sefer Torah. Behold, the Yemenites were unaware of the Shulchan Arukh. The Shulchan Arukh endorses our Sefer Torah, not the Yemenite Sefer Torah.] According to this second approach of R. Yosef, the Yemenite scrolls are all disqualified and require correction. Nevertheless, R. Yosef possesses a practical solution in case the Yemenite community is unwilling to heed this second approach: The Rambam (Shu”t Pe’er Hador no. 9) holds that one can recite Birkot HaTorah even on a disqualified Sefer Torah. R. Yosef opines that although we do not normally rely on this Rambam, it can be used as a mitigating leniency when combined with another factor. The other factor cited by R. Ovadiah Yosef is that we want the Yemenite and Sefardic/Ashkenazic communities to co-exist in peace and harmony. Although R. Yosef neglects to elaborate the legal reasoning why peaceful co-existence should justify reciting a benediction over a disqualified Sefer Torah, the answer emerges in a subsequent responsum published by the same author (Shu”t Yabi’a Omer VIII, Yoreh De’ah no. 32). There, R. Yosef demonstrates that the majority of poskim hold that reciting a berakhah livatalah is a rabbinic (rather than biblical transgression), and therefore that for the sake of maintaining peace among people it is permissible to refrain from stopping others from inadvertently reciting a berakhah livatalah. [See there at length for the Talmudic basis of this leniency.] Therefore, we can now understand the responsum in Yechaveh Da’at: if publicly announcing that the Yemenite Torah scrolls are disqualified (so as to rescue people from reciting a berakhah livatalah over those scrolls in the synagogue) will be incompatible with maintaining peace among all members of the Jewish community, then it is not necessary to issue such a public announcement.
    Apparently, the key point of internal dispute between R. Yosef’s two different approaches hinges upon the one and only truly glaring difference between the Yemenite scroll and the Sefardic/Ashkenazic scroll For Genesis 9:29, the Yemenite scroll reads “Va’yihihu kol yimei Noach”, whereas the Sefardic/Ashkenazic scroll reads “Va’yehi kol yimei Noach”. Apparently, R. Yosef’s first approach is to say that since – in the context of Genesis 9:29 –“Va’yihi” and “Va’yihiyu” mean exactly the same word, this is just a case of chaseirot and yiteirot, and thus the two scrolls are truly one and the same. R. Yosef’s second approach is to say that since one word is technically singular and the other is technically plural, they are two different words, and so the Yemenite scroll is disqualified. [These two approaches also seem to be transposed by R. Yosef’s son to the latter’s Yalkut Yosef, Dinei Sefer Torah Uveit Hakenesset, p. 146.]

  171. >The Shulchan Arukh endorses our Sefer Torah, not the Yemenite Sefer Torah

    This is wrong, the Shulchan Arukh defers to the Rambam’s psakim on hilchot sefer Torah. And the Rambam defers to the Allepo codex which is what the yemenite sifrei Torah are based on and what our sifrei Torah deviate from. You can not analyize these halachot in an ahistorical bubble!

  172. I think Dr. Leiman’s fascinating lecture on the Masoretic text, there he mentions two famous examples of a difference in words, should settle this discussion:

    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/725855/Dr.%20Shnayer%20Leiman/Orthodox%20Responses%20to%20Biblical%20Criticism

    Avi/AIWAC

  173. “By contradistinction, on p. 293 (starting from the twelfth line), he suddenly and unexpectedly switches gears by asserting that the two scrolls are *not* halakhically the same, and that it is the Sefardic/Ashkenazic scroll which is the true Sefer Torah”

    R. Ovadiah does not say this at all!!! He does not say that the Sephardic/Ashkenazic scroll is the true Sefer Torah.

    He also says nothing about the Shulchan Aruch’s position in this teshuvah!!!

    (EDITED BY MODERATOR)

  174. “There, R. Yosef demonstrates that the majority of poskim hold that reciting a berakhah livatalah is a rabbinic (rather than biblical transgression), and therefore that for the sake of maintaining peace among people it is permissible to refrain from stopping others from inadvertently reciting a berakhah livatalah”

    He doesn’t say this at all. He says nothing about it being a rabbinic prohibition. He says that according to the Rambam and many others there is no prohibition at all!!!

    Almost every source you ever cite is in error.

    I don’t know why we are continuing to argue over this.

    (EDITED BY MODERATOR)

  175. R’ Benny,
    Thank you for your learned response. You are correct that the bracketed comment “[In other words…]” is mine and does not appear explicitly in R. Ovadiah Yosef’s. However, it the bracketed comment is the elucidation of what R. Yosef means. Elsewhere, in Shu”t Yabi’a Omer III, Even Ha’ezer no. 19, R. Yosef addresses the phenomenon of the Yemenite isolation from the Shulchan Arukh tradition.

  176. R’ Benny,
    I am sure you will agree with me that a berakhah livatalah is prohibited, as per the gemara in Berakhot 33a. The question adjudicated in Yabi’a Omer VIII, Yoreh De’ah no. 32 is whether it is biblically prohibited or rabbinically proscribed.

  177. My comment had nothing to do with the bracketed section. Look again!

    This is what you wrote

    “By contradistinction, on p. 293 (starting from the twelfth line), he suddenly and unexpectedly switches gears by asserting that the two scrolls are *not* halakhically the same, and that it is the Sefardic/Ashkenazic scroll which is the true Sefer Torah.”

    What R. Ovadia Says in Yabia Omer has nothing to do with anything we are talking about. The Shulchan aruch doesn’t deal with the Yemenite text of Torah. It is not an issue of Shulchan Aruch vs. Yemenites. The fact that you can’t grasp this speaks volumes for you being unqualified to discuss this issue. To be frank, you know nothing about the Masorah.

    (EDITED BY MODERATOR)

  178. Again, you are dissembling. You summarized for us a teshuvah of R. Ovadiah and you described R. Ovadiah permitting something because berachah levatalah is rabbinic. I told you that this is sheker, and this does not at all appear in the teshuvah. And you respond by citing another teshuvah. If you could read R. Ovadiah you would understand that there is no issue of beracha levatalah here at all, as the Rambam explains. Bracha levatalah has nothing to do with it because the Rambam explains that the berachah is on the reading of the Torah and you don’t need a kosher Torah for this.

    (EDITED BY MODERATOR)

  179. “R. Yosef’s second approach is to say that since one word is technically singular and the other is technically plural, they are two different words, and so the Yemenite scroll is disqualified”

    There is no second approach, and R. Ovadiah Yosef says that the Yemenite scroll is KOSHER to read from!!!!

    (EDITED BY MODERATOR)

  180. “These two approaches also seem to be transposed by R. Yosef’s son to the latter’s Yalkut Yosef, Dinei Sefer Torah Uveit Hakenesset, p. 146”

    Wrong Wrong Wrong. He doesn’t transpose anything. He says exactly what his father says.

    (EDITED BY MODERATOR)

  181. R’ Benny,
    I appreciate your enthusiasm in the noble spirit of milchamtah shel Torah, as per the gemara in Kiddushin 30b regarding “et va’hev bisufah”. At the same time, I believe I have accurately presented R. Ovadiah Yosef’s ruling. R. Yosef is not willing to rely on the Teshuvat HaRambam (which authorizes a berakhah over Keri’at HaTorah on a passul Sefer Torah) alone. He is only willing to use it as a snif lihakel, following either approach (1) or approach (2) that I have outlined in recapitulating his responsum.

  182. R’ Benny and R’ Chardal,
    You are correct that the Shulchan Arukh never explicitly favours the Ashkenazic-Sefardic Sefer Torah over the Yemenite Sefer Torah. But, according to approach (2) of R. Yosef, it is implicit in Shulchan Arukh, since we all know that the Mechaber and Rema exclusively used the Ashkenazic-Sefardic Sefer Torah. [According to approach (1) of R. Yosef, the Yemenite scroll is the halakhic equivalent of the Ashkenazic-Sefardic scroll, since there is only a difference of chaseirot-vi’yiteirot.]

  183. You wrote

    “since we all know that the Mechaber and Rema exclusively used the Ashkenazic-Sefardic Sefer Torah”

    Wrong. Both the Mechaber and the Rema used the Aleppo Codex!!!

    The Mechaber sent a copy of this Codex to the Rama. the Aleppo codex is the same as the Yemenite. Both the Shulchan Aruch and the Rama believed that the Torah should say ויהיו

    (EDITED BY MODERATOR)

  184. There are no “two approaches” in R. Ovadiah Yosef’s teshuvah. I ask that readers examine it to confirm that what I say is correct.

    (EDITED BY MODERATOR)

  185. Okay, I appreciate your heroic efforts, R’ Benny, and I thank you for illuminating my eyes. I will study further what the Mechaber and Rema’s position was.

  186. >since we all know that the Mechaber and Rema exclusively used the Ashkenazic-Sefardic Sefer Torah.

    We assume this, we don’t know it. In fact, when the Mechaber was living in Tzefat he received a letter from Rabbi Moshe Isserles of Cracow with some money. He was asked if he could do him a favor and send him a copy of the famous, perfect codex of the Tanakh that was in Aleppo. The Mechaber obliged. The Rema wrote a sefer Torah from the manuscript which he received, and it was located in the main shul in Cracow until WWII. No, I don’t know what its readings were. But as much as it sounds like a fairy tale, it is 100% true. Food for thought.

