Sunday, January 15, 2006

Debunking the Kuzari (?)

{Revised- Summary and Discussion Below}

It seems the Kuzari principle (that revelation at Sinai must have happened since so many people claim to have witnessed it and were it a fraud would have been scorned by their peers) keeps hanging around those dusty beis medrashim. And some dusty blogs as well. I have a response to the Kuzari which I haven't heard elsewhere, although I'm sure it's out there somewhere. Here it is:

In Nehamia, 8th Perek, it is clear that the Jews of the second temple era hear the torah for the first time in many many years, and weep because of their sense of loss.

What happens next is amazing: They learn for the first time about Succos! Now, Succos is supposed to be a remembrance of the exodus.

Moreover, it states clearly that Succos had not been observed since the days of Joshua ben Nun! Since he took over from Moshe, and I don't believe Moshe observed Succos, that would mean Succos had never been observed until the days of the second temple! (I could be wrong about Moshe not observing succos, but it wouldn't affect this refutation of the Kuzari, btw).

Now, if they didn't remember the "remembrance", how exactly did they all collectively (from their "bubbes and zaydes") remember the Sinai experience itself?

And another question, seperate and apart from this (and there are lots of opinions that address this question in the gemara and the commentaries, so it is not my main refutation): why didn't the Jews remember *where* Sinai was?! That would seem to be an important place. The aplogetics answer is because God didn't want them to worship the mountain itself. Why, then, do we essentially worship the temple mount and the kotel? Some say the temple mount was sinai. Some say, the location was lost during the initial dispersion. That would be a difficult admission for those zionists who claim continuous Jewish presence in israel since Joshua entered there.


Here is the relevant chapter from Nehamia:



8:13 And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law.

8:14 And they found written in the law which the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month:

8:15 And that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written. [It appears that the purported Oral Law tradition of the Esrog being the "fruit of a beautiful tree" was totally unknown to them!]
8:16 So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim.

8:17 And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness.

8:18 Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according unto the manner.
[It is worth noting that this seven day public reading/refresher course would have been an excellent time to mention there was a so-called "Oral Torah" as well and start studying up on it. Ah well, the Oral Torah isn't mentioned anywhere in the Torah/Tanach, so I guess that shouldn't surprise anyone. And it doesn't make it any less divine, or binding, got it? And the 39 melachas... And tefillin were really worn back then, even though they aren't mentioned here, right? By the way, it's strange that given the supposed importance of wearing tefillin, that after reading the whole Torah, they, including Ezra and Nehamia, all found it far more important to get the lulavim and succos set up rather than make tefillin. I guess that way they could avoid machlokess about whether to wear tefillin during chol moed... :D]

To read the entire chapter 8 and how they wept at hearing the torah for the first time, read from the beginning:

Nehamia 8


Summary and Discussion:

Well, this post started with some heated debate, mostly prompted by my less than obsequious reference to the subject matter. It benefitted much more from S. , Jewish Atheist, and Chardal than from my input. There were other assorted commentators who really added to the discussion, so thank you. (And no, happy- you were not one of them).

So, here's how I would summarize:

1. S. rightly points out that Kuzari as a work is not refuted by this post. It seems to me to be an excellent disproof of Rabbi David Gottlieb's "proof" called the Kuzari Principle. His proof is disproven by this post in a simple fashion: we cannot rely on the testimony as "witnesses to Sinai" of our "bubbes and zaydes" if their bubbes and zaydes (Ezra and his contemporaries) had not observed Succos themselves for a very long time. S. and Chardal made the excellent point that the phrase "since the days of Joshua ben Nun" could have been idiomatic and therefore not an automatic admission that Succos had not been observed since Joshua. However, even they must admit to a broken chain, and thus my disproof of the "Kuzari Principle" still stands.

After all, if a zecher l'tzius mitrayim (a rememberance) was forgotten, then how much more so was the thing being remembered. Think of a string being tied to your finger to make sure you remember something. 40 years later, the string has long fallen off and someone asks you why you had that string on in a photograph. If you say "I have no idea" how likely is it that you'd remember the thing the string was to remind you of?

Even if this doesn't work for you, the Torah itself is a zecher of many things, but especially Sinai. If the scroll had been lost until the time of Josiah, again, the chain of transmission of the Sinai story/event/myth is clearly broken as well. Thus, it is clear that when the Jews prostrate themselves and mourn after hearing the torah read aloud, they are clearly mourning the loss for so many years of their cherished history. They clearly mourn the loss of all the mitzvahs they had not performed and had violated unwittingly. They are absolved of this and told just to be rejoice, but first things first- to observe Succos properly.

2. Nehamia perek 8 is also problematic for the oral law concept, in that the rabbis claimed to have an oral tradition that the esrog was "the fruit of a beautiful tree" mentioned in the Torah. The problem is that Ezra and the rest begin gathering several types of sticks and foliage, half of which are in common with rabbinic tradition, and also olive branches which clearly are not. They also make no mention of an esrog or even any kind of "fruit," whether from a beautiful tree or not! Now some angry commentators tried to snag me by saying Mordechai and Ezra and Nehamia clearly knew the real traditions, just not the people of Jerusalem. However, why then didn't Nehamia, Ezra, or Mordechai say "hey wait a second, folks- there's an oral tradition that goes with this- you don't use olive branches at all, and you need to use an esrog." They didn't say that, because they didn't know differently from what they had just read.

3. My tefillin comment was off the cuff (pun intended) and yet generated intense discussion, most of which was very interesting, and again most of the interesting discussion came not from myself. First, we can all agree that tefillinwere worn for a very long time. We agree that there were several versions (this is all in the gemara). However, I think that tefillin fit in in the following way: tefillin were not universally worn and were subject to a lot of doubt. I will post on this in the future, but see the last comments for my basic take.

