Freedom is the cornerstone of democracy and its absence is symptomatic of a dangerously coercive society. Yet too much liberty is damaging to that very freedom. Any country that wishes to thrive must place limits on individuals’ freedoms when it infringes on those of others, such as protecting one person’s property rights from his neighbor and preventing someone from falsely and dangerously shouting “fire” in a crowded theater. Does this need for boundaries also apply to intellectual freedom, the right to think what you want? While the very question raises the specter of Big Brother, when transferred from the political realm to that of voluntary religious affiliation it can be seen as an issue not of mind control but of the level of desired conformity within a single community.

Intellectual Freedom

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I. Limits

Freedom is the cornerstone of democracy and its absence is symptomatic of a dangerously coercive society. Yet too much liberty is damaging to that very freedom. Any country that wishes to thrive must place limits on individuals’ freedoms when it infringes on those of others, such as protecting one person’s property rights from his neighbor and preventing someone from falsely and dangerously shouting “fire” in a crowded theater. Does this need for boundaries also apply to intellectual freedom, the right to think what you want? While the very question raises the specter of Big Brother, when transferred from the political realm to that of voluntary religious affiliation it can be seen as an issue not of mind control but of the level of desired conformity within a single community.

R. Avraham Yitzchak Kook explored the limits of intellectual freedom in a number of letters, recently translated and analyzed by R. Bezalel Naor in The Limit of Intellectual Freedom: The Letters of Rav Kook. Must a Jew believe anything? May he believe anything? This is not a discussion about how to acquire “proper” beliefs or what to do if you cannot. Nor is it about policing for “improper” beliefs, an understandably disturbing prospect that R. Kook did not propose. It is about whether such a concept of “proper” beliefs exists and, if so, how they are determined.

II. Freedom Within Limits

On the one hand, R. Kook felt that no Jew may accept a belief that undermines the Jewish religion: “If there were to be found in the world a nation whose very existence as a nation depends on a certain opinion, then in regard to that opinion it is not only permissible but even obligatory for society to maintain that there be no freedom of opinion” (Iggeros Ra’ayah, vol. 1 pp. 19-20; Naor, p. vi). This is similar to how one historian explained to me Rambam’s choice of the Thirteen Principles. According to this historian, who will remain unnamed because he only reluctantly discussed this controversial matter with me in a private conversation, Rambam was responding to contemporary heresies that undermined Judaism. Regardless of your opinion of those specific principles, this historian continued, Rambam would certainly oppose contemporary Biblical Criticism because its conclusions, if accepted, undermine Judaism.

However, other than this limitation, R. Kook described a historical debate over philosophical openness. According to the Talmud Bavli (Sanhedrin 87a), theological debates can never be conclusively decided. However, according to the Talmud Yerushalmi (Sanhedrin 11:3), rabbis can rule according to one view and declare the other unacceptable (Iggeros Ra’ayah, vol. 1 pp. 123-124, 341, vol. 3 pp. 67-68; Naor, pp. 45-53). This is seen in their differing statements regarding the biblical passage of the Sanhedrin’s authoritative rulings (Deut. 17:7-13). According to the Yerushalmi, this passage also applies to “aggadah,” Jewish thought. R. Kook explained that in the land of Israel, the home of prophecy, the atmosphere of divine inspiration allows for reaching conclusions on theological matters, as opposed to Babylonia and other places of exile.

III. Historical Debate

R. Kook traces this debate through Medieval history, asserting that certain Geonim and Rishonim (most notably the Rambam) sided with the liberal Bavli while others (such as R. Hai Gaon) followed the restrictive Yerushalmi. R. Naor extends R. Kook’s historical study beyond the Medieval period, positioning the Vilna Gaon alongside the Yerushalmi and R. Shneur Zalman of Liady, the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, with the Bavli.

R. Naor supplements R. Kook’s letters with explanations, elaborations, appendices and stunning — in terms of number and content — endnotes. R. Naor’s creative brilliance shines in this work, with his breadth of knowledge — rabbinic texts, Kabbalah and academic studies — supplementing his inquisitive depth. His unrestrained, and perhaps underdisciplined, genius overwhelms the reader with interesting but often tangential studies. The book is a tour-de-force of both copious research and serious religious seeking.

IV. Freedom Within Existing Limits

However, much to my surprise, I could not find a discussion of what I consider a key question: Does R. Kook, at least according to the Bavli, allow only for intellectual freedom in choosing among traditional views or even rejection of all rabbinic precedents for a new alternative? In Rambam’s numerous comments on this subject in his commentary to the Mishnah (e.g. Sotah 3:3), he opts for the former, stating that we do not rule between existing rabbinic views. However, R. Shmuel ben Chofni (quoted in Radak’s commentary to 1 Samuel 28:24) rejects a traditional view based on reason. It is possible to argue, though, that despite Rambam’s limited wording in his commentary to the Mishnah, in practice he rejected traditional views such as the existence of demons. Which of these approaches is R. Kook discussing under the rubric of the Bavli view? His wording seems to imply the former but his inclusion of R. Shmuel Ben Chofni suggests the latter.

I am similarly uncertain whether R. Bachya Ibn Pakuda belongs in this dichotomy. On the one hand, he states clearly in his introduction to Chovos Ha-Levavos that a Sanhedrin cannot rule on matters of faith. However, he also states that we must defer to tradition: “After having accepted these things by way of tradition, which means all the religious commandments, foundations and details (כל מצות הדת ויסודיו ופרטיו – Kafach), you must continue to speculate upon them with your mind, your understanding and with well-measured logic, until truth is evident and falsehood is driven out.” While R. Bachya removes faith from the realm of rabbinic decision-making, he still requires complete deference to tradition rather than intellectual freedom. Intellect is expected to conform to the truths of tradition.

V. Intellectual Freedom According to Rambam

On the seeming contradiction between Rambam’s assertion of Thirteen Principles of faith (Commentary to the Mishnah, Sanhedrin 10:1) and his immediately succeeding statement that we do not rule on matters of faith (Ibid. 10:3), R. Kook seems to resolve it by distinguishing between views whose rejection undermines religion and those that are less damaging. However, R. Naor (endnote 69) offers a very different resolution. Pointing out that Rambam’s Moreh Nevukhim and Sefer Madda represent precisely the taking of sides Rambam had earlier stated was unnecessary, R. Naor suggests that Rambam was only saying that he, in his commentary to the Mishnah, would refrain from ruling between different views. It was a statement about the nature of Rambam’s book, not of Judaism in general. This is an intriguing explanation that merits consideration.

I have, in the past, offered a different resolution. My suggestion is that Rambam allows for reaching decisions on fundamental principles, of which the rejection has practical religious implications such as qualification to serve as a shochet. When beliefs do not affect religious practice, intellectual freedom reigns.

VI. Rav Kook’s Conclusion

Which approach did Rav Kook favor, that of the Bavli or Yerushalmi? R. Naor quotes R. Kook’s son, R. Tzvi Yehudah Kook, who seems to say that his father favored the Yerushalmi approach of ruling on theological matters. In my limited understanding, I take this to mean that, living in Israel, he favored reviving the Israeli approach that is based on the prophetic spirit of the land. I have previously noted that R. Eliyahu Zini also adopts this Yerushalmi approach (link). However, R. Tzvi Yehudah Kook’s student, R. Shlomo Aviner, seems to lean toward the Bavli’s approach (Responsa She’eilas Shlomo, vol. 2 no. 258).

R. Naor disagrees with both sides. If I understand him correctly, R. Naor argues that R. Kook adopted both approaches. For some people, the Yerushalmi approach is correct and for others, the Bavli approach is better. As with many aspects of R. Kook’s thought, I cannot put these pieces together into a coherent whole.

R. Naor’s book contains much more than addressed here. His detailed discussions and tangents raise fascinating issues that deserve greater discussion (for example, his suggested connection between R. Kook and Moses Mendlessohn that I think misunderstands the latter). Nevertheless, this book’s main theme — the tension between theological conformity and freedom — is one with which we continue to grapple nearly a century after R. Kook wrote his letters. A religious community cannot pray together or study together without mutually agreed upon premises. Where those boundaries lie and the amount of freedom within them remain issues of primary concern which ironically continue to evade resolution.

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.

303 comments

  1. “A religious community cannot pray together or study together without mutually agreed upon premises.”

    But, of course, we Jews have been doing precisely that for 2 millennia when it comes to belief. The mutually agreed upon premises in regard to theology are “don’t ask, don’t tell”.

  2. “practical religious implications such as qualification to serve as a shochet”

    The Bavli rules definitively that any adult Jew, male or female, may shecht a korban. End of discussion.

  3. Regardless of your opinion of those specific principles, this historian continued, Rambam would certainly oppose contemporary Biblical Criticism because its conclusions, if accepted, undermine Judaism.

    That must of course be weighed against the damage to Judaism of intellectual dishonesty, if one is convinced that the arguments of BC are correct yet nevertheless refuses to believe in it.

  4. The Bavli rules definitively that any adult Jew, male or female, may shecht a korban. End of discussion.

    Many apparently unequivocal statements in Chazal are qualified elsewhere. For example:
    כל ישראל, יש להם חלק לעולם הבא–שנאמר “ועמך כולם צדיקים, לעולם יירשו ארץ” (ישעיהו ס,כא). ואלו שאין להם חלק לעולם הבא…

  5. Regardless of your opinion of those specific principles, this historian continued, Rambam would certainly oppose contemporary Biblical Criticism because its conclusions, if accepted, undermine Judaism.

    What a strange system. What does the latter have to do with whether or not it’s true??

  6. While I am sure this anonymous (cue: Kaplan brothers) historian has a rationale for his conclusion, this seems a debatable proposition given: a) the broad brush of “contemporary Bible Criticism” (whatever that means); and, b) Rambam’s own words in Eight Chapters (quoting from the Twersky translation, p.363):

    “I have gleaned them from the words of the wise occurring in the Midrashim, in the Talmud, and in other of their works, as well as from the philosophers, ancient and recent, and also from the works of various authors, as one should accept the truth from whatever source it proceeds. […] Sometimes, too, the mentioning of the name of authority drawn upon may lead one who lacks insight to believe that the statement quoted is faulty, and wrong in itself, because he does not understand it. Therefore, I prefer not to mention the authority, for my intention is only to be of service to the reader and to elucidate for him the thoughts hidden in this tractate.”

  7. The Bavli Sanhedrin 104b has a parallel in haskafa to the better known Gemara in perek Hazahav of the Tanur shel Achnai, where the Chachamim rule in halacha against a variety of miracles up to and including a bat kol, and God is said to be pleased. The gemara in Sanhedrin relates that the Anshei Knesset hagedolah wished to add Shlomo to the list of those who have no portion in the world to come. They saw a vision of David and would not retract; there was a miraculous fire that singed their chairs and the held fast. There was a bat kol that tried to reason with them, and they ignored it. Then there was a final bat kol which said to them (quoting a passuk in Iyyov 34:33 in a sense somewhat different from its meaning in context) “Shall you dispense payment because you despised him? Do you choose and not I?” to which they finally must acquiesce.

  8. Sigh,

    Here we go again, yet another unresolvable debate between the “halachic Jews don’t have to believe anything” and the “13 ikarim or bust” crowd.

    Can we please discuss R. Kook’s views proper?

    IIRC, R. Kook had a very innovative (albeit tactical) approach to people who felt compelled to accept multiple authorship of the Torah. His argument was that if the prophets wrote the Torah, it is still “min hashamayim”. More importantly, the ultimate authority of the Torah rests in “kabbalat ha’umma”, acceptance of the people, which we see happen numerous times in Jewish history.

    Granted, he hoped that this would be merely a temporary fall-back position until multiple authorship could be disproved. Still, it provided a belief cushion for those who felt intelectually anus on the matter. Dr. Leiman was right to point out the (multiple) problems of this position, but it still beats telling otherwise devout Jews to beat it.

    R. Kook also had very interesting things to say about “kofrim”, and about how they are often closer to the Divine (if they question and search) than behavioral religious Jews.

    I think it would behoove us to separate the question of belief from the question of putting people outside the pale. This would at least remove the emotional sting from much of these discussions and allow for a more sober conversation.

  9. IH: But, of course, we Jews have been doing precisely that for 2 millennia when it comes to belief. The mutually agreed upon premises in regard to theology are “don’t ask, don’t tell”.

    I think Baruch Spinoza might beg to differ. He’s only one of many examples. Chakham Tzvi even has a teshuvah defending Chakham David Nieto, the Sephardic rabbi of London, of accusations of heresy. And that is setting aside the Karaites, who aside from deviations in belief also deviated in practice.

    But I agree with “don’t ask, don’t tell”. The problem only arises when people tell their heretical beliefs.

    Charlie: The Bavli rules definitively that any adult Jew, male or female, may shecht a korban. End of discussion.

    That just isn’t so. The Bavli is not definitive about the matter (see its discussion of a child and a mumar) and the discussion didn’t end there. Like all halakhah, the discussion continued throughout the generations.

    Shlomo: That must of course be weighed against the damage to Judaism of intellectual dishonesty, if one is convinced that the arguments of BC are correct yet nevertheless refuses to believe in it.

    I totally disagree. BC is toxic to Judaism. There is no Judaism, at least no lasting Judaism, with BC unless you adopt some half-BC with prophetic inspiration that is equally (in my opinion, more) open to the charge of intellectual dishonesty.

    Q: What does the latter have to do with whether or not it’s true??

    There are two ways to understand this unnamed historian’s word (e-mail if you want to know his name but you must provide your name in exchange):

    1) The Rambam chose among many true principles which to emphasize in his Thirteen based on what criticisms were being thrown at Judaism

    2) The Rambam stated that any criticism which is used to undermine Judaism must be discarded as heretical, regardless of the merits of the criticism, although the Rambam certainly believed in Judaism

    I suspect the historian meant the latter but I’m not entirely sure.

    IH: a) the broad brush of “contemporary Bible Criticism” (whatever that means); and, b) Rambam’s own words in Eight Chapters

    I think most of us know exactly what he meant by “biblical criticism”. That Rambam is true but irrelevant.

  10. “I think Baruch Spinoza might beg to differ”

    Spinoza proves my point about “don’t ask, don’t tell”. He got into trouble (with the lay Parnasim of the community) because he was externalizing his inner views. [Prof. Rebecca Goldstein’s “Betraying Spinoza” is a fascinating summer read, btw].

    “I think most of us know exactly what he meant by “biblical criticism”. ”

    Please enlighten me. Do you limit this to “The Documentary Hypothesis” or does that include, e.g., the Soncino Hertz 2nd Ed Chumash that many of us grew up with in Orthodox shuls?

    “That Rambam is true but irrelevant.”

    Really? The fact that Rambam incorporated Greaco-Muslim truths despite the fact they were alien to normative Judaism (to the extent that he rationalized not attributing them) is irrelevant?

    Finally, on aiwac’s point regarding Rav Kook — I would be delighted, but as has been pointed out to me on Hirurim when I have raised Rav Kook, most readers consider him far to controversial and, therefore, just an intellectual curiosity (pardon the simplification to which I do not subscribe).

  11. Lawrence Kaplan

    IH: I fail to understand your reference to me and my brother in your 11:41 pm post.

    Re your 9:15 am comment: The Rambam is referring, as has been shown, to Farabi. The Rambam did NOT consider the psychological ideas of Farabi he incorporated in the Eight Chapters to be alien to normative Judaism. However, because of OTHER ideas of Farabi that were, indeed, alien normative Judaism, if he cited Farabi by name people might think that the ideas of Farabi that he incorporated were alien as well.

  12. Prof Kaplan: your Farabi example is a good one to better understand Gil’s thinking. Is anything written by someone engaged in “Bible Criticism” grist for the mill, or should one discard the falsehoods and promote the truths? Or, is all of it (still to be defined) pasul ipso facto. I look forward to Gil clarifying this point.

    As to my failed attempt at humor, both yourself and your brothers make comments about anonymity on this blog from time to time. Apologies if was taken in the wrong spirit.

  13. brother – unintentionally fat fingered an “s”.

  14. IH,

    “Biblical Criticism” ’round here refers to any argument for an entirely (or mostly) post-Mosaically written Torah. That includes, but is not limited to the question of composite authorship (e.g. J,E,P,D, or the other theories out there). It does not include arguments for a mostly Mosaic Torah with some small later additions a la R. Bonfils’ super-commentary on Ibn Ezra. See R. Blau’s article on Dr. Shapiro’s book for more.

    “the Soncino Hertz 2nd Ed Chumash that many of us grew up with in Orthodox shuls”

    What exactly is in this Chumash that’s so dangerous?

  15. I think that both the schism of the Tzudukim with the Perushim and the great stuggle of the Tannaim against Hellenism show that limits on hashkafik freedom existed well before the time of the Gemarra Yerushalmi. The differences of hashkafa that Harav Kook points out between the Bavli and the Yerushalmi help explain the tension in the Yerushalmi between the indiginous chachamim and those who came from Bavel(who are often called “Bavlai tipshai” ie foolish Babylonians.
    It is clear to me that today there are hashkafic lines that cannot be crossed. Even though practical application in halacha is far more important in deternining who is a Torah true Jew and who isn’t,there can be no tolerance of “Orthoprax” observance by closet (and to my mind cowardly) kofrim.

  16. IH-take a look at the Bibliography in Nechama Leibowitz Z”L’s works. I think that it is evident that Nechama Leibowitz ZL was certainly willing to consider the value of many heterodox thinkers. OTOH, BC has to be certainly approached with extreme caution, for the reasons that R Gil mentioned earlier.

  17. aiwac — thanks, but there are many commentators here who have maximilist positions and I am trying to understand Gil’s position in terms of this particular post.