    See http://onthemainline.blogspot.com/2008/06/copy-of-aleppo-codex-in-remas-synagogue.html

  187. I see Benny already posted the above. ^

  188. Shalom Aleikhem R’ AIWAC,
    Thank you referring us to R. Leiman’s excellent lecture. I have listened to it, and I find that it is entirely consistent with R. Feinstein and R. Bleich’s psak halakhah that an Orthodox Jew must -by definition – recognize that our Sefer Torah is word perfect. R. Leiman says is that we have nothing to fear by examining the truth, for our Torah is a Torah of truth. He’s a 100% right, and his point is will taken. R. Leiman also says that if one examines the Septuagint and the Dead Sea scrolls to Deut. 32:8 replace the world “Yisrael” with “El”. Of course, this is no surprise, since the Septuagint (as distinct from the Targum Hashiv’im) and the Dead Sea Scrolls are outside the Orthodox Jewish tradition.

  189. > (2) of R. Yosef, it is implicit in Shulchan Arukh, since we all know that the Mechaber and Rema exclusively used the Ashkenazic-Sefardic Sefer Torah. [According to approach (1) of R. Yosef, the Yemenite scroll is the halakhic equivalent of the Ashkenazic-Sefardic scroll, since there is only a difference of chaseirot-vi’yiteirot.]

    1) You have no idea what the Mechaber used. You only have what he wrote which always leads to the Allepo codex which differs from our sefarim in more than maleh and chaser.

    2) This is not true as I repeatedly wrote above, there are consonantal differences as well.

    On a more fundumental level, why in the world would the phenomenon that leads to the defelopment of variances in chaseirot and yeterot not alow lead to variances in the consonants??

  190. “Of course, this is no surprise, since the Septuagint (as distinct from the Targum Hashiv’im) and the Dead Sea Scrolls are outside the Orthodox Jewish tradition.”

    There was no such thing as “Orthodox Judaism” when they were written. The Dead Sea Scrolls were only discovered in 1947, and Jews generally didn’t study the Septuagint until recently. So your point makes no sense.

    In addition, your ears have clearly told you what you *wanted* R’ Leiman to say, not what he actually said. I’d tell you to go back and listen again, but it probably wouldn’t matter- I’ve had my senses trick me at times as well, and you really can’t get past that. Suffice to say that your R’ Leiman never actually says what you ascribe to him.

    The problem here, of course, is that everyone else is talking historical truth, halakhic truth, and so on, and you’re attempting to shut us down by removing us from Judaism. Can’t really have a debate like that.

  191. >>I find that it is entirely consistent with R. Feinstein and R. Bleich’s psak halakhah that an Orthodox Jew must -by definition – recognize that our Sefer Torah is word perfect<<

    You didn't listen to the part where he mentions a word difference between Chazal and the Masoretes (otanu/etchem) did you? Or how he explained how Rabbi David Zvi Hoffman acknowledged the possibility of word-level errors in Tanach?

    Look, if you want to hold fast to this belief, all power to you. But please stop trying to write everyone you disagree with out of Orthodox Judaism. You have R. Moshe Feinstein and R. Bleich, but we also have "ilanot gedolim" on which to rest, ve-"elu ve-elu divrei Elokim Hayim".

  192. AIWAC: Perhaps worse than that is how he tries to write authorities who disagree with him *into* his worldview.

  193. Thank you, all, for the excellent insights.
    Last night I had a chance to review R. Ovadiah Yosef’s responsum in Yechaveh Da’at 6:56. I want to publicly apologize to R’ Benny and R’ Chardal, because I obviously failed to completely read the responsum. As they both correctly indicate, R. Yosef clearly refers (p. 289 in his responsum, 14 lines from bottom) to a report from a book called “Even Sapir” that the Mechaber sent a copy of the Yemenite codex to the Rema, and that the Rema wrote a Sefer Torah based on the Yemenite codex. I thank R’ Benny and R’ Chardal for bringing this to my attention.
    At the same time, I think it is contextually clear that R. Ovadiah Yosef takes this “Even Sapir” story with a grain of salt. As we all know, R. Yosef’s position is that all Sefardim must follow the Mechaber. [And all the more so is this true if the Rema agrees with the Mechaber.] If R. Yosef believed that the “Even Sapir” story was really true, he should be issuing an immediate Kol Korei to all synagogues that follow his psak halakhah that they are obligated to immediately switch over to the Yemenite codex, as the Mechaber and the Rema reportedly held. But R. Yosef does not rule this way. Instead, he offers two different approaches to how to theologically deal with the Yemenite scroll (as I have outlined): (1) That it is subsumed under Kiddushin 30a, since “va’yehi” and “va’yihi’yu” are so similar that it’s a case of chaseirot vi’yiteirot. (2) That it is not subsumed under Kiddushin 30a, and therefore that the Yemenite scroll is actually disqualified, and one can only justify reciting a blessing on it because of darkhei shalom.

  194. R’ AIWAC, thank you for pointing out the “otanu” vs. “etkhem” issue. I will definitely listen again, and this time more carefully. Regarding R. David Zvi Hoffman, R. Leiman does not offer any evidence that R. Hoffman thought a word could be changed. Thus, I maintain that R. Hoffman is on the same wavelength as R. Feinstein.

  195. >At the same time, I think it is contextually clear that R. Ovadiah Yosef takes this “Even Sapir” story with a grain of salt

    He should not. Aside for the fact that Even Sapir is an important book and, hey, Rav Ovadya believes the Ethiopians are descended from Shevet Dan on far far flimsier evidence, as I said this book, published in the 1860s, is not the only evidence that the report is true. The copy of the Tanach which was sent to the Rema was in Cracrow until WWII (and may yet still exist). In it is copied the colophon from the Aleppo Codex. Is this to be taken with a grain of salt?

  196. >Regarding R. David Zvi Hoffman, R. Leiman does not offer any evidence that R. Hoffman thought a word could be changed. Thus, I maintain that R. Hoffman is on the same wavelength as R. Feinstein.

    We’re ALL on the same wave length. No one has suggested that words could or should be changed. The issue is whether or not there are mistakes, not whether they should be changed.

  197. R’ S., thank you for your kind words in asserting (correctly so)that we are all on the same wavelength. I do not think one can attribute to R. Hoffman the position that a word in the Sefer Torah could be mistaken but should still not be changed. This would contradict the gemara in Sanhedrin 99a.

  198. > I do not think one can attribute to R. Hoffman the position that a word in the Sefer Torah could be mistaken but should still not be changed.

    I understand why at first glance this sounds wrong. Why should it be that if there is a mistake we shouldn’t fix it? But the answer is that even if we are reasonably convinced that there is a mistake there is still some doubt, and it’s a big deal to change the text. Even text critics of the Bible proceed as a matter of course from the Masoretic text as the standard. Open up a Biblia Hebraica and you’ll see the Masoretic text footnoted by dozens upon dozens of variants, but the text itself is not changed. Full disclosure: not everyone thinks this is the right thing to do, but the point is that even among scholars who take it as a matter of course and a matter of fact that many many words are wrong do not change them. They note them, they discuss them, they try to prove them, but they do not turn the Hebrew Bible into a hundred Hebrew Bibles.

    But even if we are being conservative and do not depart from the Masorah, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t convincing evidence of variants and even mistakes. But our role is not to rewrite the Torah in every generation, but to try to preserve and pass it on as we received it. But we are humans.

  199. I should have concluded with the following:

    But reasonable people could disagree with what I wrote. To avoid that disagreement, some people deny that there are or even might be mistakes altogether. Frankly I think the avoidance of such a debate is what motivates that point of view (espoused by you, or on the shoulders of those whom you base your view) rather than the facts and the textual history.

  200. >I do not think one can attribute to R. Hoffman the position that a word in the Sefer Torah could be mistaken but should still not be changed

    This is precisely his position. He believes that we can not make changes to the text due to very obvious normative halachic issues. If we want to maintain a unified text then we must be ultra-conservative regarding emmending it. This does not mean that he believes that our text is an exact replica of the mosaic text. This would be a rather untennable position considering the evidence.

  201. Thank you, R’ S. and R’ Chardal, for the illuminating explanation of R. Hoffman. At the same time, just as you indicate that there are “very obvious normative halachic issues” with emending the text of the Sefer Torah, so too are there halachic issues with believing that the text is mistaken, pursuant to the gemara in Sanhedrin 99a and the Rambam in Hilkhot Teshuvah 3:8. I simply don’t see R. Hoffman being in a position to argue with the gemara and Rambam.

  202. I have reviewed R. Leiman’s lecture. I publicly apologize (this time to R’ AIWAC and R’ Nachum) for my failure to listen carefully the first time. It is indeed the case that R. Leiman clearly advances the thesis (during minutes 34 to 44 of the lecture) that Chazal possessed a different reading for Deut. 6:20. Our Sefer Torah reads “et’khem” as the final word of that verse, whereas R. Leiman claims that for Chazal it read “otanu”. Thus, R. Leiman is definitely challenging R. Feinstein’s psak halakhah. I apologize, as well, to R. Leiman, for previously misconstruing his lecture.
    The halakhically admissible evidence that R. Leiman presents to suggest that Chazal possessed a different reading is the Yerushalmi in Pesachim and the Mekhilta. I will have to review the editions of the Yerushalmi and Mekhilta to evaluate R. Leiman’s halakhic case against R. Feinstein. [The evidence R. Leiman presents from the Septuagint and Vulgate is irrelevant since those are sources outside Orthodox Judaism. It is only the Yerushalmi and Mekhilta that can be granted credence.]

