Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Eighth Principle: Our Torah Is Not Exactly The Same

The Adept pointed this out in class, for which I thank him. Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg was the Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisrael & was involved in Torah UMesorah, Agudath Israel of America and other such programs. In short, he's part of the yeshiva/Haredi world. He authored a book entitled Fundamentals and Faith: Insights Into the Rambam's 13 Principles. It's worthwhile to note his understanding of the Eighth Principle, which regards the divinity of the Torah. See excerpt below.

~

The Inscriber of God's Words

The Ani Ma'amin version of this Principle reads: "I believe with complete faith that the entire Torah which is now in our possession is the same as that which was given to Moshe Rabbeinu, may he rest in peace." This rendition of the eighth Principle expresses the belief that the Torah we have now is the same Torah that was given to Moshe Rabbeinu at Sinai. Although the phrasing chosen by the author of Ani Ma'amin is reminiscent of the actual text of the Rambam, it does not reflect his main concern in this Principle.

The text of this Principle reads:

"We believe that the entire Torah in our possession today was given [to us] by the Almighty through Moshe Rabbeinu, by means of the medium we metaphorically call "speech." No one knows the real nature of this communication except Moshe, to whom it was transmitted. He was like a scribe receiving dictation. He wrote the history, the stories, and the commandments. Therefore he is called [the] 'inscriber'."

Clearly, the thrust of this Principle is the conviction that every letter of the Written and Oral Law transmitted through Moshe Rabbeinu was of Divine origin. Moshe Rabbeinu merely served as a conduit for communicating it, or as a "scribe", as the Rambam himself describes him.

In contrast, it is difficult to understand Ani Ma'amin literally, i.e. that the Torah we now possess is the same Torah given to Moshe Rabbeinu. It is true that as long as the Temple stood and the Torah scroll which Moshe Rabbeinu wrote was kept there, the Jewish People had a standard to which to compare all new Torah scrolls that were written. But we are told (Sofrim 6:4) that after the destruction of the Temple, when Ezra returned to Israel, he found three Torah scrolls which were either considered valid. Even so, there were minor discrepancies among them, which were maintained or discarded depending on whether they appeared in two of the three scrolls. Although the Torah itself instructs Jews to follow the majority in making a decision, one suspects that after many such occurrences, his decisions are not going to produce absolutely accurate reproductions of the original Sinai version. The Talmud, too, says we are no longer experts in the exact spelling of many words. Consequently, the rabbis could not count the exact number of letters in the Torah (Kiddushin 30a). Certainly, these were very minor variances- such as spelling a word with a hei or an alef, or with or without a vav- changes which did not seem to affect the meaning significantly.

The Rambam knew very well that these variations existed when he defined his Principles. The words of Ani Ma'amin and the words of the Rambam, "the entire Torah in our possession today," must not be taken literally, implying that all the letters of the present Torah are the exact letters given to Moshe Rabbeinu. Rather, it should be understood in a general sense that the Torah we learn and live by is for all intents and purposes the same Torah that was given to Moshe Rabbeinu. The real emphasis of this Principle is that this Torah, which includes both the Written and Oral Law, is word for word, letter for letter from the Almighty, and absolutely none of it was edited by Moshe in any way whatsoever. There is not one phrase, not one letter that Moshe added to clarify or explain what was transmitted to him. He had no input of any kind but functioned only as the mouthpiece of the Almighty.

~Fundamentals and Faith by Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg, pages 89-91

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So no matter your affiliation, you are under no obligation to believe that every single jot, tittle and letter in today's Torah- in the literal sense- is precisely the same as it was when it was given to Moses at Sinai. Which is exciting, because it means you don't have to believe against reason and rationality. Hurrah!

26 comments:

Rabba bar bar Chana said...

Welcome back - your blogging has been missed. But I do understand - I remember what planning a wedding is like.

Rabba bar bar Chana said...

I'm a little confused with what R. Weinberg is saying. Seems to contradict himself. Maybe I'm missing something:

"the words of the Rambam... must not be taken literally, implying that all the letters of the present Torah are the exact letters given to Moshe Rabbeinu."

