Maharatz Chajes and Biblical Criticism

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By the time of the publication of R. Tzvi Hirsch (Maharatz) Chajes’ Imrei Binah in 1849, the issue of biblical criticism had sharply divided the world of European Jewish Intellectuals, with Shadal publicly repudiating all supporters of the endeavor since early in the previous decade (see Shmuel Feiner, Haskalah and History, pp. 132-133). Maharatz Chajes, a pious rabbi despite his intellectual breadth, certainly rejected any suggestion of non-Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch.

In his introduction to Imrei Binah (Kol Sifrei Maharatz Chajes, vol. 2 p. 872), Maharatz Chajes proposes that the Talmudic Sages studied the Bible carefully and investigated authorship. Whatever their basis, their conclusions must serve as our guide:

However, it is not our goal to clarify uncertainties like these in Scripture since the Sages already preceded us. Particularly about the “divine corner” regarding the removal of the authorship of certain verses and attribution to later authors, I consider this is a secular approach (derekh chol) which only the gentile scholars adopt. We have a strong, accepted tradition from which one should not move right or left.

Despite his strong words, Maharatz Chajes does not use the term “heresy” despite his defense elsewhere of Maimonidean theological principles. I suspect that his language choice reflects his discussion of the entire Bible and not just the Pentateuch. Proposals of alternate authorship of prophetic books do not reach the level of heresy. However, Maharatz Chajes rejects all such investigations for a different reason — our ancient tradition.

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.

111 comments

  1. “a pious rabbi despite his intellectual breadth”

    What a winning turn of phrase.

  2. I am a little confused by this post. Does Shadal disagree with Maharatz?

    Also, I think context is important here. Is this a direct attack on Ibn Ezra and other rishonim?

  3. I just had an interesting thought: Wouldn’t it have been interesting if, as happened when issues of the age of the universe and evolution arose, there had been gedolim who would have responded to the beginnings of Biblical criticism with a nuanced view that would have allowed for the new views within a “frum” context, maintaining, for example, divine revelation to Moshe while allowing for later editing, compilation, and so on? Just a thought.

  4. By the way, it seems pretty clear to me (from his phrasing, for example “later authors”) that he’s talking about Torah, not Neviim. Sorry, Gil. 🙂

  5. >“a pious rabbi despite his intellectual breadth”

    >What a winning turn of phrase.

    Let us try the reverse: an intellectual giant dispite his piety…

    yep, it is offensive in both directions…

  6. Nachum

    I have thought about that quite a bit. In principle, there seems no reason not to make this move. I think that this did not happen because Torah miSinai is far more important to Jews theoloigcaly than six days of creation. Allegorizing it is thus more problematic.

  7. “divine revelation to Moshe while allowing for later editing, compilation, and so on? Just a thought”

    Nachum,

    What scholars do you know that even acknowledge Moses existed?

  8. Moshe,

    It’s not an allegorization problem; the issue is that AFAIK, scholars don’t consider the laws to have come from Moses but from various interest groups. Ergo, nothing “divine”.

  9. Is there something special here that I am missing? the fact that heresy is not used? that Maharatz Chajes related at all to the issue? (not a trick question)

  10. aiwac, in the same way that we can accept evolution along with God, even though many or most evolutionary biologists may be atheists and, at the very least, make no place for God in their calculations, even if, theoretically, scholars could prove the Documentary Hypothesis (which will almost certainly never happen, simply because parchment rots), they’ll never be able to prove that the original revelation wasn’t divine or that Moshe never existed. Ergo, we can (or earlier gedolim could have) accepted that, say, Ezra was the final editor of the Torah while affirming its divinity and ultimate Mosaic origin. How? Perhaps by treating certain statements of Chazal as aggadata; perhaps by an expansive reading of the Rambam (which is actually possible without much kvetching). One irony is that there are plenty of statements of Chazal which can support this.

    Let me just brag that my ancestors from Brody, where the Maharatz Chajes was born, had his son as their Rav. After that, my uncle was never much impressed with any American rav, especially because unlike R’ Itchele Chajes, they had actual floors. 🙂

  11. “even if, theoretically, scholars could prove the Documentary Hypothesis (which will almost certainly never happen, simply because parchment rots), they’ll never be able to prove that the original revelation wasn’t divine or that Moshe never existed”

    IIRC, the DH has long since been replaced with different models, many of which make the writing of the Torah even later than Wellhausen.

    “Ergo, we can (or earlier gedolim could have) accepted that, say, Ezra was the final editor of the Torah while affirming its divinity and ultimate Mosaic origin”

    Good luck with that. Remember, as the Tzofnat Paneach astutely understood, the issue is not later narrative additions (based on oral tradition and prophetic authorship) but whether the LAW is Mosaic. I doubt you’ll find a Biblical scholar who believes the laws were not enacted in a secular manner.

    “they’ll never be able to prove that the original revelation wasn’t divine or that Moshe never existed”

    What do you mean by “original revelation”?

  12. “Nachum

    I have thought about that quite a bit. In principle, there seems no reason not to make this move. I think that this did not happen because Torah miSinai is far more important to Jews theoloigcaly than six days of creation. Allegorizing it is thus more problematic.”

    I think what you mean to write is: In principle, there seems no reason not to make this move. I think that this did not happen because Hearing the 10 commandments on Sinai, then having more laws given from the tent of meeting, and then later having some laws given in the plains of moav, and then later having Yehoshua write some bits of the Torah, is far more important to Jews theoloigcaly than six days of creation. Allegorizing it is thus more problematic.

  13. “Nachum,

    What scholars do you know that even acknowledge Moses existed?”

    A strange question… This post is about one such scholar.

    Or are you asking if there exists scholars who believe that Moses existed but also believe that Ezra wrote the Torah? Richard Friedman is one such scholar.

    What exactly are you asking?

  14. “However, Maharatz Chajes rejects all such investigations for a different reason — our ancient tradition.”

    This begs the question of what our ancient tradition actually says. Is it the ancient tradition that beleives Rashi was the only person who ever knew the tradition? Is it the ancient tradition that believes that Rambam was the only one who ever actually new the tradition? The ones who claim Arizal? The Talmud? The Geonim?.. Our ancient tradition says a lot of different things on this topic.

  15. “I doubt you’ll find a Biblical scholar who believes the laws were not enacted in a secular manner.”

    As I wrote, so what? They are on much firmer ground arguing pure Bibilical criticism (I used DH as shorthand, of course) than that. There’s no real way to prove or disprove that something is divine.

    “What do you mean by “original revelation”?”

    The actual laws and the essence of the various “documents” when considered for what they have in common.

  16. “They are on much firmer ground arguing pure Bibilical criticism (I used DH as shorthand, of course) than that”

    Really? On what basis do you say this? They seem to think they’re on firm ground; much of Nevi’im is interpreted on the basis of Priestly or Deuteronomic and so on.

    “The actual laws and the essence of the various “documents” when considered for what they have in common”

    Your terminology is becoming more and more nebulous as time goes on (no longer mere late recording and compiling of facts and traditions but “essence”, “what they have in common” &c); a good demonstration of the kind of knots you have to tie yourself into once you accept MBC.

  17. Avi,

    “I think what you mean to write is: In principle, there seems no reason not to make this move. I think that this did not happen because Hearing the 10 commandments on Sinai, then having more laws given from the tent of meeting, and then later having some laws given in the plains of moav, and then later having Yehoshua write some bits of the Torah, is far more important to Jews theoloigcaly than six days of creation. Allegorizing it is thus more problematic”

    Good point.

    “Or are you asking if there exists scholars who believe that Moses existed but also believe that Ezra wrote the Torah? Richard Friedman is one such scholar”

    The issue goes beyond the question of whether he existed to whether the laws actually come from him (and subsequently from God). No-one who talks of P or D will agree with this.

  18. Lawrence Kaplan

    Strangely enough, however, Maharatz Chajes praised the as yet unpublished Moreh Nevukhei ha-Zeman [=MNZ] of Ranak for some fine essays on the prophecies of Yeshaya and on the Psalms. Now the while point of these essays in MNZ were to show that chapters 40-66 of Yeshaya were from a later 6th c. prophet and that there were Maccabean Psalm, IIRC, Meir Hershkowitxz raises this issue in his bio of Chajes, but his answer is not satisfactory.

