Monday, November 14, 2005

Cross-Currents aka: "From Russia with Kiruv"




We live in trying times. There are a lot of mixed messages out there. Sometimes, as Marshall McLuhan famously said, "The medium is the message." We orthodox (style) jews have a history of strongly-worded, passionate debates laid out in tapestry format in the talmud.

The talmud famously left no stone unturned in analyzing theological and halachic questions. You could say that that is both the talmud's great strength and great weakness. That is, the talmud gave more time to halachic minutiae than the big theological picture. [Yes, there are aggadata's and purportedly "deep" passages. But just try and read Aaron Feldman's The Juggler and the King and tell me it's deep at all. Then read Feldman's letter throwing Slifkin under the bus and tell me HE's deep at all! http://www.zootorah.com/controversy/SLIFKINARTICLE.doc ]

However, while one knows what one is reading when he is reading the talmud, in terms of its medium and its message, blogs of orthodox rabbis are an entirely different matter.

The best known Orthodox Rabbi blog is Cross-Currents. http://www.cross-currents.com/
They have Rabbis Yitzchok Adlerstein and Rabbi Yaakov Mencken, a BT turned Rabbi whose second religion is obscurantism, and who "maintains" the blog.

"Maintains" means he gets posts and then either censors them entirely or posts them with comments he thinks are incisive but which in reality demonstrate why little knowledge is so often dangerous. A jack of all trades, Mencken is not regarded as a real torah scholar of any repute, and he has little in the way of secular credentials. Mencken likes to troll in the shallow end of the kiruv pond, where his lack of honesty won't be as readily detected. Nevertheless, this doesn't stop him from frequently spouting off on science and torah subjects, among other things, using his bully pulpit.

Cross-currents also has Rabbi Reinman, whose book debating a Reform Rabbi was banned by gedolim and he lamentably but understandably, gave in to their simple-minded views and Stalinist thuggery. It is arguable that the gedolim were emboldened by this and then went after Slifkin. It's too bad they didn't learn that censorship doesn't work. Just ask Rabbi Berel Wein:
http://godolhador.blogspot.com/2005/03/and-further-reconsiderations-by-berel.html

of Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo: http://www.cardozoschool.org/show_article.asp?article_id=485&cat_id=2&cat_name=Contemporary+Issues&parent_id=2&subcat_id=47&subcat_name=Other

This all has been written about ad nauseum, so what about Mencken?

I'm just irritated by the doublespeak name "Cross-Currents," which seems to imply a cross-pollenation of ideas, when in fact only safe criticisms make it through. The blog is nothing short of a P.R. kiruv effort, as the clear intent of creating a "blog" rather than a website, is to give the impression that Orthodox Rabbis are reasonable people who will address tough questions from all vantagepoints (contrary to the true-life example of Reinman's bowing out of his controversy).
More annoying is that Mencken censors the posts, allowing only those that accept certain first principles that he establishes. The result is that the post being commented on seems more reasonable and worthy of acceptance since the only comments are benign for the most part. "Dumbed down," might be more accurate.

Banning thoughtful, profanity-free comments ought to be banned by an international blog treaty! Seriously, Cross-currents is intentionally misleading readers by posting benign at worst criticisms. Also, if you want to respond to Maureen Dowd's religious alter-ego R. Mencken, you have to put up with his half-wit comebacks. If you want to come back again, you have to see if he'll let it come through. Again, you can be sure he'll take a cheap shot or two.

Thus, Cross-Currents is a Pravda-dox Jewish blog. (While Rav Adlerstein surely has his merits, I'd like to see him for once come out blasting Schroeder like he does the Bible Codes, or at least not having his posts censored.)

Yet, his colleague Mencken uses the Schroeder bunk in his new book which is called
"The Everything Torah Book," but which is really more aptly titled "IwrotethisbookfasterthanIdavenmincha," because of its slapped-together style, fallacy-filled folios, and specious shortcuts.

Really, the book should have been called "Torah for Dummies," as it is styled after the poular series, and because only that demographic would fall for the kiruv clown flights of fancy contained therein. Mencken has really hit the top of his game- kiruv clown juggling - from blogs to books, that is.

But that will be covered in more depth on the next post, where I will expose just how low Kiruv Comrade Mencken will go to m'kariv some fresh meat.

Who here is sick and tired of Cross-Currents and their Pravda-dox Jewish blog? Then STOP commenting there! At a minimum, they should be universally derided as a blog. If they want another website like aish, etc, fine. But don't pretend you allow for informed debate unless you do. That's simple isn't it?

64 Comments:

Anonymous Holy "tired" Hyrax said...

If you want to boycott CC, than its obviously your right, but you are bringing different reasons in it that aren't relevant. As much as Menkens Kiruv seems stupid, that is obviously no reason for a boycott. And though you may not be using that as the specific reason, IT being in your post just enflares others that are against Kiruv books, to boycott them for the wrong reason. Personally, I feel, there is no need for a boycott. I rarely, if ever see bloggers from these J-blogs commenting on CC. Who ever likes CC will comment, who ever does not, has already stopped a long time ago. Maybe next we will be asking to boycott Dovbear for his skewed politics and his name calling of people he does not agree with.

11/16/2005 8:50 AM  
Blogger Hayim said...

> a zealot BT turned Rabbi whose second religion is obscurantism

Now, now. Let's not get personal, please ?

Regarding Cross-Currents, I too dislike their censorship of the comments they dislike (totally against the spirit of the Internet).

But the tone of this post makes me uneasy...

By the way, I'm mentioning your blog in my next post (just trying to get some traffic. Hey, that's why you mentioned Slikin, no ?)

:)

11/16/2005 10:12 AM  
Blogger Mis-nagid said...

Strong words, but calling for a boycott is not very effective or useful. If you are really so offended by their limiting of discussion on their blog (it's not censorship), and want the voice to reply, do so here. In fact, you threaten to do so in this post:

"But that will be covered in more depth on the next post, where I will expose just how low Kiruv Comrade Mencken will go to m'kariv some fresh meat."

Did GH use the kannoim's microphone to spread his message? Speak your mind, and if your thoughts are worth hearing, people will listen.

Now go tear Mencken a new one.

11/16/2005 11:36 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

Holy Hyrax said: "Personally, I feel, there is no need for a boycott. I rarely, if ever see bloggers from these J-blogs commenting on CC."

That's exactly my point! How do you know if their posts simply never make it through?! I know you post a lot, but I've posted and Mencken's rejected it on the basis that he won't accept "challenges to the mesora."

Exactly what kind of "cross-current" is that? That's why he likes the science and torah posts so much. Stay tuned.

11/16/2005 1:26 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Also, Hyrax, I don't think your "slippery slope" argument applies, except to sites that censor. Gil's blog censors comments as well.

Boycott is perhaps the wrong word. Rather, I just want to vent about the filtering part. And Mencken's book and comments.

11/16/2005 1:30 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"Hey, that's why you mentioned Slikin, no ?"

No.

11/16/2005 1:30 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Mis-nagid, you're correct, "boycott" isn't the word. Besides, just checking their site, they have 1 or 2 comments per post it seems. I just picture Mencken feverishly deleting away.

He also likes to try to makariv commenters while letting them know he's deleting them.

I'll change the title of the post.

And, don't worry, I have the Mencken post half done...

11/16/2005 1:34 PM  
Blogger chardal said...