    On Soncino, I did not think anything was dangerous about it until someone — can’t remember who — jumped up and down about it on Hirurum some months back when I mentioned it.

    Again, the question is for the poster to explain what he meant in clear terms.

  18. IH,

    Tu quoque: Define “maximalist positions” as opposed to more moderate positions?

  19. IH-The Hertz Chumash ( 2nd Ed.) was an excellent work for a community that was illiterate in the classical commentaries,and considered modern commentaries and a “response” and/or “answers” to such issues as evolution , BC and comparisons with Hammurabbi’s code important. Such a commentary, in tandem with traditional commentaries as advocated by ArtScroll, is important for people who are either bothered or interested in such issues. However, for the vast majority of people who are not bothered or interested in such issues or who view BC as beyond the boundary and definition of Parshanut, such a Chumash is nowhere as important as acquiring textual literacy in the classical Mfarshim.

  20. Gil, did the unnamed historian explain why the Rambam evidently did not regard the Karaites as challengers, for a Karaite is likely to believe all 13 of the Rambam’s ikkarim with perfect faith?

  21. The limits of Torah m’Sinai from a halachic perspective. Your stated positions on Nach, for example, are more moderate than Gil’s from my perspective.

  22. >the vast majority of people who are not bothered or interested in such issues

    I seriously question whether this is true. Since, as Gil points out, we live in communities where we do not have intellectual freedom to openly voice our doubts or musings, the ol’ interwebs seems to have revealed a level of doubt and curiosity in our communities which no one dreamed was there. I’m not saying “the vast majority” are bother and interested, but I am very uncertain if the vast majority are not.

  23. David Tzohar – your position towards orthopraxers who are nevertheless observant (‘cowards’) is very uncharitable. Would you really rather that anyone who could no longer bring himself to believe anymore was forced to make a public declaration of his unbelief?

  24. In response to Steve Brizel’s point about Nechama Leibowitz, for anyone interested and not already aware, a letter from Nechama to a rabbi whose name escapes me was printed in the memorial volume that was published in her memory a few (approx. 10) years back that explains pithily why she uses the non-traditional sources that she uses. It also makes clear that she threw out the aspects of those sources that weren’t compatible with her view of the Torah.

  25. IH: your Farabi example is a good one to better understand Gil’s thinking. Is anything written by someone engaged in “Bible Criticism” grist for the mill, or should one discard the falsehoods and promote the truths?

    I never suggested the former, that anyone engaged in BC is automatically disqualified. What I thought was abundantly clear is that we are discussing an approach that attempts to undermine the Torah. Not what peshat is in some specific verse or word.

  26. Apropos of David Tzohar’s historical comment, Prof. Schiffman makes a relevant point in Text and Tradition (p. 153):

    “By this time [1st cent CE], tannaitic Judaism was already the dominant form of Judaism, for the Pharisees had emerged from the revolt against Rome as the main influence within the Jewish community. After the destruction, the tannaim immediately recognized the need to standardize and unify Judaism. One of their first steps was to standardize the Eighteen Benedictions, which along with the Shema, constituted the core of daily prayers. At the same time, they expanded an old prayer to include an imprecation against the minim, Jews with incorrect beliefs. In this period, this could only have meant the early Jewish Christians, who observed the laws of Judaism but accepted the messiahship of Jesus. Although the Rabbis continued to regard the early Christians as Jews, they reformulated this prayer in order to expel them from the synagogue, as testified to by the Gospel of John and the church fathers. In addition, the tannaim enacted laws designed to further separate the Jewish Christians from the community by prohibiting commerce and certain other interrelationships with them.”

    One wonders what the Tannaim, as described in the above, would make of Orthodoxy’s elevation of “contemporary Biblical Criticism ” as undermining Judaism, whilst tolerating Chabad’s direct or indirect acceptance of the messiahship of RMMS.

  27. S: Gil, did the unnamed historian explain why the Rambam evidently did not regard the Karaites as challengers, for a Karaite is likely to believe all 13 of the Rambam’s ikkarim with perfect faith?

    No but presumably the Rambam would consider Karaites to lack a *sufficient* belief in the Oral Torah.

    IH: I’ve *defended* the Hertz Chumash on this blog.

  28. David Tzohar: The Sadduccees deviated in practice, not just in belief.

  29. Gil — I apologize for being dense, but can you spell out what you classify as “an approach that attempts to undermine the Torah”?

  30. S-take an uneducated guess-what sells-ArtScroll and traditional commentaries or works on BC?

  31. >No but presumably the Rambam would consider Karaites to lack a *sufficient* belief in the Oral Torah.

    I guess so, but it’s actually a fairly mild difference if you think about it. If the whole point is to exclude (even) them, you’d think it would be a little stronger. Like, for example, actually mentioning Torah she-be’al peh specifically.

    I have to think about it.

  32. Lawrence Kaplan

    The Rambam explicitly mentions the oral Torah as part of principle 9 referring to the immutability of the Torah.

    The letter of Nehamah Leibwitz was to Rabbi Dr. Yehdah Ansbacher. It was published in Pirkei Nehamah, pp. 657-658. An English translation by Aviad Freedman can be found in Milin Havivn, vol. 2. Also see following issue for my letter with correction. It also should be available on-line.

  33. Lawrence Kaplan

    I meant Avidan Freedman

  34. “On Martin Buber, for instance, she writes: “Buber was not a good Jew in the ordinary sense of the word. I met him and he was not my cup of tea at all! Absolutely not!” Always honest, however, she adds: “But what can I do? He taught me and many religious teachers some true things about Bible … and I would be doing my students a disservice by concealing this from them.””

  35. >S-take an uneducated guess-what sells-ArtScroll and traditional commentaries or works on BC?

    Both. Not every frum person only buys Artscroll, and frum people also use public libraries (even in Boro Park).

    It’s not all about BC per se, is it? And many frum people have “doubts and curiosities,” as I’ve said, but are literally afraid to read a book like the kind we are describing, or find that Wikipedia, Google Books, etc. can supply quite a lot of information.

    Don’t believe all the self-generated Artscroll hype. In fact if you did, you’d think that frum people can’t learn Torah at all.

  36. Is R. Naor’s book in Heb or Eng?

  37. >The Rambam explicitly mentions the oral Torah as part of principle 9 referring to the immutability of the Torah.

    Thanks. I would have done better to review all of them rather than only #8.

  38. “Is R. Naor’s book in Heb or Eng?”

    English. See a preview at: http://www.orot.com/freedom.html (click DOWNLOAD A SAMPLE CHAPTER on bottom left).

  39. IH-R Gil can speak for himself, but I think that a strong case can be made that he is drawing the line at any approach that crosses the Rubicon of denying Torah MiSinai and/or Torah Min HaShamayim-both with respect to Torah Shebicsav and TSBP.

  40. Steve — I look forward to hearing Gil’s response. But, for you, assuming clarity on what you specifically mean by your red line, what are the implications? Specifically: can they be read by Orthodox Jews and the truths they contain used in their understanding of Torah (as per Mora Nechama Leibovitz and the Soncino Hertz Chumash)?

  41. IH: I have a specific definition in mind but because it is irrelevant to this post’s main topic and the risk of appearing to attribute my own view to a renowned historian, I’ll leave that discussion for another time.

  42. “I think that both the schism of the Tzudukim with the Perushim and the great stuggle of the Tannaim against Hellenism show that limits on hashkafik freedom existed well before the time of the Gemarra Yerushalmi”

    I second what R’Gil pointed out earlier.

    “The Hertz Chumash ( 2nd Ed.) was an excellent work for a community that was illiterate in the classical commentaries,and considered modern commentaries and a “response” and/or “answers” to such issues as evolution , BC and comparisons with Hammurabbi’s code important”

    As an apologetic, I’ve seen nothing published since that is anywhere near as good.

    “classical Mfarshim”

    The classical Mfarshim didn’t address the issues that R’Hertz did, because they hadn’t arisen yet.

    “Although the Rabbis continued to regard the early Christians as Jews, they reformulated this prayer in order to expel them from the synagogue”

    The early Christians had deviated from normative practice even before the destruction of the temple. Not the position on conversions that is found in Acts 15.

  43. “BC is toxic to Judaism. There is no Judaism, at least no lasting Judaism, with BC unless you adopt some half-BC with prophetic inspiration that is equally (in my opinion, more) open to the charge of intellectual dishonesty.”

    Does that mean if the DH was proven you would cease to be frum?

  44. Gil — the book looks interesting, but most of us haven’t read it. As in other recent posts, you like to link issues together. It is your perogative to do so, but I think it’s disingenuous to then duck questions following up on your linkage.

    And with respect, the paraphrased opinion of an anonymous historian is no more valid that pseudonymous blogger here (and arguably less so).

    Me thinks you’re trying to have your cake and eat it too.

  45. Once again, I repeat my request that we discuss R. Kook’s views proper rather than go down the well-trodden path of no-belief and 13 ikarim-belief.

    A few comments:

    – Why are people confusing use of sources that contain Biblical scholarship with espousing DH? There are plenty of frum Bible students (Prof. Yehuda Elitzur, the Herzog school of Bible) who use material from these sources for enlightening Talmud Torah while rejecting authorship issues. One can study science and not necesarily accept the position of the “new atheists, u know”…

    – David Tzohar. Are you serious?! Do you really want the MO world to go down the Inquisition “hersy hunting” road that has killed the intellectual realm of Charedi Judaism?! More so, would you seriously, for instance, call, say Holocaust survivors who stay frum but don’t believe in sachar va’onesh cowards?!

  46. Gil’s linkage was to “contemporary Biblical Criticism” which he now refuses to define, nonetheless positing “its conclusions, if accepted, undermine Judaism.”

    The implication of Gil’s linkage is that Rav Kook would have approved of the above assertion. Would you agree, aiwac?

  47. P.S. I agree that DH is a red herring, if for no other reason than it is not “contemporary Biblical Criticism” (as covered in previous threads).

  48. Proposition #1: Contemporary Biblical Criticism, if its conclusions are accepted undermine Judaism.

    Agreed, and I don’t think even those who accept it would disagree. The only debate is how much it does this.

    Proposition #2: Rav Kook would agree with Proposition #1.

    Rav Kook’s position on BC, and belief in general, was far more nuanced than a simple yes or no. I thought I made that clear when I discussed his fall-back ideas as tactical positions rather than endorsement. But then, the tenor of discussions here tends to be against nuance and complexity – from both sides.

    So I guess now I understand why Rav Kook is not actually being discussed.

  49. This post makes no claim about Rav Kook and BC. Please go back and read it, if you must.

  50. “This post makes no claim about Rav Kook and BC. Please go back and read it, if you must.”

    First paragraph in Section II “[Rav Kook…] This is similar to […how one historian explained to me…]

  51. aiwac: I disagree with your conclusion of proposition 1, but perhaps we mean different things by “Contemporary Biblical Criticism”.

    The simple fact is that there are enough examples of people who both accept conclusions Contemporary BC and are upstanding halachic Jews.

    On proposition 2, I am not knowledgable enough to state what I think Rav Kook’s position would be on Contemporary Bible Criticism, but I am sympathetic to your point on nuance and complexity.

  52. Exactly. Rav Kook’s idea is similar to the historian’s understanding of the Rambam, and BC was the historian’s example within the Rambam. It is your incorrect extrapolation that the example within the Rambam would also apply to Rav Kook.

  53. IH: The simple fact is that there are enough examples of people who both accept conclusions Contemporary BC and are upstanding halachic Jews.

    I am NOT going to take this bait.

  54. >“BC is toxic to Judaism. There is no Judaism, at least no lasting Judaism, with BC unless you adopt some half-BC with prophetic inspiration that is equally (in my opinion, more) open to the charge of intellectual dishonesty.”

    To me this is a highly problomatic assertion. I for one, would not stop practicing the mitzvot and studying the Torah if BC was somehow proven – I don’t see Jewish theology as being so ossified that it can not even imagine such a possiblity.

    Above you mentioned Spinoza and later the Haham Zvi’s defence of R’ Nieto from the charges of pantheism (which came in the very wake of the spinoza episode). But the reality remains that within 100 years of the Haham Zvi, hasidut came along and lent legitimacy to a varient of pantheism which is now accepted as a pretty mainstream flavor of Jewish theology. This was something that the Haham Zvi could not have imagined in his lifetime but which nontheless occured.

    I see no reason that the same theological shift could not occure vis-a-vis BC if it were to gain widespread acceptance in the observant world. I for one, would not throw out an observant lifestyle just because my current opinion regarding BC might be disproven in the future.

  55. >I don’t see Jewish theology as being so ossified that it can not even imagine such a possiblity.

    What about the possibility that there is no God? Maybe you’ll say the same thing, but if you do not the point is that at some point Jewish theology *is* “so ossified” that it cannot even imagine such a possibility (like, say, that Jesus is the Messiah and God). In principle there are some things that it won’t survive, right?

    All of that said, your scenario of there somehow being a group of fervent, observant, apparently traditional, pious Bible critics would be an important counter-example – if such a thing were possible.

  56. Gil, you’re smart enough to have made the linkage to communicate something. What?

    My question for you remains: what is your definition of “Contemporary Bile Criticism” and what is your tachlis point in Section II?

  57. IH: Because I was relaying an actual conversation and that was the example the historian used.

    The tachlis of Section II was describing Rav Kook’s approach.

  58. So this is just a non-sequitor?

    “This is similar to how one historian explained to me Rambam’s choice of the Thirteen Principles. According to this historian, who will remain unnamed because he only reluctantly discussed this controversial matter with me in a private conversation, Rambam was responding to contemporary heresies that undermined Judaism. Regardless of your opinion of those specific principles, this historian continued, Rambam would certainly oppose contemporary Biblical Criticism because its conclusions, if accepted, undermine Judaism.”

  59. IH wrote:

    “assuming clarity on what you specifically mean by your red line, what are the implications? Specifically: can they be read by Orthodox Jews and the truths they contain used in their understanding of Torah (as per Mora Nechama Leibovitz and the Soncino Hertz Chumash)?”

    If the “truths” , concepts and theories contained therein add to one’s Emunah in Torah MiSinai, then I would certainly view ( and do) see the Soncino Hertz Chumash and the teachings of Nechama Leibowitz Zicronah Livracha as certainly worthwhile. I would add that if you read the works of Nechama Leibowitz Z”L, there is no shortage of reliance on classical Mfarshim and a judicious use of non-traditional sources. It takes someone of that caliber and stature to write in that manner, just as RYBS’s Hashkafic works refer in the text and footnotes to traditional and non-traditional texts and authors.

  60. IH wrote:

    “The simple fact is that there are enough examples of people who both accept conclusions Contemporary BC and are upstanding halachic Jews”

    WADR, that is how Orthopraxy is defined. How one can accept such conclusions and recite Tefilos and Brachos that state explicitly otherwise has always perplexed me. In a very different context, R Riskin used the moniker of “Inverted Marranos”. IMO, the term is equally applicable in the dilemna of someone who asserts that he or she is Halachic and yet in fact relies on BC , whatever the vintage, to render Yesodei HaEmunah as R”L mere myths.

  61. I have heard personally from two very prominent persons identified with TuM in YU that there is no shortage of people who teach Tanach on a university level in Israel who seem observant, but become completely unraveled and uncomfortable almost to the point of taking an academic’s indignant version of the Fifth Amendment when asked if they believe in Torah MiSinai, etc , as opposed to BC in any fashion.

  62. “The simple fact is that there are enough examples of people who both accept conclusions Contemporary BC and are upstanding halachic Jews.”

    IH,

    This proves nothing whatsoever. There are also many atheists/neutral agnostics who are upstanding halachic Jews. I was referring to Judaism, not individual Jews who remain frum for sociological or other reasons. Unless you want to seriously argue that a “halachic Jew” need not believe anything, there are certain positions that are not acceptable to Orthodoxy or even halacha. Not everything is OK.

    Unless you accept a Leibowitzian attitude (and not many do), the status of the TSBK and by extension the authority of the Mitzvot is severely undermined on several levels by BC. It may be possible to “bounce back” as per chardal, but one needs to be astonishingly naive to think it doesn’t create a metric ton of fundamental problems.

  63. chardal,

    No doubt, the possibility exists. The problem is we presently have no good answer to justify the idea of the Torah and Mitzvot as God’s (binding) word in the face of it. “It’s our masorah” or “It’s a lifestyle” are pathetically thin ideological/philosophical reeds on which to rest halacha, let alone theology.

  64. For an excellent discussion on where unbridled freedom of expression as well as the view that beliefs are irrelevant, see the following link. http://www.yutorah.com/lectures/lecture.cfm/709863/Rabbi_Yitzchak_Blau/07._Flexibility_With_a_Firm_Foundation:_On_Maintaining_Jewish_Dogma

  65. Aiwac-I have never been bothered by any variety of BC because the secular intellectual and scientific rooted world, which BCs work within can only explain “what”. Explaining our beliefs such as Brias HaOlam, the lives of the Avos and Imahos, Yetzias Mitzrayim, Kabalas HaTorah and the continued existence of the Jewish People are queries that are rooted in “why”, which is a concept beyond the realm of science, just as one should never use metaphysics to explain scientific concepts other than the actions of God on a daily basis that man becomes aware of, discovers and explores as a means of improving his or her daily lot on this planet.

  66. >I have never been bothered by any variety of BC because the secular intellectual and scientific rooted world, which BCs work within can only explain “what”.

    Don’t you want the “what” to at least have some correspondence with your “why”?