  19. “Strangely enough, however, Maharatz Chajes praised the as yet unpublished Moreh Nevukhei ha-Zeman [=MNZ] of Ranak for some fine essays on the prophecies of Yeshaya and on the Psalms”

    Maybe Maharitz thought it was OK to make those concessions for the perplexed, but not for the general frum public? Wouldn’t be the first time Rabbis did that.

  20. Even stranger, in that very essay in Imrei Binah, Maharatz Chajes praises Jost’s history, which Shadal blasted due to its biblical criticism.

  21. “This begs the question of what our ancient tradition actually says. Is it the ancient tradition that beleives Rashi was the only person who ever knew the tradition? Is it the ancient tradition that believes that Rambam was the only one who ever actually new the tradition? The ones who claim Arizal? The Talmud? The Geonim?.. Our ancient tradition says a lot of different things on this topic.”

    At least in his case, he probably meant the Talmud, and particularly in the case of authorship of various books because it is ‘confirmed’ as ‘ancient tradition’ by Ben Sira, which listed Isaiah as the author of the book by that name, for example.

  22. Lawrence Kaplan

    Gil: Yes, it is strange. Wtat always struck me about that essay is how in it Chajes treated all hokhmat Yisrael as uncontroversial. Kulam ahuvim, kulam berurim…

  23. “Maybe Maharitz thought it was OK to make those concessions for the perplexed, but not for the general frum public? Wouldn’t be the first time Rabbis did that.”

    On the contrary, to Krochmal these were not concessions. These were the truth, which was even known to Chazal. The time had come to reveal them to the public, who could not accept what it used to (e.g., David wrote Psalms), when it used to be edifying to believe such things.

    However, if you change the word ‘concessions,’ maybe you are right. Maybe he merely felt these things were not to be made public. But that’s a big leap, if he specifically wrote and rejected attempting to rediscover authorship. But I note that he doesn’t really reject it, according to Gil, he called “a secular approach.”

  24. S.,

    I don’t mean that Ranak thought they were concessions, I think the Maharitz considered them concessions.

  25. Wait a sec,

    Didn’t Shadal himself argue that Kohelet was much later than Shlomo?

  26. Innocent question: how does one separate a pinpointed text such as this from its broader context, particularly in the case of the author of Minhat Kenaot (which clearly demonstrates Maharatz Chajes’ polemical inclination)?

  27. “I don’t mean that Ranak thought they were concessions, I think the Maharitz considered them concessions.”

    But not the truth?

  28. Gil
    What makes you so shure that Maratz C. wasnt only refering to the Torah?

  29. “But not the truth?”

    Both. Most communities have knowledge that is for the elite and knowledge that is for the masses. Ibn Ezra was known for saying “והמשכיל ידום” when he didn’t want the normal folk to figure it out.

  30. Then how is that a concession? And how do you know that he himself accepted such revisions of authorship, when he rejects it?

  31. “Then how is that a concession?”

    Because it’s specifically written for a relatively small niche. I doubt Moreh Nevuchei Hazman was widely read in frum communities, but perhaps your knowledge is different?

  32. Speaking of, why is the latest edition of MNHZ so large? I saw it in the store and it weighed a ton.

  33. Lawrence Kaplan

    Moshe: It’s been a while, but I am prety certain the context indicates that Chajes was referring to all of TaNaKh.

    Shadal rejected the idea of a Deutero-Isaiah, since, in his view, it tacitly or explicitly denied the notion of prophecy, but accepted the idea of Koheleth being much later than Solomon, since there were strong philological arguments in its favor and no theological issues were at stake. His view is quite complex. I discussed it once in an article in Conservative Judaism in 1985, and see now Ephraim Chamiel’s new book, Ha-Derekh ha-Memutzaat, on Shadal, Chajes, and Hirsch.

  34. You can see the passage here: http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=22101&st=&pgnum=427

    I believe the context makes it clear that he is dealing with the entire Bible.

  35. Prof. Kaplan,

    Could you send me the article?

    opdycke1861 – at – gmail.com

  36. NACHUM:

    “even if, theoretically, scholars could prove the Documentary Hypothesis (which will almost certainly never happen, simply because parchment rots)”

    1) this is simply false (not to say parchment *can’t* rot, but it all depends on conditions and circumstances)

    2) the reason it will almost certainly never happen as you forumlated it (vis-a-vis parchment) is because parchment is a relatively late development and was not available during the period under consideration

    3) it could happen, just you would find it on (non-parchment) animal skins, clay, papyrus, stelae, etc.

  37. “At least in his case, he probably meant the Talmud, and particularly in the case of authorship of various books because it is ‘confirmed’ as ‘ancient tradition’ by Ben Sira, which listed Isaiah as the author of the book by that name, for example.”

    Granted, but the Talmud itself has various opinions and views on the topic.

    I’d love to see a “source sheet”, for all the statements in the Talmud Yerushalmi, Bavli, and Mesechet Katanot on the topic. It might actually be interesting.

  38. “Because it’s specifically written for a relatively small niche. I doubt Moreh Nevuchei Hazman was widely read in frum communities, but perhaps your knowledge is different?”

    the time in question it was only in manuscript. It was circulated among the community of chokrim – frum and less frum alike – but it was not known to the masses or the rabbis.

    I think we understand the term “concession” differently though, and that was why we were going back and forth.

  39. >Speaking of, why is the latest edition of MNHZ so large? I saw it in the store and it weighed a ton.

    I only saw the new edition once and for a few minutes, so I don’t remember if there is additional material, but at the time it struck me as being printed on thick paper and with a large font. So that probably has something to do with it being bigger than it needed to be.

  40. Avi,

    That’s an interesting question. Is there anybody who collected all the different shitot about the authorship of Nach?

  41. aiwac: Most books that deal with such things from a “frummer” point of view go through them. R’ Weiss-HaLivni, for example, or Barry Simon. Open to a book’s index and see how many times Kodashim on maleh and chaser is referenced, or Masechet Sofrim on the “three scrolls,” or Avot D’Rabbi Natan on Ezra.

  42. Lawrence Kaplan

    Re the new editon of the MNZ, the text of MNZ is a reprint of the Rawidiwicz [=R.] edition. The old 225 page intro of R. is missing. In its stead is a new intro by Yehoyada Amir, an up-to-date bibliography of secondary literature on RaNaK, a lexicon of expressions, and a (somewhat spotty) list of sources. The new editon is NOT more weighty, in a physical sense, than the edition of R.

  43. For those interested, Maharatz Chajes Introduction to the Talmud, which IIRC, had been translated into Englisg, was republished, and should be available at any local seforim store. It is a great sefer to have in dealing with issues such as how one approaches Halachic vs Aggadic passages of the Talmud and the like, which was one of the subissues that surfaced as a result of the Slifkin controversy, and should be read in conjunction with R Chaim Eisen’s essay re Maharal’s views on such subjects, which was printed in an early edition of Hakirah.

  44. Barry Levy, sorry.

  45. Steve: Kavod Achsania: It was reprinted by one G. Student. 🙂

  46. “The new editon is NOT more weighty, in a physical sense, than the edition of R”

    Shame. Because price notwithstanding, I don’t have room for a book that big.

  47. If I recall, one of Shadal’s central proofs against those who advocated the Deutero-Isaiah position was the nevuah predicting Yoshiyahu’s advent.

    I personally think it’s unconvincing for several reasons (and that it actually proves the point of those who argue for Deutero-Isaiah), but in fairness, it’s definitely a creative argument. My point is that Shadal seriously engaged these issues and if he didn’t go as far as some now might have wanted him to, I don’t think it’s happenstance.

  48. Lawrence Kaplan

    Again Shadal’s and Chajes’ views on Biblical authorship are dealt with thoroughly in Chamiel’s new book. Shadal, by the way, is Chameil’s hero.

  49. I know, but I thought the Yoshiyahu point was worth mentioning specifically. It’s indicative of his approach.

  50. Nachum: because parchment rots with reply by Abba parchment is a relatively late development…you would find it on (non-parchment) animal skins, clay, papyrus, stelae, etc.

    Remind me of the approximate date of the first written Tanach (or its constituent parts) we have discovered that is accepted by Orthodoxy? 1100 years old?

    Of course we have parchment from a 1000 years before that, but it is not viewed as authentic Mesorah. And given that, what do you think the reaction will be if we did find stelae that were close, but not precisely what we have in our parchment today?

    aiwac: the issue is not later narrative additions (based on oral tradition and prophetic authorship) but whether the LAW is Mosaic. I doubt you’ll find a Biblical scholar who believes the laws were not enacted in a secular manner.