"...is that this Torah, which includes both the Written and Oral Law, is word for word, letter for letter from the Almighty, and absolutely none of it was edited by Moshe in any way whatsoever. There is not one phrase, not one letter that Moshe added to clarify or explain what was transmitted to him. He had no input of any kind but functioned only as the mouthpiece of the Almighty."

Anonymous said...

Rabba-to reconcile the statements I think you have to say the this in your second quote refers to the torah given to Moshe, not the version we have now.

Of course the fact that bnai ashkenaz have a torah that differs slightly (e.g. spelling of ptuah daka) makes it obvious that we can't take it literally.

What did the Rambam think that he had with the aleppo codex or some version thereof?

When did the discrepancies start-assumedly once that occurred, how could there be drashot if we didn't know if we had the proper text? I'd go with the hashgacha pratit explanation unless someone has a better one.

KT
Joel Rich

Anonymous said...

rambam is saying that the torah we have is all mesora, generation handed-down to generation, and unchanged. (why ezra had the authority to reestablish the mesora based on rov, is beyond your comprehension.) a torah of another mesora is pasul because it's not mesora, not because its not from moshe. too bad you consider this irrational, it's not irrational, it's over-rational (too difficult for your "intellectualized" brain) and its a shame the author of the book didn't understand it either.

yitznewton said...

Agav, another book with more of RYW's Torah, on chinuch, is below - great food for thought. Good to hear from you again, Chana!

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/1568713932/ref=mp_s_a_1?qid=1277936809&sr=8-1

long time reader scratching his head said...

Chana, I don't follow your reasoning: Which is exciting, because it means you don't have to believe against reason and rationality. Unless my definition of "reason and rationality" is different than yours. Please explain!

Jewish Atheist said...

Which is exciting, because it means you don't have to believe against reason and rationality.

So dishonest, intellectually. You shouldn't be asking yourself how much you can concede to reality without violating the principles of faith. You should be asking what's true.

It's much more likely that Ezra was the redactor than that he fixed a few typos (scribos?)

Regardless, reading the chumash itself is enough to convince an honest person that Moshe didn't write it. It talks about his death, it uses names for cities that didn't exist in Moses's time (if he was even a real person), and at various points the author is clearly speaking from within Canaan when referring to certain geographical areas. Even the text itself only says he got the ten commandments at Sinai! The idea that he actually wrote the Torah (let alone as dictated by God) is a totally fictitious later invention.

If you want to have faith, have faith. But don't pretend to be using reason and rationality when all you're doing is rationalizing.

yitz.. said...

I couldn't disagree more with Jewish Atheist's ideas and conclusions..

however, his point about your arbitrary choice of where to draw the "rationality" barrier is valid.

ksil said...

yitz, why do you disagree with JA? what point speicifcally?

yitznewton said...

Jewish Atheist said...
>> Which is exciting, because it means you don't have to believe against reason and rationality.

> So dishonest, intellectually. You shouldn't be asking yourself how much you can concede to reality without violating the principles of faith. You should be asking what's true.

Interesting; I read Chana's paragraph as, "you don't have to believe against reason and rationality in order to be within the pale." I [Chana] struggled with the fact that my understanding of "what's true" is contrary to what's considered in the pale; with this reading of the Rambam by RYW, the pale is expanded, and I no longer have that tension --> excitement.

yitz.. said...

ksil,


Jewish Atheist [JA]>>You should be asking what's true.


That is exactly the opposite of the idea: "Principles of Emunah" (faith is not an adequate translation) emunah is _only_ necesary for things that are fundamentally _beyond_ comprehension. If you can prove it to be true, there's no need for Emunah, _by definition_.


JA>> It's much more likely that Ezra was the redactor than that he fixed a few typos (scribos?)


Likely, based on what? The oral history passed down through every generation contradicts JA's thesis -- the only thing that supports JA's thesis is modern historical research which has very little information with which to work, for example, history can't even prove conclusively that Ezra existed..