  67. Chardal wrote:

    “the reality remains that within 100 years of the Haham Zvi, hasidut came along and lent legitimacy to a varient of pantheism which is now accepted as a pretty mainstream flavor of Jewish theology”

    IMO, that is one historical perspective.I would suggest that Kabalah and Chasidus constituted a reaction to the failure of a completely intellectual and rational appproach to Jewish theology and life with respect to the then cataclysmic events leading to the Spanish Expulsion. In this respect, the words of the Chasid Yaavetz as to who was able to cope with Gerush Sfarad and who wasn’t remain a very telling hashkafic POV.

    Again, the above premise assumes that Jewish theology is completely rational and intellectual-even Rambam in Hilcos Yesodei HaTorah views the witnessing of Maamad Har Sinai as the greatest proof of our faith-that is hardly a rational concept.

    I would suggest that there are rational and mystical elements within Jewish theology and that there is no compelling reason to assume the validity of one approach or another. Both are equally legitmate paths in Avodas HaShem.

  68. Lawrence Kaplan

    Nehamah Leibowitz’s letter to Rabbi Ansbacher be found in the onthemainline blog, in the “For posterity” section.

  69. Lawrence Kaplan– thanks for the specific reference, either you had the book handy or you have a great memory!

    IH –in my view it is important not to overlook the part of Nechama’s letter where she shows her limits (and in my humble opinion I think she is right on the mark in the whole letter –that is why I remembered it in the first place) in the other direction –she acknowledges that Cassuto was sincere in attitude and punctilious in his Jewish practice but that his ideas about the origins of the Torah were unacceptable to her and she refused to have anything to do with them. Cassuto became famous for arguing against Wellhausen, but his ideas about the Torah’s origins were nevertheless decidedly untraditional and therefore problematic.

  70. IH: So this is just a non-sequitor?

    No, it is precisely sequential.

  71. All — it seems to me that without a common understanding of “Contemporary Bible Criticism” we’re talking past each other (even those who think they agree with each other) in regard to Gil’s Section II.

    Regarding the old bete noir of the DH, I will quote my Christian Greek Classicist friend with whom I was discussing this a few months ago: “I agree on source criticism — it is a dead hand which has also laid its chilly touch on branches of classics – particularly Thucydidean scholarship. Its worst feature is the pseudo certainty its proponents bring to the subject, whereby their ultimately unprovable and methodologically flawed hypotheses are put forward as proven facts. I expect this also infuses NT scholarship. I will be interested to see if the scholarship manages the orality-literary interface well, which is likely the key to it all: probably a very complex interaction in the early Church.”

    The more I have thought about it, and read, the more I think his point about the orality-literary interface being key has merit.

  72. IH,

    Forget DH, it’s immaterial. The issue is the dating and provenance of the Chumash in general. As far as I know, Biblical scholars are universal in rejecting a dating anywhere in the universe of the 13th-12th century. So even if no-one knows for sure when and how the Torah was formed, they are dead-set against anything resembling a traditional understanding of Torah – either in its essential unity or its dating.

  73. IH,

    The point about orality/textuality certainly has merit, and may even help support the idea of an ancient embryonic TSBP, interestingly enough. But I think it would be a good idea if Orthodox Biblical scholars were allowed to bounce ideas around without being thrown out of their communities.

  74. Lawrence Kaplan

    Carlos: Sorry to disillusion you, but I had the book handy.

    Re Cassutto: However, since Cassutto was a shomer mitzvot, she feels she does not have to justify citing his acceptable, non-critical views, as she has to do with Buber and Benno Jacob.

  75. You mean scholars create hypotheses of dating as tools for understanding texts? Such as researching cognates between the biblical words as the masoretes wrote them out in the 7th to 11th centuries and what has been discovered about the languages of other nations through archeology? That undermines Judaism?

  76. And further, Moshe Halbertal’s openly stated views that the Mishna invented halacha, as opposed to pre-Mishna mitzvot. That undermines (Modern Orthodox) Judaism?

  77. OK,

    I think we need to make some order:

    1) Comparative linguistics et al is not a problem. You are mixing
    apples and oranges.
    2) Archaeology is usually not a problem.

    “You mean scholars create hypotheses of dating as tools for understanding texts?”

    Yes, and as Dr. Baruch Alster said in another thread, the ‘general guidelines’ of those hypotheses is a problem for us.

    But you know what? Let’s put the ball in your court. Please make a positive argument that Contemporary Biblical Criticism is harmless to Judaism. This includes dating, provenance and authorship issues.

    (and no, “there are frum Jews who accept it” is not an argument)

  78. “And further, Moshe Halbertal’s openly stated views that the Mishna invented halacha, as opposed to pre-Mishna mitzvot. That undermines (Modern Orthodox) Judaism?”

    We’re talking about TSBK, not TSBP. Please stop mixing up subjects and confusing the issue.

  79. >IMO, that is one historical perspective.I would suggest that Kabalah and Chasidus constituted a reaction to the failure of a completely intellectual and rational appproach to Jewish theology and life with respect to the then cataclysmic events leading to the Spanish Expulsion. In this respect, the words of the Chasid Yaavetz as to who was able to cope with Gerush Sfarad and who wasn’t remain a very telling hashkafic POV.

    Chassidus shtams from 250 years after the expulsion (and from the Ukraine). How do you work the expulsion into it?

  80. aiwac — sorry, you have some specific ideas about how to order what is mutar vs. assur; but, these are the rules you have created for youself and are not generally agreed principles by any stretch.

    Indeed, there have been several long exchanges I have witnessed (and not participated in) about TSBK and TSBP on Hirurim.

    . Others to your right have very different views.

  81. “aiwac — sorry, you have some specific ideas about how to order what is mutar vs. assur; but, these are the rules you have created for youself and are not generally agreed principles by any stretch.”

    Far from it. Plenty of frum scholars and students (R. Yoel Bin Nun, for instance) deal with archaeology and generally do not consider it a faith problem, with the exception of a few key dillemas (which are not germane here). I “invented” nothing. I never heard of any problems involving linguistics. If you know a=of any, please share.

    . Others to your right have very different views.

    You and I are the ones having a discussion right now. Instead of shadowboxing “people to my right”, could you please just answer my questions? Or is it easier to beat up straw men?

  82. aiwac — you have mentioned one example of “bad” contemporary BC — dating, but then conceded that for the purposes of linguistic analysis or archeology it is not a problem. I may be remiss, but I have never seen any contemporary BC about dating per se (which arguably is only a vestige of DH — that we agree is irrelevant — in any case).

    So, I am still trying to understand what (actually researched) CBC you believe undermines Judaism.

  83. IH,

    I never said dating is not a problem “for purposes of linguistics or archaeology”. I said that archaeology and linguistics outside of the dating issue are generally not an issue. Please stop twisting my words.

    You place “bad” contemporary BC -i.e. dating – in quotation marks, but I’ve yet to hear an explanation from you as to why it isn’t bad.

    “I may be remiss, but I have never seen any contemporary BC about dating per se (which arguably is only a vestige of DH — that we agree is irrelevant — in any case).”

    You haven’t read Kugel and Friedman (and these are just the popular works, not including the scholarly discussions)?!

  84. aiwac — at the popular book level, do you think James Kugel’s oeuvre undermines Judaism? Or Robert Alter’s translation of the Chumash?

    I’m being specific, because those are probably the current books that would have any significant penetration.

  85. IH,

    Could you state your own opinion for once?

  86. aiwac — please stop accusing me if you want to have a conversation. I really don’t understand your dating point. Perhaps you can provide a specific reference in Kugel’s “How to Read the Bible?”

  87. Friedman, btw, dates to 1987 (around which time I read it, since I have the hardback) and as I recall is mostly popularized DH.

  88. IH,

    I don’t feel we’re really having a conversation. You keep shifting the goal posts and the discussion. I talk about dating and then you talk about linguistics and archaeology (and attribute to me a position I never espoused). Then you bring up the issue of Torah Shebe’al Peh which was not part of the discussion. You claim you have never seen CBC about dating per se, which I find very hard to believe unless you have not read any Biblical scholarship at all lately.

    I asked you, plain and simple, to explain why dating (or for that matter authorship or provenance) is not a problem for Judaism. You have not done so.

    So here’s the thing: late dating and the concept of multiple authorship undermine the authority of the Mitzvot, and casts serious doubt on the divinity thereto.

    The fact that there are Jews who stay frum in spite of this undermining is proof of nothing whatsoever. As I said before, there are atheists/agnostics who do the same , so by the same measure you can argue that you don’t even need to believe in God to be a frum Jew. Surely you understand the absurdity here.

    “aiwac — at the popular book level, do you think James Kugel’s oeuvre undermines Judaism?”

    Yes. I don’t own the book, and I’m not about to shlep to the library tomorrow for this discussion. For a good reason why (besides the obvious), see Alan Brill’s remarks here:

    http://kavvanah.wordpress.com/2010/04/01/critique-of-kugel-1/

  89. “I asked you, plain and simple, to explain why dating (or for that matter authorship or provenance) is not a problem for Judaism. You have not done so.”

    Orthodoxy is still alive despite people being exposed to many of these so-called heretical ideas. The burden of proof is on the heresy-hunters to demonstrate what, if any, BC undermines Judaism.

  90. My turn, aiwac: why are theories about how old the Bible is — where Bible is defined by whichever mesorah you accept about was transmitted at Ma’amad Har Sinai — undermining of Judaism; whereas, theories about how old the earth is, are not?

  91. aiwac, on your links:
    1) I see nothing terribly relevant or informative to this discussion in Brill’s critique posting. Note also his very recent: http://kavvanah.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/are-j-e-p-d-your-favorite-letters/
    2) Friedman’s 2nd book also seems to be popularized DH (““A succinct, lucid, detailed exposition and defense of the classic Documentary Hypothesis–a highly useful resource.”)
    3) Coogan is a Professor of Christian Theology in a Roman Catholic University.

  92. Maybe I’m missing something, but why is BC and DH necessarily linked to the idea of Torah not being divine? If you read the Chumash, and accept every claim that it makes, you’d still never think that it was claiming to be entirely written by Moshe at Sinai.

  93. Orthodoxy is still alive despite people being exposed to many of these so-called heretical ideas. The burden of proof is on the heresy-hunters to demonstrate what, if any, BC undermines Judaism.

    The impression I get from this, and your other posts, is that there is no such thing as heresy. Can you give one example of an idea which IS heresy and DOES undermine Judaism? Or does “Orthodoxy” simply mean any group of people which calls themselves Orthodox?

  94. Shlomo — to the extent there ia a contemporary idea which IS heresy and DOES undermine Judaism, to me it is Chabad Messianism (direct or indirect).

    If there is anything that merits the description Prof. Schiffman attributes to the Tannaim (IH on May 26, 2011 at 11:29 am) that would be it.

  95. IH,

    “Shlomo — to the extent there ia a contemporary idea which IS heresy and DOES undermine Judaism, to me it is Chabad Messianism (direct or indirect).”

    and yet you could take the following statement of yours:

    “Orthodoxy is still alive despite people being exposed to many of these so-called heretical ideas. The burden of proof is on the heresy-hunters to demonstrate what, if any, BC undermines Judaism.”

    and replace BC with either atheism or Chabad Messianism and end up with the same result. I would argue that Orthodox Judaism is alive and well despite all these issues, which do undermine it in various ways.

    Oh, BTW, nice move always shifting the burden of proof and argument to someone else. Because Lord knows, us “heresy-hunters” (of which I am not one) need the work.

    “I see nothing terribly relevant or informative to this discussion in Brill’s critique posting. ”

    You asked me if in my opinion Kugel undermines Judaism. I sent you Brill, who explains why, even if you think BC is somehow neutral. Or do you perhaps see the argument that the Torah is a primitive document devoid of any meaningful moral or theological teachings as a good thing?

    Your complaint regarding the two books I brought is besides the point. You claimed that you have yet to see CBC that deals with dating per se. I provided three books which do precisely that, ועוד היד נטויה.

    “My turn, aiwac: why are theories about how old the Bible is — where Bible is defined by whichever mesorah you accept about was transmitted at Ma’amad Har Sinai — undermining of Judaism; whereas, theories about how old the earth is, are not?”

    Not only do you not substantially answer my question on dating, but you counter with a question that, yet again, mixes apples and oranges. I’d say the goalposts are in the next town by now.

    Nevertheless, I’ll indulge.

    Theories about the age of the earth have to do with scientific fact. They do not threaten the ultimate principle that God created the world, and indeed, many Jewish authorities (already from the Middle Ages) did not have a problem with the idea of the creation description being non-literal.

    Theories about the writing of the Torah are different.

    The dating issue: the further away one believes the Torah was written, the harder it is to believe that it is the actual word of God as handed to Moses. Indeed, as your hero Kugel says, he believes God gave A Torah, he just doesn’t think ours is it.

    The authorship issue: DH may be a red herring, but multiple, composite authorship is a matter of consensus in the academic world. Accepting this means undermining the very concept of the Mitzvot, since:

    We do not know who wrote the documents and why. We have no method of resolving which Mitzvot are truly “mishamayim” and which were perhaps added for propaganda or selfish reasons.

    Finally, the claim of Mitzvot as being given by Moses when they weren’t undermines the whole system from within, since it claims an authority it does not possess.

    CBC as it stands now reduces the Torah and Mitzvot, which even you admit is the cornerstone, from an objective series of Divine commandments to an exotic lifestyle based entirely on falsified myth. It undermines the entire concept of de’orayta in halacha (since no-one knows what was de’orayta), and opens the way to reductionist impulses of all kinds. One cannot seriously argue against Conservative and Reform movements once this central claim is destroyed.

    That is what CBC does to O Judaism. What it does to individual Jews is a matter for sociologists.

  96. On a more productive note, R. Dr. Ari Yitzhak Shavat wrote a two-piece article on Rav Kook’s attitude towards the academic world. Here’s a link to the first part:

    http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/kitveyet/taleley/hohmat-2.htm

    R. Kook believed in “taking back” Academic Jewish Studies from those who had cast off halacha. This was not just to engage in defense of Judaism, but also to take the good parts of academic questions and studies and use them to further yir’at shamayim.

    He believed that select students should engage in the most rigorous academic study, taking all attitudes into account, including “heretical” ones such as Reform thinkers and so on. “The seal of God is truth”, he argued, and we must find the kernels of truth and good in all arguments.

    Sage words.

  97. Aiwac – if that it was BC ‘does’ to Judaism – then can we have any issue with those, who, once convinced of its truths, ‘do’ that to Judaism? For all the orthodox haranguing of reform, the real nekudas hamachlokes is BC – once we accept that, why should we not make changes? Thus, I agree with you that this is very important. However, one can’t just complain about how BC is bad and makes halachic Judaism fall apart (it certainly makes the yud gimmel midos through which much of halacha is derived fairly meaningless), one must provide a reason as to why it is wrong. The fact that we’ve always believed as such will not suffice. Many within our tradition ‘always believed in’ a flood that wiped out all of civilization 4000 years ago. We now know this not to be true. The same can be said for young earth creationism and the belief that we are all descended from noach/adam harishon. So once we can see that what ‘we have always believed’ is not a very good guide to what is true, how do we make the case the BC is different, and that its conclusions should not be accepted?

  98. Sorry my first sentence should be ‘if that is what BC does to Judaism..’

  99. “So once we can see that what ‘we have always believed’ is not a very good guide to what is true, how do we make the case the BC is different, and that its conclusions should not be accepted?”

    Anon, that is precisely why I think it behooves Orthodox thinkers to prepare a “fallback” position that would re-affirm the binding nature of TSBK/TSBP and try to re-understand the Divine Nature of the Torah. That is precisely what R. Kook (and by extension R. Breur, R. Bin-Nun, as well as Orthodox Bible Critics such as Prof. Israel Knohl) was trying to do. We do ourselves no favors by holding to a single, brittle line of defense that could one day be breached (if, say, one of the “documents” was discovered).

    “one must provide a reason as to why it is wrong.”

    It’s possible to do this, but it is not possible to do this beyond a reasonable doubt without a 13th BC era Torah scroll in ancient Hebrew (or Canaanite?).

    Rabbi Dr. Josh Berman is working on a book that discusses this issue, and I look forward to reading it, but there is no way to win a “knock-out” victory on this without hard evidence.

    In any event, burying the issue is no longer working. I say open the discussion gates.

  100. If we don’t have strong evidence one way or the other, why bother positing anything?

  101. Sorry,

    R. Brueur and R. Bin-Nun are not part of the “fall-back” prep. They each, however, are part of the project to incorporate the questions of BC and turning them into a foundation of faith.

  102. “If we don’t have strong evidence one way or the other, why bother positing anything?”

    Because right now the only people “positing” are the BCers. There needs to be counterbalancing answers, and RDZ Hoffman/Cassuto are more than a little out of date.

  103. I apologize but I have little time to engage in debate. CBC charges that the text of the Torah is incorrect, immoral, contradictory and written by humans. In the last chapter of his book How to Read the Bible, James Kugel tries to make a case why someone who accepts this may still feel bound by halakhah (e.g. that is what Jews accepted on themselves) but his suggested reasons are idiosyncratic and weak. It is Conservative Judaism which has never been compelling except for people with nostalgia for an Orthodox childhood or a select few who find it satisfying.

    I would also argue that it is kefirah (not just also but primarily) but that is outside of this conversation.

  104. S wrote:

    “Chassidus shtams from 250 years after the expulsion (and from the Ukraine). How do you work the expulsion into it”

    IMO, one cannot isolate Chasidus from the development of Lurianic Kabbalah.

  105. Aiwac-Your 4:04 AM post was 100% on the mark. Do you think that RAYHK’s appraisal of academic Jewish studies remains accurate or now seems an exercise in wishful thinking or naivete?