What are you suggesting? Are basically recomending a Cherem on CC? I thought you are against Cherems.

11/16/2005 2:00 PM  
Anonymous Holy Hyrax said...

Chardal- I think what BTA is saying since CC is not playing by the rules of blogs, which should allow any comments, even ones that "challange the Mesorah," they should be "boycotted." Ofcourse, noone is saying that disrespectful comments should be allowed. Gil cencors comments that are just made to mock people.

BTA- I believe their cencoring is probably a neccesity (spellcheck anyone?) for their blog. Im sure they don't want their comment thread to turn into something like Dov's, (for example) where half of it is just leytzanut. Though they are most likely a bit too trigger happy with the censor button, when something rolls in they don't like.

11/16/2005 2:20 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"I thought you are against Cherems."

Cute. I revised the post so the point is clearer. A boycott is an economic measure, which is inapplicable to CC.

I just want a post labeling them for what they are. It's that simple.

Cherem is a loaded term. Nothing will change in Mencken's life if his blog is noted to be a Pravda-dox blog. He will never change his mind no matter how much sense is talked to him about anything. What I really dislike about his style is that he pretends to be above the dialog, when he is ill-equipped in the first place.

11/16/2005 2:57 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"Gil cencors comments that are just made to mock people."

I don't like that either. Mockery is a legitimate rhetorical device, as long as it isn't profane.

The talmud is full of mockery. The famous example is the sadduccees running into walls and dying out because the tefillin drove into their brains, because they were "between their eyes."

11/16/2005 2:59 PM  
Blogger Anonymousette said...

I think CC's blog is exactly like the Ultra Orthodox Yeshivahs. It censors out all the things that actually deal with reality which leaves its students at the mercy of the world when they come into it. I've said this so many times but I'll say it again- I think Modern Orthodoxy, which allows you to challenge your religion in a setting where answers can be provided, is the best way to go. Maybe these blogs are like Modern Orthodoxy?

11/16/2005 4:55 PM  
Anonymous Holy Hyrax said...

anonymousette, I think you are making too big of a charge. CC deals with certain issues that yeshivot would not even talk about. Their discussions of Evolution, archeology, other cultures etc. is something that won't even be discussed in an UOY. Granted, I don't agree with many of their assertions, but I can't compare CC with an OU yeshiva

BTA, your anger towards CC seems only to be directed at Yaacov Menken. Have you had experience with cencorship with the rest of the writers? If not, than is it right to judge an entire blog with almost a dozen contributers due to one man?

11/16/2005 5:11 PM  
Blogger Anonymousette said...

Holy- you're absolutely right. However, the only way I was comparing an UOY to CC is in the way it censors certain comments. Not in the actual ideology. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

11/16/2005 6:22 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"CC deals with certain issues that yeshivot would not even talk about."

Hyrax, that's just not true. "Deals" with issues? They don't deal with issues that's the point- they have the issue in the title and then dismiss it. Look at how Rav Adlerstein did a post about the documentary hypothesis and "Who Wrote the Bible" in particular. He makes no arguments, just says the DH has "more holes in it than a block of swiss cheese." That's "dealing" with an issue?

Also, you cite "discussions of Evolution, archeology, other cultures etc." but again, the discussion is tainted because they filter out intelligent commentary.

As for Mencken- he administers the whole site and he has refused to publish a post I wrote in response to another rabbi's post.

11/16/2005 7:05 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Anonymousette, not sure what you mean when you say MO, since CC is decidedly MO rather than chareidi in that they at least acknowledge there is actually a thing called the Documentary Hypothesis. The only problem is that they descend into intellectual thuggery from there.

11/16/2005 7:07 PM  
Anonymous Holy Hyrax said...

wait a minute, there were two posts I believe on the issue of ID in schools. The comments went on to discuss evolution. I totally disagree with all his points, but you can't say they don't discuss it. The comparrison were between UOY and CC. CC brings up discussions on our relationships with the christians and such. An UOY would never bring about these discussions openly. They would say they are all kofers and for you to shut up, quit asking those kinds of questions and resume your study.

11/16/2005 7:21 PM  
Blogger Anonymousette said...

BTA- i simply meant in the way they censored the comments on the website. that was all. I didn't mean for all of this misinterpretation. It was kind of a joke...

11/16/2005 7:34 PM  
Blogger Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

Maybe if BTA eases up on the GH style derision (not just mockery) and sticks strictly to the point, then serious blogs might start taking him as more than just another OTDer with an axe to grind.

11/16/2005 8:25 PM  
Blogger chardal said...

Hyrax, that's just not true. "Deals" with issues? They don't deal with issues that's the point- they have the issue in the title and then dismiss it. Look at how Rav Adlerstein did a post about the documentary hypothesis and "Who Wrote the Bible" in particular. He makes no arguments, just says the DH has "more holes in it than a block of Swiss cheese." That's "dealing" with an issue?

Rav Adlerstein was linking to a post on Gil's site that deals with the DH claims regarding Parshat Noach. What did you want him to do? cut and paste what was already written? DH does have more holes than Swiss cheese in it. He can't make such an assertion? I have had MANY posts rejected by Menken (and I am still fighting him on one of them) but I think your reaction is a little overboard. It is his site and he has the right to control the content. He just has a different red line than you do.

If someone wanted to post a long respectful non-profane comment on your site denying the historicity of the Holocaust, would you tolerate it? I hope not. You just have to realize that Menken has a different red line than you.

11/16/2005 9:02 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

Maybe next we will be asking to boycott Dovbear for his skewed politics and his name calling of people he does not agree with.

Heh. :)

11/16/2005 9:11 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

I actually don't read CC, never even been there (I think), but it's his blog, let him do as he wants. Just don't turn this (so far) excellent blog into a bitter anti-kiruv rabbis blog.

11/16/2005 9:12 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Chardal: "If someone wanted to post a long respectful non-profane comment on your site denying the historicity of the Holocaust, would you tolerate it?"

reductio ad absurdum won't get you too far in this discussion.

My site does not purport to discuss various viewpoints of the holocaust, but CC *does* focus on Doc Hypo and evolution, etc. Terrible analogy there.

And- there you go again, just like Rav A just stating a conclusion that it is full of holes.

You know, it's funny, the DH is full of holes, yet they constantly bring it up and Mencken has a (ridiculous) discussion of it in his book.

You don't find it interesting that God stops being referred to elohim after exodus 3:6?

Or that YHVH and elohim are used the way they are in the torah? Or the references to Moses being the humblest of men and that there never arose a prophet like moses ever again, even though he was supposedly writing the book down?

The apologetics answers for this are full of ... holes, not the DH.

11/16/2005 10:10 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"Rav Adlerstein was linking to a post on Gil's site "

Not very scholarly. Especially since Gil himself laid no claim to "shooting the DH full of holes"!

This is what Gil says:

"There is much more to be said on this subject. What I have pointed out should not be taken as a disproof of the reduction of the flood narratives into separate narratives. What it does is challenge the simple hypothesis originally presented by source critics."

In other words, what it *doesn't do* is refute what's been written about the DH since 1987 (the year of Wenham's "Word Biblical Commentary" that Gil's addressing. He doesn't touch Richard Friedman's Who Wrote the Bible with a ten foot pole.

Btw, I think Gil believes the DH after reading his 3 articles. I wonder if R. Adlerstein even read them through.