JA>> Regardless, reading the chumash itself is enough to convince an honest person that Moshe didn't write it... [etc]


By JA's very definition of 'honest' implicitly requires that we take for granted that God doesn't exist, that Prophecy never existed, and that Mosheh Rabbeinu might not have existed, which means that anyone who _believes_ any one of those things is dishonest. If you revisit above you will see that all three of these are direct attacks on the 13 principles of Emunah -- which acknowledges that they are Emunah-based ideas and cannot be proven, again if they could be proven, there would be no need for Emunah.


JA>> If you want to have faith, have faith. But don't pretend to be using reason and rationality when all you're doing is rationalizing.


This is the only point of JA's with which I agree -- the 13 principles of Emunah are fundamentally beyond rational understanding, and therefore it is folly to assume that reason is restored by any reading of them.

Shadesof said...

First, welcome back to blogging, and much hatzlacha in your "off- the-blog" life!

Unfortunately, R. Weinberg's book is out of print, but the aspect quoted here is available on the following link on Aish.com(in the section "Inscriber of Gods Words").

http://www.aish.com/sp/ph/48925267.html

R. Weinberg is also quoted in Prof. Marc Shapiro's article in the TUM Journal on the Ikkarim, (footnote # 201, where he thanks Dr. SZ Leiman for the reference); Obviously, R. Weinberg's opinions, in general, are independent of Prof. Shapiro's own overall conclusions.

yitznewton said...

yitz.. said...
That is exactly the opposite of the idea: "Principles of Emunah" (faith is not an adequate translation) emunah is _only_ necesary for things that are fundamentally _beyond_ comprehension. If you can prove it to be true, there's no need for Emunah, _by definition_.

First off, there's a difference between things that are beyond comprehension and those that cannot be proven.

Secondly, it's my understanding that emunah is not necessarily restricted to matters beyond comprehension; more like things that are not readily apparent, especially those that we "like" to conveniently overlook in our pursuit of selfish goals.

Jewish woman said...

Rav Yaakov Weinberg zt"l was one of the clearest thinkers of our generation. His shiurim are emes and speak to people who look for truth.

If you appreciate Rav Yaakov Weinberg - there is nothing like listening him in the original. You will begin to hear him speak when things he addressed come up. On aishaudio.com they have 109 of his lectures! torahmedia.com has a number more. chinuch.org has a few as well.

You can listen to the shiur on this topic on these sites. Often, the talmidim will ask questions and he will clarify his thought process.

There were a few hespedim a few days ago (he was niftar on 17 Tammuz) at http://matzav.com/rav-shmuel-yaakov-weinberg-ztl-on-his-yahrtzeit-today-17-tammuz

Anonymous said...

Hey, welcome back!
Where have you been? I missed your posts.

Anonymous said...

" this Torah, which includes both the Written and Oral Law, is word for word, letter for letter from the Almighty,"

WHAT EXACTLY DID THE ORAL LAW CONSIST OF?

Chana said...

YitzNewton is correct as to my thought process re: this post.

Jewish Atheist, please read this post of mine and you'll see that I don't believe the whole Torah was written by Moshe. Neither do most Jews- we believe Joshua added to it and if you hold by the Ibn Ezra, other Neviim wrote glosses as well. We do believe it is divinely given and divinely sanctioned writing, however.

Re: the person who asked about the oral law- please read Schimmel's book 'The Oral Law' on the subject.

Jewish Atheist said...

Jewish Atheist, please read this post of mine and you'll see that I don't believe the whole Torah was written by Moshe. Neither do most Jews- we believe Joshua added to it and if you hold by the Ibn Ezra, other Neviim wrote glosses as well.

My point isn't about your conclusion but your thought process. If the rabbis said believing that Joshua wrote those verses is kefirah, then you would not believe it, no matter how obvious it seems that Moshe didn't write them.

It's just dishonest. You think you're open-minded and modern because you are willing to go to the limits that Orthodoxy sets for you, but the whole idea of limits on what you can believe is ludicrous. You can't bargain with reality.