  203. Shalom,
    Given that you have misevaluated two of the key texts in this discussion, perhaps you can take a break from your obsessive repsonses and reevaluate _all_ of the relevant material without preconceptions before you comment again on this topic.

  204. That should say “Given that _you concede that_ you have misevaluated two of the key texts”. It is clear that you have also misconstrued RDZH at the least, but you have not yet admitted this.

  205. Thank you, R’ MDJ, for the kind words of inspiration. I will indeed endeavour to repent for my past hastiness.
    I have now examined the Yerushalmi and – lo and behold – R. Leiman’s question is asked by the P’nei Mosheh commentary. P’nei Mosheh writes that the Yerushalmi knows full well that the correct word in the Sefer Torah is “et’khem”. The Yerushalmi is simply positing that a wise son on the night of the Pesach Seder will paraphrase the biblical verse by substituting “otanu” for “etk’hem”, so as not to exclude himself. Ergo, the P’nei Mosheh upholds the psak halakhah of R. Feinstein and R. Bleich.

  206. R’ AIWAC, you say that there are two legitimate sides to this halakhic debate, and that “Elu Va’elu Divrei E-lo(k)im Chaim”. That could very well be, and I definitely give you credit for raising this possibility. However, it could also be that one side is pure heresy because it contravenes Rambam Hilkhot Teshuvah 3:8. [Just as we will not say “Elu Va’Elu” for the dispute between the Koran and the Tanach in terms of which represents the accurate depiction of Holy Scripture.] This itself requires a rigorous halakhic evaluation, and an examination of R. Hoffman’s original remarks might help clarify this. R. Feinstein started the ball rolling with his responsa, but clearly he left many issues untouched and so it is the duty of today’s talmidei chakhamim (like R. Leiman and R. Bleich) to fill the blanks.

  207. Incidentally, in submitting that R. Feinstein’s responsa on the topic need to be supplemented (as is evident from the many excellent points raised in this forum to correctly challenge me), I am not offending (chas vichalilah) the honour of Moreinu ViRabbeinu R. Feinstein, concerning whom I have a tradition from my teacher (R. Joshua Shmidman) that “Shekhinah midaberet migerono shel Mosheh”. Rather, I am simply following what R. Feinstein himself rules regarding revisiting the rulings of the Chazon Ish, in Iggerot Mosheh, Yoreh De’ah III, no. 88.

  208. Regarding my understanding of Shu”t Yechaveh Da’at 6:56 that R. Ovadiah Yosef takes the “Even Sapir” story [of the Mechaber sending the Yemenite codex to the Rema, who then wrote a Sefer Torah from it] with a grain of salt, this we can verify by asking R. Ovadiah Yosef.

  209. I just want to clarify the bracketed sentence in my comment earlier today at 3:16 p.m., so that I can enter Rosh Hashanah with a clear conscience. When I write:

    [Just as we will not say “Elu Va’Elu” for the dispute between the Koran and the Tanach in terms of which represents the accurate depiction of Holy Scripture.]

    -the meaning, of course, is that it is the Tanach which is true.

  210. I’m afraid Rabbi Slifkin is right:

    http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2010/09/futile-and-misleading-arguments.html

    We’re running round in circles here. I have more productive things to do than argue with someone who won’t even allow for the possibility that there are Gedolim who disagreed with Rav Feinstein’s psak.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – you want to force every source that contradicts your thesis into a mitat sdom to fit R. Feinstein? That’s your perogative – just stop claiming that everyone else is compelled to accept such contortionism.

    When you’re ready to actually debate, R. Spira, I suggest you look up Prof. Uriel Simon, who dedicated much of his life to Ibn Ezra’s perush. He should be able to make it clear to you what the “sod” is (hint: it’s got nothing to do with Kaballa).

    Avi/AIWAC

  211. For what it’s worth, see the following by R. David Tzvi Hoffmann in the journal Beis Va’ad La-Chakhamim, year 1 no. 3, p. 16, 7 lines from the bottom:
    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=41606&st=&pgnum=16

    “Aside from the mesorah, which is the greatest authority for us,…”

  212. Instead of people getting upset, while admittedly this isn’t quite a debate, it’s fun. This is a good topic and it’s a good excuse to talk about it.

  213. I’m not upset, just tired. There comes a point in any discussion where it becomes clear that both sides are really just going through the motions. We’ve long since reached that point.

    This is a shame, because the original issue discussed (Academic Jewish studies and Orthodoxy) is a very serious one. In fact I might go so far as to say it’s this generation’s “Religion and Science” challenge.

    If I may break it down into subjects, let’s look at it this way:

    1) Can academic Jewish studies contribute to Orthodox life,
    understanding and practice?

    2) Can, and should, academic Jewish studies be allowed to have a
    normative effect on present day Orthodox Jews or not (halacha,
    ikarei emunah etc)? If so, when and under what conditions?

    3) Academia, especially the humanities is not
    set in stone (indeed, as per Karl Popper, if it’s not
    falsifiable, it ain’t scientific). Theories and arguments that
    are prevalent today may be ditched in another 10 or 20 years.

    In light of this, is it really healthy to make the authority of
    the Talmud, for instance, or the TSBP, contingent on a specific
    historical understanding? I think such a method would send
    anyone who follows academia through a constant emotional and
    spiritual roller coaster. It would be as if we tried to
    stick to Aristotelian physics just because the Rambam adopted
    them?

    4) Last, but not least, must all our historical beliefs be either
    “believed with perfect faith” or allegorized (“all or
    nothing”), or is it sufficient to assume an inductive, middle,
    approach that assumes them as a legitimate possibility (unless
    faced with overwhelming compelling evidence such as the age of
    the universe, the global flood etc)?

    I tried to suggest this approach in a post a while back…
    http://aiwac.wordpress.com/2010/07/13/a-never-ending-journey-on-faith-static-and-dynamic/

    Also see:

    http://aiwac.wordpress.com/2010/07/13/a-never-ending-journey-on-faith-static-and-dynamic/

    and

    http://aiwac.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/its-time-to-move-on/

    Anyway, just a thought.

    Avi/AIWAC

  214. Thank you, R’ AIWAC, for the reference from R. Slifkin (as well as the other excellent points). I am honoured that he has been monitoring our shakla vitar’ya.

  215. Yi’yasher kochakha, R. Student, for the discovery from Beit Va’ad Lachakhamim. I share the enthusiasm of R’ S., given this finding.

  216. Another point of interest, Rabotai, is that there is a paragraph in R. Hershel Schachter’s book Nefesh HaRav devoted to the subject of Sefer Torah textual authenticity (under the title “Sefer Ha’azarah” in the Yoreh De’ah section). However, I don’t currently possess access to this sefer, and I don’t recall what R. Schachter specifically writes there. Could someone perform me the favour of investigating? Thank you.

  217. I’m curious, by the way, as to why Rabbi Spira thinks the Targum HaShiv’im is not the Septuagint. Do you have any evidence that a second translation, to which the tradition of seventy translation was also attached, existed in antiquity?

    Furthermore, I wonder if you are of all of the places in which such a Targum is mentioned in rabbinic literature. A partial list:

    1) B. Megillah 9a
    2) Y. Megillah 1 (72a)
    3) Mechilta Shemos 12:40
    4) Midrash HaGadol Shemos 4:20
    5) ADRN (B) 37

    …And several more. Of these sources, many have completely different traditions as to the number and content of the alterations that were supposed to have been inserted into the translation (e.g. some have 10, some have 11, some have 13, some have 15, some have 18, etc.). Is it your contention that there were multiple such translations floating around?

    In fact, since almost all of the rabbinic accounts of the Targum HaShiv’im affirm that the translation was made for King Ptolemy, are you of the opinion that Ptolemy Philadelphus had more than one translation made by a committee of seventy. After all, we know from the story in the Letter of Aristeas that PP was supposed to have commissioned the Septuagint, so you must know of some other such translation, yes?

  218. Lawrence Kaplan

    While R. Spira is cheerfuly impervious to correction, something that from my personal acquaintance with him I knew from the start would be the case, the debate has brought to light a number of important sources about this issue, a few of which I confess to having been unaware of. So, it has not been pointless, unless one assumes that the sole goal was getting R. Spira to change his mind.

  219. Thank you, R’ Jerry, for the excellent question. Thank you, as well, for the valuable sources on Targum Hashiv’im. I only knew abour the sugya in Megillah 9a, and so I’m very grateful you illuminated my eyes.
    That the Septuagint is not the same as the Greek translation authorized by Chazal (described in Megillah 9a and the other Torah Shebi’al Peh sources you cite) is stated by R. Bleich in his lecture

    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/710199/Rabbi_Dr._J._David_Bleich/Contemporary_Bioethical_Issues_

    from 38:30 until 40:30 into the presentation. I think R. Bleich’s point is well supported by the Wikipedia entry on “Septuagint”. The source that R. Student discovered yesterday from Beit Va’ad Lachakhamim also appears to distinguish the Septuagint from the Targum Hashiv’im.

  220. I thank Mori ViRebbi R. Kaplan for his very kind words. I will endeavour to be more receptive to my interlocutors in the future.