Gil's kashas are pretty tepid, and he has answers in them from Rambam!

11/16/2005 10:19 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

fkm, when you say: "then serious blogs might start taking him as more than just another OTDer with an axe to grind," you make the strange assumption that I care what you or anyone thinks of the blog.

If I were in this to conform or get a pat on the head, I'd do what you do- deny my true feelings and devote my time to chastising those who allow me to live out my skepticism vicariously through them.

There have got to be 100 other blogs you can go to. Help yourself.

11/16/2005 10:24 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

FKM- in fairness, I realized the post ended with: "What say you, blogosphere? Am I totally off?"

That's been deleted.

11/16/2005 10:26 PM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

I like this post. It has a lot of spunk. It did remind me of GH's style.

a few points. You wrote:


Or that YHVH and elohim are used the way they are in the torah? Or the references to Moses being the humblest of men and that there never arose a prophet like moses ever again, even though he was supposedly writing the book down?

The apologetics answers for this are full of ... holes, not the DH.


I have not studied DH in depth yet, but I think you are making a mistake in assuming that the two choices are DH or Moses wrote the 5 books. You can be of the opinion that Moses didn't write it and still think DH is "full of holes". The theory that Moses didn't write the 5 books was first explicitly stated by Spinoza in 1670 (Ibn Ezra alluded to it earlier). This was way before the DH theory was invented. DH tries to go further and narrow it down to say which parts were written by which authors. This is much more speculative and prone to errors, especially since we have no actual hard evidence to prove it.

11/16/2005 10:52 PM  
Blogger Rebeljew said...

BTA
Hayim asks if the kiruv pros even realize how disingenuous they are. I think FKM is an argument for "NO". In my kiruv days, I would have taken offense at that as well. A mind is a terrible thing ...

11/16/2005 11:19 PM  
Blogger happywithhislot said...

BTA wrote
"Or the references to Moses being the humblest of men and that there never arose a prophet like moses ever again, even though he was supposedly writing the book down?"

Is it possible He wrote it down sort of like a stenographer at court. is this one of the weak apologetic?

11/16/2005 11:19 PM  
Anonymous Holy Hyrax said...

I think you should ask Gil himself if he believes in DH or not. From what I have read of his, it does not seem likly, though he has brought up that the book of Genesis may have been in the hands of the Israelites from the beginning and God merely used what the Israelites new.

BTA, DH is not proven, yet you act as if its hard physics that has been proven once and for all. DH does contain holes in it. AddeRabbi has a great post on the matter. B. Spinoza is right, you are more looking at this issue through black and white lenses. There is no hard evidence for any of it and the correct answer to this mystery of the Torah might lie somewhere in the middle with future men(prophets?) perhaps adding to it. I have read freidmans book and alot of it is wide assertions into what he thinks went on during the break-up of the united kingdom. Read Halivni, read Sarna, read Cassuto. There are alot of scholars out there just as smart as Friedman that that don't think crap of DH.If you are coming into this game that there is no God (which you are) than obviously DH is the most satisfying answer.

With that said, bringing this whole topic of DH and how Menken sucks at it, it makes it seem like your whole querrel with him is cause you feel like hes an idiot. So is it that, or is it only the censorship?

By the way, you want a good book by Friedman? Read "The hidden face of God," in my opinion he makes more of a case for Judaism than he realizes it.

11/16/2005 11:39 PM  
Anonymous Holy Hyrax said...

Is it possible He wrote it down sort of like a stenographer at court. is this one of the weak apologetic?

I would say its weak, it definetly sounds like someone else is writing it at a future date describing Moses

11/16/2005 11:41 PM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

>If you are coming into this game that there is no God (which you are) than obviously DH is the most satisfying answer.

I disagree with that statement. DH seems to speculative for my taste

11/16/2005 11:49 PM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

I think Spinoza in his Theolgico-Political Treatise deals with the authorship issue the best that I've seen so far. Even though it was written in 1670, which makes it a little outdated.

11/17/2005 12:08 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

Baruch S- there is certainly speculation. I think the questions asked by the DH and the historical and analytical framework make it plain that the book was authored by man/men. Sure, there might be gaps, but that's why it's called a hypothesis, after all.

I agree it is just one of many suggestions regarding the divine authorship.

Also, thanks for raising the main point that perhaps I've created a false dichotomy. Of course you are correct that there are many possible explanations for how men wrote the torah. Just because we can't name them doesn't refute the evidence.

11/17/2005 3:52 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

"Is it possible He wrote it down sort of like a stenographer at court."

That's absurd, FKM. Why not just write it in one of the subsequent books of the Naviim?

Also, I didn't mention in the post the oldest divine authorship question: "who wrote the part where Moshe dies?" There's a maklokess in the gemara on that one, but they never seem to consider non-divine authorship for some reason. Not so rigorous after all.

11/17/2005 3:55 AM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>By the way, you want a good book by Friedman? Read "The hidden face of God," in my opinion he makes more of a case for Judaism than he realizes it.

Friedman is not antagonistic towards Judaism at all--and its clear that he absolutely loves Tanakh.

11/17/2005 9:42 AM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>That's absurd, FKM. Why not just write it in one of the subsequent books of the Naviim?

I'm not sure its absurd at all. Remember, the traditional belief of Mosaic authorship IS that it was written "al pi adonay". Hypothetically, a person can write his own obituary if it is being dictated to him by the one who is writing it.

The DH doesn't rest on one particular piece of evidence, and what some will accept others reject. But any one thing cited in support may or may not be justifiable. For example, in the standard list of anachronisms, some may be some may not be. I think it's convincingly been argued that the Pelishtim of Genesis, for example, were an earlier "colony" than the Philistines of the later books of the Bible. But even if this isn't truly an anachronism that doesn't make the whole DH bunk. But again, each individual piece may or may not be convincing. IMO Moshe could have taken dictation and called himself the most humble of men, if God told him, so to speak, to write it.

11/17/2005 9:47 AM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

>Hypothetically, a person can write his own obituary if it is being dictated to him by the one who is writing it.

The main point is that it's written as if the author lived way after the death of Moses. You have to do super kvetching to hold the opinion that Moses wrote the author. Even holding Joshua was the author is a kvetch. Why would God dictate it like that? Was it in order to test future generations? This sounds like the Gosse way of Torah interpretation?

11/17/2005 11:42 AM  
Anonymous Holy Hyrax said...

Friedman is not antagonistic towards Judaism at all--and its clear that he absolutely loves Tanakh.

Thats absolutely true, but what I meant is that someone can read that book and come out of believing the Torah is divine rather than the hypothesis that he brings to explain that phenomenon that he brings up

11/17/2005 12:07 PM  
Blogger happywithhislot said...

"The main point is that it's written as if the author lived way after the death of Moses."

wouldnt hashem know? and why would it be misleading, maybe its the exact opposite, hashem wants to show you he authored it. You assume since that cant be, You look at the evidence and assume man wrote it, so it must be written later.

BTA wrote the gemera didnt look at all the evidence. But isnt that the point, they assume its divine. Why would they assume that BTA is right? (i am one of those who dont believe chazal were liars, or politicians who tried to trick their people, they actually believed in the torah and hashem.)

11/17/2005 12:58 PM  
Blogger happywithhislot said...

bta,
didnt mean to say you believed that about chazal, i was referring to the israeli mamzer website who does suggest it.