    The laws as Judaism understands them are based on Rabbinic interpretation of the Mikra and not its plain meaning. So, if a Biblical scholar believes that the law is Mosaic because that is the Rabbinic interpretation of the Mikra, why is that any more/less of a problem than saying that e.g. ayin tachat ayin is a metaphor for monetary compensation (or other examples where the law does not follow the plain meaning of the text).

  51. It is worth recalling Prof. Schiffman’s view (p. 37-8 in “Qumran and Jerusalem”):

    Among the most significant of the Qumran scrolls are certainly the biblical manuscripts. These documents will shed important new light on the history of the biblical text in Second Temple times.

    The last statement is itself much more important than meets the eye. In the early years of Qumran studies, it was thought that the biblical texts from Qumran would somehow illuminate the “original” text that emerged from ancient Israel. This entire notion has been proven wrong. It is now clear that the biblical text has a history of transmission, and that major parts of this history, which indeed testify to the place of Scripture in the Judaism of the post-biblical period, are to be understood from the scrolls. Indeed, we now know that many textual variants result not only from transmission, but from interpretation and linguistic updating, phenomena that, before the discovery of the scrolls, could not have been understood.

    Google Book Preview at http://tinyurl.com/7yymtlt

  52. The issue of authorship of the various portions of Nach should not be made into a torah loyalty or Orthodoxy test – as opposed to such considerations when it comes to major portions of the torah. The authorship of the books and portions thereof in Nach was traditionally based on the view expressed in T.B. Bava Batra:14b, but such aggada is not necessarily binding. Moreover, we find an entire range of historical periods conjectured for Iyov (B.B. 15a, b), as well as the view that Iyov is a fable. Hence the view often expressed in scholarly circles (not Hareidi) that the last portion of Isaiah was written by a prophet living after the churban, and that much of Psalms was also written then is not a ‘heretical’ position – just untraditional. A similar consideration holds for the view that Daniel was written in the Helenistic period and is more a literary creation than a book of prophesy, or that the megilot (except for Eicah) were written in a late period.

  53. And why is the Torah an exception?

  54. Isn’t “Yoshiyahu” actually explained by standard meforshim as being a later addition- in brackets, so to speak?

    IH, that’s my point. The Dead Sea Scrolls had the luck to be in a dry environment.

  55. Not according to Shadal. Again, whether the argument is bulletproof is not the point.

  56. mainyan linyan b’oso inyan….
    Someone recently asked me a very strong, yet simple question on parashas Bamidbar. I was hoping that some of the scholars and bloggers here could provide some insight.

    The count of all men in the age 20-60 range was about 603,000. Now, in any group of men with children, you would assume that close to half of them would have bechorim (i.e. their first born was a surviving son). So, assuming that the a large majority of those 603,000 had children, it should follow that between them they would have around 300,000 bechorim. But the actual number was only about 22,000 (remember that that count represents ALL bechorim, not just those between 20 and 60) – nowhere near the expected count.

    The standard explanation I’ve heard of the discrepancy in the counts is that bnei yisrael had very large families (as in the footnote in Living Torah http://bible.ort.org/books/pentd2.asp?ACTION=displaypage&BOOK=4&CHAPTER=3#C2792 (link thanks to last week’s Weekly Freebies post!)). But this doesn’t answer the question as it was posed above.

    Friends and family suggested a hugely disproportionate number of: bechorim who died in mitzrayim, first-born girls (these first 2 are suggested in Living Torah) or stillbirths, or childless men. But I can’t think of a rational reason for any of these answers, and know of no midrashim which may lend them support.

    Any ideas? Unless I’m missing something in the logic, I can’t imagine that this was the first time someone asked this question.

  57. Nachum, the authorship of the torah (I am not referring to isolated phrases and verses, or the last 12 verses in the torah) goes to the heart of the authority of the torah. If Moshe didn’t write it, then it is a misleading document that can’t justify the claim of divine imprimature and an objective understanding and expression of the divine will. This objection would remain even if it were written by prophets since no prophet, other than Moshe, is believed to have a full understanding of his divine communication (‘seeing through a glass, darkly’).

  58. “Any ideas? Unless I’m missing something in the logic, I can’t imagine that this was the first time someone asked this question.”

    I have taken this count as evidence for the Baal Haturim’s statement that the total census result is the gematria for “every single Jewish person”. Meaning, there were 600,000+ people from Israel in the desert, not just men between the ages of 20-60. A lovely statement that even our women and children were like men of fighting age during the trek through the desert.

  59. “(I am not referring to isolated phrases and verses, or the last 12 verses in the torah) ”

    But perhaps you are talking about the cities of refuge? Or the lack of the name Hoshea bin Nun in Shemot?

  60. “aiwac: Most books that deal with such things from a “frummer” point of view go through them. R’ Weiss-HaLivni, for example, or Barry Simon. Open to a book’s index and see how many times Kodashim on maleh and chaser is referenced, or Masechet Sofrim on the “three scrolls,” or Avot D’Rabbi Natan on Ezra.”

    But is that all of them?

  61. “If Moshe didn’t write it, then it is a misleading document that can’t justify the claim of divine imprimature and an objective understanding and expression of the divine will.”

    This actually isn’t true at all.
    At no point does the Torah say that Moshe wrote everything. Infact, the Torah says that Moshe wrote Torat Hashem on some pillars. How can this refer to the Torah we have in our hands? (I’m still waiting to hear of a discovery of those 12 pillars) Taken together with the verses from Yehoshua, which states that Gd commanded Yehoshua to write in the Torah of Moshe, coupled with all the verses which say “Moshe said” or “GD said to Moshe”, it strongly implies that the current edition was passed around AFTER Moshe. And Sefer Yehoshua implies that this happened near the end of Yehoshua’s life.

    None of this negates the fact that the halachot which are stated in the Torah, and everything else is still the “word of Moshe” and came from his prophecy and clarity of vision. Who the scribe is, doesn’t change where the information came from. Again, the problem comes from a literalist reading of the Talmud when all the Talmud is telling us is that the authority of Moshe is in the Torah. That authority is not lost by the fact that the Torah in our hands was compiled together and passed around to the Jewish people after his death.

  62. Avi, while the torah doesn’t state explicitly what Moshe wrote, it does state that at the end of his life, Moshe completed the writing of this torah in a scroll to the end (Deut. 31:24). The torah had previously mentioned a scroll that Moshe prepared and gave to select Levites for safekeeping to be read during Succot on the sabbatical year. That scroll was presumably, sefer Devarim. The scroll of Deut. 31:24 is, presumably, a different one which contained the completed torah (except, possibly, the last 12 verses). The scroll that Moshe read to the people just after the giving of the 10 ‘commandments’ was the content of parshat Mishpatim. That scroll was called ‘sefer habrit’ (Ex. 24:4,7). What Joshua wrote was the covenant that he had the people affirm near the end of his life. It was written in a document called ‘sefer torat Elo_im’ – not ‘torat Moshe'(Josh 24:26). Your deduction about the identity of the writer from the usual 3rd person perspective of the torah, i.e., “GOD spoke the following to Moshe” is entirely non-persuasive. After all, even Deuteronomy, which is written almost entirely in 1st person has 3rd person verses interspersed. Do you believe that Moshe wrote just those parts written in 1st person, and not the others? If so, then what did Moshe complete and write to the end (Deut. 31:24)? Besides, writing in 3rd person is a way of separating one’s ego from the words transmitted – a device consistent with Moshe’s modest personality (especially if one assumes the traditional view that Moshe merely took ‘dictation’).

  63. R’ Avi,
    Thank you for your questions. All poskim agree that a Jew is obligated to believe that the parashah of the Cities of Refuge was dictated by HKB”H to Mosheh Rabbeinu. Writing a Sefer Torah is a mitzvah de-oraita, and thus no prophet after Mosheh Rabbeinu can change the parameters of the mitzvah, and thus no words could be added/deleted to the Sefer Torah after Mosheh Rabbeinu. Interestingly, though, Tosafot were “asleep at the wheel” on Bava Batra 15a, because they failed to ask this most obvious question in the context of the final eight verses. Moreover, to add insult to injury, Tosafot (who were perfectly fluent in Ibn Ezra’s commentary to Pentateuch, as per Tosafot to Kiddushin 37b, s.v. mi-machorat) failed to note that Ibn Ezra expands the question from the final eight verses to the final twelve verses. Hence, since Tosafot missed the crucial opportunity to explain the gemara, and – as both R. Marc Shapiro and Mori ve-Rabbi R. Kaplan have pointed out – R. Moshe Feinstein’s treatment of this issue contains errors in IM YD 3:114-115 (-although I believe R. Feinstein’s conclusion is still halakhically correct), the task falls to our generation to complete the picture of how Orthodox Judaism summons its adherents to believe in Mosaic authorship of the Torah. I guess that this is a textbook case of “makom hinichu li avotai le-hitgader bo”, as per the gemara in Chullin 7a.