  221. Another point to consider in defining the halakhic parameters of Jewish theology vis-a-vis Sefer Torah textual authenticity is the ultra-conservative position of R. Chaim Ben Atar (in his Or Hachaim commentary to Deut. 34:6) which – like the position of R. Schuck and Arukh Hashulchan previously described – can be rejected as an unnecessary (and potentially inaccurate) stringency. Specifically, the Or Hachaim chastises the Ibn Ezra for commenting that the final verses of the Sefer Torah were written by Joshua. Or Hachaim insists that an Orthodox Jew must believe that everything was written by Mosheh Rabbeinu.
    Actually, with all due respect to the Or Hachaim, he seems to have conflated two distinct issues. The first issue is that there is indeed a legitimate dispute between tanna’im that appears in the gemara (Makot 11a and Bava Batra 15a) whether Mosheh Rabbeinu or Joshua. As R. Feinstein explains in his responsum, this is nothing heretical about the opinion that believes that Joshua wrote the final eight verses. Those tanna’im were just as religious Orthodox Jews as the other tanna’im. They simply held that Mosheh Rabbeinu was given a command by G-d (i.e. a Halakhah Li-Mosheh Mi-Sinai) that a Sefer Torah is not kosher until the final eight verses (describing the post-Mosaic era) will be written by Joshua, and these will indeed be dictated word for word by G-d to Joshua (just like the rest of the Sefer Torah was dictated word for word to Mosheh Rabbeinu). [Of course, the other tanna’im disagree, and hold that even the last eight verses were dictated to Mosheh Rabbeinu in revealing to him the future, but an Orthodox Jew is free to believe one way or the other.] Thus, there is no need for the Or Hachaim to chastise the Ibn Ezra about the last eight verses.
    However, the second issue concerns the authorship of Deut. 34:1-4. Here the Or Hachaim does indeed have a legitimate case against the Ibn Ezra. How can Ibn Ezra claim that these four verses were also written by Joshua, when all tanna’im agree that they were divinely dictated to Mosheh Rabbeinu? For this reason, Or Hachaim’s rebuke appears well placed. However, in my “Text and Texture” posting, I endeavoured to rationalize the Ibn Ezra by suggesting that he was reading (or perhaps misreading) an alternate girsa of the Sifrei, which suggests a tanna’itic opinion that the final twelve verses were all dictated to Joshua.
    In any event, I think it is important to illustrate the rejection of the ultra-machamirim (Arukh Hashulchan, R. Schuck, Or Hachaim) in establishing that the normative Halakhah follows R. Feinstein.

  222. >Thus, there is no need for the Or Hachaim to chastise the Ibn Ezra about the last eight verses.

    Ibn Ezra does not write this about the last 8 verses. He writes it about he last 12 verses.

    The opinion in the Gemara that the last 8 verses are problematic assumes that Moshe could not have written “vayamas sham Moshe.” Ibn Ezra assumes that he also could not have written “Vayaal Moshe . . . el Har Nevo.” I mean, what did he do afterward? Roll a manuscript with Devarim 34:1-4 down the mountain, and the Yehoshua received it and wrote from 5 to 12? In other words, Ibn Ezra is bothered not only by how could Moshe write untruthfully that he died, but also how could we have anything written by him once he went up the mountain alone, never to return? Therefore it could only have been written before he went up the mountain, and thus untruthful, or after he died, and thus not by him.

    Incidentally, not only the Or Ha-chaim prefers the conservative position (that Moshe wrote even those last 8 verses) but Moses Mendelssohn prefers it too. It’s not a question of Orthodoxy – no one sane says that Tannaim were epikorsim, but a question of which of the two mutually exclusive opinions are better, more plausible, etc. Or Ha-Chaim (and Mendelssohn) are therefore choosing what they think is the better view.

  223. Shalom Aleikhem R’ S.,
    Thank you very much for these formidable insights. I agree with you fully, it is surely this problem that prompted the Ibn Ezra to think that the final twelve verses were all written by Joshua. Still, so that the Ibn Ezra doesn’t contradict himself for what he writes at the end of Va’yishlach (viz. that it is heretical to claim that nine verses were added to the Torah after Mosheh Rabbeinu), I assume that Ibn Ezra was relying on the nusakh of the Sifrei that speaks of twelve verses.
    Indeed, as R. Shapiro observes in his book, the same problem is raised by the Chatam Sofer in his Torat Mosheh (Mahadura Kamma) commentary to Pentateuch. R. Sofer indeed wonders how Mosheh Rabbeinu could have written 34:1-4, when he had already ascended the mountain. Asks R. Sofer: Did perhaps Moses write 34:1-4 while on top of Mont Nevo, and then he died and was buried – leaving the Sefer Torah unattended on the mountain peak, and then Jews later ascended to the mountain peak to retrieve the Sefer Torah? R. Sofer concludes that the matter requires analysis. These considerations may have prompted Ibn Ezra to write what he wrote.
    [See, however, the Mahadura Telita’ah of Torat Mosheh, where R. Sofer surprisingly changes his mind, and has no doubts about Deuteronomy 34:1-4; those words were definitely written by Mosheh Rabbeinu. The only question is the last eight verses. R. Sofer proceeds to philosophically explain both sides of the dispute {in a manner precisely mirroring the explanation of R. Feinstein.}
    Then, in Mahadura Revi’a of Torat Mosheh, R. Sofer declares unequivocally that “Torat Hashem Temimah” such that even the final eight verses were definitely written by Mosheh Rabbeinu.]
    Thank you for the information from Moses Mendelsohn, as well, which is new to me.

  224. Lawrence Kaplan

    The excerpt from Beis Vaad le-Hakhamim has the name of Rabbi Israel Hayyim Daiches, the eminent commentator on the Yerushalmi (and grandfather of the noted literary critic David Daiches,) on the top of the page.

    In any event, saying that the mesorah is the greatest authority for us, is almost a truism for an Orthodox Jew, and does not mean that, in principle, it cannot contain any mistakes, as Rav Hoffman explicitly states, though, ss he goes on to say, even if we feel that in a certain point it is mistaken, we are not allowed practically to correct the text.

  225. I think Gil meant to highlight that he defends the Masoretic text (as opposed to the rabbinic reading) because the MT also agrees with the LXX and Peshitta. That is to say, he justifies OUR text as correct after all, rather than the Yerushalmi.

    Not that he says the Masorah is authoritative – no kidding.

  226. All I meant is that R. Hoffmann gives great credence to the MT. I’m certainly not going to contradict his own introduction to his commentary.

  227. “I endeavoured to rationalize the Ibn Ezra by suggesting that he was reading (or perhaps misreading) an alternate girsa of the Sifrei, which suggests a tanna’itic opinion that the final twelve verses were all dictated to Joshua.”

    Oy, do we have to continue this.

    There is no alternate girsa in the Sifre that says that the final twelve verses were all dictated to Joshua. Before the Ibn Ezra said this, no one in history said it (at least no one we know of) I repeat. There is no girsa of the Sifre which says anything at all about someone after Moses writing the verses.

    Every single source you cite is incorrect. We have a real pattern here.

  228. >All I meant is that R. Hoffmann gives great credence to the MT. I’m certainly not going to contradict his own introduction to his commentary.

    That’s no chiddush. Everyone gives great credence to the MT (even if not BECAUSE it’s the MT – but no one says it’s a bad text).

  229. R’ Benny correctly requests a justification for my claim that the Ibn Ezra may have been working with an alternate nusakh of the Sifrei to Deut. 34:5, and he is certainly entitled to an explanation. So I offer it as follows.
    Ibn Ezra to Genesis 36:31 condemns as heretical the assertion that Genesis 36:31-39 were written by a post-Mosaic prophet, contrary to the teaching of the talmudic sages. [See 36:32 where Ibn Ezra affirms “ki lo yipol midivrei Rabboteinu zal artzah”.] Yet, in Deut. 34:1, Ibn Ezra has no problem explicitly declaring that he thinks Joshua wrote 34:1-4 in just the same manner that Joshua wrote 34:5-12. This is an astonishing contradiction within the Ibn Ezra. [See R. Yehudah Nachshoni in his Hagut Bifarashi’yot Hatorah – of which Artscroll has a fine English translation – in which he, with all due respect, completely misses this point. R. Nachshoni writes “it is true that Ibn Ezra expands the idea from 8 to 12 verses, but what difference does this make in the basic idea that a number of verses were written by Yehoshua?” R. Nachshoni is oblivious to the fact that Ibn Ezra has already ruled in Genesis 36:1 that it is heresy to contract the talmudic ascription of Mosaic authorship to the Pentateuch, an account that leaves no more than room for the final eight verses to have been written by Joshua.]
    Now, if we look at the Sifrei to Deut. 34:5, after the two conflicting opinions of the tanna’im are presented as to whether the final eight verses were written by either Mosheh Rabbeinu or Joshua, some manuscripts of the Sifrei have the words “Rabbi Eliezer Omer – Shnaym Esrei…” Ibn Ezra may have read (or misread) to mean that there is a third opinion in the Sifrei, i.e. that of R. Eliezer, which believes that not only the final eight verses but really the final twelve verses were written by Joshua. And Ibn Ezra was makhri’a like this opinion, based on the consideration that the Chatam Sofer would later enunciate.

  230. The variant text of the Sifrei (which reads “Rabbi Eliezer Omer: Shnaym Esrei…”) may be found in Vilna Ga’on’s edition, as well as on p. 427 of the Sifrei Al Sefer Devarim Im Chilufei Girsa’ot Vihe’arot (published by Eliezer Aryeh Finskelstein, Beit Midrash Lirabbanim Bi’america, New York: 5729).