  106. AIWAC-IIRC, Nechama Leibowitz Zicronah Livracha was not impressed with the the work of R Yoel Bin Nun.

  107. R Gil’s most recent post IMO correctly places the burden of proof on those who view CBC as somehow capable of being mainstreamed into a foundation of faith-a title ironically of the works of the CC, despite the fact that such persons view Tanach as “incorrect, immoral, contradictory and written by humans” . I would suggest that such persons should freely state that their works follow a long line of works that simply are apologetic in nature at best and may very well be outside any traditional concept of Parshanut.

  108. >IMO, one cannot isolate Chasidus from the development of Lurianic Kabbalah.

    If that’s the case that one also cannot isolate it from Sabbatianism and Spinozism.

    You can’t just leap across 250 years and make Chassidus a reaction to the expulsion in Spain, because the Ari was *still* influential in eastern Europe in the 18th century. Spanish rationalism did not produce Chassidus as a reaction, except for the sense that everything in its chronological order is a reaction to what came earlier.

  109. Shlomo — to the extent there ia a contemporary idea which IS heresy and DOES undermine Judaism, to me it is Chabad Messianism (direct or indirect).

    Chabad Messianism has a MUCH stronger basis in traditional sources than do most of the BC theories we are discussing.

  110. Steve,

    “Do you think that RAYHK’s appraisal of academic Jewish studies remains accurate or now seems an exercise in wishful thinking or naivete?”

    I think he was right on the money then, and I think he’s still right. ABS was full of problems back then, perhaps even more so – RAYHK wanted to “take it back” for religious Jewry. Is it hard? Sure, but it’s better than the alternative of doing nothing.

    The alternative attitude pervading much of O Jewry – hiding one’s head in the sand, has only lead to an increasingly skeptical and cynical public and a religious leadership utterly incapable of dealing with the Modern world and its ideas.

    I would go even further, and argue that the benchmark for gedolei hador, and perhaps even gedolei Torah, should be a wide and thorough knowledge of modern scholarship. We need more Rambams and less Rav Elyashivs.

    “AIWAC-IIRC, Nechama Leibowitz Zicronah Livracha was not impressed with the the work of R Yoel Bin Nun.”

    I have my own opinions, thank you, and they are far more charitable. לא על פיה אני חי.

    Shabbat Shalom to All,

    aiwac

  111. aiwac — I have no idea what your ground rules are. Write them down if you want to continue to play.

    Shlomo — “Chabad Messianism has a MUCH stronger basis in traditional sources than do most of the BC theories we are discussing.” True, but so does Christianity. Nu?

  112. “CBC charges that the text of the Torah is incorrect, immoral, contradictory and written by humans.”

    Well, Gil, now that we got that out of the way. I guess you really have gotten into the Dialogue 1:1 spirit…

  113. IH: I have done more than anyone here to oppose Chabad messianism. However, after consultation with many poskim, I am forced to conclude that it is not heresy. Your claims (as well as Dr. Berger’s) to the contrary notwithstanding.

  114. But it could be argued that the ‘head in the sand camp’ are arguably doing better than the rest of us. If one looks at demographics and external manifestations of religious commitment then these communities are wildly successful. Now, you may argue that this success is somewhat brittle, built as it is on generous welfare provisions and the supression of dissent and religious creativity, but my guess is that is still has quite a bit of steam left in it. Now you may argue that there is not much worth in generating legions of automatons who contribute little to society and I wouldn’t necessariyl disagree with you, but it can’t be argued that almost all of the successful religious movements of our age are those that keep it simple and hardline.

  115. Sorry, last sentence should read:
    but it CAN be argued that almost all of the successful religious movements of our age are those that keep it simple and hardline.

  116. S wrote:

    “Spanish rationalism did not produce Chassidus as a reaction, except for the sense that everything in its chronological order is a reaction to what came earlier”

    WADR, I think that I emphasized was that the rationalism that marked the Golden Era of Spain proved to be an inadequate response to the facts that led to the Expulsion and that Lurianic Kabbalah, which led to Chasidus, provided an alternate Hashkafic perspective.

  117. lawrence kaplan

    I do not believe that Prof. Berger considers Chabad Messianism –leaving to the side the divinization of the Rebbe–to be technically heresy. He does view it as being far outside the normative consensus of tradional Judaism through the ages.

    Nehamah Leibowitz indeed opposed the views of Rabbi Bin-Nun. This matter is thoroughly documented in the Hebrew biography of NL. Indeed, she blocked his being appointed to a senior educational position in the Mamlakht-Dati school system. At her funeral Rabbi Bin-Nun was asked if he forgave her. He replied: “What’s to forgive? Her opposition was on grounds of principle.”

  118. IH wrote in response to R Gil’s observations:

    “CBC charges that the text of the Torah is incorrect, immoral, contradictory and written by humans.”

    Well, Gil, now that we got that out of the way. I guess you really have gotten into the Dialogue 1:1 spirit

    WADR, one cannot merely propose ideas in an intellectual vacumn, publish the same either in print or discuss the same on the web, and expect the same to be miraculously free or exempt from criticism. Freedom of speech is by no means an exemption from criticism. If you can demonstrate that CBC neither is apikorsus nor kefirah, as opposed to apologetics, then that is your burden, not those who view CBC and its intellectual foundation as suspect.

  119. At the end of the day, Chabad Messianism will change Orthodoxy’s theology far more than Bible Criticism will. Whether it is a halachic issue or not (Hirhurim on May 27, 2011 at 12:29 pm) is not terribly relevant to the reality.

    As Prof. Shapiro has observed: “Today it must be admitted that Judaism and Christianity share a belief in the Second Coming of the Messiah. While this is an obligatory belief for Christians, for Jews it is, like so many other notions, simply an option. The truth of my statement is seen in the fact that messianist Habad is part and parcel of traditional Judaism”.

  120. Aiwac wrote:

    “R. Kook believed in “taking back” Academic Jewish Studies from those who had cast off halacha. This was not just to engage in defense of Judaism, but also to take the good parts of academic questions and studies and use them to further yir’at shamayim”

    Aiwac-can you name some proponents of ABS who actually meet RAYHK’s criteria, as opposed to merely being Halachically observant but who will not give you a straight answer as to their own beliefs in Torah MiSinai and Torah Min Shamayim?

  121. Steve — without a definition of CBC, meaningful discussion is impossible. Gil’s quoted accusation is risible and being dan l’chaf zchut I take it as just an exclamation of frustration.

    Shabbat Shalom

  122. IH wrote:

    “As Prof. Shapiro has observed: “Today it must be admitted that Judaism and Christianity share a belief in the Second Coming of the Messiah. While this is an obligatory belief for Christians, for Jews it is, like so many other notions, simply an option. The truth of my statement is seen in the fact that messianist Habad is part and parcel of traditional Judaism”

    WADR, many within “traditional Judaism”, to use Professor Shapiro’s definition, do not accept the notion that “messianist Habad is part and parcel of traditional Judaism”. See the footnotes in R D Berger’s book about RYSE’s Psak about the Shechita of a messianist being treife afilu bdieved and the long standing antipathy to Chabad messianism in Lakewood and Ponevezh. Chabad may very well be a portal for entry into Torah observance or the only venue for a Shabbos meal for a college student, but I would question whether Chabad is and views itself as part of the Charedi world.

  123. IH wrote:

    “Steve — without a definition of CBC, meaningful discussion is impossible. Gil’s quoted accusation is risible and being dan l’chaf zchut I take it as just an exclamation of frustration”

    In all seriousness-then set forth your own definition as you comprehend CBC and explain why CBC isn’t Kefirah or Apikorsus.

  124. >Aiwac-can you name some proponents of ABS who actually meet RAYHK’s criteria

    I think Bible criticism and Jewish Wissenschaft is being conflated here. While, perhaps, RAYHK almost meant to include the former (although I doubt it) in truth most Jewish academics did and do not do Bible criticism.

  125. No, Steve, that is ridiculous. First, I am no expert. Second, I am not the one hurling the accusations.

  126. Anon wrote:

    “But it could be argued that the ‘head in the sand camp’ are arguably doing better than the rest of us. If one looks at demographics and external manifestations of religious commitment then these communities are wildly successful. Now, you may argue that this success is somewhat brittle, built as it is on generous welfare provisions and the supression of dissent and religious creativity, but my guess is that is still has quite a bit of steam left in it. Now you may argue that there is not much worth in generating legions of automatons who contribute little to society and I wouldn’t necessariyl disagree with you, but it can’t be argued that almost all of the successful religious movements of our age are those that keep it simple and hardline”

    Anon-This comment IMO warrants clarification. Are you making any distinctions between Israel and elsewhere? What about the fact that MO , except in the instances of such organizations such as NJOP, NCSY and MJE, largely eschews kiruv? How about discussing whether people work-which IMO is one major divider between people who are Yeshivish or Chasidish in the US and their counterparts in Israel?

    Or is your real issue that of a perceived lack of “dissent and creativity”? I would argue that both the Charedi and MO worlds in the US have flowered in ways that neither could or would have anticipated since the 1950s.

  127. And to be crystal clear, I have been asking Gil for what he means by CBC since the beginning of the thread. If we are to have a conversation, that is the starting point.

  128. IH wrote:

    “No, Steve, that is ridiculous. First, I am no expert. Second, I am not the one hurling the accusations”

    Then WADR, I would suggest that you refrain from defending certain works on your reading list that you toss off so readily as if you have read, comprehended, accepted, and defended so vigorously. When you defend such works so readily and vigorously, I find it hard to oomprehend that you cannot state whether the same is Kefirah, Apikorsus or just an updated and dressed up type of apologetics. WADR, the burden of proof is on you to illustrate why the views of these authors can be reconciled in a reasonable way with Parshanut, not for us to accept them wily-nily.

  129. Huh? Shabbat Shalom, Steve. If/when there is a definition to discuss, we’ll continue.

  130. IH-Perhaps you should read this link. It might shed some light on the concerns voiced by R Gil and others.
    http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/2007/10/james-kugel-and-new-york-times-mistake.html

  131. IH: And to be crystal clear, I have been asking Gil for what he means by CBC since the beginning of the thread. If we are to have a conversation, that is the starting point.

    Yes and I know why you keep asking. I’ve played this game too many times and have no interest in another round. It does not actually have anything but the most remote relevance to this post, yet you keep harping on it rather than the central point of this post — that there are boundary limits to Jewish belief but intellectual freedom within them.

  132. Steve – The extended quote around the first of the quotations Gil selected (p. 681) is:

    “My own view, therefore – though others may disagree – is that modern biblical scholarship and traditional Judaism are and must always remain completely irreconcilable. Individual Jews may, for one reason or another, seek to speculate about how different parts of the Bible came to be written or about the historical circumstances and original purposes of its various components, but none of this speculation can have any part in traditional Jewish study or worship; indeed the whole attitude underlying such speculation is altogether alien to the spirit of Judaism and the role of Scripture within it. Nothing in the present volume is intended to suggest otherwise.

    But, if this is so, does Judaism have any response to all that modern biblical scholarship has discovered? This is a question with more than a century of answers to it, and one cannot rightly speak of a single answer or even a single direction. Still, I do not think it would be wrong to characterize at least one major voice in this polyphony as basically following part of the argument about original meaning that we have been tracing throughout. [Now Gil’s selection] What Scripture means is not what today’s ingenious scholars can discover about its original meaning (and certainly not about the events and persons it describes), but what the ancient interpreters have always held it to mean. A more theoretical version of this answer–and more in keeping with what we have seen in the previous chapters–might go like this: The texts that make up the Bible were originally composed under whatever circumstances they were composed. What made them the Bible, however, was their definitive reinterpretation [and the continuation that Gil omitted] along the lines of the Four Assumptions of the ancient interpreters – a way of reading that was established in Judaism in the form of the Oral Torah. Read the Bible in this way and you are reading it properly, that is, in keeping with the understanding of those who made and canonized the Bible. Read it any other way and you have drastically misconstrued the intentions of the Bible’s framers. You are like someone who thinks Swift’s satirical “Modest Proposal” was a serious program for ending the famine in Ireland – or perhaps a better example from our discussion of the Song of Songs: you are like someone who understands the words of “She’ll be Comin’ Round the Mountain” like a twelve-year-old camper. No one has ever told you about its other meaning; that is to say, no one has explained to you why the adults are singing it with religious fervor. Don’t tell me that original songwriter’s intention is everything: when the grown-ups sing it, every word has the messianic meaning I described. Now if it doesn’t for you (and you’re not a twelve-year-old camper) , then why are you singing it at all? Similarly with the Song of Songs and with *all* of Scripture: its true meaning is not the original meaning of its constituent parts, but the meaning it had for the people who first saw it as the Bible, God’s great book of instruction. If it doesn’t have that meaning for you anymore – if all it is is etiological tales and priestly polemics and political speeched – then why are you singing it?”

    It is all part of a concluding chapter of the book called “After Such Knowledge”. Anyone criticising Prof. Kugel should read these 28 page for some insight from someone who is an expert and an Orthodox Jew (even if some of you wish to evict him). One should accept the truth from whatever source it proceeds, as Rambam says.

  133. “Yes and I know why you keep asking.”

    Gil — you are making an incorrect assumption; but, that is your choice. Perhaps you just shouldn’t barb your posts with polemical bait, if you want to keep focus on a central point.

  134. IH,

    Neither do I know yours. In fact I’d say you’re a real expert at never showing your own cards while constantly pressing everyone else to show theirs. You place bait before everyone else, but you never respond substantially to anyone else. This isn’t a discussion, it’s you playing everyone. Whenever you do actually state a position, you simply do it on an ipse dixit basis with little to no evidence.

    Start actually presenting some positions and giving reasons and justifications for them (like explaining CBC, explaining why Chabad is worse than CBC &c) and we’ll continue this discussion. In the meantime, I’m not taking your bait anymore.

    Anon,

    Twenty years ago, I’ve no doubt that you would be right about the strength of hard-line Charedim. But nowadays, it’s far form true. More and more Charedim are going out into the work force, and an increasing number are being exposed to ideas via the net and social interaction. The “yell and scream” ban method is reaching the breaking point. We need another method.

  135. “Aiwac-can you name some proponents of ABS who actually meet RAYHK’s criteria, as opposed to merely being Halachically observant but who will not give you a straight answer as to their own beliefs in Torah MiSinai and Torah Min Shamayim?”

    Steve,

    S. is right that most frum Jews do not engage directly in academic Bible study; those in Bible departments generally deal with Second Temple or later. So the sample is pretty small to begin with. Off the top of my head, though, here are a few examples that would fit your criteria:

    1) Dr. Moshe Bernstein (YU)
    2) Prof. Yehuda Elitzur z”l (Bar-Ilan)
    3) Prof. Yehoshua Meir Grintz z”l (Tel Aviv U)
    4) Rabbi Dr. Joshua Berman (Bar-Ilan)

  136. >What about the possibility that there is no God?

    what is theology without God? Obviously there are limits but I do not think that the existence of God can be conflated with biblical authorship. And as I pointed out above, there are radically different conseptions of the Divine within traditional Judaism. From corporealists to the Rambam’s negative thelogy to chassidic panentheism. This very fact is a testimony to the flexibility of Jewish thought, even regarding the most essential questions of belief.

  137. “Obviously there are limits…”

    Is it really that obvious? I’m increasingly getting the feeling that many O Jews, esp. in the comments section, are espousing the “Judaism is whatever Jews do” approach.

    I mean, could we accept the idea of deism, for instance? Or negate revelation?

    Really, if we base ourselves on whatever Jews did was “Jewish” then there’s no reason to reject anything, including avodah zarah.

  138. Prof. Kaplan,

    What did Nehama Leibowitz think of R. Breuer?

  139. Gil – thinking about this over Shabbat, a suggestion. To frame a less polemical discussion, for Shavuot, how about a post summarizing your view of the *minimum* required beliefs regarding Ma’amad Har Sinai that an Orthodox Jew must believe.

    As a starting off point, perhaps: what texts, as we have them today, are the literal words of God as transmitted to Moshe on Har Sinai?

  140. could someone explain to me what CBC means. i understand that MBS – is modern biblical scholarship but what is the difference from CBC to BC to MBS?

    I also spent some time thinking and talking to people about this discussion here but more on that later.

  141. Aiwac: Not everyone who comments here is Orthodox.

    IH: I will republish my thoughts on the Prophetic DH in a special Shavuos issue (hopefully next motza”sh). Bottom line to me: 5 books from Sinai. Anything else is kefirah (don’t start quoting me ma’amarei Chazal or Rishonim, I’m well aware and haven’t changed my mind).

  142. Gil — thanks. Just to confirm your view, then: the full Chamisha Chumshai Torah as per the Masoretic text, including vowels and trope, from בְּרֵאשִׁית to כָּל-יִשְׂרָאֵל are the literal words of God as transmitted to Moshe on Har Sinai. Not accepting this minimum is kefirah. Please correct if I have mis-stated.

    “don’t start quoting me ma’amarei Chazal or Rishonim, I’m well aware and haven’t changed my mind”

    Noted.

  143. I didn’t mean the vowels or trope, which the Rambam didn’t mention in his 13 Ikkarim.

  144. IH quoted more than this from Professor Kugel”

    “The texts that make up the Bible were originally composed under whatever circumstances they were composed”

    That sentence, regardless of everything else surrounding it, does not rule out definitively DH or CBC. The surrounding sentences of that excerpted paragraph say nothing about Moshe Rabbeinu receiving TSBP-the keys to interpretration, not the text from Brachos to Uktzin. IMO, it is the proverbial tip of the iceberg and illustrates why and how a person can be “halachically observant”, even meticulously so, but be woefully lacking in his or her Yesodei HaDaas and Ikarei Emunah.