11/17/2005 12:59 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>The main point is that it's written as if the author lived way after the death of Moses.

I know, but many, including Friedman, have focused on the "humbleness" aspect.

>You have to do super kvetching to hold the opinion that Moses was the author.

True, which is why even the Talmud doesn't buy it.

>Even holding Joshua was the author is a kvetch.

I agree, because its arbitrary. If it wasn't M then it may as well have been D or R.

>Why would God dictate it like that? Was it in order to test future generations? This sounds like the Gosse way of Torah interpretation?

I actually disagree with that. Another explanation could be that the Torah intends (excuse my anthropomorphism) that forever the verses talking about Moshe be read as a fact, "and never did there arise...", whether read a week after he dies, a year, a hundred years or three thousand years.

I know that's a kvetch, since at some point in history (namely the 19th and 20th century) most people began to read those verses differently, as though they were written a very, very long time after Moshe.

A possible answer might be that Hashem is less maqpid on us buying the DH then Orthodox Jews think.

11/17/2005 1:03 PM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

>A possible answer might be that Hashem is less maqpid on us buying the DH then Orthodox Jews think.

but that doesn't answer why God would supposedly write it in that manner rather than a more straight forward way. And what's the point in kvetching when even the Talmud brings down the opinion of non-Mosaic authorship?

11/17/2005 5:21 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

exactly right, BS. That would be too Gossean a "test" even for God.

11/17/2005 9:48 PM  
Blogger Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

"but that doesn't answer why God would supposedly write it in that manner rather than a more straight forward way. And what's the point in kvetching when even the Talmud brings down the opinion of non-Mosaic authorship?"

1. Asking why God would write something this way or that way is futile. How can anyone assume to know how it should be written if it were dictated directly from God?
DH starts with the a priori assumption that it was human authorship (God TALKS to PEOPLE? tsk, tsk, how naive.) and takes it apart from there. This elementary point is totally missed by everybody here.
You can't argue that God couldn't have written it because "its not the style that we've come to expect from someone like God". Can you see how absurd that sounds?

2. Of course the Talmud believes in "non-Mosaic authorship". But that's a red herring. It believes in Divine authorship, remember?

11/18/2005 5:06 AM  
Blogger Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

The claim of Divine Authorship for the Torah doesn't come from HOW the Torah is written. No one is claiming that it has a uniquely "divine style" which is what DH is alegedly refuting.
The claim of Divine authorship comes from the assertion that millions of wittnesses claimed to have experienced God communicating information to Moses. That's it.
Debating this historical assertion has nothing to to with DH.

11/18/2005 5:35 AM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>Asking why God would write something this way or that way is futile. How can anyone assume to know how it should be written if it were dictated directly from God?

That may be intellectually true, but if the text is misleading then it is, frankly, a stumbling block.

How can we be expected to believe it was written by a certain date if plainly reading it gives the impression that it was written at a later date?

11/18/2005 9:26 AM  
Blogger Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

You cannot read ANY text in a vacuum. Only the producers of the text can have a definitive opinion on hoe the text should be understood.
Take Shakespeare for an analogy. I think it is simply mistaken to judge Julius Ceasar on its historical merits if it was not written strictly as history. The exact same thing is true with the anachronisms in the Torah. It was simply intended to convey the actual historical events, while relating to the geographic CONTEXT of the Jews living at Sinai when this text was actually written.
The Torah wasn't written for historians to glean names of cities or inhabitants of the places in the "real time" of the events being recorded.
It was written to give the recipients of the Torah a grasp of the location of the events (or greatness of people like Moshe) being described.
Again, I'm not saying the events weren't historically true! They certainly were. I'm only saying the frames of reference were geared to the immediate recipients of the text. This understanding actually supports the "hypothesis" that the text of the Torah was fixed at the Sinai period and NOT earlier or later.

11/19/2005 3:15 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

The problem with this view is that in the very ancient world there was no history as such. Reading the chronicles of Sennacherib isn't much different than reading the same account in Tanakh. Neither were intended as "history" in the sense it has today. So what's the difference? You can't read anything from that time and place as if its a history book--but they all contain much history.

In fact, if anything scholars sense more of a historical conscious in Tanakh than in other literatures of the ancient Near East. It isn't for nothing that one of the innovations of Judaism (fine, Israelism) is considered the linear progression of history.

11/21/2005 8:31 AM  
Blogger Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

I think you are digressing from the discussion. You said:
"...if the text is misleading then it is, frankly, a stumbling block.

How can we be expected to believe it was written by a certain date if plainly reading it gives the impression that it was written at a later date?"

But do you agree that many of the anachronisms in the Torah dissolve once you posit that the text was wriiten at Sinai for the Jews living then? This explains why all the frames of reference are placed much later than the actual events described in Bereishis.
Also, there is nothing misleading about God wanting the Jewish people in the desert to be aware of Moshe's greatness. It's only misleading if you assume Moshe was authoring the Torah himself and ignore the Torah's own claim of Divine Authorship.
That's creating an artificial problem.
The skeptic is misleading himself with his assumptions.

11/22/2005 8:29 AM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>But do you agree that many of the anachronisms in the Torah dissolve once you posit that the text was wriiten at Sinai for the Jews living then? This explains why all the frames of reference are placed much later than the actual events described in Bereishis.

On the contrary, many of the anachronisms are anachronisms precisely because they are out of place in that context. I'm not talking about something like saying Avraham was at Bet El (so named by Ya'akov), because it was called Bet El at the time of the Midbar. But other anachronisms, such as the references to the names of places which were not yet so named at the time of the Midbar. Or the plain meaning of "ad ha-yom ha-zeh", which in any other context would seem to have been written much later.

>Also, there is nothing misleading about God wanting the Jewish people in the desert to be aware of Moshe's greatness.

I agree. I think the "obituary" of Moshe isn't really a problem. However, as you know, according to a Talmudic opinion Moshe didn't write it anyway.

>It's only misleading if you assume Moshe was authoring the Torah himself and ignore the Torah's own claim of Divine Authorship. That's creating an artificial problem.The skeptic is misleading himself with his assumptions.

I hear what you're saying (not about Moshe, since I don't think that's a problem as I mentioned above). But why should one approach it as a divine text in the first place?

Again, my "problem" is that it seems like the text is a stumbling block insofar as a plain reading of it--yes, this is where you break in with "Torah she-be-al peh--misleads. If it was supposed to have been written by Moshe, why doesn't it seem like it?

11/22/2005 11:05 AM  
Blogger Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

"But why should one approach it as a divine text in the first place?"

Maybe because this is how is was universally regarded from 3,300 years ago until 200 years ago?
Imagine all of the sudden, Shakespeare would be regarded by the entire academic world as a strictly historical and therefore inaccurate work full of obvious errors work. Would you follow suit?

11/23/2005 1:28 AM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>Maybe because this is how is was universally regarded from 3,300 years ago until 200 years ago?

In what way was it universally regarded? For nearly a thousand years only Jews regarded it as a divine text (assuming you accept the tradtional dating--the Torah doesn't come with a date). Christians obviously regard it as a divine text (but on their own terms) and Muslims pay theoretical lip service to a Torah and Tehillim (but not the rest) that is not ours (since they believe it was tampered with) which is a divine text. And, of course, half the world ad hayom hazeh doesn't regard it as a divine text, even if you can find roundabout ways of showing that they do (e.g., Buddhist believe that Jesus was a buddha, some Hindus regard him as a deity--to the extent that Jesus regarded the Torah as divine one can make the weak claim that Buddhist and Hindus regard the Torah as a divine text).