  64. Essentially, since intellectual honesty forces me to presently acknowledge that R. Shapiro and Mori ve-Rabbi R. Kaplan are correct, I would submit that the overarching meta-error R. Moshe Feinstein committed in addressing the Pentateuch commentary of R. Yehudah ha-Chassid (with all due reverence manifested before Moreinu ve-Rabbeinu R. Feinstein) was that R. Feinstein overlooked Shu”t Noda bi-Yehudah, Mahadura Tinyana, Even ha-Ezer no. 79. See here: http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=1447&st=&pgnum=325

    In this responsum, Noda bi-Yehudah explains that anything R. Yehudah ha-Chassid writes which seemingly contradicts the gemara should simply be re-interpreted to be consistent with the gemara. [Of course, Noda bi-Yehudah never saw the Pentateuch commentary of R. Yehudah ha-Chassid, but I think the principle is the same.] Based on this responsum of Noda bi-Yehudah, we can simply re-interpret the Pentateuch commentary of R. Yehudah ha-Chassid to become consistent with the gemara. Thus, for example, when R. Yehudah ha-Chassid speaks of Hallel ha-Gadol being taken from Mosheh Rabbeinu, it means Mosheh Rabbeinu wrote a *separate* book containing Hallel ha-Gadol, which was then adapted by David ha-Melekh into Psalms. R. Yehudah ha-Chassid never meant to claim that the Sefer Torah was edited by David ha-Melekeh after Mosheh Rabbeinu, a claim the gemara prohibits. This is precisely what R. Menasheh Klein writes in Shu”t Mishneh Halakhot 16:102, albeit without the fancy “whistles and bells” of quoting Noda bi-Yehudah. See here: http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=1888&st=&pgnum=299

  65. Sorry, my choice of colourful idiom requires rectification. I meant “bells and whistles”. Thank you.

  66. If Moshe didn’t write it, then it is a misleading document that can’t justify the claim of divine imprimature and an objective understanding and expression of the divine will.

    Y. Aharon — thinking out loud, let’s come at it from the other direction. The Mishna is insistent that t’chiyat ha’maytim min ha’Torah which is famously glossed in the Gemara and ultimately becomes the 13th ikkar of Rambam.

    Even the Amoraim had a hard time finding a clinching textual proof for tchiyat ha’maytim in the Mosaic Mikra (B. Sanhedrin 90b-91a). Yet, no normative Orthodox Jew would deny tchiyat ha’maytim as “a claim of divine imprimatur and an objective understanding and expression of the divine will” despite the lack of a clinching textual proof that Moshe wrote as such.

  67. Y Arhon, think about what you are suggesting. Chapter 31 says, when moshe finished writing this book, he then instructed the levites. There are then 3 more chapters of text. So, did he finish writing this book or did he not finish it? If he finished why are there 3 more chapters? Its the old time travelers paradox. ‘This book’ likely refers to all the first person sections of Devarim. Or it means the writing of mishpatim, or maybe vayikra. We wont know until we find the pillars.

  68. “has 3rd person verses interspersed”

    Not really. There’s the first few pesukim. Then there’s the bit about the cities of refuge (which some actually read as first person, as part of the narrative), followed by another third person introduction. It’s then first person almost until the very end.

    “Tosafot (who were perfectly fluent in Ibn Ezra’s commentary to Pentateuch”

    1. Kind of hard to believe, considering that they were contemporaries in different countries.

    2. “Tosafot” is not a person. One may have heard of him; another may not have.

  69. Avi, the verse I referred to (Deut. 31:24) occurs near the end of parshat Vayelech after shirat Ha’azinu was composed. Moshe’s final berachot to the tribes must also have been said and written prior to the command to place a completed torah near the aron habrit. The final 12 verses of the torah could have been completed by Joshua since Moshe, according to a conventional understanding, would not have been in a position to commit his final act to writing. Hence there is no time discrepancy.

    I don’t know why you are focused on the 12 pillars (matzeivot) that Moshe set up just after he received the parsha of Mishpatim after the theophany at Sinai. Where does it state that he wrote anything on them? Instead, it states that he wrote down the terms of the covenant (presumably, parshat Mishpatim) on a sefer. Perhaps, you are thinking of the command to write the covenant on altar stones set up on har Eval, but that was not until the Israelites had entered the Promised Land.

  70. Nachum, Most of Devarim is in the form of halachot that are said primarily in neutral voice. Besides material in the beginning, parshat Vayelech and parshat Vezot Haberacha are said in a 3rd party voice.

  71. To JS:

    The problem is not just the count of the bechorim. It’s more the fact that the whole census issue in Chumash cannot rationally be explained, and therefore, is not likely literal history.

    To allow for 50 male individuals (the approx. number of yaakov’s male grandchildren as named in Chumash) to become over 600,000 in 4 or 5 generations, one must posit supernatural birthrates, i.e. 15, 20 or more kids per women per generation. OK fine.

    But…here’s the rub…besides that positing these type of birthrates clearly contradicts the genealogy of Yaakov’s progeny as delineated literally in Chumash, how does one explain that the first census taken just after leaving Egypt is reported as 603,550 and then about 40 years later the second census (and remember the supernatural birthrates) remained at 601,730

    It’s a Catch-22. Either the B’Y had a lot of kids or they didn’t.

  72. Y Aharon, I am not referring to the 12 pillars in Mishpatim. I am referring to the 12 stones in Devarim and Yehoshua.

    The Written Stones
    27:1 Moses and the elders of Israel gave the following instructions to the people:
    Keep the entire mandate that I am prescribing to you today.

    27:2 On the day that you cross the Jordan to the land that God your Lord is giving you, you must erect large stones and plaster them with lime.
    27:3 When you then cross over, you shall write on them all the words of this Torah. In this manner you shall come to the land that God your Lord is giving you, the land flowing with milk and honey that God, Lord of your fathers, promised you.
    27:4 When you cross the Jordan, you shall set up the stones that I am now describing to you on Mount Ebal, and you shall plaster them with lime.
    27:5 There you shall then build an altar to God your Lord. It shall be a stone altar, and you shall not lift up any iron to it.
    27:6 The altar that you build shall thus be made of whole stones. It is on this [altar] that you shall sacrifice burnt offerings.
    27:7 You shall also sacrifice peace offerings and eat there, rejoicing before God your Lord.
    27:8 On the stones, you shall write all the words of this Torah in a clear script.

    ל אָז יִבְנֶה יְהוֹשֻׁעַ מִזְבֵּחַ, לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, בְּהַר, עֵיבָל. 30 Then Joshua built an altar unto the LORD, the God of Israel, in mount Ebal,
    לא כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה מֹשֶׁה עֶבֶד-יְהוָה אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, כַּכָּתוּב בְּסֵפֶר תּוֹרַת מֹשֶׁה–מִזְבַּח אֲבָנִים שְׁלֵמוֹת, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-הֵנִיף עֲלֵיהֶן בַּרְזֶל; וַיַּעֲלוּ עָלָיו עֹלוֹת לַיהוָה, וַיִּזְבְּחוּ שְׁלָמִים. 31 as Moses the servant of the LORD commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of unhewn stones, upon which no man had lifted up any iron; and they offered thereon burnt-offerings unto the LORD, and sacrificed peace-offerings.
    לב וַיִּכְתָּב-שָׁם, עַל-הָאֲבָנִים–אֵת, מִשְׁנֵה תּוֹרַת מֹשֶׁה, אֲשֶׁר כָּתַב, לִפְנֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. 32 And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote before the children of Israel.
    לג וְכָל-יִשְׂרָאֵל וּזְקֵנָיו וְשֹׁטְרִים וְשֹׁפְטָיו עֹמְדִים מִזֶּה וּמִזֶּה לָאָרוֹן נֶגֶד הַכֹּהֲנִים הַלְוִיִּם נֹשְׂאֵי אֲרוֹן בְּרִית-יְהוָה, כַּגֵּר כָּאֶזְרָח–חֶצְיוֹ אֶל-מוּל הַר-גְּרִזִים, וְהַחֶצְיוֹ אֶל-מוּל הַר-עֵיבָל: כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה מֹשֶׁה עֶבֶד-יְהוָה, לְבָרֵךְ אֶת-הָעָם יִשְׂרָאֵל–בָּרִאשֹׁנָה. 33 And all Israel, and their elders and officers, and their judges, stood on this side the ark and on that side before the priests the Levites, that bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, as well the stranger as the home-born; half of them in front of mount Gerizim and half of them in front of mount Ebal; as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded at the first, that they should bless the people of Israel.
    לד וְאַחֲרֵי-כֵן, קָרָא אֶת-כָּל-דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה, הַבְּרָכָה, וְהַקְּלָלָה–כְּכָל-הַכָּתוּב, בְּסֵפֶר הַתּוֹרָה. 34 And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the book of the law.
    לה לֹא-הָיָה דָבָר, מִכֹּל אֲשֶׁר-צִוָּה מֹשֶׁה–אֲשֶׁר לֹא-קָרָא יְהוֹשֻׁעַ, נֶגֶד כָּל-קְהַל יִשְׂרָאֵל וְהַנָּשִׁים וְהַטַּף, וְהַגֵּר, הַהֹלֵךְ בְּקִרְבָּם. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that walked among them.