  145. IH wrote:
    “One should accept the truth from whatever source it proceeds, as Rambam says.”

    See the Mossad HaRav Kook edition of Shemoneh Prakim. When Rambam uses “truth” in his Hakdamah, I think that Rambam is speaking about his sources-which he identifies as statements of the Chachamim in Midrashim, Talmud and other works of Chazal, as well as philosophers, etc as a means of aiding someone in fulfilling the teachings of Avos as well as understanding how Rambam, but certainly, not all of his contemporaries understood Tanach, Aggadic and Midrashic passages.

  146. Steve — see: Lawrence Kaplan on May 26, 2011 at 9:58 am

  147. S.,

    “I think Bible criticism and Jewish Wissenschaft is being conflated here. While, perhaps, RAYHK almost meant to include the former (although I doubt it)”

    I think RAYHK did intend to include learning the arguments and coping with them. That’s the impression I got from the article, anyway.

    “in truth most Jewish academics did and do not do Bible criticism.”

    I believe that should change, and the sooner the better. I support Rabbi Dr. Berman when he said (Here, http://kavvanah.wordpress.com/2010/12/07/joshua-berman-interview/, question 1):

    “To be honest, I wish we were responding more like the Evangelicals, or at least some of them. Like orthodox Jews, Evangelical Christians are spread across a wide gamut of positions. Some are more fundamentalist and less sophisticated, just like in our own community. But many are fully engaged with the world of scholarship, including biblical scholarship – more so, I would say, than we are. There are literally dozens of evangelical scholars, whose work is respected, who ask tough about the reigning paradigms within the field, and produce thoughtful insights that have been a great source of inspiration for me.”

  148. aiwac – “…that is precisely why I think it behooves Orthodox thinkers to prepare a “fallback” position that would re-affirm the binding nature of TSBK/TSBP and try to re-understand the Divine Nature of the Torah.”

    can’t one believe in the binding nature of tsbk/tsbp without a fallback position? modern biblical scholarship has very little to do with religion. it is a discipline that uses methods to determine authorship and dating of texts – its not in the realm of religion.

    aiwac – are you ok with the methods and/or conclusions of mbs on kohelet and tehilim? that they were not written by shlomo or david? or does mbs stop for you at the chumash ?

    can one be a religious shomer mitzvot jew and believe in some of mbs and not be automatically a kofer? or do people really separate their religious beliefs and scholarly readings? can they be 2 separate truths?

  149. Ruvie: can one be a religious shomer mitzvot jew and believe in some of mbs and not be automatically a kofer?

    Yes, but once you start believing in post-Mosaic origins of portions of the Pentateuch you have entered the realm of Conservative Judaism.

    or do people really separate their religious beliefs and scholarly readings?

    I read Christian scholarship but I don’t *believe* it. That is the key.

    can they be 2 separate truths?

    I’m not sure what that means.

  150. ruvie,

    “can’t one believe in the binding nature of tsbk/tsbp without a fallback position?”

    One can believe what ever one wishes, but without a coherent, logical explanation as to “why”, it essentially turns into a rather arbitrary “just because”. I fail to see how this can serve as a foundation for religious Judaism (even non-O Judaism, really).

    “modern biblical scholarship has very little to do with religion. it is a discipline that uses methods to determine authorship and dating of texts – its not in the realm of religion.”

    Saying this does not make it so. Indeed, many of the original critics (esp. Wellhausen) had a great deal of theology in mind when they did their work. True, today many source critics have no stake in the question of whether their conclusions result in religious problems or not.

    Nevertheless, it does have indirect consequences – both in terms of historicity and provenance of the Mitzvot. TMS has nothing to do with belief in God; it has everything to do with undermining Torah and Mitzvot entirely as the word thereof.

    My attitude to Kugel’s argument (that the TSBP created the TSBK) is the same one I had to the guy who actually came up with it (Yishayahu Leibowitz): Nice try, but it makes even less sense than the original ikar. I know of few people who take it seriously.

    “aiwac – are you ok with the methods and/or conclusions of mbs on kohelet and tehilim? that they were not written by shlomo or david? or does mbs stop for you at the chumash?”

    Apples and oranges – both in terms of evidence for their conclusions and the religious ramifications. I have already explained why the Chumash is substantially different from Nach and Ketuvim, I will not repeat myself.

    “can one be a religious shomer mitzvot jew and believe in some of mbs and not be automatically a kofer?”

    It depends what you are talking about in terms of mbs. As for “kefirah”, one needs to separate the opinion and person. DH at present is kefira, but that does not necessarily make someone who was exposed to it and believes it a kofer. IMO, such a person would simply be a טועה בעיונו, one who is intellectually אנוס (as long as one continues to do Mitzvot), and therefore not in the same category as, say, Spinoza. Furthermore, as I said, Rav Kook mentioned fall back positions that invalidate the “kofer” term for people who feel compelled on the issue (see why this is important?).

    “or do people really separate their religious beliefs and scholarly readings? can they be 2 separate truths?”

    A lot of Jewish scholars do precisely that…I suppose it’s possible, but it’s psychologically very wrenching to lead such a compartmentalized life.

  151. Gil said:

    [BC] is Conservative Judaism which has never been compelling except for people with nostalgia for an Orthodox childhood or a select few who find it satisfying.

    and then:

    Bottom line to me: 5 books from Sinai. Anything else is kefirah

    The problem is that that view has never been compelling except for people with a very strong religious bias. That’s why even Orthodox Bible scholars generally say that BC raises serious challenges and there has not been any strong refutation of it.

  152. once you start believing in post-Mosaic origins of portions of the Pentateuch you have entered the realm of Conservative Judaism.

    Why? Ibn Ezra, R. Yehudah ha-Hasid and others from his school believed in post-Mosaic origins of portions of the Pentateuch, this view was even stated in the 19th century (http://hebrewbooks.org/6170) and there are certainly many Orthodox Jews who believe it today. It’s certainly not mainstream, but what makes it kefirah and Conservative Judaism?

  153. David,

    There is an unbridgeable gap between the most liberal interpretation of Ibn Ezra and the most conservative of scholarly hypotheses of the Chumash.

  154. gil – “Yes, but once you start believing in post-Mosaic origins of portions of the Pentateuch you have entered the realm of Conservative Judaism.”

    i do not think one follows (or has to follow) the other -believers post mosaic=conservative judaism (yes, eventhough conservative judaism believes in post mosaic authorship). conservative judaism has a different view in looking at the halachik system that basically stops at the talmud (to a certain degree). orthodox jews can question authorship without denying the the tsbk/tsbp construct of halacha – or leave a big question mark to the question mark – and determine a non conclusion.

    reading scholarship – is not the issue (sorry i was not clear). believing there is validity to it because of the arguments, data, linguistics, etc (and knowing that is a dynamic process) that orthodoxy so far has not been able to counter is.

    2 different truths – that modern biblical scholarship has validity – not all across the board but like literature there is great and garbage. religion has religious truths. it is based on belief and faith on things not provable. it was only heretical 200 years ago to question any talmud historical fact- today one can be an orthodox jew and believe the talmud is mistaken historically in many place (e.g. length of beit seini is not 420 years). i think in 50 to 100 years it will be totally acceptable in orthodoxy to believe in post mosaic authorship in parts of chumash – btw, this is not my opinion but that of a well known charedei talmudist and posek in israel told privately(long story on this).

  155. ruvie,

    That doesn’t answer the mitzvot problem (source of authority, provenance &c).

    “orthodox jews can question authorship without denying the the tsbk/tsbp construct of halacha – or leave a big question mark to the question mark – and determine a non conclusion.”

    1) What is the tsbk/tsbp “construct” of which you speak?

    2) No, no they can’t. Especially since even those who argue prophetic DH are just as open to falsification as us normal TMSers.

    3) “i think in 50 to 100 years it will be totally acceptable in orthodoxy to believe in post mosaic authorship in parts of chumash”

    Which would not satisfy either Bible critics (who barely believe in any Mosaic authorship or provenance) or traditional Jews. יצאת קרח מכאן ומכאן.

    “reading scholarship – is not the issue (sorry i was not clear). believing there is validity to it because of the arguments, data, linguistics, etc (and knowing that is a dynamic process) that orthodoxy so far has not been able to counter is.”

    No difference, really. Believing something is true by intellectual ones holds especially if you think that there is no answer.

    Others prefer to leave it at teiku/tsarich iyun until such time as it can be answered.

    Still more (again, like Prof. Yehuda Elitzur) consider (some of) the questions good but the answers to be lousy.

    Take your pick.

  156. Once you stop believing… 
    רבים חללים הפילה ועצומים כל הרוגיה

    That’s the danger in academic Jewish studies. You shouldn’t touch it if your emunah isn’t strong enough. Many have gone off the derech because of it. Wasn’t there a story of someone who asked R. Soloveitchik about studying academic Jewish studies despite the danger, and R. Soloveitchik responded that he flies in an airplane despite the danger. Years later, the student told R. Soloveitchik that his airplane had crashed.

    If you’ve read Chaim Potok… the reason he became Conservative is biblical criticism. The lurch to the left of the Conservative movement left many who would be on its right without a home. They now self-identify as Orthodox and are now trying to redefine Orthodoxy. I’m not trying to change anything, just retain the status quo. Nachum Sarna was affiliated with JTS. Despite the ugly politics, Louis Jacobs was rejected from Orthodoxy for a good reason (I’ve read the book and it’s way out of bounds).

  157. If you’ve read Chaim Potok… the reason he became Conservative is biblical criticism.

    And the reason why Spinoza left Judaism is because of Rambam’s writings. That means that Rambam’s writings are dangerous; it doesn’t mean that it’s heresy.

  158. David,

    There is an unbridgeable gap between the most liberal interpretation of Ibn Ezra and the most conservative of scholarly hypotheses of the Chumash.

    To be sure. But I wasn’t asking why Gil considers scholarly hypotheses of the Chumash to be kefirah. I was asking why he considers the belief in anything less than the complete 5 books of the Chumash being from Sinai as kefirah.

  159. David,

    If the Ibn Ezra and R. Yehudah Chasid said it, and there isn’t a scholarly consensus on it, then they were outliers who have no lasting impact. Others can disagree but certainly if they go beyond what Ibn Ezra and R. Yehudah HeChasid said, they have no support. I contend that regardless they are out of bounds.

  160. Lawrence Kaplan

    Gil: You got the story wrong. The individual in qustion, a student of the Rav, asked him about going to graduate school to study philosophy.

  161. gil – funny that story was told this weekend to me. the person was david hartman (not a fan of the person)in the story.

    studies show people do NOT go off the derech because they do not believe in tms – actually 70-80% of the otd folks believe in torah mi-sinai.

    it is wrong to say the people who are conservative are trying to redefine orthodoxy – it is the elites(or well read) of orthodoxy and many of them are ffb. i know you like a witch hunt to push people out of orthodoxy but it will not work – unless you impose lie detector test for membership.the status quo is always changing – just look at history- and will continue to change over time what is acceptable and not.

  162. Anonymous post at 10:46am was ruvie.

  163. lawrence kaplan – thanks – i believe it was philosophy at fordham university.

  164. Thank you Dr. Kaplan for the correction. My point still stands, however.

    Ruvie: Those studies are irrelevant for our discussion. I’m saying that if your faith isn’t strong, stick with Gemara, Rashi, Tosafos. And if you have strong faith but your airplane nevertheless crashes, don’t redefine Judaism to fit your personal beliefs.

    I know very well who these FFB people are. They are my friends. In previous decades, they would have joined the JTS orbit. But now that that orbit is not shomer mitzvos in a recognizable way, that isn’t possible. So they, often rabbis, insist that their beliefs are compatible with Orthodoxy. I don’t buy it.

    I am not saying we need an inquisition. I am totally against anything of the kind. But if you are publicly teaching your non-traditional beliefs you can expect reactions.

  165. Lawrence Kaplan

    ruvie: I know and I know the person in question. I didn’twan’t to give too many identifying features.

  166. Lawrence Kaplan

    aiwac: Sorry for not getting back to you sooner. Nehamah Leibowitz’s attitude to R. Mordecai Breuer was very critical. See Hayyuta Deutsch’s bio of NL, pp. 193-198. NL once told RMB’s son, “I don’t understand what your father sees in the Bible critics. They don’t even know Hebrew. I read their works in the original German, and their views are complete nonsense (havalaim mamash).” RMB, in turn, gave as good as he got.

  167. Lawrence Kaplan

    ruvie: I missed your 10:46am post..Yes, it was Rabbi Hartman. Rav Lichtenstein has a (rather nasty) retelling of the story in one of his essays.

  168. aiwac — thanks for the link to the R. Joshua Berman interview post.  After the discussion of the last few days, It meant more to me than when I first read it.

    Still, it is hard to see how this would pass Gil’s kefira test.  E.g. Q4: Did God transmit variants of the flood story to non-Israelite prophets that were then recorded in their traditions, but gave a superior one to Moshe on Har Sinai? 

    P.S.  I am sympathetic to the simplicity of Gil’s absolutism.  I just don’t think it is compatible with MO if one takes it to it’s logical conclusions. It is compatible, however, with modern Charedi hashkafa.

  169. “studies show people do NOT go off the derech because they do not believe in tms – actually 70-80% of the otd folks believe in torah mi-sinai.”

    ruvie,

    Again, you (and IH) are missing the point. I have not, at any point, argued that BC is a cause of going OTD nowadays. Nor does this discussion have anything to with God.

    The TMS/BC issue revolves around the provenance and authority of the Mitzvot. Individual Jews may be able to drop that particular tenet and still lead an halachic lifestyle. But the system as a whole would no longer have any real integrity or hard arguments. There is no serious way to bar wholesale reductionism vis-a-vis halacha when de’orayta ceases to exist and everything is “invented” in one way or another. Everything would be a house of cards resting on shifting sands.

  170. Gil – you bang on about all these MO Jews who are really Conservative. The flip side of that coin is that you are Charedi, but insist on casting MO as that. I have yet to see a labeling discussion here that has yielded any light.

  171. ruvie,

    “just look at history- and will continue to change over time what is acceptable and not.”

    So Orthodox Judaism is simply a kind of empty conventionalism? I don’t get it.

  172. Prof. Kaplan,

    Did NL have any contact with/respect for the people Bible dept. in Bar-Ilan (Uri Simon, Yehuda Elitzur)?

  173. If the Ibn Ezra and R. Yehudah Chasid said it, and there isn’t a scholarly consensus on it, then they were outliers who have no lasting impact. Others can disagree but certainly if they go beyond what Ibn Ezra and R. Yehudah HeChasid said, they have no support. I contend that regardless they are out of bounds.

    Are you claiming that it wasn’t kefirah for them, but it is kefirah now? Why can’t the lasting impact be that people subscribe to it today? (I am not talking about people who go further.) The 19th century sefer that I quoted didn’t think that such views are out of bounds. Was he wrong? What do you know that he didn’t? On what basis do you claim that this view of the Rishonim is now out of bounds?

  174. Gil – you bang on about all these MO Jews who are really Conservative. The flip side of that coin is that you are Charedi,

    I know very well who people like Rabbi Gil Student are. They are my friends. In previous decades, they would have joined the Charedi orbit. But now that that orbit has gone overboard in a recognizable way, that isn’t possible. So they, often YU-educated rabbis, insist that their beliefs are compatible with Modern Orthodoxy. I don’t buy it.

  175. Lawrence Kaplan

    aiwac: Hayyuta Deutch writes (p.369: “Prof. Y. Elitzur was a colleague and an old friend of NL, but she did not aacept his aproach to teaching TNKH.”

  176. “Prof. Y. Elitzur was a colleague and an old friend of NL, but she did not aacept his aproach to teaching TNKH.”

    Well, I guess that’s better than being despised.

  177. aiwac – on the otd topic i was referring to gil’s point about chaim potok and why bc creates conservative jews – which i think is a false statement (not to you – sorry for not being clear).

    gil- it is not about one’s faith being strong or not. one can be shomrei mitzvot and have fealty to the halachik system/process and still question mosaic authorship – i think. but if one doesn’t believe in hashem and this – torah – has nothing to do with being an eved hashem and there is no connection between hashem and the jewish people then i would agree 100% (isn’t that what orthoprax is about). but the torah is part and parcel of the jewish people and who we are. its part of our communal history and identification period.

    also, the ffb would not have joined jts – maybe 60 to 100 years ago (when yu and jts thought of combining)but not even before they went to the left and abandoned many mitzvot altogether.

    aiwac – mitzvot have been determined by chazal. nobody is a torah based jew – its a misnomer. we rely on chazal to define what eyan tachet eyan means and that lo tignov in the ten commandments means kidnapping. out deoraitas are interpretation based on chazal. i agree about the shifting sands issue but i think there is a nuance where one can be shomrei mitzvot and still have doubts about mosaic authorship. more on that later.

  178. aiwac – “So Orthodox Judaism is simply a kind of empty conventionalism? I don’t get it.”

    orthodox judaism is people who all shomrei mitzvot. who believe in that following the commandments is coming closer to hashem and somehow following his will. but in the end its based on chazal understanding and interpretation of what that means and the system they set up. it is not an empty conventionalism – its the jewish way of life going back a very long time – and we see from history that it changes at times – see jacob katz’s work.

  179. David: I’m saying two things — 1) they could say it but halakhah has crystallized since then and what was once an idiosyncratic view is now totally out of bounds, and 2) no one is saying *just* what they said but going even further so the first point is just a tangent.

    IH: I’m not Charedi and barely RWMO. Maybe you haven’t been following this blog long enough to realize. The RWMO think I’m too left wing but tolerate me because their roshei yeshiva treat me like one of the chevra and I take a strong stand against feminist innovations.

    I understand why you don’t like labeling discussions because they will never turn out well for you.