  231. R. Student as well as Mori ViRebbi R. Kaplan both assert (correctly so) that they do not want to contradict R. Hoffman’s introduction to his commentary on Vayikra. May I ask that we be presented with the original German text of what R. Hoffman says, so that we can evaluate (using our German-English dictionaries) what it means, so as to determine whether there is a halakhic dispute between R. Hoffman and R. Feinstein. Thank you.

  232. I invite anyone to examine the Sifrei and you will see that as I said, it says nothing about 12 verses. It is talking about something else entirely.

    Ibn Ezra knew how to read Hebrew. Even a third grader can read the Sifre. It is talking about a different issue entirely. The fact that it uses the number 12 has nothing to do with the number of verses.

    Ibn Ezra was a great Hebrew scholar, and you are saying that he could misread something that any 7 year old Israeli can understand! You dare speak with such disrespect of the Ibn Ezra!

    Can you understand the Sifrei? Do you see that it has NOTHING to do with the 12 verses? Why are you trying to fool the readers AGAIN? Why don’t you quote the passage in the Sifrei and the readers can see for themselves.

    Gil, I protest very strongly why you continue to allow this to go on. Shalom Spira is making a mockery of our gedolim. He is insulting the Ibn Ezra, he has referred to gedolei yisrael as kofrim, he has shown that he is dishonest in his argumentation, he has been shown to be wrong in case after case, and instead of acknowledging that he doesn’t know what he is talking about and stopping, he continues at it.

    Gil, if this was a Conservative rabbi saying he knows more than our gedolim, you would be the first to shut him down, and yet you let this am haaretz go on and on. Enough already.

  233. test — are comments being posted?

  234. indeed, you can read the Sifrei, with the hagahot of the Gra, here:
    http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=34328&st=&pgnum=216

    רבי אליעזר אומר (טו)(בת קול יוצאה מתוך המחנה י״ב
    מיל על י״ב מיל והיתה מכרזת ואומרת מת משה

    which the Gra emends to:

    ×™”ב מיל מל י״ב מיל היתה ב״ק מכרזת
    וימת משה •

    Rabbi Spira, I assume this is this the text you meant. It does seem that Benny is quite correct, that there is no real way to .

    (I don’t know whether this emendation was based on an actual text or to more closely match, e.g. the version of the statement found in Yalkut Shimoni.
    http://www.tsel.org/torah/yalkutsh/bracha.html
    )

    Your use of ellipses might be interpreted as a deliberate Dowdification:
    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=dowdification
    named after Maureen Dowd who repeatedly changed the meanings of quotations by clever use of ellipses.

    You wrote “reading (or perhaps misreading)” but it would seem to HAVE to be “misreading”, and you should have made that much more clear to the reader of your comment. Because then he could evaluate just what sort of misreading would have to have been done by Ibn Ezra, and then how plausible such a misreading would be, given that Ibn Ezra was no am ha’aretz.

  235. As to the “atonishing contradiction”, I’ve written about it in the past
    http://parsha.blogspot.com/2003/12/vayishlach-4-commentators-who-live-in.html
    There is perhaps a difference between the navi Yehoshua writing something, and a navi in the time of King Yehoshafat. This would be quite a late insertion, and one can possibly understand how Ibn Ezra would make a distinction. That you did not make this clear makes your comment misleading.

    Similarly, you state:
    “See 36:32 where Ibn Ezra affirms “ki lo yipol midivrei Rabboteinu zal artzah””
    which is in close enough proximity (which you give by providing verse citations) to the statement condemning Yitzchaki for heresy that the casual reader would think this is part of his comment.

    But looking at it in context, we see that he writes:
    http://daat.ac.il/daat/olam_hatanah/mefaresh.asp?book=1&perek=36&mefaresh=ezra
    איננו בלעם. גם בלעם איננו בן לבן הארמי.
    ויתכן שדרך הדרש בעבור היותו מנחש כמוהו. ×›×™ לא ייפול מדברי רבותינו ×–”ל ארצה.
    Thus, he is *arguing* with Chazal, about an entirely *different* matter, but is explaining how as a matter of derash, they are able to still be correct via saying that it is not literally Bilaam, but a sorcerer like him. With your comment you were seeming to assert that Ibn Ezra was saying that the reason Yitzchaki was heresy was because ×›×™ לא ייפול מדברי רבותינו ×–”ל ארצה.

    All in all, from all this, it seems you are either a confused or uncareful writer, or a deliberately misleading one. if the latter, this does not seem like a menschlich way of conducting a discussion.

    kol tuv,
    josh

  236. Furthermore, there is no “variant text” citing R. Eliezer’s maamar. This appears in EVERY edition of the Sifre. The Gra’s girsa just changes some words around but the meaning is the same. Again, another source misquoted.

  237. my comment is awaiting moderation, probably because of the hyperlinks. here is is again.

    indeed, you can read the Sifrei, with the hagahot of the Gra, at HebrewBooks.

    רבי אליעזר אומר (טו)(בת קול יוצאה מתוך המחנה י״ב
    מיל על י״ב מיל והיתה מכרזת ואומרת מת משה

    which the Gra emends to:

    ×™”ב מיל מל י״ב מיל היתה ב״ק מכרזת
    וימת משה •

    Rabbi Spira, I assume this is this the text you meant. It does seem that Benny is quite correct, that there is no real way to read the text to mean that.

    (I don’t know whether this emendation was based on an actual text or to more closely match, e.g. the version of the statement found in Yalkut Shimoni.)

    Your use of ellipses might be interpreted as a deliberate Dowdification (named after Maureen Dowd who repeatedly changed the meanings of quotations by clever use of ellipses)

    You wrote “reading (or perhaps misreading)” but it would seem to HAVE to be “misreading”, and you should have made that much more clear to the reader of your comment. Because then he could evaluate just what sort of misreading would have to have been done by Ibn Ezra, and then how plausible such a misreading would be, given that Ibn Ezra was no am ha’aretz.

  238. As to the “atonishing contradiction”, I’ve written about it in the past.

    There is perhaps a difference between the navi Yehoshua writing something, and a navi in the time of King Yehoshafat. This would be quite a late insertion, and one can possibly understand how Ibn Ezra would make a distinction. That you did not make this clear makes your comment misleading.

    Similarly, you state:
    “See 36:32 where Ibn Ezra affirms “ki lo yipol midivrei Rabboteinu zal artzah””
    which is in close enough proximity (which you give by providing verse citations) to the statement condemning Yitzchaki for heresy that the casual reader would think this is part of his comment.

    But looking at it in context, we see that he writes:
    איננו בלעם. גם בלעם איננו בן לבן הארמי.
    ויתכן שדרך הדרש בעבור היותו מנחש כמוהו. ×›×™ לא ייפול מדברי רבותינו ×–”ל ארצה.
    Thus, he is *arguing* with Chazal, about an entirely *different* matter but is explaining how as a matter of derash, they are able to still be correct via saying that it is not literally Bilaam, but a sorcerer like him. With your comment you were seeming to assert that Ibn Ezra was saying that the reason Yitzchaki was heresy was because ×›×™ לא ייפול מדברי רבותינו ×–”ל ארצה.

    All in all, you are either a confused or uncareful writer, or a deliberately misleading one. if the latter, this does not seem like a mentchlech way of conducting a discussion.

    kol tuv,
    josh

  239. Lawrence Kaplan

    Actually, ibn Ezra says that Yitzhaki’s book ought to be burned (rauy le-hisaref), but, contrary to R. Spira, he does not refer his views regarding Gen. 36 as heresy and does not say what is so terrible about them. As for “Ki lo yippol mi-divrei rabboseinu z”l artzah,” as Josh pointed out, this has NO connection with his criticism of Yitzhahki. Indeed, it is strange that the ibn Ezra should say this, for in matter of non-halakhic exegesis, the ibn Eztra does not hesitate to sharply and times caustically dismiss the interpretations of Hazal. Ve-ha-devarim yeduim– but perhaps not to R. Spira.

  240. Shalom Aleikhem R’ Benny and R’ Josh Waxman,
    Thank you very much for the erudite challenges you raise to my analysis. The valuable insights you enunciate deserve a response and a more careful explanation on my part.
    The straightforward meaning of the Torah is that Mosheh Rabbeinu wrote the Torah. This is explicitly stated: “Va’yikhtov Mosheh et Ha-Torah hazot” (Deut. 31:9), and is affirmed by the gemara in Bava Batra 14b “Mosheh katav sifro”, and is further affirmed by the gemara in Megillah 2b regarding the impossibility of any prophet after Mosheh Rabbeinu changing the rules of Mantzipa”kh. Any deviation from this comprehension can only be authorized by another Ma’amer Chazal. There is such a Ma’amar Chazal regarding the final eight verses (Bava Batra 15a and Makot 11a), but not regarding the final twelve verses. Thus, the Or Hachaim is correctly observing that Ibn Ezra appears to be in serious theological trouble for claiming that Deut. 34:1-4 were written by Joshua. What I (Shalom Spira) have done is offered a hypothesis to suggest a limud zekhut for Ibn Ezra, in defending him from the Or Hachaim. I agree that my limud zekhut is a bit creative, but I don’t think it’s impossible either. But let’s say Shalom Spira is completely wrong about the limud zekhut. Then where do we find ourselves? The alternative to my limud zekhut is to claim that Ibn Ezra contradicated the talmudic theology regarding Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. In other words, the Or Hachaim’s rebuke of Ibn Ezra would simply stand.
    If one examines Ibn Ezra’s comment in Genesis 36:32, he concludes by referring to “Ha-Yitzchaki Hamav’hil”. Thus, I believe his reference to the impossibility of Chazal being in error should be interpreted as this student has suggested. See also the end of the introduction of Ibn Ezra to his commentary on the Pentateuch, where he writes: “Vi-chalilah chalilah milihit’arev im hatzeddukim, ha’omrim ki ha’atakatam mak’cheshet hakatuv vihadikdukim. Rak kadmoneinu (meaning the Sages of the Talmud) hi emet, vikhol divreihem emet, Va-Hashem E-lo(k)im emet, yancheh avdo biderekh emet.” I believe these remarks affirm that Ibn Ezra had no interest in contradicting the theology of the Sages of the Talmud, and so my limud zekhut on Ibn Ezra (as creative as it may seem) enjoys potential merit.
    The reason I do not feel one can distinguish between Joshua and Yehoshafat is because the gemara in Temurah 16a states that Joshua had no authority to serve as a law-giver.