    Those 12 stones would contain all the words of what “this scroll” means.

  73. R’ Nachum,
    Thank you for the valuable responses. I admit I don’t know about the interplay between the Ba’alei ha-Tosafot and Ibn Ezra. Tosafot to Rosh ha-Shanah 13a, s.v. de-akrivu (a parallel of Tosafot to Kiddushin 37b) say that Rabbeinu Tam “answered” (ve-heshiv lo) to Ibn Ezra, so apparently there was some interaction, but – as you correctly observe – there were many different Ba’alei ha-Tosafot, such that I hereby retract my claim that Tosafot should have asked about Ibn Ezra’s opinion. [It was a little insolent of me to challenge Tosafot, anyway, so I’m grateful you’re giving me an opportunity to perform teshuvah.] There’s also an anecdote (or perhaps a witticism) on the Wikipedia entry for Rabbeinu Tam which states

    “When Abraham ibn Ezra was traveling through France R. Tam greeted him in verse, whereupon Ibn Ezra exclaimed in astonishment, “Who has admitted the French into the temple of poetry?” (Kerem Ḥemed, vii.35).”

    R’ David A.,
    Thank you for your analysis. See Shu”t Chatam Sofer, YD 356, who requires belief in the historicity of all events recorded in Pentateuch. This would presumably include the census numbers. I am glad you raised the issue because it basically explains the opinion in Bava Batra 15a that Mosheh Rabbeinu did not write the final eight verses. Maharsha there writes that it would be meichazei ke-shikra (the appearance of falsehood) for Mosheh Rabbeinu to write about his own death, whereas the Torah stands for absolute truth, such that the task had to be delegated to Yehoshua. Although Maharsha does not explain further, I believe we have to fill in the blank [and this is the point at which R. Moshe Feinstein was trying to drive in IM YD 3:114 and OC 4:24] by saying HKB”H told Mosheh Rabbeinu that the mitzvah de-oraita of writing a Sefer Torah will not be complete until Yehoshua fills in those final eight verses. [See also Chatam Sofer who expounds a proposal quite similar to this in his Torat Moshe commentary (Mahadura Telita’ei) to Deut. 34:5. See here: http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=35894&st=&pgnum=233 ]

    Parenthetically, it is of interest that Chatam Sofer’s responsum requiring belief in the historicity of the events of Pentateuch presents an epistemology of three kinds of level of certainty: (a) Those events we know are true because (not only did the Torah announce them but also) the entire nation of Israel witnessed them; (b) Those we know are true because (not only did the Torah announce them but also) they were witnessed by our progenitors (Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob); and (c) Those we know are true only because the Torah did announce them [-into this category falls the events of Parashat Balak, which no Jew ever witnessed]. This three-tiered epistemology also parallels R. Solomon Zvi Schueck’s opinion regarding the incorporation of “Parashat Bil’am” into the Pentateuch. [Indeed, perhaps Chatam Sofer inspired R. Schueck.] See my comment on Nov. 29, 2009 at http://text.rcarabbis.org/%e2%80%9cthe-canaanites-were-then-in-the-land%e2%80%9d-ibn-ezra-post-mosaic-editorial-insertions-and-the-canaanite-exile-from-the-land/comment-page-1/#comment-383

  74. Correction to my last sentence: See my comment on Nov. 24, 2009, at 11:29 p.m. Thank you.

  75. (c) Those we know are true only because the Torah did announce them [-into this category falls the events of Parashat Balak, which no Jew ever witnessed].

    Interestingly, this is the (only) one for which there is archaelogical evidence validating its historicity: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deir_Alla_Inscription

  76. Avi, I note that you were referring to the altar stones on har Eval in Canaan, as I surmised, rather than to anything that Moshe may have written. While I have no proof that Moshe wrote the entire torah – only an indication in the torah, I believe that it is an important concept since oral transmission is, by nature, subjective and imperfect. The torah could lose some of its claim as a divinely authored document if it were assumed to have been transmitted orally and then recorded – even by Moshe’s disciple and successor. You may argue that we rely on oral tradition to even upend the evident understanding of verses in the torah. Why is it, then, important for Moshe to have written the entire torah? I would counter that we have traditionally given the sages such authority, but need not believe that their emendations are necessarily from some intact oral tradition going back to Moshe.

    The importance of a written text from Moshe is highlighted, in fact, by the beliefs of the sages who, on the one hand, emphasized the key role of their oral traditions and, on the other, emphasized that Moshe wrote the torah text by divine instruction. The latter belief gave them the impetus to derive halachot from individual phrases, words, and letters in the text even when not based on ancient tradition.

  77. david a., your argument against a literal understanding of the census figures of the torah is flawed. One need not assume that only “4 or 5 generations” were in Egypt. Despite the statement to Avram at the brit bein habetarim in Genesis that “a fourth generation will return here..”, the sojourn in Egypt was more than 200 years (if not actually the foretold 400 years). That yields some 8 (or 15) ‘normal’ generations. Assuming an average of 3 surviving sons begotten by the more than 50 Israelite males entering Egypt gives over 300,000 males after 8 generations (it becomes several million after 10 generations). So the 603,550 cnesus figure is not outlandish. Moreover, the numers may have been considerably augmented by non-Israelitish males who joined this people and intermarried with them. A prime example, as I see it, is Calev ben Yefuneh who is called the Kenizite after the Kenizite tribe in Genesis. I assume that he (or his father) married into a Judahite clan and rose to become a leader in that tribe. His lack of Israelitish male ancestors is what necessitated a divine authorization for him to inherit land in Canaan. The serious augmentation of the numbers of Israelites by adopted ‘foreigners’ would also help account for the relatively small numbers of first-born males (the 22,273 bechorim) – assuming that only Israelitish first-borns were counted.

  78. >>>>> That yields some 8 (or 15) ‘normal’ generations. Assuming an average of 3 surviving sons begotten by the more than 50 Israelite males entering Egypt gives over 300,000 males after 8 generations (it becomes several million after 10 generations).

    It is totally irrelevant how many generations one speculates that they were in Egypt, whether 4, 8, or 10, that caused the 50 males to become 600,000. My point, which you seemed to have failed to see, is that whatever growth rate you posit, 600,000 becomes well over a million in 40 years…it doesn’t stay at 600K. Unless everyone was limited to < 1 male offspring.

  79. >>> See Shu”t Chatam Sofer, YD 356, who requires belief in the historicity of all events recorded in Pentateuch.

    Rabbi Spira,

    As I do not have access to this reference, would you be kind enough to elaborate on what it means “requires belief”. i.e. what are the halakhic ramifications of this “requirement”.

  80. david a., you’re correct, I forgot to deal with the other side of your argument about the near absence of a census increase from the 1st to 40 year of the wanderings in the desert. My argument was that the increase from over 50 to over 600,000 in Egypt was not abnormal considering the number of ‘normal’ generations there and the influx of adopted non-Israelitish men into the Israelite clans and tribes. The near absence of increase during the desert wanderings is also not abnormal given the rigors of desert travel, and the minimal food rations. It is well known that women need a minimum quantity of body fat for proper hormonal functioning. The desert wanderings produced a very lean people with poor fertility. Besides, given the conditions, birth control may have been widely practiced.