  180. they could say it but halakhah has crystallized since then and what was once an idiosyncratic view is now totally out of bounds

    In which way has it “crystallized”? In which year, or even century, did that happen? Was there some sort of vote taken? No. Were there teshuvos written which analyzed the questions and the viability and validity of the answers that had been proposed? No. Was this topic even discussed by anyone? No. All that happened was that it drifted off the radar, because people weren’t interested in this topic. Then, by the time people became interested again, the views of the Rishonim weren’t so well known, which is why R. Moshe Feinstein thought it must be a forgery. But there was no “crystallization of the halachah.”

    no one is saying *just* what they said but going even further so the first point is just a tangent.

    Maybe. But in order to decide if it’s legitimate to go further, one first has to decide if it’s legitimate to say what they said. And your basis for saying that it’s not legitimate has yet to be backed up by a satisfactory explanation.

  181. Sure there were teshuvos. Off the top of my head, I can think of two that discuss this specific subject. Then there are other works on faith that state it. It was a unanimous consensus for a long time.

  182. Gil – why label when you should argue the merits of your opinion. One usually labels the other side with negative nuances when one’s argument cannot carry the day.

  183. Or you label when the category has significance, such as religious acceptability. You can’t carry on conversations if everything has to be built from first principles and all possible alternatives debated.

  184. Sure there were teshuvos. Off the top of my head, I can think of two that discuss this specific subject.

    Teshuvos that refer to the opinions of Ibn Ezra, the Hassidei Ashkenaz, and reject them? Please provide the references.

  185. True but when you label sometimes you falsely accuse others of beliefs they don’t have and not with positive implications. For example, the belief or questioning of post mosaic authorship does not put one in the realm of being a conservative Jew.

  186. David: You are asking for too much. There are teshuvos that unequivocally state it is heresy to claim that passages in the Pentateuch were written by post-Mosaic prophets.

    Ruvie: You are right. I can only claim that certain beliefs are non-Orthodox, nothing more than that.

  187. There are teshuvos that unequivocally state it is heresy to claim that passages in the Pentateuch were written by post-Mosaic prophets.

    And why are they more authoritative than the opinions stating that this is exactly what happened?

  188. Because no rabbinic authority has said to the contrary in centuries. Rambam won this debate (if there actually was a debate on this).

  189. That’s not true. I provided a link of a rabbinic authority who did say the contrary. Furthermore, he himself obviously didn’t agree with you that it was forbidden to resurrect that view.

  190. Who is it? I can’t see it on my BBerry.

  191. R. Shneur Zalman Dov Anushiski. He has haskamos from Netziv, Malbim, Aruch LeNer, R. Yitzchak Elchonon Spektor, and others.

  192. Just to clarify – That source does not just disprove your claim that the view of limited post-Mosaic additions has been irreversibly rejected. It also disproves your claim that there is such a thing as ANY view of the Rishonim being irreversibly rejected. Because he saw no difficulties in resurrecting their view.

  193. I checked it again. That source is not so powerful – he just legitimizes Ezra adding nikud, and Yehoshua adding some pesukim.

    Nevertheless, I think it’s a big chiddush to say that if a view was held by numerous Rishonim and then disappears for a while, then it is absolutely forbidden to resurrect it. I’m sure that there must be numerous counterexamples.

  194. Now I checked again and I have to retract my retraction! He is talking about Ezra adding some words. Although he is saying it is legitimized by the Gemara saying that Ezra was worthy of having the Torah given through him.

  195. For the record:

    Hirhurim on May 23, 2011 at 12:16 pm
    IH: I actually considered publishing in Conversations but decided that it was a political statement I did not want to make.

    IH on May 23, 2011 at 12:19 pm
    But, as you posted above, you just submitted something to Dialogue which, I deduce then, is a political statement you do want to make.

    Hirhurim on May 23, 2011 at 12:25 pm
    Same reason I wear a black hat. That is the crowd with whom I wish to associate.

    Hirhurim on May 29, 2011 at 1:25 pm
    IH: I’m not Charedi and barely RWMO.

  196. ruvie,

    Of course we rely on the TSBK being interpreted by chazal/TSBP. We are not Karaites. However, all authorities (that I know of) accept the idea of a TSBK as a solid, objective series of commandments given to Moses (with possible later narrative, but NOT legal content).

    They can of course, be reinterpreted, but the starting point is unquestionably there. Without it, you have no leg to stand on, no Divine commandments. Chazal may reinterpret de’orayta, but all agree that there is such a thing.

  197. IH: There’s no contradiction. I live among the Charedim and RWMO where I feel more comfortable in terms of behavior but my hashkafos are to the left of those communities.

  198. >David: I’m saying two things — 1) they could say it but halakhah has crystallized since then and what was once an idiosyncratic view is now totally out of bounds,

    You’re avoiding the issue: who is right? Was Ibn Ezra more likely the one with the correct views or not? The problems which caused him and those like him to suggest those solutions never went away.

  199. David: I disagree with your reading. He is talking about Ezra adding dots over words that he was unsure about. That is entirely different than him writing words in the Torah.

    S: That’s not a fair question. I’ll answer that the Rambam was right and you’ll respond that that’s just my opinion and reasonable people can disagree. That may be true but we can have the same exchange about a debate over God’s existence. I’ll say that those who believe He exists are right and you’ll respond that that’s just my opinion and reasonable people can disagree.

  200. I think it is a fair question. The debate over God’s existence doesn’t exist within our tradition, but the debate over post-Mosaic additions does (at least by implication).

  201. Lawrence Kaplan

    Gil: I am really suprised. I had taken it as a davar pashut that one could accept ibn Ezra’s position regarding post-Mosaic additons, as expounded by the Tzafnat paneach, and remain comfortably within the bounds of MO. Now you’re telling us this is not so. Well, you will be excluding lots and and lots of people, including Nehamah Leibowitz. I think you are moving the goalposts.

  202. Gil and david – on post mosaic authorship.: according to Midrash tanhuma and yalkut hamakhiri it was the anshei kenesset hagadolah who change certain words in the Torah. There are rabbinic sources that use the term ” tikunei soferim” which indicates changes by scribes – some in the Torah – see beresheit 18:22. R. Joshua falk in arukh hashalem – states that Ezra made textual changes. In avot derabi natan – 34:5 implies that Ezra had the power of textual changes. According to r. Hayim hirschensohn it is not heretical to believe that our text today suffered from corruptions.

    On Ibn Ezra- see devarim 1:2 – where he discusses the secrets of 12… Many conclude that devarim 1-5 plus other verses quoted in Ibn Ezra are similar to the last12 verses in devarim which he believed was post mosaic. A student of the rashba, r. Ibn tibbon, Ibn kaspi, r. Elizear bonfils, azariah de Rossi, r. Eliezar Ashkenazi, r. Samuel luzzatto, r, Solomon netter and mordechei Breuer who all explain and many defend his -Ibn Ezra ‘s – position this way. There are many others that I left out. That is not an outlier. Some draw the line with it’s ok to say this in narrative parts of the Torah but reject anything with the commandments.

    As pointed out before Ibn Ezra is not alone. R. Avigdor katz – teacher of the maharam m’rotenberg- also believed in yehoshua and anshei kenesset hagidolah added text to the Torah. There other Ashkenazi roshi I’m that believed that scribes took text out of the Torah. Let’s not forget r. Yehuda hahasid.

    See marc Shapiro in the limits of orthodox theology for more references.

  203. Let’s not forget those that believe that yehoshua wrote hazinu. See Hadar zekenim -a tosafist- as well as r. Moses schick- who believes he finishes the Torah as well.

  204. Where does Nechama Leibowitz adopt the Ibn Ezra’s approach?

    Thanks Ruvie for bringing this interesting book to my attention.

  205. do i note a touch of sarcasm reb gil?

  206. Lawrence Kaplan

    Gil: in her book Limmud Parshenei ha-Torah: Bereshit she prints the entire statement of the Tzafnat Paneach as an appendix.

  207. do the above people that i quoted above fall into the conservative jews category? as stated above:

    “Ruvie: can one be a religious shomer mitzvot jew and believe in some of mbs and not be automatically a kofer?

    Yes, but once you start believing in post-Mosaic origins of portions of the Pentateuch you have entered the realm of Conservative Judaism.”

    btw, according to some – r. yaakov hayim sofer and abarvenal – add the ramban to the list that yehoshua wrote ha’azinu.

  208. gil,
    I’ve been around here for a while, and I’d be hard pressed to say where your hashkafa would be to the left of RWMO except _maybe_ on Israel. Could you please back up your implication that you are to the left of RWMO.

  209. Ruvie: See above that this discussion is point 1 while point 2 is what is relevant.

    As to Marc Shapiro’s citations, I’m not convinced he always understands them properly. For example, the Maharam Shick is discussing *within the Rambam’s view*. It is pretty hard to accept that the Ramban, of all people, believed that Yehoshua wrote Haazinu but perhaps that can also be explained within the Rambam’s view of Mosaic authorship.

    Although, again, this has nothing to do with James Kugel-style biblical criticism where the Bible is historically inaccurate and the product of battling factions.

  210. סוף סוף. So my hunch about what you coded as “contemporary Bible Criticism” was correct, it seems…

  211. Larry Kaplan-I think that the talmid of RYBS who mentioned that his airplane crashed went on to teach at JTS and become identified with CJ.

  212. Some sources that dispute R. Gil’s position, from http://seforim.blogspot.com/2007/08/marc-b-shapiro-forgery-and-halakhic.html. First Rav Moshe Tzuriel:

    ודאי אני מודה שהסומך על ראב”ע (או אברבנאל וכיו”ב) ביחס לפסוקים הנוספים, איננו
    נחשב לכופר, והוא נחשב ישראל . . . וכן כל דבר שיש מחלוקת ראשונים

    Also R. Solomon David Sassoon:

    הדגש הוא על מה שאומר כי משה אמר זה מפי עצמו, אבל אם יאמר פסוקים אלה נביא אחר כתב אותם מפי הגבורה ומודה שקטע זה הוא מן השמים ומפי הגבורה, אדם שאומר כך אינו נקרא אפיקורוס, מה שהגדיר אותו כאפיקורוס אינו זה שאמר שלא משה כתב את הקטע אלא בזה שהוא אומר שדבר שזה מדעתו ומפי עצמו אמרו ושאין זה מן השמים

    It also seems that Rav Shlomo Fischer is of the same view.

  213. While there are divergent opinions on the reality and implication of the “tikun soferim” concept, I fail to understand the basis for assuming that Joshua wrote parshat Ha’azinu. The song itself is divinely composed – the implication of “Now, write down this song for your sake…” (Deut. 31:19). Moshe wrote it with the possible assistance of Joshua (Deut. 31:22) and taught it to the people – with Joshua’s assistance (Deut. 31:44).

  214. >That’s not a fair question.

    Why is it not a fair question? The issues DO still exist and just because the ibn Ezra’s resolutions were not prefered by people for a period of 500 years does not mean that they satisfy intelectuals from the past 200 years. See RNKs introduction to Moreh Nevuchei HaZeman regarding how the idea that David HaMelech wrote al Neharot Bavel was edifying for pre-modern Jews but has the opposite effect on (most) educated modern Jews.

    The same can be true for any question and nothing can reach a point where it can not be re-visited. Are we forgetting that the Rambam DID re-visit issues as fundumental as the existence of a creator, creation ex-nihilo, and many other core issues. He did NOT say “tradition has decided it and therefore there is nothing to talk about.”

    I first thought that you left out R’ Kook’s archtype of קדוש הדומיה because R’ Naor left it out – but I checked the essay and he does discuss this ideal person. (the קדוש הדומיה is a person to whom no idea or area of investigation can be put beyond bounds – who balks at normative categories as suffocating the core of his spirit. He is the religious IDEAL for Rav Kook and pretty much everything else he writes on intelectual boundaries is more for the masses than for intelectuals)

    Just in case someone thinks that R’ Kook limits this intelectual freedom to narrow bounds, he does not. NOTHING, including atheism is off the table for the קדוש הדומיה, all ideas are part of a cosmic reality where our orientation is that everything at some lofty level is unified. This is indeed a mystical doctorine but one so broad that it does not see itself in oppostion to rationalism or for that matter any other philosophical orientation. It simiply seeks to find the higher purpose even in those areas of investigation that the normative mind would categorize as evil.

  215. david – i have heard that r. shlomo fischer doesn’t believe that mbs is kefirah at all( and will be acceptable to orthodoxy in the future). do you have anything that he wrote on this subject.

  216. What is “mbs”?
    Rav Fischer’s view is discussed at the link that I posted.

  217. modern biblical scholarship. is there anything more on his – rabbi fischer’s – views on today’s scholarship.

  218. Lawrence Kaplan

    Steve: Since Ruvie identified him, I will just repeat that it is well known that the student involved was Rabbi Hartman.

  219. David: That quote from R. Tzuriel is powerful. Not that he holds like the Ibn Ezra but he says that it isn’t kefirah. I guess it’s a machlokes between R. Tzuriel and R. Moshe Feinstein.

    Of course, this is all irrelevant to the issue of multiple post-Mosaic authorship, contradictions and errancy of the Pentateuch.

  220. I guess it’s a machlokes between R. Tzuriel and R. Moshe Feinstein.

    But given that R. Moshe Feinstein wasn’t even able to acknowledge the fact of R. Yehudah Hachassid having the same view, I think that this is a strike against his pesak in this.

    Of course, this is all irrelevant to the issue of multiple post-Mosaic authorship, contradictions and errancy of the Pentateuch.

    Perhaps. But I hope that you won’t make any more unequivocal claims about how Jews are required to believe that every single verse is Mosaic, or unequivocal claims about views of the Rishonim becoming unacceptable once they have not been followed for a while. If you side with R. Moshe Feinstein’s view, at least acknowledge that it is a machlokes.

  221. Larry Kaplan wrote:

    “Steve: Since Ruvie identified him, I will just repeat that it is well known that the student involved was Rabbi Hartman”

    Larry Kaplan-I had heard the same or a similar story not involving RDH, but rather a talmid in RYBS’s shiur in the late 1960s or early 1970s, who voiced the same or very similar comments . The person at issue definitely taught at JTS and became a prominent speaker within CJ. RDH’s POV and divergence from that of RYBS’s teachings preceded the same.

  222. For more about a contemporary thinker, screenwriter and playwright who wrote about his own changing political, cultural and religious POV ( ala Franz Rosensweig), see the annexed link.
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304520804576347110395478634.html?mod=djemEditorialPage_h#printMode

  223. U know, there ARE many OJ scholars who took off and had a safe landing. Why emphasize the failures?

  224. Aiwac-when I asked you about such scholars, your list was rather small.

    R Gil-I would hesitate before I suggested that Ibn Ezra was out of the mainstream-See Ramban’s intro to his commentary as well as numerous comments therein where Ramban at times, strongly disagrees with Ibn Ezra but by no means views his comments as beyond the pale. I haven’t seen this anywhere, but it would be interesting to compare where Ramban is strongly critical of Ibn Ezra and where Ibn Ezra’s comments did not compel a critique by Ramban.

  225. Steve,

    You asked for a list of ABC people, which is limited by its very nature. The plane metaphor referred to philosophy (and is used for AJS in general). There are many more successes in these broader fields.

  226. AIWAC-I stand corrected inasmuch as I also know more than a few of these individuals, none of whom have POVs that even remotely impact in a negative way on Ikarei HaEmunah.

  227. lawrence kaplan

    Steve: Since it doesn’t happen that often, I want to mention that I agree with you that we should hesitate before suggesting that ibn Ezra is out of the mainstream — and then we should NOT suggest it!

  228. Shades of Gray

    R. Yitzchak Blau discusses the Ibn Ezra(see link, pg. 184):

    “It may be that we should reject Ibn Ezra’s view as a maverick position outside the consensus. Even if we do accept it as a legitimate possibility, the fact that we cannot give a concrete number of verses that can be attributed to a later author without sliding into heresy in no way invalidates the idea that a boundary exists…. We can exclude Ibn Ezra’s view from the charge of
    heresy, remain unsure about how much more latitude to give for an expansion of Ibn Ezra, and still confidently assert that J, P, E and D are beyond the pale.”

    http://www.yutorah.org/_shiurim/TUJ%2012%20Blau%20Yitzchak%20179-191%20QX.pdf

  229. Lawrence Kaplan

    I find R. Blau’s position to be thoughtful and nuanced, though I am not that comfortable with his first sentence.

  230. “We can exclude Ibn Ezra’s view from the charge of heresy, remain unsure about how much more latitude to give for an expansion of Ibn Ezra, and still confidently assert that J, P, E and D are beyond the pale.”

    So, it’s back to the DH bogeyman (that contemporary Bible scholarship has long ago abandoned, per previous comments).

    And there is still no evidence of Gil’s general accusation that “CBC charges that the text of the Torah is incorrect, immoral, contradictory and written by humans” despite Gil’s anonymous historian (of what expertise we don’t know) and his apparent undefined term of “CBC” which seems to be code for James Kugel et al.

    I come back to the example I posed earlier regarding the interview with R. Joshua Berman: Did God transmit variants of the flood story to non-Israelite prophets that were then recorded in their traditions, but gave a superior one to Moshe on Har Sinai?

  231. And, so no one misunderstands the question, it’s based on the belief the story as told in Sefer B’reishit is God’s literal word to Moshe on Har Sinai. But, it questions why this story is also found elsewhere (as we know from archaeology).

  232. OK,

    What if we rewrote R. Blau’s quote thusly?

    “We can exclude Ibn Ezra’s view from the charge of
    heresy, remain unsure about how much more latitude to give for an expansion of Ibn Ezra, and still confidently assert that the idea of an entirely post-Mosaic Torah, born of multiple, contradictory and composite (and possibly self-interested) authorship of the Chumash is beyond the pale.”