  241. >Thus, the Or Hachaim is correctly observing that Ibn Ezra appears to be in serious theological trouble for claiming that Deut. 34:1-4 were written by Joshua.

    This really gets into the question of, what right do we (or the author of Or Ha-chaim) have to judge Ibn Ezra? He, too, was a great Jew. His commentaries are Jewish national treasures. He is quoted several times by Tosafot and his biblical interpretations are quoted in She’elot u-teshuvot. Instead of squeezing him to fit into our box, maybe the proper thing is to recognize that our own box should be a different shape, or more malleable than it is.

    Or maybe not. But what if I turned your approach around and assumed that Ibn Ezra is right and that we have to interpret the Or Ha-chaim or Reb Moshe in such a way that their words do not implicitly indict Ibn Ezra, that is is THEY who have to fit into him? Is that right? Just change the meaning of what they wrote? This is what you seem to be doing.

    As for whether or not Ibn Ezra contradicted the theology of Chazal, you can just as easily interpret him as not doing that by noting that there’s no difference between the 8 or 12. Chazal thought of a good reason for the 8, but applying the same reasoning he noticed that the problem is there for the 12.

    In terms of Joshua as a lawgiver – the final 12 pesukim are not “law!”

  242. “The valuable insights you enunciate deserve a response and a more careful explanation on my part.”
    I also object to this sort of flowery and overly polite language. Speak to the point, man! Use of such language serves to obscure, not to clarify. These are not “valuable insights”. They are calling you out for trying to mislead your reader, or else pointing out that you were accidentally misrepresenting sources. And a “more careful explanation” is not what the “valuable insights” deserve. Your “more careful explanation” seems to me like more of the same blustering.

    Rabbi Slifkin was right in that it is not good to persist in this arguing, because it gives the appearance that there is actually something to argue about. There is not.

    “Any deviation from this comprehension can only be authorized by another Ma’amer Chazal.”
    according to your theology, and Or Hachaim’s theology. not necessarily that of Ibn Ezra.

    “What I (Shalom Spira) have done is offered a hypothesis to suggest a limud zekhut for Ibn Ezra, in defending him from the Or Hachaim.”
    Great. But if you are wrong (which seems most likely), what you have also done is modify Ibn Ezra so that he conforms to your own theology. Speaking on behalf of Ibn Ezra, he would take great offense at this. Defending Chazal, and defending Rishonim, is great. But ziyyuf haTorah is awful, and offensive.

    “The alternative to my limud zekhut is to claim that Ibn Ezra contradicated the talmudic theology regarding Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. In other words, the Or Hachaim’s rebuke of Ibn Ezra would simply stand”
    This is much better than falsehood. So let it stand. Ibn Ezra is a grown-up.

    “I agree that my limud zekhut is a bit creative, but I don’t think it’s impossible either.”
    You are changing the subject. Forget your “creative” limmud zechut. My objection was in your seemingly misleading presentation. That is, using ellipses which implied that the Sifrei said something that it didn’t. Saying “read (or *perhaps*) misread” when the only way was “misread”, while asserting boldly that such a girsa did exist. and applying a comment on a different matter as if it were the same matter.

    How was your limmud zechut not “impossible”, as a reading (rather than misreading) of the Sifrei?

    “The alternative to my limud zekhut is to claim that Ibn Ezra contradicated the talmudic theology regarding Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch.”
    it is *implicit* Talmudic theology. ibn ezra might well have extrapolated (correctly or incorrectly) from the 8-pesukim theory that saying such about 12 pesukim was not a heretical stretch.

    “he concludes by referring to “Ha-Yitzchaki Hamav’hil””
    yes, he does. this is likely in large part because this Yitzchaki suggested more than 100 lower-Biblical-criticism type emendations of the Torah text, not just this one suggestion of late authorship. This Yitchaki, then, had a program of undoing the Torah text, claiming that it was a composite work, and a corrupt work. I have a link for this, but will put it in a separate post so that this comment won’t be held up for moderation. But do a Google search for the words: parshablog yitzchaki emend
    and follow the link to: “The Samaritans make Yisro bow”

    kol tuv,
    josh

  243. here, btw, is the link which references this greater role of Yitzchaki:

    http://parsha.blogspot.com/2010/02/samaritans-make-yisro-bow.html

    kt,
    josh

  244. One hardly knows where to being. Let’s take a blog and fisk it:

    “This is explicitly stated: “Va’yikhtov Mosheh et Ha-Torah hazot” (Deut. 31:9),”

    Nowhere in the Torah does “torah” mean what we mean by it, i.e., the Pentateuch. “Torah” literally means “instruction,” clearly means that throughout the Pentateuch, and could refer to any part of the Pentateuch.

    “and is affirmed by the gemara in Bava Batra 14b “Mosheh katav sifro”,”

    Which means what, exactly? The Gemara also refers to “Parshat Bilaam” as if it was something else. It doesn’t take a great logical mind to figure out what’s different about Parshat Bilaam and what the Gemara’s (technically, the Beraita, but whatever) issue is.

    “and is further affirmed by the gemara in Megillah 2b regarding the impossibility of any prophet after Mosheh Rabbeinu changing the rules of Mantzipa”kh.”

    “Rules of mantzipach?” Moshe had K’tav Ivri, which has no mantzepach. Even K’tav Ashuri didn’t have it until late. (In fact, technically the final forms came *first* and were then followed by the other forms.)

    And I am politely requesting that you refrain from adding any honorifics to my name or speaking in that phony sycophantic tone that Prof. Kaplan seems to feel is authentic but which I find false and annoying.

    Josh, can you clear up for me how *lower* criticism equals “composite authorship”? They’re two different things.

  245. one final point:
    “The reason I do not feel one can distinguish between Joshua and Yehoshafat is because the gemara in Temurah 16a states that Joshua had no authority to serve as a law-giver.”
    This is what “you feel”. But you made that choice on behalf of Ibn Ezra, and (deliberately or accidentally) obscured that choice from the reader by simply presenting that Ibn Ezra condemned authorship by a “post-Mosaic prophet”, then equating the two. That is unfair to your readers. Present your theory, and your limmud zechus, but with *full disclosure*, so that they can spot the strengths and weaknesses.

  246. “Josh, can you clear up for me how *lower* criticism equals “composite authorship”? They’re two different things.”

    indeed, they are two separate things.

    * composite authorship was that a prophet in the days of Yehoshafat added the text of Bereishit.

    * lower criticism is saying that over 100 words were corrupted, and telling us what the correct words are. for example, in Shemot 19:12, that וְהִגְבַּלְתָּ אֶת-הָעָם should read et-hahar.

    kol tuv,
    josh

    Yitzchaki did both, and Ibn Ezra blasted him for each in turn. For the lower criticism, see my link above, about the Samaritans making Yisro bow.

    kol tuv,
    josh

  247. “added the text of Bereishit”

    should read

    “added TO the text of Bereishit”

    oops,
    josh

  248. OK. I was confused because you used the word “then” in your post.

  249. >Mantzipa”kh.

    It probably should also be pointed out that the acronym isn’t Mantzipa”kh. If it were, then it would follow the letter order and begin with Kaf. Rather, the mnemonic forms the words מן צפך, “of your prophets,” which accords with the Gemara’s contention that they were introduced or reintroduced by the Prophets. See Chiddushei ha-Ramban on Shabbos 104.

  250. Lawrence Kaplan

    FTR, the ibn Ezra in his Intro is speaking about the authority of Hazal in terms of their HALAKHIC interpretations. He is certainly not speaking about some supposed authoritative rabbinic theology. This is really ABC. Incidentally, his approach directly contradicts that of the Rashbam.

    Shalom, you are out of your depth here. It is nice that you are educating yourself as you go along about many sources with which you were obviously unfamiliar when you started, but you are up against peole who are truly familiar with these sources and are in a position to call you on your “krum” — to say the very least– explanations.

    Nachum: I also find R. Spira’s overly polite tone irritating, but I have learned to ignore it. At this stage, it’s water off my back.