  81. YA
    your capacity to dream up explanations never ceases to amaze me.

    First off, never in the (known) history of mankind has any group of people shown such fecundity, ie. gone from 50 to 600,000 in 200 years, so you have to classify it as supernatural.
    second, even if you posit that in the 40 years they stopped having kids, remember the count of new male adults starts from 20 years beforehand, so there still should have been growth in the 600K.
    and finally, if the fecundity of B’Y was as reported, and then it would have returned when they entered and settled Canaan, so by the time the period of judges were over, another 20-300 years, the population should have grown to 10s of millions….

  82. david a, Are you taking into account all the people who died at the Golden Calf, Korach’s Rebelion, and the wars with Amalek, Emor, and Moav?

    Y. Aharon,
    3 comments.
    1. Chazal learn things from the precise language of Nach, not just Torah. So, any Navi could have precise language, you don’t have to be Moshe for that. You do have to be Moshe to give us foundational halachot though.

    2. Chazal often speak of halachot which are “halacha moshe m’Sinai” but are clearly not written in the Torah or Nach. We do not seem to have a problem theologically, with decding halachot that we know came from Moshe but were not written down by him.

    3. I made no claim as to a purely Oral tradition until the Torah was written. I’m saying that the Torah we have in our hands today, could not have been entirely written by Moshe. Devarim 31 doesn’t fall into the last 12 verse, and yet it clearly could not be speaking “emet” in a literal sense. (This is unrelated to the 12 stones) The Torah very clearly and explicitly tells us that Moshe wrote various things. Mishpatim, “this scroll”, and a few other passages which escape me. Presumably, 99% of the Torah was written by Moshe. But Sepher Yehoshua and some parts of the Torah itself tell us very clearly that some parts of the Torah were not written by Moshe’s hand. Certainly the fear of the Muslims and the Samaritans which want to claim that all of the Torah is corrupt and we can’t trust any of it has made us stalwart in our mesorah that 100% of the Torah comes from Moshe. But our mesora and our texts, clearly point to a slightly more nuanced story. And in an age of Biblical crticism, it might be wise to alter our defensive walls.

  83. Is there any evidence of a written text the length of the Torah that has survived from 13th-14th century BC, anywhere?

    Parchment (or paper) hadn’t yet been developed as a medium for the written word, but papyrus probably was: http://www-user.uni-bremen.de/~wie/Egerton/BellSkeat2.html

  84. >>>> Are you taking into account all the people who died at the Golden Calf, Korach’s Rebelion, and the wars with Amalek, Emor, and Moav?

    They do not affect the count, as they are part of the 600K that were doomed to die in the midbar, anyway. I am saying that the 600K (males) that left Egypt had to have had already, or over the next 40 years gave birth, to more than 600K replacement numbers.

    The only rational view is that the census is not meant to be accurate, Chatam Sofer and his p’sak, notwithstanding.

  85. R’ IH,
    Thank you for the fascinating archaeological confirmation of Bil’am.

    R’ David A.,
    Thank you for asking for the reference to Shu”t Chatam Sofer YD 356. I apologize for neglecting to originally post it. It is available here: http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=1839&st=&pgnum=293

    Essentially, the final paragraph of the responsum encapsulates Chatam Sofer’s ruling. Chatam Sofer professes that one who believes in every event of the Sefer Torah, except for Parashat Balak (-on the grounds that Parashat Balak has the least epistemological confirmation; Chatam Sofer was evidently writing this before the archaeological confirmation of Parashat Balak was available) has the status of a heretic. For example, then, his ritual slaughter would disqualified, the uncooked wine he touches would be prohibited, and the tefillin he writes would be disqualified. Chatam Sofer requires a Jew to believe in every single event recorded in Pentateuch, even Parashat Balak.

  86. R’ Spira — is there a corresponding psak that one must believe the Five Books has been continuously in written form since:

    כד וַיְהִי כְּכַלּוֹת מֹשֶׁה, לִכְתֹּב אֶת-דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה-הַזֹּאת–עַל-סֵפֶר: עַד, תֻּמָּם.

    I come back to Prof. Schiffman’s (full quote at the top of this comment page): “It is now clear that the biblical text has a history of transmission, and that major parts of this history, which indeed testify to the place of Scripture in the Judaism of the post-biblical period, are to be understood from the [Dead Sea] scrolls. Indeed, we now know that many textual variants result not only from transmission, but from interpretation and linguistic updating”.

  87. Thank you, R’ IH, for the excellent question. Indeed, Chatam Sofer has a separate responsum (OC 52, final paragraph) where he explains that the reason we do not recite a blessing over the mitzvah of Ketivat Sefer Torah is because we are not experts in chaseirot ve-yeteirot, as per the gemara in Kiddushin 30a. See here: http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=794&st=&pgnum=41

    Thus, Chatam Sofer agrees with the position of R. Feinstein/R. Bleich that our Sifrei Torah are not letter-perfect, as distinct from the position of Torah Shelemah/Arukh ha-Shulchan who claim that our Sifrei Torah are indeed letter-perfect. This dispute (Feinstein/Bleich vs. Schueck/Epstein) is discussed in my comments to the “Rav Lichtenstein on Academic Trends” forum two years ago. [At that time, though, I didn’t realize that Chatam Sofer was on the Feinstein/Bleich side.]

  88. “Is there any evidence of a written text the length of the Torah that has survived from 13th-14th century BC, anywhere?”

    Hieroglyphs in Egypt?

  89. “Thank you for the fascinating archaeological confirmation of Bil’am.”

    You can read it that way. You can also read it in exactly the opposite way. (I.e., Bilaam was well-known and thus incorporated into the Torah.) Take your pick.

  90. david a, my alleged ingenuity in justifying the torah narrative as history is matched by your strong predilection to deconstruct and debunk that narrative. While you appear to regard your stance as objective and mine as subjective and biased, I don’t make that distinction.

    Getting back to the issue at hand. As R’ Gil noted, this issue was discussed a while back and some interesting material from Rav Meidan was presented. Let me offer some additional points for consideration. The Egyptian born males who survived were 0-19 at the time of the Exodus and 40-58 at the time of this census. Assuming the numbers in the 0-19, 20-39, 40-59, 60- age brackets were in the ratios, 1:2:2:1 would mean that 600,000 in the adult male brackets in the year 2 census corresponded to 125,000 in the youngest bracket. Assuming, further, that each of these youngsters grew up and produced an average of 3 surviving adult males in the year 40 census gives a total adult males population of 500,000 from this cohort. If, in addition to the Egyptian born males we consider those born in the desert, they would have been 0-40 years old at the 40 year census. Let’s assume that the original 600,000 adult males begot 200,000 sons in the desert (a much lower value that their fecundity in Egypt, but not insubstantial). Then those 200,000 could be divided into 1/3 in the 0-19 age bracket (not counted in the census) and 2/3 (133,000) in the 20-40 age bracket (counted). The total adult male population is then over 600,000.

    If you don’t care for the above assumptions, let’s try another. Let’s assume that the above age brackets(4) were equal in number. Then the older 3 brackets totalled 600,000 during the census in year 2. The number of surviving adult males would then have been 200,000 (the 0-19 age bracket at the time of the 1st census). These men would then have been 40-58 at the time of the 40 year census. Supposing they begot an average of 2 young adult sons by that 2nd census. Then the total adult male population then would have been 600,000.

    The above consists merely of various schemes to justify the value of 600,000 for the 2nd census after the death of all the adult males at the time of the 1st census. Obviously, it has been contrived to give the ‘desired’ result, but I believe that it is credible, or, at least, not ‘impossible’.

    As to the argument that such population numbers would be highly unusual at that point in time, and is unlikely to have continued after Canaan was settled, I would agree. The proposed fecundity in Egypt (an average of 3 surviving sons per Israelite father) was due to a divine blessing, as was the ‘natural’ survivability of the children produced plus their fathers and even grandfathers. Such interference in the normal order of things did not continue into Canaan.

  91. Avi, let me respond to your various points after noting that we mostly agree since you state that ‘99% of the torah was written by Moshe’.
    1. While the sages will sometimes use the wording in Nach to support the halachot presented, it should not really be considered the basis of the halacha. Rather, it’s a support (asmachta) to halachot that stem from a tradition. Otherwise you run into the problem of the talmudic dictum that a prophet is not allowed to innovate a permanent halacha.