    Would that clear things up? This last is a matter of consensus in the academic world, as opposed to the DH “bogeyman” you keep complaining about (though that is also far more widespread than you’ll admit).

  233. “And, so no one misunderstands the question, it’s based on the belief the story as told in Sefer B’reishit is God’s literal word to Moshe on Har Sinai. But, it questions why this story is also found elsewhere (as we know from archaeology).”

    I don’t understand how this is a contradiction. We know that other nations had prophets. More importantly, “the word of God” here isn’t the telling of the story per se, but giving the “inside scoop” on the reason for it.

  234. aiwac – at the end of the day what does one do with the work that comes from modern biblical scholarship? (i understand the problems if one believes in its conclusions – i am in the same boat) does one ignore all the work because of the conclusions?

  235. Hirhurim on May 23, 2011 at 12:16 pm
    IH: I actually considered publishing in Conversations but decided that it was a political statement I did not want to make.

    IH on May 23, 2011 at 12:19 pm
    But, as you posted above, you just submitted something to Dialogue which, I deduce then, is a political statement you do want to make.

    Hirhurim on May 23, 2011 at 12:25 pm
    Same reason I wear a black hat. That is the crowd with whom I wish to associate.

    Hirhurim on May 29, 2011 at 1:25 pm
    IH: I’m not Charedi and barely RWMO.

    Hirhurim on May 29, 2011 at 5:45 pm
    IH: There’s no contradiction. I live among the Charedim and RWMO where I feel more comfortable in terms of behavior but my hashkafos are to the left of those communities.

    Since you are so keen on labels, it sounds like this makes you Charediprax.

  236. Ruvie — the suggestion from Prof. Brill in the post aiwac suggested regarding R. Berman is:

    “Berman’s new project is to respond, in some way, to Biblical source criticism as it is found today. He acknowledges that the traditional documentary hypothesis has been heavily modified and one should not set up a straw man to refute. He also directly refers to new approaches such as the supplemental model. […]

    In order to move his theories from possible ideas to a probable hypothesis, he needs to write peer reviewed articles that suggest a greater affinity to the literature of the late-second millennium, based on credible parallels with ancient Near Eastern literature. He also must be on his guard not to slip into a Bible as literature mode, such as explaining narrative repetition but does not actually answer historical questions. The project wont refute academic trends, rather offer a credible apologetic. If he does enough drafts and listens carefully to his critics, then he may possibly create the major apologetic work, that barring new archeological finds, will last for decades. Berman’s current project has the potential to be the new Umberto Cassutto or Nahum Sarna.”

  237. “aiwac – at the end of the day what does one do with the work that comes from modern biblical scholarship? (i understand the problems if one believes in its conclusions – i am in the same boat) does one ignore all the work because of the conclusions?”

    ruvie,

    First of all, as I said before, there are many Orthodox scholars who make very good use of the work that does not harm the principle of TMS, including comparative NE literature, archaeology, linguistics &c. Rabbi Dr. Berman in particular did a great job on this in his “Created Equal” book. R. Breur, R. Bin-Nun, and R. Aviyah Hacohen have made great strides in using the BC questions on the Chumash text for some beautiful and enlightening Talmud Torah. One does not need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    However, I am assuming you are referring solely to the dating and authorship arguments of source criticism, which quite frankly is what O Jews mean when they speak of BC. So I’ll explain what I believe we should do. I could be wrong, of course, but I think there has to be a middle ground between “every word was written by Moses” and the James Kugels (really the Yishayahu Leibowitzes) of the world.

    1) This has to be an internal Orthodox issue (but one openly or at least frequently discussed behind closed doors), and not an academic debate, which is pointless (OTOH, they should not be “convincing the convinced” style arguments). Prof. Uri Simon wrote an article on the subject in his Bakesh Shalom Veradfehu (second edition), where he outlined a possible program on how to deal with these matters (though I wish he were more specific).

    Put bluntly, we need to deal with the challenges, questions and facts on an individual basis, rather than as a package deal (there is much garbage and unfounded speculation in this field). Much like halacha generally avoids blanket reforms and tries to deal with matters in a pinpoint way, so should this examination.

    This includes our own (internal) ground rules for what, if anything, constitutes overwhelming/compelling evidence or arguments and what merely causes doubt (such as arguments from silence, which demonstrate nothing).

    2) Such a discussion should not be restricted to O Bible scholars. It should include Rabbis and theologians (we have plenty of both) who will try and work alongside this project and deal with the key issue of the authority/provenance/historicity of the Mitzvot. “Just because” is not enough.

    3) Theological limits – both on the provenance of the Torah and the authority of the Mitzvot – do need to be set. I don’t need to tell you how incredibly destructive reductionism is to religion (e.g. Reform in its radical phases).

    4) Finally, and most importantly, we need to stop treating doubt – regardless of its source – as an incurable disease that destroys religion wherever it goes. Yes, many of the questions and some of the arguments of BCers are serious and cannot be brushed away. But I don’t think that means we can’t handle it. If Jews could stay frum after going through the Holocaust (see eg Berkowitz), then Jews can deal with the serious challenges of BC – but on our own terms, not academia’s.

  238. “This has to be an internal Orthodox issue”

    But, what happens when some (e.g. Gil) want to exclude some of these Orthodox actors as not Orthodox?

    What is the sound of one hand clapping?

  239. “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

    I am not interested in your approval.

  240. Nor, I yours, but that is not what I meant. Spelling it out, if the machmir Orthodox designate anyone maykil as Conservative (i.e. not Orthodox) then they are the sound of one hand clapping in respect of the dialogue you would like to be “an internal Orthodox issue”.

  241. “I haven’t seen this anywhere, but it would be interesting to compare where Ramban is strongly critical of Ibn Ezra and where Ibn Ezra’s comments did not compel a critique by Ramban.”

    Perhaps this is because Ramban did not interpret Ibn Ezra like R. Yosef Bonfils?

  242. ‘Spelling it out, if the machmir Orthodox designate anyone maykil as Conservative (i.e. not Orthodox) then they are the sound of one hand clapping in respect of the dialogue you would like to be “an internal Orthodox issue”.’

    There’ll be a dialogue whether they like it or not, if only for purposes of rebuttal. Besides, the RW could serve a useful purpose in reigning in the reductionist tendencies of some of those to the left. It could make for a good balance.

  243. aiwac –
    “I am assuming you are referring solely to the dating and authorship arguments…” of course, its the conclusions that it develops that makes the process treif to many( yet its ok to use the same disciplines for second temple, post temple, talmuds, and middle ages periods).

    “of source criticism” i was referring to all the criticisms – including form, historical and source (or is it text-source). your idea would be nice if people will agree the road of who is “in” will be very wide. otoh, if its all “orthodox” folks will you have intellectual honesty or apologetics ? agree on the “there is much garbage” but its like most things in life; like literature – there are great books and those that should be in the garbage.

    why would our own internal ground rules be different than others – either its compelling or not. once you put haskafa boundries on thought its doom to disappointment there will always be disagreements with more than 2 jews on any discussion on any topic
    .
    doubt is what faith and religion is all about. things you can’t prove – like hashem’s existence – is not the problem or the issue. or just you have no evidence or artifacts that people – a large number – did not live in the dessert doesn’t mean you conclude mamad har sinai didn’t happen. its is part of our collective history and memory as jews.

    the question to me can one go as far as non-full-mosaic authorship without denying the authority of the mitzvot? is there a bridgeable gap since in the end 90% of what we do is chazal based or interpretation anyway. i understand without the divine authority the sand castle starts to crumble of what would compel us to do mitzvot – and that is a big issue. can ibn ezra’s boundries be expanded (assuming he is not a kofer). if one looks at the mechalel shabbat as an example of one who denies hashem existence because of his actions – but today we assume a tinok shenishbah approach and halachik acceptance to receive an aliyah; similarly, can one look at a person who believes in a non full mosaic authorship as not denying mitzvot (or hashem’s existence) in some other fashion than a kofer b’ikar and no part of the world to come?

    please explain “Jews can deal with the serious challenges of BC – but on our own terms” .

    there are many – much smarter than i – who think the two are irreconcilable. when speaking to someone this shabbat (with beard and peyot) he explained that he spent 15 year trying to reconcile the 2 and its just doesn’t work. instead he prefers: religion is one thing and 100% shoner mitzvot and the torah is general is post moshe (but yet divinely transmitted).[didn’t have the time to explore his total thought process].

  244. correction in the last sentence: ” the torah is general is post moshe” actually he said modern biblical scholarship in general is correct in post mosaic authorship. two different realms for him. is it 2 different truths? i do not know.

  245. As noted earlier in the thread, the strange thing is that if you read the Chumash without Chazal, and accept everything that it says, you see that it makes no claim to have been written by Moses. Instead, it claims to INCLUDE an account of various things that Moses said (and which he heard from God).

  246. ruvie,

    1) “Either it’s compelling or it isn’t”

    There are arguments in the middle, you know. Stuff that’s not completely compelling, but nevertheless just as possible/plausible as other arguments. It’s not always an either-or matter, and frankly very little in historical research is so clear-cut.

    We don’t have factual certainty when it comes to God, I don’t understand why it’s so absolutely necessary here as well (especially since so much of BC is essentially educated conjecture sans hard evidence).

    2) Re: Jews always debating the matter

    Yes, but once you take up certain positions (I’m not completely sure what they are, but I intuit that they’re there; otherwise Orthodoxy is mere conventionalism), you place yourself (opinion-wise, see below for halachically) outside the Orthodox circle. The fact that you are absolutely convinced that they are true does not change this. Lehavdil, if someone becomes convinced that there are many Gods (or Dualism, Deism &c), he may debate the matter and be convinced it’s true, but it still puts him outside the pale of normative Judaism.

    People like to mention how many things which were once considered heresy were accepted (Rambam, Chasidut &c). They forget that there are many positions that were never accepted (Karaism, Sabbateanism, Deism, Dualism, Reform &c). Certain things really are beyond the pale.

    3) Re: Many believe it is not reconcilable (BC and TMS)

    I never said anything about reconciliation. I meant coping with the challenges, not submitting to the dictates. More importantly, לא על פיהם אני חי (the fact that the person has beard and peyot means nothing to me). They have their opinion and I have mine. I trust in those scholars who did believe (and those that do believe) in the possibility of coping with the challenges of BC. I don’t think it’s impossible. But anyone who wants an answer “NOW” is going to be disappointed, it will take generations to work this out.

    4) Re: People who believe in BC and mechalelei Shabbat

    I was talking about dealing with BC for Orthodoxy as a whole. I already explained that IMHO individuals who feel intellectually compelled on the matter are טועה בעיונם as per the Ridbaz and do not fall into the kofer category (unless they “spread the word” or leave Torah and mitzvot).

    I trust this explains everything.

    All the Best

    aiwac

  247. David,

    Fair enough, but as far as I know, Biblical scholars don’t really accept that the mitzvot were said by Moses (if they even concede he existed). If there are positions that hold that Moses gave those particular Mitzvot, then please share.

  248. Following this line of thinking, if you read the Chumash without Chazal, I wonder what the list of these Mosaic mitzvot that remain the same as what we practice today is? [Perhaps someone knows a reference]

  249. IH-your approach suggests that only which is either Mfurash BaKra in the Torah , as opposed to including a Halacha LMoshe Mi Sinai or what is “Divrei Sofrim”, which Rambam in many instances views as Min HaTorah, but just not Mfurash BaKra. FWIW, I would suggest that reading the Chumash without TSBP and the input of Chazal is a decidedly useless enterprise because Torah Shebicsav without TSBP is a meaningless document tnat denies the fact that the keys of interepretation were given to Moshe Rabbeinu and thereafter transmitted to the subsequent generations of Talmidei Chachamim.

  250. steve b. – nice to see that your on the same page as james kugel.

  251. aiwac,
    thanks for your reply. as you know the further one goes back in time the less data and more conjecture one has to deal with. there is no real smoking gun that i know of but the preponderance of evidence points in one direction and certainly away from the other. we do not factual certainty in science much less so in this area. orthodoxy has failed to mount any worthy counter argument. remember, even though y. kaufman and casutto are out of date , they too are “beyond the pale” since their dating would also be post mosaic (if i remember correctly from 30 year ago).

    i am not convince 100% they are true but more plausible than ever word for word was given to moshe at sinai no exceptions at this point in time and its a fluid process. i do not think this orthopraxy either (really never heard of term til recenrtly).

    if yehudah hachasid and ibn ezra are not beyond the pale then what exactly are the limits? is mbs – or post mosaic authorship – similar to deism karaism etc – i do not think so.coping with the challenges need better solutions than what we have – but can we really get there?

    what is your opinion on all this – do you ignore or say teiku ?

  252. ruvie–

    I think that Steve was overstating his case in order to make the crucial point that we cannot have a complete understanding of the Torah while ignoring one of its essential components –Torah sheba’al peh. This isn’t debatable within Judaism.

    Naturally, the fact that the Ribbono shel olam gave us His Torah in the form that He did (i.e. Torah shebichtav and Torah sheba’al peh separately) has significance. Every aspect of the divinely given Torah has significance, and human beings will never exhaust its infinite messages (this does NOT mean that all interpretations are correct). So there is certainly meaning to the written Torah on its own, just not the full scope of meanings and not the halacha lema’aseh. (See the Rashbam at the beginning of the Torah and in his oft-quoted methodological piece in vayeshev.)

    Separately, for those who wouldn’t know that Moshe wrote the Torah if they only had Torah shebichtav — (1) be careful, since Moshe Rabbeinu did NOT write the Torah in the ordinary sense. He wrote down what God dictated to him. (Whether a few places in the Torah we have are a slight exception to this rule is not really material to this fact –ok, there are some interesting views within our mesora that there is a pasuk here and there that isn’t part of what Hakadosh baruch hu gave to Moshe, either way it doesn’t change the big picture.) (2) The Torah can’t start “eleh divrei hashem el moshe…” or “chazon moshe ben amram…” because unlike other books of prophecy, the Torah wasn’t “written” at the time Moshe received it, it was written in black fire on white fire before the world was even created.

  253. Carlos – I agree with steve. Our understanding of Torah especially mitzvot come via chazal. Who is ignoring Torah sheba’al peh? But let’s not forget there is shiv’im penim latorah – some not even discovered yet ( see the nitziv’s intro to his perush al hatorah).

  254. Carlos – please explain your understanding of what Hashem gave us with regards to Torah sheba’al peh? Issue you are referring to what Hashem gave moshe at har Sinai – what do you think that means specifically?

  255. aiwac – i aplogize for my terrible writing on the fly. sorry i misunderstand the reconciliation part.

    “I trust in those scholars who did believe (and those that do believe) in the possibility of coping with the challenges of BC.” may i ask what is this based on besides hope? for what i hear and see very few orthodox scholars privately believe that anymore (in the last 20-30 years) that includes many charedeim. i could be wrong but when people like gil are calling people koferim at the drop of the hat and say stick to gemera with rashi and tosafot if your emunah is not strong enough – how do expect any dialogue open or closed in our community?

  256. Lawrence Kaplan

    Carlso: Your final comment re why the Torah does not begin “And God said all these words to Moses” and the answer of the Torah having already been written in black fire on white fire was made by the Ramban in his intro to his peirush.

  257. Actually, Ramban says “she’ba lanu ba’kabala…”. And, while I haven’t validated it, the source seems to be Sefer ha’Zohar.

  258. >Actually, Ramban says “she’ba lanu ba’kabala…”. And, while I haven’t validated it, the source seems to be Sefer ha’Zohar.

    Or the Ramban was the source for the Sefer ha’Zohar. Or they shared a common source.

  259. ruvie,

    I say, as per Dr. Baruch Alster, that at present we need to leave the challenges in a “tsarich iyun” or teiku phase. I would argue that those who are troubled by this would best spend their time growing in other areas of Judaism, rather than wallow in this theological quicksand. Take whatever fallback position suits you (Leibowitz, Kook &c) and just leave it be.

    “I trust in those scholars who did believe (and those that do believe) in the possibility of coping with the challenges of BC.” may i ask what is this based on besides hope? for what i hear and see very few orthodox scholars privately believe that anymore (in the last 20-30 years) that includes many charedeim. i could be wrong but when people like gil are calling people koferim at the drop of the hat and say stick to gemera with rashi and tosafot if your emunah is not strong enough – how do expect any dialogue open or closed in our community?”

    And what’s wrong with hope, if I may ask? It’s not like I’m relying on amatuers or dilletantes here. All the people I’ve mentioned were/are thoroughly familiar with the challenges involved, and none thought the task impossible. Very difficult, yes, but not impossible.

    I am sorry to hear that so many have given up hope (again, the fact that this includes Charedim does not mean anything). I understand their despair but I do not share it. If Chotamo shel Hakadosh Baruch Hu is Emet, then there must be a way.

    “if yehudah hachasid and ibn ezra are not beyond the pale then what exactly are the limits? is mbs – or post mosaic authorship – similar to deism karaism etc – i do not think so.coping with the challenges need better solutions than what we have – but can we really get there?”

    I don’t know, ruvie. As I mentioned before, even if we expanded Ibn Ezra to the extreme, it would still not satisfy even the most conservative of source critics. Then again, I find the Ibn Ezra model more plausible than many of the composite theories out there.

    I thought my outline of discussion was a pretty good start (but then, what do I know?). The trick is to avoid dogmatism in either direction – either “every word was given to Moses at Sinai”, which is a little absurd since if so then he should have known about the Golden Calf, and everything is post and non-Mosaic and written by various interest groups. Like I said – on our own terms.