  251. I thank Mori ViRebbi R. Kaplan for his kind words and I fully agree with him that my interlocutors are truly familiar with the sources, to the exclusion of myself. I applaud my interlocutors on this achievement, and am certain that they will continue to excel “mecha’yil el chayil”. At the same time, since we are dealing with Halakhah, I do not possess the luxury of recanting in the absence of compelling evidence.
    Although R’ S. correctly observes that Deut. 34:1-4 does not address a law per se, the writing of a kosher Sefer Torah is itself a law of the Torah. Adding four verses to the Sefer Torah ipso facto tampers with a law of the Torah. [Also, yi’yasher kochakha on the nice Mantzipa”kh peshat.] The marvelous source that R’ Josh Waxman presents on the 100 words that Yitzchaki contested seemingly suggests that Ibn Ezra, in repeatedly admonishing Yitzchaki, believed that an Orthodox Jew must affirm the textual authenticity of our Sefer Torah (like Rambam in Hilkhot Teshuvah 3:8). I think this supports R. Feinstein rather than contradicts R. Feinstein.

  252. I have just discovered now that Rif and Rosh both cite the gemara in Sanhedrin 99a, thus seemingly putting them in line with Rambam, Hilkhot Teshuvah 3:8.

  253. Erm, the last eight pesukim are also part of the Torah and thus are also part of a “law of the Torah.” Nu.

    Something I thought of this morning, RaShKeBeHaG Spira. Moshe wrote Ha’azinu- the Torah says so. So my question: How many lines did he write it in?

    Yes, this is a trick question.

  254. R’ Nachum, thank you for the excellent question. You are absolutely correct – even to add eight verses to the Sefer Torah would render a post-Mosaic prophet a navi sheker. Thus, according to those tanna’im who hold that the final eight verses were written by Joshua, we must say that Mosheh Rabbeinu was given a Halakhah Li-Mosheh Mi-Sinai that the Sefer Torah is not complete until eight verses (which will be dictated to Joshua in the future, after Mosheh Rabbeinu’s death) will be added. In both of his responsa on the subject (YD 3:114 and OC 4:24) R. Feinstein fails to employ the precise terminology “Halakhah Li-Mosheh Mi-Sinai”, but it is contextually clear that this is what he means. [Cf. the Sifra at the beginning of Behar, that all the details of all the mitzvot were revealed to Mosheh Rabbeinu at Har Sinai.] Indeed, in my arguing that R. Feinstein’s responsa on this subject are full of blanks that needs to be filled by the information supplied by R. Bleich, R. Kaplan, R. Leiman, and R. Shapiro, this is another illustration of the point.
    It is certainly the prerogative of tanna’im in Bava Batra 15a to report the existence of Halakhah Li-Mosheh Mi-Sinai. By contradistinction, it is not the prerogative of Rishonim to invent a Halakhah Li-Mosheh Mi-Sinai, and thus Ibn Ezra has no authority to extrapolate from eight verses to twelve verses. [If Ibn Ezra was working with an alternate nusakh of Sifrei, then his twelve verse suggestion becomes theologically acceptable, since the Sifrei is itself a talmudic source.]
    The absurdity of extrapolating from eight verses to twelve verses calls to mind a witticism that R. Hershel Schachter expressed in a visiting lecture he delivered in a Montreal synagogue (the Adath Israel) on Chol Hamo’ed Sukkot of 5767. He said that there is a talmudic basis for Reform Judaism to abrogate the law: “mitzta’er patur min hasukkah”. Reform Judaism simply extrapolated from yeshivat sukkah to all the mitzvot of the Torah. We know that such an extrapolation is not epistemologically valid, and we therefore look forward to Reform fulfilling the prophecy “vi’amekh kulam tzaddikim” by speedily growing into Orthodox. By the same token, the Rishonim cannot independently extrapolate a Halakhah Li-Mosheh Mi-Sinai from eight verses to twelve verses. It is for this reason that I am so surprised at R. Yehudah Nachshoni [who wrote an otherwise tour de force book.]
    I agree with you that trick questions are an important pedagogical tool for expanding Torah knowledge, as per the concept “lichadudei” presented by the gemara in Berakhot 33b et al. I confess ignorance regarding how many lines there are in Ha’azinu, and so I look forward to your insights on this topic.

  255. I can’t argue with someone who makes up things out of thin air, as your entire post is. Gei gezunte heit.

    I also can’t argue with someone who can’t open this week’s parsha and count the lines in the parsha. It’s not hard.

  256. A rishon can’t make up a halacha le-moshe mi-sinai but . . . you can?

  257. Thank you, R’ Nachum and R’ S. for your learned responses.
    I appreciate your concern that I appear to be synthesizing a Halakhah Li-Mosheh Mi-Sinai from thin air, but you may rest assured that I am not doing so. Rather, I am simply putting together A, B and C, as R. Feinstein does, but I am making R. Feinstein’s words clearer (-as might be inferred from Tosafot in Shevu’ot 26b, s.v. “ela”, later generations must elaborate more than previous generations). Here is the A, B, C:
    (A) It is clear from the gemara in Bava Batra 15a that some tanna’im hold the last eight verses were written by Joshua.
    (B) It is also clear from the gemara in Temurah 16a that no prophet – including Joshua – has any authority to change the parameters of a mitzvah, and that any prophet who would dare claim that he received a revelation to do so would be executed as a navi sheker.
    (C) It is also clear that adding so much as a word to the text of the Sefer Torah constitutes changing the parameters of the mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah (as well as the mitzvah to read from a kosher Sefer Torah at Hak’hel).
    How, then, do we explain the eight verses that were dictated to Joshua? Answer: Halakhah Li-Mosheh Mi-Sinai.

  258. Rabbi S., Rabbi Kaplan, Rabbi Nachum, and Rabbi Benny, and Spira:

    While pondering the astounding insight that Spira had in interpreting Ibn Ezra, I became cognizant of another exposition, just as plausible as the one offered. And though I am but a humble ignoramus, I have no choice but to proffer it. As we all know, Ibn Ezra does not ascribe authorship to a post-Mosaic prophet to only these last twelve Pentateuchal verses, but to various selected verses across the Pentateuch. How could he possibly do this? Some answer that this is not to sod of twelve mentioned by Ibn Ezra. But we can rather answer on his behalf that he read the Sifrei, which clearly states that it is ×™”ב על ×™”ב. And 12 X 12 = 144. Where Ibn Ezra excoriates Yitzchaki, it is because this is verse #145. Now, although Ibn Ezra does not explicitly say this about 144 different verses, we may “fill in” on his behalf that there are indeed these, and that he had a halacha leMoshe miSinai about them. The only reason he reprimands Yitzchaki is that this was not one of those Scriptural verses, and Yitzchaki, who was a rishon, cannot make up a halacha leMoshe miSinai, and extrapolate from 144 to 145. Thus, Yitzchaki was going against Chazal. Obviously, to say otherwise would be absurd.

    kol tuv,
    josh

    (EDITED BY MODERATOR)

  259. R’ Josh Waxman,
    Thank you for your kind response. I think you have correctly identified a key point: that the claim that a prophet could add verses to the Torah, such as “vehakena’ani az ba’aretz”, is forbidden by the gemara in Sanhedrin 99a. This is because – by definition – a prophecy to add words to the Sefer Torah is nevi’ut sheker, since it is a prophecy to change the parameters of a mitzvah di’oraita. Thus, one who claims that “vihakina’ani az ba’aretz” or other words of the Pentateuch were written by a post-Mosaic prophet is claiming that it was not authored at the behest of the Ribbono Shel Olam. And such a claim violates Sanhedrin 99a, which is codified as Halakhah by Rambam, Rif and Rosh as a prerequisite for Orthodox Judaism.

  260. Spira,

    Thank you for your kind response, in turn. And thank you for your investment advice. Plastics, you say?

    If I might add to the above, we might be melamed zechus for Yitzchaki as well. After all, with a name like this, he is probably Rashi’s brother or something. One alternative is to let Ibn Ezra’s criticism stand. But we can point out that the gemara (Bava Basra 16a
    http://he.wikisource.org/wiki/%D7%91%D7%91%D7%90_%D7%91%D7%AA%D7%A8%D7%90_%D7%98%D7%95_%D7%90
    ) records that משה כתב ספרו ופרשת בלעם ואיוב מסייעא ליה. So he is either correctly reading (or perhaps, farfetchedly, mis-reading) that Iyov assisted Moshe Rabbenu in writing his sefer, and in writing parashat Bilaam. This is like חזקיה וסיעתו who authored other works, as mentioned earlier on the daf. And later in the daf, we read that רבי יוחנן ורבי אלעזר דאמרי תרוייהו איוב מעולי גולה ×”×™×” ובית מדרשו בטבריא ×”×™×”. Thus, there was a post-exilic “help” from Iyov to Moshe in writing the Torah, according to Chazal.

    Yitzchaki is thus a frum Orthodox Jew, and we have saved him from Ibn Ezra’s condemnation.

    (I don’t feel like responding to your points. Maybe you can figure out why.)

    Now, you may say this is an implausible reading of the gemara, and Yitzchaki. But I believe it is eminently plausible.

    your humble servant,
    josh

    (EDITED BY MODERATOR)

  261. Let me please clarify that I didn’t leave out the honorific. I didn’t mean to leave Rabbi Spira as just “Spira”. So though the specific appellation was moderated out, please mentally insert the honorific Rabbi.

    kol tuv,
    josh

  262. FWIW I saw the original.

  263. Lawrence Kaplan

    Gil: Your editing of Nachum and Josh’s comments was unwarranted. They were just engaging in some lighthearted humor, making fun of what they -justfiably, I would add– consider to be R. Spira’s overly polite tone and his rather free granting of honorifics to all concerned.