    2. I never contended that there wasn’t an oral tradition handed down by Moshe at the same as the written torah. The torah text doesn’t present anything like a full legal compendium, and would be inadequate for determining practical halacha – were it not for the oral commentary that went with it. My argument was only that a text written by Moshe was essential in order to maintain a standard with which to judge the reliability of the various traditions that necessarily ensue over the generations. The issue of an oral tradition features both strengths and weaknesses. On the one hand, being processed through the minds of sages through the generations allows for new ideas, interpretations, and applications, i.e., provides a necessary dynamic so that halacha can be current and viable. On the other hand, it can lead to distortions and ideas incompatible with the torah.

    3. Your apparent difficulty with Deut. 31 (parshat Vayelech)appears to be based on your notion that something written in 3rd person is a sign that Moshe wasn’t the author. I reject that idea. As to accomodating to the views of ‘Bible Critics’, I see no need for accommodation to the various attempts to deconstruct the torah into sundry pieces and authors or editors if rational arguments can be advanced that preserves the integrity of the foundational document of our religion.

  92. R’ Nachum,
    Thank you. You are correct. The ultimate answer is that observant Jews (as myself) will affirm the Divine Authorship of the Sefer Torah because of belief in the gemara in Sanhedrin 99a, and will further affirm belief in Mosaic transcription of the Sefer Torah because of belief in the gemara in Megillah 2b. It’s not the archaeology that will serve as the source of belief, since archeaology could be employed in other directions.

    Interestingly, R. Yaakov Kamenetzky grapples with this issue, as well, in his Emet le-Ya’akov to Kiddushin 30a, s.v. darosh darash. See here: http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=47585&st=&pgnum=181&hilite= R. Kamenetzky believes that our Sifrei Torah are word-perfect but not letter-perfect (apparently like the Schreiber/Feinstein/Bleich camp). Notice two errors in R. Kamenetzky’s analysis. Firstly, a minor point: R. Kamenetzky misquotes the gemara in Shabbat 49b as 49a. Secondly, a major point: he changes Rashi’s comment from an contextually isolated statement about how many times the word “melakhah” appears Pentateuch to a broad umbrella principle that all the words we have in our Sefer Torah are the same as they were revealed to Mosheh Rabbeinu. I find it remarkable that R. Kamenetzky amplified the words of Rashi so expansively, and I postulate that R. Kamenetzky must have done so simply because the ikkarei emunah issues at hand are so important, based on the gemara in Megillah 2b.

  93. [-That said, I would prefer if R. Kamenetzky had been a little clearer about this issue, rather than by changing the text of Rashi and leaving me to have to fill in the blanks…]

  94. >>> Getting back to the issue at hand. As R’ Gil noted, this issue was discussed a while back and some interesting material from Rav Meidan was presented.

    I wouldn’t mind a link.

    >>>> Let’s assume that the above age brackets(4) were equal in number.

    But they weren’t….each generation was 2 to 3 fold larger…

    So, the rest of your computation doesn’t add-up. If you believe that B”Y grew in population in Egypt here is how you have to figure it.

    Let’s accept your growth model of B’Y in Egypt. I.e. 8 generations from Yaakov’s grandchildren to the Exodus, or 25 years/generation and also use an average of 3 male offspring per generation to account for the phenomenal growth. We’ll also posit that people on average lived to 95-100 (unlikely, but we have to use some value)

    So for ease of computation, let’s break down the 95 years to 3 adult generations and allow for 20 years for the kids, i.e. children: aged 1-20; gen 1: aged 20-45, gen 2: 45-70, gen 3:. 70+.

    Now remember we posited that each gen. grew by 3 fold. So what would be the breakdown of the adults by generation of the 600K that left Egypt. Working backwards…

    Gen 3 (oldest) 45,000
    Gen 2 (next) X 3 135,000
    Gen 1 (youngest) X 3 405,000 adding up to about 600K adults.

    So the youngest adult group had to have represented about 2/3 of the 600K and That means that at the Exodus 405,000 young adults had already produced, say about 1,000,000 male kids. This does not take into account what will be produced over the next 40 years. And easily allows for all 600K at the exodus to die.

    You can’t have it both ways, either each generation grew or it didn’t.

  95. “3. Your apparent difficulty with Deut. 31 (parshat Vayelech)appears to be based on your notion that something written in 3rd person is a sign that Moshe wasn’t the author. I reject that idea. As to accomodating to the views of ‘Bible Critics’, I see no need for accommodation to the various attempts to deconstruct the torah into sundry pieces and authors or editors if rational arguments can be advanced that preserves the integrity of the foundational document of our religion.”

    I agree that just because it says “Moshe said”, does not mean that Moshe didn’t write it. That isn’t my point. I am saying however that it also doesn’t mean that Moshe DID write it.

    My point is that the Torah says, “And moshe wrote this scroll”, He then gave this scroll to the Levites. He then gave the levites instructions of what to do with “this scroll.”. If these sections of the Torah were written in Yehohsua, It would make sense. Moshe finished the scroll, and now that the scroll is finished,we need to tell you what happened in a new and different book. However these pesukim ARE in the Torah, and they are NOT in Yehoshua. That means, that After moshe finished the scroll, and after he gave instructions to the Levites, Somebody went back to the scroll and added this information. That somebody could have been Moshe, but then the Torah is being false with us. That someone could have been Yehoshua, and Sefer yehoshua explains that Gd commanded Yehoshua to do just that sort of thing. The Torah then does not become a document which lies about itself. Becase we see clearly, that Gd gave Yeshua the nevuah and Commandment to finish off the Torah, the base document with information that could only be added after a good chunk of Israel was conquered.

  96. Avi, you’re assuming that the torah follows strict chronological sequence. It does not – even according to the Ramban, much less Rashi. The fact that parshat Vayelech which mentions Moshe completing the torah and handing it to particular Levites is followed by Parshat Ha’azinu and Vezot Haberacha, doesn’t mean that those parshiot were later added to the torah (except for the last 12 verses describing Moshe’s ascending har Nevo, his death, and eulogy). In fact the content of parshat Ha’azinu is alluded to just prior to Moshe’s completion of the torah. Similarly, one can maintain that Moshe’s final berachot to his people were uttered prior to the writing of the torah.

  97. david a., you’re confusing age with generational succession. Each generation has an entire spectrum of ages. You can’t divide age brackets into generations. Hence, I don’t understand your calculations.

    R’ Gil has referenced the earlier posting on biblical census figures in a comment. It should also be available from his archive. I will also search for it to refresh my memory of Rav Meidan’s article on the subject.

  98. Y. Aharon — I don’t understand your point about generations and age. In shul tomorrow, I know I can count at least 3 successive generations by age: a grandfather, his son and his grandson — and I’m sure you can too. Similarly, a statistical analysis can also be done as David A illustrates in broad strokes.

    What am I misunderstanding in trying to understand your response to David A?

  99. “Y. Aharon on June 22, 2012 at 1:02 pm
    Avi, you’re assuming that the torah follows strict chronological sequence. It does not – even according to the Ramban, much less Rashi. The fact that parshat Vayelech which mentions Moshe completing the torah and handing it to particular Levites is followed by Parshat Ha’azinu and Vezot Haberacha, doesn’t mean that those parshiot were later added to the torah (except for the last 12 verses describing Moshe’s ascending har Nevo, his death, and eulogy). In fact the content of parshat Ha’azinu is alluded to just prior to Moshe’s completion of the torah. Similarly, one can maintain that Moshe’s final berachot to his people were uttered prior to the writing of the torah.

    Y Aharon, you are grasping at terrible straws here….

    I did not say that chronologically, things were written after moshe finished “the scroll”… I am saying, that in the scroll we have, there are 3 more chapters of Text appearing after the line that says “this scroll” was completed. What in the world does chronology have to do with anything?

    I Have now completed writing this post.

    But really I haven’t, because I am still writing, or maybe I did, but after I wrote this text, I am going back to before this paragraph and inserting some words which will describe how I finished writing the post. What I have done above is LIE to you. I have not now completed writing the post… only after this sentence will I have completed writing it. And this says nothing about what I might do with the post, AFTER I have written it… So look I lied again, and the post is not finished… but now it is.