    But like I said, even if such a dialogue were to start, it would take years, perhaps decades of work. You need to have patience and not lose faith (no pun intended)

    BTW, have you ever spoken on the matter with any of the people at BIU (besides Kugel), such as Berman, Alster, Simon (emeritus)?

  260. “Or they shared a common source.”

    Yes. I woke up suddenly realizing the timing is unlikely for the source to have been the Zohar. And there does seem to be a midrashic source given it also seems to be in Midrash Tanchuma.

    Probably an interesting study of midrashic evolution / aceptance for someone intrigued enough to do the detective work.

  261. aiwac – thanks for your honesty. no, i haven’t spoken to those that you mentioned but to others. i guess i speak to the wrong ones. i just your local am haaretz.

  262. aiwac – what do you think are the 5 most vexing issues/problems that bc poses to orthodoxy – that orthodoxy has not yet answered?

  263. Ruvie –it actually sounds like we all essetially agree then (I am assuming that no one is denying that approaches like that of the Rashbam, Ibn Ezra, and others aren’t also valid understandings of Torah).

    As to what aspects of our Torah sheba’al peh were given to Moshe by hakadosh baruch hu, I think it’s more complicated than I can do justice to.

    Lawrence Kaplan –that is indeed where I learned it, I just didn’t cite it because I assumed it was well known to be from there (I also wasn’t sure whether Ramban has an earlier source). I assumed that the Rashbam is less well known (and thus cited to him) since people seem to take less of an interest in his commentary on the Torah than in that of the Ramban.

  264. ruvie,

    Why are we restricting this to numbers? Nevertheless, I’ll try to mention the main issues off the top of my head (I make no promise that this is all, or that I might not change my mind afterward):

    1) Ostensible anachronisms/inaccuracies in the historical narrative, esp when dealing with stuff like Jericho, Arad during Moshe’s time &c. The Patriarch period is actually much less of a problem, IMHO, since I don’t really expect anyone to specifically mention one of many nomadic tribes in the area (we may care, they didn’t).

    2) The “Deuteronomist school” – the clear contradictions between Devarim and the rest of Chumash (Shmot, Vayikra and Bamidbar).

    3) Contradictory narrative and legal traditions, esp books like Yehezkel where there appear to be different conceptions of Mitzvot (as well as different traditions re: yetzi’at mitzrayim). The same goes for contradictions in stuff like lineage lists in the Chumash, which are hard to solve with an “aspects” answer a la R. Breuer.

    4) Authorship or who wrote the Chumash (problem for everyone, really) – Put bluntly, we may have doubts as to whether Moshe wrote the Torah, but frankly scholarship doesn’t really answer that question either. It’s a major headache, and it directly affects the issue of provenance of the Mitzvot.

    5) The arguments of multiple authorship re: nevi’im (Yeshayahu &c), since it opens up the question of who was the author, whether they should have the same status as the original &c. Put simply, since when did they think they had the right to tamper with sacred texts, and it causes serious suspicion with what else was tempered with, if anything (the mysterious R and all that).

    IMHO, the ketuvim issue is really, really not a problem. The sky will not fall if we give later dates to some of Tehilim or Kohellet. Frankly, I find such things edifying, since it shows that the beautiful, creative energy of writing Tanach continued into the second Temple period.

    You might want to listen to R. Yuval Sherlo and R. Yehuda Brandes here on the subject of authorship of Nach:

    http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3765600,00.html

    http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3769745,00.html

    That concludes this overview. I now have to go back to work :).

    All the Best

    aiwac

  265. Lawrence Kaplan

    IH: You missed my point. Of course, that the Torah was written in black fire on white fire is a tradition from Midrash Tanhuma, as annotated editions of the Ramban note. What IS new is the Ramban’s using this tradition to explain why the Torah doesn’t begin :”Va-yedaber E-lohim el Moshe et kol ha-devarim ha-ele leimor.”

    Carlos: I still believe you should have added “as the Ramban notes.”

  266. Lawrence Kaplan

    Aiwac: Your point about Ketuvim was made by the Ranak.

  267. Aiwac: Your point about Ketuvim was made by the Ranak.

    Glad to know I’m in such illustrious company :).

  268. BTW, What did Ranak have to say on this endless debate?

    Side note: I was going to purchase the latest edition of מורה נבוכי הזמן, but it costs, and weighs, a ton.

  269. I’ll add one: the (small) differences between the Masoertic Torah we use (7th to 11th century CE) and the much earlier Qumran scrolls (1st century BCE to 1st century CE).

    Context from Geza Vermes “The Story of the Scrolls” (pp. 103-104):

    “the chief characteristic of the traditional or Masoretic Bible was textual uniformity. The strictly controlled medieval manuscripts produced by careful scribes displayed practically no meaningful variants. The only discrepancies, apart from very occasional scribal errors, related to systems of spelling. The Dead Sea scriptural manuscripts, on the other hand, present a more heterogeneous picture. According to the classification of Emanuel Tov, one of the greatest experts on the text of the Hebrew Bible and the editor-in-chief of the Scrolls, the scriptural manuscripts from Qumran fall into five categories. Of these, the largest, representing 60% of the total, is designated as proto-Masoretic, being very similar to the text handed down by later Jewish tradition. Another 20% attest the technical idiosyncrasies, peculiar orthography and grammar of the Qumran scribes (for instance the use of archaic Hebrew letters for the writing of divine names and the copious occurrence of certain consonants to indicate vowels, for example Y (yod) and W (wav) to suggest the vowels i and o or u. There is a smaller group, amounting to 5% of the total reminiscent of significant variants found in the Samaritan Bible and in the old Greek or Septuagint version of the Hebrew scriptures. Finally, a non-insubstantial number of manuscripts (15%) are classified as non-aligned because they sometimes agree with the Masoretic text, sometimes with the Samaritan or the Septuagint, and on occasions depart from all of them. Tov’s arguments, set out in two major books, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (1992) and Scribal Practices and Approaches Reflected in the Texts Found in the Judean Desert (2004), although questioned by some, are solidly argued and largely persuasive.”

    Vermes then goes on to illustrate with some examples. The differences themselves are less of an issue, I think, than the diversity of texts.

  270. aiwac – “Why are we restricting this to numbers?” letterman has a top ten; i think orthodoxy should have a top 5 for focus. thanks for your time, patience and erudition.

  271. ruvie,

    Glad to be of service.

  272. I am not persuaded by the argument in aiwac’s #4 that authorship “affects the issue of provenance of the Mitzvot” since the mitzvot as we currently understand them come from Chazal.

    We already answer this conceptually by saying that TSBP (with no agreed specificity) was also given at Sinai. So, effectively, normative Judaism has always believed in the divine origin of (rabbinic) halacha without being dependent on Rambam’s 8th Principle as Gil interprets it.

  273. IH,

    Apples and oranges. Many sources and authorities admit that TSBP did not all arise explicitly from Sinai (I believe some even argue that only the root ideas.

    The Mitzvot and the Torah are uniformly acknowledged to have an objective, divine origin, specifically from Moses, but at least mishamayim. They can be reinterpreted, but the starting point/focal point is universally acknowledged to be present (Indeed, Chazal place beyond the pale people who deny that the Torah is Min Hashamayim). Accept BC, with its discussion of Priestly and national interest groups and the Divine origin is seriously undermined if not destroyed (and spare me the “divinely inspired” argument, it’s even more apologetic and forced than TMS).

    Put differently, the way we carry out or fulfill the mitzvot can be subject to interpretation, but their ultimate origin must still be Divine.

    TSBP = TSBK is not an equation that works. Try again.

  274. aiwac — we disagree. My point is that Rabbinic Judaism as we practice is significantly different to what is written in the Chumash when one does not apply the Chazal filter. As Steve says above “reading the Chumash without TSBP and the input of Chazal is a decidedly useless enterprise”.

    I am, therefore, not convinced that authorship of the literal Chumash “affects the issue of provenance of the Mitzvot” since the mitzvot as we currently understand them come from Chazal.

    I accept that you disagree.

  275. While there may be a minimal list of necessary beliefs to justify being called Orthodox, accepting all that the talmudic sages state about the composition of Tanach need not be included. While belief that Moshe wrote the torah under divine instruction is presumably on that list, the composition of the other books of Tanach is another matter. For example, there are prominent Orthodox Jewish scholars who believe that the latter portion of Isaiah was written by an otherwise unknown prophet who lived at the time of Cyrus the Great – based on both content and style. There is one opinion in Bava Batra that Job is a fictional work, and that view is supported by the Rambam. There are supported views that significant parts of Psalms were written by Levites after the return from the Babylonian exile. There are supported views that Daniel was written during the period of Greek rule rather than the earlier Babylonian/Persian period.

    It is also rather presumptuous, if not debasing, to state that the torah would be meaningless without the talmudic interpretations. What can be said is that the brief instructions in the torah are insufficient to arrive at a detailed knowledge of required practice. The historical narratives and guidance that the torah sets out are accessible and meaningful even without talmudic elaboration. It is not debasing the torah to not take the midrash literally about a torah consisting of ‘black fire on white fire’ that preceded the universe. The words of the torah are conditioned upon events and conditions that pertained to a historical period. The principles of the torah, on the other hand, come from a Platonic world of truth that is outside of time.

    The talmudic tradition may, indeed, have very ancient roots, but we aren’t required to believe that their tradition was transmitted intact over the millenia. The very nature of the omnipresent talmudic debates argues against such an intact line of transmission from Moshe. What we can assert is that rulings of the talmudic sages have been authoritative to observant world Jewry for over a millenia. The authority comes from the consensus of acceptance rather than a belief that such rulings necessarily reflect the teachings of Moshe. Support for the latter assertion comes from the Rambam who states that a future Sanhedrin will be able to overturn halachot based on talmudic interpretations of the torah if their understanding of the text is different.

  276. Lawrence Kaplan

    aiwac: Th RaNaK does not explicitly discuss Pentateuchal criticism. I have, however, argued recently in a lecture at Hebrew U., that based on various hints in MNZ he believed that the Torah in its final form was edited by disciples of Shemuel ha-Navi.

  277. Prof. Kaplan,

    1) Is this going to published (or is it recorded)?

    2) What is his evidence for this idea?

    Thanks

    aiwac

  278. Lawrence Kaplan

    aiwac: I gave the talk in Hebrew, which I do not type, so, as of now, it is only handwritten, and still in a rough shape. I do not believe it was recorded. As for the evidence, that’s a long story.

  279. “As for the evidence, that’s a long story.”

    Could you give us the short version?

  280. Ruvie-Carlos is understandably reticent. We have discussed this issue before. I would suggest that you download RHS’s shiurim re the development and history of TSBP if you wish to review the sources for my contentions on this issue, rather than reiterating the same here.

    FWIW, IIRC, the Netziv’s comment refers to Chiddushim reached in TSBP’s understanding of Torah SheBaal Peh-which the Netziv elaborates on the Kidmas HaEmek, the Hakdamah to HaEmek Sheealah.

  281. steve b. – yes we had the discussion before where i complained that you conflated and misused many terms and terminology on said topic. with all due respect, RHS – brilliant posek and talmudist – may not be the right address for this subject (that is if you quoted him at least half correctly last time).

  282. y. aharon – “It is also rather presumptuous, if not debasing, to state that the torah would be meaningless without the talmudic interpretations.”

    i think people (at least myself) mean is that the torah means what it does because of chazal’s interpretation as well as its assumptions on how the bible should be read and the constructs it made for halacha.

  283. steve b. – my comment on the netziv: “some not even discovered yet ( see the nitziv’s intro to his perush al hatorah)” refers on the netziv’s understanding on chidushim that are not found in chazal (made by himself) on torah shebectav not tsbp.

  284. Ruvie wrote:

    “yes we had the discussion before where i complained that you conflated and misused many terms and terminology on said topic. with all due respect, RHS – brilliant posek and talmudist – may not be the right address for this subject (that is if you quoted him at least half correctly last time).”

    Have you heard or downloaded the shiurim in question?

  285. Ruvie-have you gone through the Kidmas HaDEmek? Netziv therein clearly states that TSBP, allows for Chidushim, that have not yet been discovered.

  286. steve b – i don’t think we disagree on the netziv – just stating it differently: my focus was his talking about his chidushim on the torah which i guess you call tsbp (which i usually associate only with the talmud in general).

  287. Ruvie-Since when is TSBP solely limited to the Talmud? I would contend that Mishah and Gemara are certainly the starting points and building blocks and that Tanaim and Amoraim, and their discussions are considered Sof Horaah. However, Rishonim and Acharonim, while not vested with the same powers as Tanaim or Amoraim, certainly contributed to and expanded our understanding of TSBP, as well as providng Chiddushim. Likewise, the process of Psak Halacha from the days of the Talmud o our days, expands TSBP in terms of Chumros, Kulos and Minhagim continuously.

  288. Ruvie-one more point-by limiting TSBP to the Talmud, IMO, you are missing a key point-In an ideal world, TSBP was never intended to be redacted or placed in a written form. The fact that we have the Talmud in a written form today by no means eliminates the need to study Talmud in a way in which we view a rebbe as providing a link to prior generations in his understanding of the same in a form whoch is as close to an orally transmitted body of information, as opposed to a text.

  289. I was curious, so did one more level of enquiry on the black fire on white fire midrash. It appears in Talmud Yerushalmi, Sh’kalim 6:1. See http://kodesh.snunit.k12.il/b/r/r2506_025b.htm.

  290. “The fact that we have the Talmud in a written form today by no means eliminates the need to study Talmud in a way in which we view a rebbe as providing a link to prior generations in his understanding of the same in a form whoch is as close to an orally transmitted body of information, as opposed to a text.”

    Bold statement, Steve. Is it kefira if one doesn’t accept this “daas torah” hashkafa, in your view?

  291. “What IS new is the Ramban’s using this tradition to explain why the Torah doesn’t begin :’Va-yedaber E-lohim el Moshe et kol ha-devarim ha-ele leimor.’”

    I’m puzzled. If the tradition dates to Talmud Yerushalmi, then why would Rambam preface his use of the tradition with “she’ba lanu ba’kabala”?

    Is this a code he uses in other places to imply a provenance for what are actually his chiddushim? Or, perhaps, the use of this tradition to explain why the Torah doesn’t begin “Va-yedaber E-lohim el Moshe et kol ha-devarim ha-ele leimor” is what “she’ba lanu ba’kabala” references?

  292. steve b – which lecture of RHS are you referring to – i listen half way on his lecture on tsbp on march 2010 – has nothing to do with what we are discussing. please provide a link.

  293. Ruvie-start with the shiurim circa 2004 or so from RHS on the issue.

  294. IH wrote:

    “Bold statement, Steve. Is it kefira if one doesn’t accept this “daas torah” hashkafa, in your view”

    I think that my post WADR merely stated the obvious.

  295. Ruvie-start with the shiurim circa 2004 or so from RHS on the issue. The shiur in question compares the views of RSRH and Graetz.

  296. IH-without a rebbe, the average talmid has no key whatsoever how to read between the lines, and to realize how the Talmud in its printed form leaves a lot for us to fill in the blanks as to the discussion on the printed page. Yes, Moshe Rabbeinu received a TSBP, but what we call TSBP isn’t so much as the printed text of the Talmud, a Rishon or Acharon, but rather the tools of interpretation, what makes sense, what doesn’t, what kashes are important and which are utterly irrelevant. Realizing that TSBP in its original form is an oral tradition passed down from rebbe to talmid, as opposed to a book that can be approached via literary, sociological or other external means of intellectual investigation is a key to becoming a Lomdan, as opposed to a Maskil, or at worse, a mere dilletante.

  297. Steve — there is a world of difference between the obvious point that learning with an experienced teacher is beneficial; and a daas torah belief that one can find “a rebbe as providing a link to prior generations in his understanding of the same in a form whoch is as close to an orally transmitted body of information”.

    As a counterpoint, I refer you to R. Daniel Reifman’s astute and succinct statement in http://tinyurl.com/4tml6jr:

    “to promote a more methodologically conscious style of analysis. The polemical tenor of the debate has often led to sources being cited as unequivocal support for one side or the other without a full accounting of how those sources are being understood. We need to develop a more heightened awareness of the hermeneutic process—an understanding that texts do not simply ‘read themselves’, that sources and data invariably present multiple interpretive possibilities—and we need to be both more self-conscious and more transparent about the reasons we reject some interpretations and accept others. There is, of course, nothing terribly innovative about such an approach: to read a well-crafted responsum is to see the painstaking care with which a posek weighs a number of potential readings of a particular passage before arriving at a final, authoritative interpretation. But without the weight of a posek’s mantle on one’s shoulders, the self-conscious mode of analysis I have described leads one to view meaning in terms of greater and lesser possibilities rather than firm conclusions. One learns to accept the fact that no one interpretation can lay an exclusive claim to truth, and that the best one can do is to build a case for one’s analysis that others will find convincing.”

  298. IH-WADR, the Mishnah in Avos states rather clearly-Aseh Lcha Rav-everyone needs a rebbe. It is not merely “the obvious point that learning with an experienced teacher is beneficial”. Viewing the same as a form of “daas torah belief” requires more than merely stating so in a conclusory form.

  299. “I recall a student asking R. Aharon Lichtenstein a question which assumed that “aseh lecha rav” mandates that a person ask one Rabbi all of his or her questions. R. Lichtenstein responded: “Why do you think that “aseh lekca rav” means that you should only have one rebbe? Do you imagine that “kineh lecha chaver” mans that you should only have one friend?”

    http://blog.webyeshiva.org/pirkei-avot/insights-in-pirkei-avot-finding-teachers-and-seeking-students/

  300. IH-Obviously, RAL meant that one can have more than one rebbe, as opposed to no rebbe at all.

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