(By the way, I'm playing devil's advocate. I regard the Torah as a divine text, but frankly, I don't understand why one is to be expected to do so, especially if one is not of those for whom it is a morasha of theirs.)

>Imagine all of the sudden, Shakespeare would be regarded by the entire academic world as a strictly historical and therefore inaccurate work full of obvious errors work. Would you follow suit?

I suppose if a convincing case was made then I would. It sounds ridiculous now since I can't imagine that a convincing case could be made.

As far as the Torah is concerned, the facts are that in the same way that Rav Aharon Feldman acknowledged that the universe appears very old, and I quote:

"It is quite obvious that the world appears older than 6000 years. One needs only look up to the sky and see stars billions of light years away for evidence of this."

In this same way, apparently, the Torah appears the way it does. Yes, we need Torah she-be-al peh. But one can understand why, at the outset, a person does not see that the Torah is a divine text--or written by Moshe--simply by reading it.

My question earlier was "why". Why does HKBH expect "us" to regard it as 3300 years old and written by Moshe--when it just doesn't seem like it any more than the universe seems 6000 years old.

Why?

11/23/2005 11:36 AM  
Blogger Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

I guess I meant universally accepted by the custodians of the text from day one. (whenever that may be) It really does come down to the existence of an unbroken chain of transmission-- informing us of the intentions of the Author of this text.
Let's use the Shakespeare analogy again:
Imagine William told all his family and friends the following statement before he died: "My works that are set in historical contexts were not written as strictly history but as literature."
And let us say that all of those family and friends faithfully perpetuated this statement from generation to generation without any gap.
Then comes along the academic community and because a lack of controversial topics to write theses on, start to analyze Shakespeare as strictly history. The professors claim that the stories SEEM to be describing actual historical events! They do contain real historical figures don't they? That's evidence enough for them that Shakespeare wrote it as real history! They then proceed to make a living by creating departments in universities and publishing books dedicated to punching large holes in the historical descriptions. All this while the decendants of Shakespeare are crying "foul" at the top of their lungs.
What should the objective observer of this situation choose?
The Academics' theories or Shakespeare's decendants?
I don't see a meaningful difference between this and our situation with DH.

11/23/2005 7:04 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

The trouble with this reasoning is two-fold.

One, if so, we have no taina to non-Jews for approaching the Torah differently than we, including even using literary analysis. It's ours (as far as we are concerned) and only we can understand it. It is therefore pointless to cry foul. Wellhausen looked at Tanakh like we look at stars. We note that they're millions of light years away, he notes that the Torah seems to be pieced together and contains contradictions and anachronisms. How can we fault anyone who is out of the mesora loop for seeing this? To them its obvious. They're not kidding.

Second, there has been more than one way that Jews understood the Torah through the ages. It's true that we can document a period of something like minimally 1500 years and maximally 2000 years or so where "most Jews" seem to have accepted our interpretation of Judaism. But that's actualsly only about half of our history, isn't it? At our earliest record of Jews who believed as we did we know of many other kinds of Jews who believed differently. Forget even about Tzedukim. What about Jews like Philo? He was the pillar of the Alexandrian community, the same Alexandria that the Gemara remembers with nostalgia. He certainly had different views than we or Chazal did. He may have been closer in certain respects than the Tzedukim, but lots and lots of Jews like him co-existed at the earliest time of Chazal. Or take Josephus. I heard R. Avigdor Miller essentially call him a liar for saying that there were only 6000 Pharisees and that it was "one of four [main] philosophies". And yet, Josephus was there, he was calling it how he perceived it. AND--he was basically Pharisaic himself, or at least he said so. And also, it's painfully hard to discover oral Torah as we know it in the text of Tanakh. Yes, there are hints. Hints.

In other words, ultimately the mesorah is faith-based (and maybe that's what its supposed to be, emunah, trusting our parents and rabbeim who trusted theirs etc). There is really no way of knowing if David Ha-melekh had his soldiers write gittin, is there? We can prove that Jews have believed it for many, many centuries, but how can we bridge the gap of more than a thousand years between him and our earliest written source for that? We can provide many more examples.

BTW, you may think the findings in academia are naturally rejected. But such is not the case. Plenty of important discoveries in all kinds of fields have clarified many things in Tanakh. What's the meaning of a "pim" http://gimmeshelter.blog-city.com/what_the_heck_is_a_pim.htm? We only know through archaeology. At the very least a lot of the findings in academia have uncovered patterns and themes that we've missed. More than a few perfectly ehrliche rabbanim with impeccable yirat shamayim believe this and use some of these findings in their own harbatzas Torah. So you can't just say "they have no shaychas, ignore them". Often they're wrong, and if they are we shouldn't be afraid to say so. But not always.

11/23/2005 10:07 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Wow- Mississippi Fred- a great couple of comments- masterful and circumspect.

FKM- good questions. I have nothing to add to your dialogue accept thanks.

11/23/2005 11:49 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"except" thanks, that is.

11/23/2005 11:49 PM  
Blogger Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

To BTA:
I acknowledge the good graces of a host whom I consider a a bitter adversary.

To MFM:
You said: "ultimately the mesorah is faith-based (and maybe that's what its supposed to be, emunah, trusting our parents and rabbeim who trusted theirs etc). There is really no way of knowing if David Ha-melekh had his soldiers write gittin, is there? We can prove that Jews have believed it for many, many centuries, but how can we bridge the gap of more than a thousand years between him and our earliest written source for that?"

There is one solid piece of evidence that you overlooked. The Jewish People are very VERY good at preserving traditions. This is fact. Granted, some of it gets lost, snd some gets added. But if I could so easily recognize and identify with the Judaism of the Pharisees of 2,000 ago, what REASON do I have to doubt that the Pharasees couldn't have GENUINELY recognized and identified just as strongly with the Judaism of the biblical Israelites? The Talmud's detailed records of the Takkanos and Gezeiros of biblical figures such as Moshe, Dovid and Shlomo HaMelech clearly shows that they did indeed indentify with them. We've managed to faithfully preserve Pharesee Judaism; it logically follows that they were also preserving Israelite Judaism.
Why do we always need outside historical verification in order to accept a truth about Jewish history already coming from a reliable source?
Why does it have to be academically respectable enough for "them" to accept before we can accept it ourselves?
It is simple cultural and religious insecurity. (This happens to be the entire theme of my critique against Slifkin as well.)
And I don't buy the argument that the upheavals of Temple destructions and exiles must have forced a sea change from biblical to Rabbinic Judaism. Rav Hirsch in Collected Writtings Vol 5 laid that canard to rest long ago.
I can't imagine any upheaval greater than the social and political unheavals of the past 2 centuries. And nevertheless, here we are- stubborn Rabbinic Jews-, and we're not exactly on the decline anymore either.

My bottom line is that the JEWISH skeptic has the burden of proof to bring positive evidence that the Torah was actually understood and practiced on face value-- in the absence of any oral tradition that qualified it and modified it FROM THE VERY BEGINING.
I'll grant you that the non-Jew hasn't got the incentive to research a foreign heritage, so he can't be blamed for his ignorance. But this is all the more reason NOT to look toward secular academia to create the STANDARDS of historical accuracy. They can present evidence and the like, but we have to evaluate it OURSELVES given what we already know from our reliable sources.