  100. IH and Avi, I confess that my previous analysis was superficial and inconsistent with the basic assumption about average numbers of sons per father. I had used some ‘normal’ population distributions without noting that such distributions were inconsistent with the assumed doubling and tripling of the numbers of successive generations. Instead, let me modify my assumptions about number of sons per father and the number of generations for the Egyptian sojourn. If we take the average number as 2 and that the typical male lifespan was 100 years, then we can divide the male population at year 2 from the Exodus into 20 year groups (80-99, 60-79, 40-59, 20-39, and 0-19), with each successive group representing the next younger generation. The numbers in each successive group is double the previous one. Then 40,000 of the oldest group keeps doubling until we get to 320,000 of the 20-39 group. The total of all the counted age groups (all except for the 0-19 group) is 600,000, i.e. the approximate numbers counted in the 1st census in year 2 of the Exodus. The 0-19 group, in turn, had 640,000 uncounted members. Only this group largely survived. There were some losses from the Ba’al Peor debacle (24,000 deaths) and, presumably, from the wars with Emorite kings, Sichon and Og. That would give some 600,000 surviving Israelite males assuming that few children were born in the desert due to the harsh conditions. If we keep counting back the above 5 age groups for each century of the Egyptian stay ,halving the numbers for each successive age group, then we get 39 at the 15th generation with 20 years per generation. While 39 is not the 51 actual grandsons of Ya’akov who represented The 1st generation in Egypt, it is not far from that value – especially considering the doubling approximation.

    Admittedly the above doesn’t solve all the problems with the census figures listed in Numbers. For example, the census of the 3 Levite clans has the number of males in the 30-50 age group as 32-52% of the total male membership (from 1 month) of that clan. That is inconsistent with the above assumptions which would predict about half those numbers. However, the Levite numbers are unusually small for a tribe. Anomalies with the Levite statistics is, therefore, not unexpected. The low numbers of first-born sons in the general population and among the Levites is another anomaly. As I recall, Rav Meidan has an article which addressed the issue of bechorim and the census figures. I tried to find it in the blog archives, but no comments appear in the “Where are the bechorim” blog post of May, 2007.

  101. Avi, I don’t know why we’re still having an argument. You now assert, “I did not say that chronologically things were written after Moshe finished the scroll” (although this was, indeed, what you had earlier asserted), but are bothered by the seeming discrepancy about reference to a completed scroll vs additional parshiot after that reference. Well, that is a literary issue. Too bad you weren’t consulted on how to write the torah. There is no lie involved in the torah’s version of events. First, instruction was given for the composition of shirat Ha’azinu, teaching it to the people, and the deposit of the torah scroll containing that shira into reliable hands for safekeeping. Parshat Vayelech, Moshe’s farewell, was said on his last day on earth just prior to his ascending har Nevo. Parshat Ha’azinu had been said before, as had parshat Vezot Habracha. If the author elected to basically conclude his magnum opus with more memorable poetry, then that is his choice. Impact should be a greater consideration than adhering to a chronological sequence.

  102. “Avi, I don’t know why we’re still having an argument. You now assert, “I did not say that chronologically things were written after Moshe finished the scroll” (although this was, indeed, what you had earlier asserted),”

    You still don’t get it at all.

    The statement that the Torah is not written in Chronological order, is a statement that means that events that are described at the beginning of a book might have happened after events that are described later on in the book. This has NOTHING to do with what we are talking about.

    You have a simple statement that “Moshe finished this scroll” and we are given a description of events that happened AFTER “This scroll” was finished. Either, “this scroll” is not referring to the Torah we have in our hands today, or “this scroll” was later amended by other people. We know this, because we have 3 more chapters of things to read!

    Why is this so hard for your to grasp?
    This has absolutely nothing to do with the chronology of events described in the Torah…

  103. Avi, now you’re getting annoying. Let me make a final attempt to clarify the style of torah writing. It is not uncommon, particularly in sefer Bereishit, to finish off a narrative before going on to the next topic – even if said completion is totally out of chronological sequence. Hence, the death of Terach is mentioned before starting the Lech Lecha narrative, even though Terach died much later. Yishmael and Esav’s descendants are extensively listed when the torah wishes to complete discussing Yishmael and Esav, despite the lack of chronological sequence. In sefer Shemot, the first mention of the mannah in the 2nd month following the Exodus concludes with, “The Isrelites ate the mannah for 40 years until they came to settled land” (Ex. 16:35). That’s not only totally out of sequence, it would be a ‘spoiler’ for anyone not familiar with the basic torah narrative.

    Here, too, the author of the torah wished to mention that it had been entrusted to select Levites in a completed form before detailing the poetic exhortations and blessings in parshat Ha’azinu and Vezot Haberacha. Your disagreement with this mode of composition is your issue, not mine.

  104. Not to belabor the point, but I find that my prior comment needs some modification. I don’t maintain that all the successive generations in Egypt doubled, or that there were 15 generations in Egypt. What I presented was just one way of attempting to deal with the two 600,000 census figures, given that those in the 1st census are said to have died in the dessert before the 2nd census. I had originally posited that the numbers included those who had joined the Israelites and had intermarried with them. I pointed to Caleb ben Yefuneh Hakenizi who rose to become a leader of the Judahite tribe despite his, apparent, Kenizite, origins (an Edomite clan). There are indications in Joshua and Chronicles of such an origin (besides the simple understanding of his moniker). The extent of such intermarriage and adoption by the tribes will determine not only the population numbers, but also the estimeate of the number of generations involved in the sojourn in Egypt. That sojourn is not necessarily reflected in the number of generations of listed Levites and Judahites (3-5), who may have had sons in their old age, but may be more characterized by the generations of the Ephra’imites of whom 9 are listed in Chronicles I 7:20 up to Joshua.

  105. “Here, too, the author of the torah wished to mention that it had been entrusted to select Levites in a completed form before detailing the poetic exhortations and blessings in parshat Ha’azinu and Vezot Haberacha. Your disagreement with this mode of composition is your issue, not mine.”

    You better believe I’m getting annoyed. I am fully aware that events are completed before another topic is mentioned. I have no problem with that, and there is nothing special about this. It also has nothing to do with what is written in Devarim.

    However, it would take amazing powers of time travel for me to finish a document, and then write in that very same document what happened after the document was finished. Sure, Moshe could know the future via prophecy, but what are the levites who are receiving the scroll to think? Did they just lose their free will? Did Moshe? And what is the point of giving us this time traveling theological challenge? This isn’t about style or a mode of composition. The statement that Moshe finished “THIS SCROLL”, and then handed it to the levites, is the same type of logical impossibility as “This statement is a lie.”

  106. >>> the first mention of the mannah in the 2nd month following the Exodus concludes with, “The Isrelites ate the mannah for 40 years until they came to settled land” (Ex. 16:35).

    quite ironic that you should quote a verse that obviously was not written by Moishe.

  107. Avi, I’m sorry I started this conversation with you. If you don’t recognize the contradictions in your various comments, then I can’t help you.

  108. david a., while I am prepare to admit that some isolated verses or even sections may not have been written by Moshe, this is not, necessarily, one of them. Perhaps Moshe wrote it close to the time of his death, or earlier – under divine instruction. After all, the divine decree had been that the earlier generation of adult men would wander for 40 years in the desert and die there, while their children would inherit the Promised Land. Nor were those children to continue eating mannah once in Canaan since they were expected then to lead more normal lives.

  109. In my opinion, this issue can be compared to the proper interpretation of “mi-machorat ha-Shabbat”, debated in Menachot 65a-66a. The textual sciences lend themselves to competing conclusions, as that sugya illustrates. Ultimately, an Orthodox Jew will profess that mi-machorat ha-Shabbat means the second day of Pesach simply because of the gemara says so. The same is true with Mosaic authorship of the Torah; the gemara in Megillah 2b does not allow any prophet after Mosheh Rabbeinu to change the words of the Torah. Bava Batra 15a is an exception because – according to one perspective there – a person cannot write truthfully about his own death.

    It is indeed perplexing that R. Moshe Feinstein overstated his case in IM YD 3:114-115 by “throwing out the baby with the bathwater”, i.e. accusing the Binyan Yehoshua on Avot de-Rabbi Natan of heresy, and accusing the Pentateuch commentary of R. Yehudah ha-Chassid of being a forgery. By simply reinterpreting those two sources, R. Feinstein could have saved himself much aggravation. [Sigh…] Oh well, one more item to place on my curriculum vitae (“Rescued Orthodox Jewry by correcting the mistake of IM YD 3:114-115…”)

  110. Okay… when I say “aggravation”, I mean it in a positive sense of “milchamtah shel Torah”. Study of Torah always leads to joy, never to actual aggravation… Thank you.

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