  264. Shalom Aleikhem R’ Josh Waxman,
    I appreciate your kind words regarding mentally inserting the title. It’s the right theme for the festival of “zikhron teru’ah”. Shanah tovah to us all.

  265. R’ Nachum earlier asked about the Parashat Bil’am reference in Bava Batra 14b. This is an important question. See R. Menachem Kasher’s Torah Shelemah, where he devotes an appendix to Parashat Balak in explaining this reference.

  266. Shalom Aleikhem Rabbotai,
    My apologies for my delays in finding R. Schachter’s book. I see that I erred (for which I further apologize). The section on “Sefer Ha’azarah” is in Mipininei HaRav (not Nefesh HaRav as I originally claimed). R. Schachter quotes R. Soloveitchik as saying that the mesorah for Sifrei Torah must be maintained through the scrolls found in the Temple. It’s a nice insight, but stands apart from the discussion we’ve been enjoying in this forum.

  267. i’m virtually certain, though I haven’t doublechecked, that in one of R Bleich’s Contemporary Halahic Problems works, he gives the example of the spelling of “daka” in Yemenite texts as an example of differences in sifrei torah. He does not appear to think that it’s problematic to say that there are letter differences aside from maley and chaser, as daka is a variant of “alef” and “hey.” I don’t know if this is an example where the meaning of a word is affected. However, once one acknowledges letter differences aside from maley or chaser, as i’m virtually 100 percent sure R Bliech does in his book, how can one insist that no such letter – change affects the meaning of words? Maybe someone can ask him to clarify his position.

  268. R’ mg, thank you very much for the message (and thank you also for apprising me of it in the “Ashrei Tidbits” forum). Indeed, you are correct: R. Bleich refers to the aleph-hay dichotomy in his book “With Perfect Faith”, in the introduction to the eighth principle. There he asserts that there is no cognitive difference whether the word is spelled with an aleph or with a hay. So I take it that he regards it as a case of “chaseirot vi’yiteirot”. You’re right, it’s not exactly “chaseirot vi’yiteirot” in the conventional sense (which usually refers to an extra vav or a missing vav). But in an expanded sense, this can be seen to fall under the rubric of the gemara in Kiddushin 30a regarding chaseirot vi’yiteirot, since the word is definitely “daka”; it’s only a question how to spell the final silent letter.

  269. That said, I agree with you that it would be appropriate to ask for clarification.

  270. thank you for your answer and also for informing me of where he mentions daka/daka – alef/hey (I was sure that I’d seen him mention this, but after I wrote the comment, I checked his Contemporary works and didn’t see it – I am missing a volume, however, and didn’t think to check With Perfect Faith)

    I am not sure how – once changes in letters are not restricted to issues of maley/chaser – one can insist that a letter-change can’t affect the meaning of a word. It’s one thing to say that people simply weren’t that careful in transmitting/copying maley and chaser. But what is the argument now – that they weren’t careful whenever letter changes don’t affect the meaning of words, but were otherwise careful and therefore no letter-changes could have crept in that affect meaning of words? That hashgacha of the rbs”o protects against letter-changes that affect meaning of the words, but not against letter-changes that don’t affect the meaning of words?

    However, in the introduction he doesn’t say whether there could be letter-changes that affect meaning, or if believing such changes are present would be kefira. Indeed he quotes sanhedrin 99a that denying belief that all the torah, even one letter, is mishamayim is kefira – i assume what he says about letters is based on rashi, who says chutz midikduk zeh (d”h dikduk zeh) refers to chaseros and yeseros. Yet clearly we are not bekiin in chaseros and yeseros and to say OUR sifrei torah err on chaseros and yeseros is not kefira – just as to point out the fact that there are variant spellings of daka is not kefira, but a fact – the required belief is that the original torah was given entirely by hashem, to include each and every letter whether maley or chaser, but this doesn’t extend to the 9th ikar, i.e. belief that our torah is exact on this point. And clearly the 9th ikar also doesn’t = acc. to R bliech – extend to spelling differences such as daka with hey or aleph – there is no required belief that we have no changes at least ones that don’t affect cognitive meaning. The question is whether and how one can arrive at the conclusion that the 9th ikar requires belief that there are no leter-changes that affect meaning, and whether R Bliech believes that is a required belief. I don’t know what the 9th ikar includes or doesn’t include, but I am inclined to think that letter-changes that affect meaning are not part of the ikar, rather the idea is that there is no deliberate and/or substantial insertion or deletion – c”v – of phrases that affect meaning. I don’t know where to draw the line, but I think it’s probably after letter-changes in single words that may affect meaning, since we do see there are clearly variants in letter changes. I will bl”n try to ask R Bliech myself.

    In an earlier thread, was there a noach? II = you left a comment in which you assert that according to R bliech, belief in evolution is kefira, because it is a question of a d’oreisa and we must rule strigently. I believe you are mistaken re R Bliech’s stance on this point. I’ve asked him about these questions, and he told me that allegoriztion of maase breishis is not kefira. I remember that one of rabbi bliech’s students also reported that he didn’t view non-literal breishis as kefira. I am therefore fairly certain re his views on maase breishis and I believe you’re incorrect that he agrees with you halacha lemaase. Perhaps you conflated some agreement with some point in your line of reasoning with agreement with your conclusion?

  271. additionally – how would he deal with vayehi kol yemei noah vs. vayihiyu? Do you really think he would characterize that as a difference with no cognitive meaning? I don’t see how that can be. It’s probably fair to say that there is no appreciable difference between the variants wrt the meaning of the phrase. However the word vayehi is not the same meaning as vayihiyu. To me, this indicates that you can have letter differences in words that create a difference in meaning.

  272. btw I apologize for continually misspelling Rav Bleich’s name. Hopefully he would see my typos as instances of maley vechaser with no cognitive meaning 🙂

  273. R’ mg,
    You raise an excellent point which I never addressed. There appears to be a contradiction between the Rashi in Sanhedrin 99a regarding chaseirot vi’yiteirot all coming from Heaven, and the gemara in Kiddushin 30a. I would answer that Rashi in Sanhedrin 99a refers only to chaseirot vi’yiteirot that serve as the basis of derashot with halakhic ramifications (-hence the term “chutz midikduk zeh” in the beraita). These have not been lost or transposed. But as for our knowledge of chaseirot vi’yiteirot that have no ramification in terms of halakhic derashot, it has evaporated, as per the gemara in Kiddushin 30a (according to the R. Feinstein/Bleich approach, as distinct from the ultra-conservative R. Schuck/Arukh Hashulchan approach explained in this forum). Thank you for speaking with R. Bleich and discussing with him whether this hypothesis of mine has merit.
    Regarding evolution, it’s very possible R. Bleich changed his position on the issue. My conversation with him was in Spring 5767. Yours may have been at a different time. The conversation began by R. Bleich referring to the mountains taking “millions of years to form”. [In context, he was explaining to me his position regarding the calculation of halakhic time on mountains contained in CHP Vol. 5, ch. 3] I jumped in astonishment at the reference to millions of years of geological history, and quoted the poskim who prohibit allegorization of Genesis. At this, R. Bleich responded that because of safek di’oraita, one must be stringent.
    Thank you for the important question regarding the va’yehi vs. va’yihiyu dichotomy. See my post on Sept. 1 at 4:17 p.m. and on Sept. 2 at 10:22 a.m.

  274. All of that said, I agree with you that these are issues that R. Feinstein and R. Bleich left unaddressed. R. Shapiro deserves great credit for bringing these issues to the forefront; and I hope I have responded correctly, la’amitah shel Torah. These are significant developments so it’s good you are apprising R. Bleich of them. Yi’yasher kochakha.

  275. R Spira – I didnt have a chance to respond to your comment at length. Just want to note that I didn’t speak to RBleich; I said bl”n I will try —a sfeik sfeika!
    Pending that, bl”n I hope (ditto, sfeik sfeika – I don’t want to rely on my memory) to update, but if you feel comfortable leaving an email address (as I see you write under what I presume is your real name), maybe that might be better, as it may take time if I do get to it as I hope.

    kol tuv and good shabbos

  276. R’ MG,
    Thank you; hamivarekh yitarekh. I can be reached at [email protected]

  277. Shalom Aleikhem Morai ve-Rabbotai,

    It is now over a year since we enjoyed this discussion. However, I do want to apologize (even if I am tardy in doing so) for mistakenly claiming in my comment on Aug. 26, 2010 at 6:55 p.m. that my words on the Text and Texture website (in the context of the excellent article of R. Aryeh Klapper, shlit”a) had disappeared. Actually, my words are still there (and always were), and I express my hakarat ha-tov to the Text and Texture website for this kindness.

    http://text.rcarabbis.org/%e2%80%9cthe-canaanites-were-then-in-the-land%e2%80%9d-ibn-ezra-post-mosaic-editorial-insertions-and-the-canaanite-exile-from-the-land/comment-page-1/#comments

    It was my original ignorance of how to employ internet technology that made me mistakenly think that my comments had disappeared. I apologize for this technical error on my part.

    Another correction: In my comment on the present (Torah Musings) forum on Aug. 26, 2010 at 6:31 p.m., I mistakenly wrote “It is on the latter point that R. Kasher disagrees with R. Kasher.” I should have actually written “It is on the latter point that R. Kasher disagrees with R. Schuck.” Thank you.

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