11/24/2005 6:14 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>There is one solid piece of evidence that you overlooked. The Jewish People are very VERY good at preserving traditions. This is fact. Granted, some of it gets lost, snd some gets added.

They're also very good at forgetting. In fact, the reason why there are so many obscure concepts in the Gemara is because many things there were idiomatic and intelligible in 6th century Bavel were forgotten. How many times do we come across a Gemara that describes a cultural practice that we can't quite put our finger on?

What about the semi-Hellenic Jewish diaspora culture which was all but forgotten?

Heck, for all our closeness to Jewish Europe, how many aspects of that culture have been forgotten? Witness the struggle between those who advocate Artscroll-style histories and those who believe the reality of our own parents or grandparents culture is being distorted. Do you think the average American Orthodox Jew who considers themselves the heirs of eastern European Orthodoxy knows that in eastern Europe the word "frum" generally was used in an ironic sense? To say someone was observant they said "ehrliche". "Frum" wasn't a compliment. Sure, this is a detail, but the point is that even things that are close to us become forgotten--especially when these things are oral culture.

>But if I could so easily recognize and identify with the Judaism of the Pharisees of 2,000 ago, what REASON do I have to doubt that the Pharasees couldn't have GENUINELY recognized and identified just as strongly with the Judaism of the biblical Israelites?

Two things. One, there are great differences as well as similarities. Secondly,there is NO ONE who thinks that Chazal made up "rabbinic Judaism" in the 1st century. Of course it was an organic growrth from what proceeded it. But try to prove that Tzedukism wasn't also, or Essenism. Try to prove it using the only Jewish texts we have from the Biblical and immediate post-Biblical period, Tanakh and books of the Apocrypha. Yes, we can show that "rabbinic Judaism" wasn't an unnatural outgrowth, but we can't show that the others weren't either.

>The Talmud's detailed records of the Takkanos and Gezeiros of biblical figures such as Moshe, Dovid and Shlomo HaMelech clearly shows that they did indeed identify with them.

The Talmud treats them as if they were rabbinic figures. Well, not Moshe, who couldn't follow a shiur of R. Akiva. Of course the latter identified with the earlier. They were the heirs of Biblical Judaism, just as we identify with, say, R. Yose Ha-glili who ate milk with poultry.


>We've managed to faithfully preserve Pharesee Judaism; it logically follows that they were also preserving Israelite Judaism.

It only follows that they evolved from Biblical Judaism, which they did, not that the two were essentially identical.

>Why do we always need outside historical verification in order to accept a truth about Jewish history already coming from a reliable source?

We don't. But neither can one be intellectually honest and simply dismiss modes of scholarship that are successful in other areas. Like I said in my earlier post, these modes of scholarship have produced a lot of truth in Biblical scholarship, clarifying the meaning of obscure words, putting customs into historical context. This isn't maskilische nonsense either. As you must known the Rambam, in Moreh Nevuchim, considered the manuals of the ancient Sabean pagans to be relevent in putting certain chokim in the Torah in context. Things like yibum, for example, are contextually ancient Near Eastern. You can't just dismiss these findings wholesale, because its been proven to have worth, although neither does that mean that ALL of it is not conjectural or good scholarship. En hachi nami, I agree with you that modern scholarship doesn't own the Torah. But neither is it irrelevent.


>Why does it have to be academically respectable enough for "them" to accept before we can accept it ourselves?

It doesn't. Believe me, I'm going to be davening mincha this afternoon and making kiddush tonight. But, of course, I'm already "in". Looking at it from an outsider perspective, why should anyone just dismiss scholarship when scholarship has proven records of success in fields which we acknowledge?

>It is simple cultural and religious insecurity. (This happens to be the entire theme of my critique against Slifkin as well.)

Maskim. This is one of the challenges of modernity. You can dismiss it, or you can notice that 90% of the Jewish people have either themselves succumbed or are descendents of those who have succumbed to the challenges modernity poses to traditional Judaism. It isn't so easy to dismiss them, or else we'd all be making kiddush tonight.


>And I don't buy the argument that the upheavals of Temple destructions and exiles must have forced a sea change from biblical to Rabbinic Judaism. Rav Hirsch in Collected Writtings Vol 5 laid that canard to rest long ago.

Is it a canard? What about R. Zadok Ha-kohen who makes the case that there was a sea change with regard to the flowering of Torah she-be-al peh after the end of the Nevi'im? R. Zadok writes that kol zman there were Nevi'im we would, literally, have "ne'um Hashem", we would know and be told what to do. In that environment--which had its advantage--Torah she-be-al peh could not flourish. It is only with the uncertainty of swimming without a life jacket, without Nevi'im, that the flourishing of TSHBP could take place. And if you think this is off, try this on for size: what does our tradition say "kimmu ve-kiblu" means?


>I can't imagine any upheaval greater than the social and political unheavals of the past 2 centuries. And nevertheless, here we are- stubborn Rabbinic Jews-, and we're not exactly on the decline anymore either.

We're a minority in case you hadn't noticed. And objective (and frum) social observers have noticed acute differences in pre-war and post-war Orthodox Judaism. That doesn't mean that we've got a new religion, but there are loads of differences, and this when we're far, far more self-conscious of change than our ancestors could have been more than 2000 years ago. And, of course, the Gemara lists occasions when the Torah was "forgotten" and, says the Gemara, restored--look at Succah 20a.

>My bottom line is that the JEWISH skeptic has the burden of proof to bring positive evidence that the Torah was actually understood and practiced on face value-- in the absence of any oral tradition that qualified it and modified it FROM THE VERY BEGINING.

He has the burden of proof if he is trying to cause apostacy and abandonment of tradition. I assume you consider me a skeptic, but I'm not trying to do anything but convince myself. Can you help me? Seriously. It isn't enough to say "it isn't proven". The facts are that the traditional view of everything doesn't hold as much water as it did when I was 10 (or 20).

And it is obvious that at least in one area, the area of the nature of midrash aggadah, that the traditional view is completely and totally off course. Simply put, we have two competing traditions about aggadah. One is that they are literal and in some way binding. The other is that midrash agggadah is generally nonliteral, non-binding and opinions of the chachamim. These cannot both be true, and in many cases aggadah is concerned with history and metzius.


>I'll grant you that the non-Jew hasn't got the incentive to research a foreign heritage, so he can't be blamed for his ignorance. But this is all the more reason NOT to look toward secular academia to create the STANDARDS of historical accuracy. They can present evidence and the like, but we have to evaluate it OURSELVES given what we already know from our reliable sources.

And yet we cannot ignore it either, because one way or another it must be confronted. And answers like "Josephus was lying" only convinces the intellectually dishonest and/ or those who are afraid of what may happen if they think.