"Okay, I'll believe X because it seems more likely than traditional belief Y, but only because Rabbi Ploney says it's okay." It's the antithesis of reason and rationality.

You can use reason and rationality or you can worry about what you're allowed (!) to believe. Not both.

Anonymous said...

"I don't believe the whole Torah was written by Moshe. Neither do most Jews- we believe Joshua added to it"

speak for yourself, most halachik jews accept that moses wrote all of it. rambam paskens that way in the machlokes in the gemara about the last 8 verses.

"and if you hold by the Ibn Ezra, other Neviim wrote glosses as well."

utter rubbish, and you know it. if you can't accept it, don't, but don't blame the ibn ezra.

(why do you conveniently ignore the fact that most ibn ezra scholars discount that absurd theory in explaining the ibn ezra's "sod"???)

Chana said...

Anon 10:04,

1. Great! So you can believe that way, as can other Jews- huzzah.

2. If you read the post, you'll see that we did address/ tackle the theory and the one I espouse easily seems the most convincing/ valid. But as always, you're free to draw your own conclusions.

Anonymous said...

sorry but you can't have it both ways, either you accept the above rambam, that moshe wrote the torah by dictaion of god, and then it doesn't matter if something had taken place yet, that's how god instructed it be written. or you attribute rouge ideas to the ibn ezra, and then parts of the torah were written by an author and not through god's direct dictaion (no other prophet heard the clarity of 'words' through god).

what is sad is, you don't realize your own ideology is inconsistent, and you contradict himself within paragraphs of each other. but if it feels good, then think it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chana, Folks what about the acknowledgment of the Talmud that the Torah was written in Ahshurite? If I remember correctly it was Ezra who gave us the translation of the whole thing which is our Torah today right?

Also: #2 I agree with Chana's point that holding that a few verses were written by yehoshua or that King Solomon added somethings which the talmud also comments on is no way tantamount denial of this principal which even the Rambam himself has difficulty explaining due perhaps to our inability to understand what G-D's speech means from his perspective.
The Bottom line is that we must treat the Torah we have as immutable as possible and interpret it the best we can.

Anonymous said...

ashurite is a form of lettering, not language. its the equivlant of cursive vs block letters.

time to go back to basics, before espousing sophistcated opinions

Mike S. said...

It shouldn't take Rabbi Weinberg to explain this. The Rambam's text is quite clear about what he meant. Unfortunately, we mostly encounter his ikkarim through the poems of Ani Ma'amin and Yigdal, which aren't complete accurate formulations of Rambam's text. Reading the whole of his introduction to Perek Chelek is something you should definitely do, not only for his ikkarim, but also for his understanding of reward and punishment and midrash. The "Rambam L'Am" text is clear and well printed.

The Rambam's concern is that the entire text is God's word and Moshe invented none of it. And it is all therefore of inestimable worth--even such seemingly minor details such as "... the name of his wife was Mehetab'el bat Matred..." (Bonus point to anyone who isn't a ba'al keriah who knows whose wife that was without looking it up.) I strongly suspect this is, in part, a response to claims of the Moslems that the Jews corrupted or forged the Torah. The Rambam is not discussing the accuracy of transmission; he knew full well about variations in the texts.

Holy Hyrax said...

>utter rubbish, and you know it. if you can't accept it, don't, but don't blame the ibn ezra.

(why do you conveniently ignore the fact that most ibn ezra scholars discount that absurd theory in explaining the ibn ezra's "sod"???)

Most scholars? Who is most scholars? I just attended a large lecture on this topic by a "scholar" who is also a menahel that indeed Ibn Ezra thought certain parts were post Mosaic. You can keep ignoring that fact, but I bet the only people that you claim as scholars are simply rabbis uncomfertable with the idea that someone elses hands touched the Torah.

Avigael Ester said...

The GRA often corrected incorrect Torah Scrolls where the grammer showed what was written was incorrect. There is no question that this is not a literal interpretation that has been kept, just the narrative as accurately as possible. To deny errors have crept in, is to deny historical evidence. Baruch HaShem the errors are minor and we can move forward.