11/25/2005 11:23 AM  
Blogger Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

I'm truly sorry that I gave you the impression that I consider you one iota less commitied to Judaism than I.
I realize you are mostly playing devil's advocate and I failed to mention that recognition.
I also failed to mention our agreement on the contribution of secular academic reserch to understanding long lost technological, social and language norms neccesary for comprehending various aspects of Torah. Didn't I admitt that some was lost?
I also fully acknowledge that there certainly are various powerful religious trends throughout Jewish history that have added particular color and flavor to Traditional Judaism over the centuries. Didn't I admit that some was added?
I do believe that you often mistake a large number of trees for a forest. It seems my qualifications weren't sufficient and I must put each example you raised into proportion in order to vindicate my fundamental point. (pun intended)

You raised:
1)But try to prove that Tzedukism wasn't also, or Essenism. Try to prove it using the only Jewish texts we have from the Biblical and immediate post-Biblical period, Tanakh and books of the Apocrypha. Yes, we can show that "rabbinic Judaism" wasn't an unnatural outgrowth, but we can't show that the others weren't either."

I think that we can merely note their late origins relative to Rabbinic Judaism adding the fact that they did not even claim (to my knowledge) to have an unbroken tradition going back to Sinai of their unique departure from the contemporary establishment (when they started). This reason enough to dismiss the claim to be an organic outgrowth of Judaism.

2)Looking at it from an outsider perspective, why should anyone just dismiss scholarship when scholarship has proven records of success in fields which we acknowledge?"

I refer you back to the Shakespeare analogy. Again, I grant you that the non-Jew has no such grounds for taking our heritage into account. But see my circumcision example below that even a non-Jew would admit to.

3)You can dismiss it, or you can notice that 90% of the Jewish people have either themselves succumbed or are descendents of those who have succumbed to the challenges modernity poses to traditional Judaism. It isn't so easy to dismiss them, or else we'd all be making kiddush tonight."

Of course I not dismissing them. What do you think I'm doing in this God-forsaken blogsphere if I were to simply dismiss them?
I'm here to give some voice to the notion that being a JEWISH skeptic is unreasonable because they always insist on academicaly approved standards of proof and sources of evidence. These limited standards and sources are simply not binding on the discussion of a rational belief in Traditional Judaism. And I think you agree.

4) The rest of your response: R. Zadok and the 'flowering' of TSBP (key word -not "invention" as the Historical positivists would have us believe- which is the canard that I was addressing); differences between pre- and post-war Orthodoxy; nature of midrash aggadah;
All this fits into the rubric "various strong colors and flavors added to TJ over the centuries". Of course many like yourself would like to turn back the clock on some of these developments, but they are side issues in the overall picture.
As you pointed out, NONE of these examples individually or collectivey constitue a FUNDAMENTAL revision of the original Judaism that Orthodoxy claims to have been observed since Sinai. This is my entire point. And if you don't disagree with it then why continue to argue?
(Your seemingly scandalous reference to Succah 20a is easily refutable when you notice that the ones doing the restoration are all 'rising' from Babylon to Israel-ostensibly to provide a more complete tradition that was better preserved in Babylon since First Temple times: "When the Torah was forgotten FROM ISRAEL (read: location!), Ezra 'rose' from Bavel and restored it.. Hillel the Bavlean 'rose' and restored it... Rabi Chiyyah and sons 'rose' and restored it.
The fact that certain Jews in certain locations did forget certain parts of the tradition is again mistaking the trees for a forest.)
The remarkability of this phenomenon of preservation needs to be emphsized and brought to bear against the skeptics as evidence to the authenticity of Traditional Judaism's understanding of the Bible. They cannot be taken seriously when they wave away the various Chazal that interpret problematic verses in the Torah as a "kvetch".

To give a very clear example:
The entire Torah does not specify which organ in the human body requires ritual circumcision.
Now I know you may think i'ts an obvious matter, but I will show you that if I were reading the Torah in an absolute vacuum as the DH people claim to be doing, it would seem that the most likely place for circumcision would be on the membrane surrounding the HEART. Why?
Simply because this is the only organ that is explicitly specified as being subject to circumcision in the Torah! See Deuteronomy 10:16 "And you shal circumcise the 'ORLAH' of your heart." And I looked it up in the concordance: ALL other references to circumcision are generalized as simply "flesh" (Basar). Yechezkel even refers to God removing hearts of stone and replacing them with hearts of flesh (basar). So "flesh" cannot be excluding hearts at all.
In short, pure texual analysis points clearly to some kind of (partial?) removal of the membrane of the heart as biblical circumcision.
But no one takes this theory seriously (I hope)- not even the most skeptic. But why not? Why do 'Rabbinic Jews' do otherwise? Is this just another example of some radical innovation ('midrashicly' attributed retroactivly to Avraham of course) to make circumcision easier? I think we can all agree that this would be absurd.
This is a case where the textual evidence points misleadingly in one direction but can be totally rejected on the grounds of pure tradition.
My point is that this principle of tradition trumping text applies equally to all of Traditional Judaism across the board. It's as rational as circumcising the male saxual organ as opposed to the membrane of the heart. (The rationality of circumcision in the first place is a totaly seperate discussion;)

11/26/2005 6:31 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>I'm truly sorry that I gave you the impression that I consider you one iota less commitied to Judaism than I.
I realize you are mostly playing devil's advocate and I failed to mention that recognition.
I also failed to mention our agreement on the contribution of secular academic reserch to understanding long lost technological, social and language norms neccesary for comprehending various aspects of Torah. Didn't I admitt that some was lost?
I also fully acknowledge that there certainly are various powerful religious trends throughout Jewish history that have added particular color and flavor to Traditional Judaism over the centuries. Didn't I admit that some was added?
I do believe that you often mistake a large number of trees for a forest. It seems my qualifications weren't sufficient and I must put each example you raised into proportion in order to vindicate my fundamental point. (pun intended)

Thank you for your kind words and your admission to points I raised, although I think you admit them more for tactical reasons than anything else since although you agree to them in theory (e.g., the utility of academia) I suspect you'd never agree to it in principle (e.g., my earlier example of the meaning of the Hebrew word "pim" which was simply lost but recovered through archaeology).

It may be that sometimes I miss the forest for the trees (or the reverse) and I welcome any well argued disagreements. All in all, we come through with our views stronger when challenged and refined by debate.

>You raised:
1)But try to prove that Tzedukism wasn't also, or Essenism. Try to prove it using the only Jewish texts we have from the Biblical and immediate post-Biblical period, Tanakh and books of the Apocrypha. Yes, we can show that "rabbinic Judaism" wasn't an unnatural outgrowth, but we can't show that the others weren't either."

>I think that we can merely note their late origins relative to Rabbinic Judaism adding the fact that they did not even claim (to my knowledge) to have an unbroken tradition going back to Sinai of their unique departure from the contemporary establishment (when they started). This reason enough to dismiss the claim to be an organic outgrowth of Judaism.

I think you probably realize that the Tzedukim and Essenes and other groups most certainly did not consider themselves to have been johnny-come-latelys. The trouble with them is that most of what we know about them comes from the writings of their opponents (e.g., Chazal), although not all of it. We do have presumably Essene documents in the Dead Sea Scrolls (or perhaps they were separatist Tzedukim, as according to Prof. Lawrence Schiffman). Needless to say, the Essenes considered themselves authentic and the rest the deviants. And the Samaritans to this day believe they are descended from people who stood at Har Sinai. What about their traditions?

>2)Looking at it from an outsider perspective, why should anyone just dismiss scholarship when scholarship has proven records of success in fields which we acknowledge?"

>I refer you back to the Shakespeare analogy. Again, I grant you that the non-Jew has no such grounds for taking our heritage into account. But see my circumcision example below that even a non-Jew would admit to.

Like I said, if a convincing case could be made for Shakespeare then it would make sense to believe it. It just so happens that in discussing it neither of us can forget that it would be an absurd conclusion that its history so we can't easily put that aside while discussing it. In any case, the Shakespeare example is not parallel to our Torah and traditions, it is the reverse of it, that is to say, a nonhistorical source (Shakespeare) that uppity scholars claim to be historical as opposed to an historical source (Torah) which uppity scholars claimed to be ahistorical.

And, of course, it isn't the case that scholars have en masse debunked the historicity of the Torah. There are different approaches. At most, all scholars (or most, I guess) have concluded that the Torah as we have it was written later than 3300 years ago. But it need s to be remembered that this isn't at odds with anything the Torah says. The Torah doesn't date itself. Also, on a thread at GH you're currently claiming that the Torah isn't a science book, which excuses the inaccurate reference to pi (I happen to agree that it isn't a science book and am similarly untroubled by an inexact number for pi). Why then do you maintain it is a history book?

>3)You can dismiss it, or you can notice that 90% of the Jewish people have either themselves succumbed or are descendents of those who have succumbed to the challenges modernity poses to traditional Judaism. It isn't so easy to dismiss them, or else we'd all be making kiddush tonight."

>Of course I not dismissing them. What do you think I'm doing in this God-forsaken blogsphere if I were to simply dismiss them?
I'm here to give some voice to the notion that being a JEWISH skeptic is unreasonable because they always insist on academicaly approved standards of proof and sources of evidence. These limited standards and sources are simply not binding on the discussion of a rational belief in Traditional Judaism. And I think you agree.

I agree to an extent. But I also have to remind you (and myself) that if so then it is unfair and ultimately a waste of time to try to reconcile Torah with modernity (let alone science). If so, then it explains why possibly 90% of Jews aren't shomer Torah and there is no indication that this will change. If the Torah can't withstand various kinds of intellectual rigors then, Houston, we've got a problem.

>4) The rest of your response: R. Zadok and the 'flowering' of TSBP (key word -not "invention" as the Historical positivists would have us believe- which is the canard that I was addressing); differences between pre- and post-war Orthodoxy; nature of midrash aggadah;

>All this fits into the rubric "various strong colors and flavors added to TJ over the centuries". Of course many like yourself would like to turn back the clock on some of these developments, but they are side issues in the overall picture.
As you pointed out, NONE of these examples individually or collectivey constitue a FUNDAMENTAL revision of the original Judaism that Orthodoxy claims to have been observed since Sinai. This is my entire point. And if you don't disagree with it then why continue to argue?

I do agree. But the point is that the maximalist TSHBP position is both disputed in the traditional sources and unconvincing for, evidently, many if not most people. Yet, it is the maximalist position that the center and mainstream of Orthodoxy today not only teaches but seems to require. It is this sacred cow that N. Slifkin upset.

>(Your seemingly scandalous reference to Succah 20a is easily refutable when you notice that the ones doing the restoration are all 'rising' from Babylon to Israel-ostensibly to provide a more complete tradition that was better preserved in Babylon since First Temple times: "When the Torah was forgotten FROM ISRAEL (read: location!), Ezra 'rose' from Bavel and restored it.. Hillel the Bavlean 'rose' and restored it... Rabi Chiyyah and sons 'rose' and restored it.
The fact that certain Jews in certain locations did forget certain parts of the tradition is again mistaking the trees for a forest.)

I didn't mean it to sound like I'm scandalized, but remember that this is one of more than one isolated statement. There are a large number of traditional statements found in the Talmuds, midrashim, geonim, rishonim and aharonim ad hayom hazeh which give lie to the maximalist claims I mentioned earlier. FWIW, I acknowledge that your intepretation of the Gemara is plausible, but I disagree because it doesn't say "Eretz Yisrael", it says "Yisrael". Normally the Gemara distinguishes between Israel the place and Israel the people.

>The remarkability of this phenomenon of preservation needs to be emphsized and brought to bear against the skeptics as evidence to the authenticity of Traditional Judaism's understanding of the Bible. They cannot be taken seriously when they wave away the various Chazal that interpret problematic verses in the Torah as a "kvetch".

Sometimes these arguments are lame, sometimes they aren't.

>To give a very clear example:
The entire Torah does not specify which organ in the human body requires ritual circumcision.
Now I know you may think i'ts an obvious matter, but I will show you that if I were reading the Torah in an absolute vacuum as the DH people claim to be doing, it would seem that the most likely place for circumcision would be on the membrane surrounding the HEART. Why?
Simply because this is the only organ that is explicitly specified as being subject to circumcision in the Torah! See Deuteronomy 10:16 "And you shal circumcise the 'ORLAH' of your heart." And I looked it up in the concordance: ALL other references to circumcision are generalized as simply "flesh" (Basar). Yechezkel even refers to God removing hearts of stone and replacing them with hearts of flesh (basar). So "flesh" cannot be excluding hearts at all.
In short, pure texual analysis points clearly to some kind of (partial?) removal of the membrane of the heart as biblical circumcision.
But no one takes this theory seriously (I hope)- not even the most skeptic. But why not? Why do 'Rabbinic Jews' do otherwise? Is this just another example of some radical innovation ('midrashicly' attributed retroactivly to Avraham of course) to make circumcision easier? I think we can all agree that this would be absurd.
This is a case where the textual evidence points misleadingly in one direction but can be totally rejected on the grounds of pure tradition.
My point is that this principle of tradition trumping text applies equally to all of Traditional Judaism across the board. It's as rational as circumcising the male saxual organ as opposed to the membrane of the heart. (The rationality of circumcision in the first place is a totaly seperate discussion;)

I get your point, I really do. But putting aside the fact that circumcision was not unknown in the ancient Near East and that any slicing around a physical heart would have meant death thousands of years ago, these kinds of arguments validate the belief that Judaism didn't begin yesterday and that much of it wasn't invented but were authentic traditions. No one denies that (or no one serious denies that). The issue is whether the fact that genital circumcision is an ancient tradition (or if shechita is an ancient tradition) means that there isn't grounds to question just how antique other aspects of the tradition are.

11/28/2005 2:52 PM  
Blogger Frum Singles said...

I have a great Shidduch for you!


This happens to me all the time. Someone will come over to me and "red" me "great" "attractive" girl etc. I think you get the drift. When I ask if (s)he has seen the girl (or a picture of her) the inevitible response is no.

Now frankly, this is arguably chutzpa and at a minimum a total lack of consideration. Basically, what I am being asked is to gamble my emotions, energy, time (and some money) so that this person may be a "winner" and be able to say that (s)he made a shiduch (and then get a brokerage fee a/k/a "shadchanuus") to boot.

If you you don't know how to cook, you don't belong in the kitchen. If you're not a doctor, you shouldn't have a medical office. If you're not a lawyer, you shouldn't hang out a shingle. AND IF YOU ARE NOT A SHADCHAN, DON"T ACT AS ONE !!!!

12/11/2005 9:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey isn't R. Menken in trouble for sexual misconduct? Not sure if he is in prison now or will be.

Mendy

http://www.theawarenesscenter.org/Menken_Yaakov.html

12/25/2005 3:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry look at this one.

http://www.lukeford.net/profiles/profiles/yaakov_menken.htm

m

12/25/2005 3:56 AM  

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