191 Comments:

Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Did you get this from my blog, BTA? :)

1/15/2006 2:18 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

I swear I did not! Send me the link. Or put the link here, so people can read yours, too. I've read your blog, even link to it, but I truly can't remember you posting about ezra and the kuzari.

1/15/2006 2:20 PM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Sorry, I didn't mean to come off as accusatory. :)

It's my latest post, about Ezra being the redactor. I didn't mention the Kuzari, but it's clear that the DH blows that argument out of the water anyway. http://jewishatheist.blogspot.com/2006/01/who-wrote-bible.html.

1/15/2006 2:24 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

No, I can see you're not being accusatory. Your post is great.

I posted about Nehamia chapter at in the comments of my first Solomon post at: 1/09/2006 5:19 AM

You commented as well on that post. Do I get a hat tip for the Nehamia reference? ;)

1/15/2006 2:32 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

JA- what a great, substantive post you did!

But mine actually works well with it, since I take on the Kuzari angle.

1/15/2006 2:38 PM  
Anonymous Holy Hyrax said...

This Nehemia passage troubles me too.

1/15/2006 2:54 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Well, only if you hold by the OJ dogmas, otherwise it's a beautiful story. The Jews including Ezra are essential BT's, learning torah with each other and getting back to their roots (and branches). ;)

1/15/2006 3:09 PM  
Anonymous Caleb said...

Obviously Ezra had not forgotten the Jewish heritage. There were undoubtedly other learned Jews that had maintained the traditions, while the majority had fallen away. There have always been Jews who were knowledgable and observant and those who were not. Perhaps Ezra may be credited with spearheading a BT movement.

1/15/2006 3:52 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"Obviously Ezra had not forgotten the Jewish heritage"

You mean because he didn't have writer's block?

1/15/2006 4:01 PM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

I posted about Nehamia chapter at in the comments of my first Solomon post at: 1/09/2006 5:19 AM

You commented as well on that post. Do I get a hat tip for the Nehamia reference? ;)


You know what? Now that I think about it maybe I did start thinking about the Ezra stuff because of your entry. I should have been accusing myself! :) Nice work.

1/15/2006 5:02 PM  
Anonymous Caleb said...

how do you know that Ezra made stuff up out of thin air? That seems to be what you are claiming. The Babylonian exile was only 70 years. There were Jews who remembered the First Temple and some who retained learning and traditions from that era. Other than your sarcasm, do you have anything to support your contention that Ezra created his version of Judaism with no basis in earlier practice or belief?

1/15/2006 5:17 PM  
Blogger chardal said...

Also, according to your reading, why would chazal canonize a text that undermines their claims of an Oral Torah. Remember, the only reason this book is considered Holy is because chazal decided it is.

Basically what you are doing is accepting the authority of chazal to canonize a text while not accepting their right to interpret it in such a way that does not contradict the Oral law. But you can not have it both ways. Either you reject chazal's power to decide matters of faith in which case the text has no more authority than the book of Jubilees or you accept it and their right to canonize it with the caveat of its interpretation being only in a way consistent with oral tradition.

1/15/2006 5:58 PM  
Anonymous Moishe K said...

Why would Ezra have to invent the commandment to dwell in a succah? The commandment is stated clearly in the Chumash. Are you saying Ezra wrote the commandment into the Chumash? Just what ARE you saying, my little friend? You don't seem to have much of a handle on the material.

1/15/2006 7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BTA,

Why is that you respond to laudatory comments lickety-split but substantive questions take so much longer?

1/15/2006 8:19 PM  
Anonymous Appalled said...

Give the guy a break. He's entitled to think.

1/15/2006 8:40 PM  
Blogger happywithhislot said...

BTA
I think i posted this, but couldnt find it.
Did the idea of sukkos come as a surprise to nechemia?
(i dont know the answer)

1/15/2006 9:33 PM  
Anonymous Benjamin said...

Obviously Succos was not a surprise to Nechemia or Ezra. If you read these sefarim, you will see that the people of Israel returned and many wept when they starting buidling the Bais haMikdash again. Metzudas David explains that the posuk referring to Yehoshua bin Nun means that they kept the mitzvah of succos that year in the highest fashion, a Mitzva Min HaMechubar in such a high and wonderful and joyous and elevated and beautiful manner as had not been seen since the days of Yehoshua bin Nun, so excited and elated were they to be back in Eretz Yisrael keeping the Torah.

1/15/2006 9:44 PM  
Anonymous Benjamin said...

Meaning to say they wept with deep emotion...returning to Eretz Yisrael was a powerful experience. Mordecai among other great Jewish luminaries returned. They had not forgotten all of Torah, as BTA seems to think. To the contrary.

1/15/2006 9:45 PM  
Anonymous Elul 53 said...

What in the world does tefillin have to do with this? The question posed by BTA is silly. Ezra and Nechemia recounts the return to Eretz Yisrael by the refugees from Bavel; it is a book suffused with powerful emotions, one of which is the awesome experience of leaving galus and beginning construction of a new Temple. The books do not say that the Jews forgot ALL the Torah. Why would anyone think that?

1/15/2006 10:24 PM  
Blogger happywithhislot said...

My impression is that BTA feels if he posts something, (and it is in an angry enough tone) it must be true.
After all, mis-nagid pointed out a bunch of books to him that proves his point.

Mis-nagid is the rishon of skeptics. (or is that rishonit)?

1/15/2006 10:26 PM  
Blogger Mis-nagid said...

happywithhislot, have you read any of the books I recommended?

1/15/2006 10:48 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Ok, I'm back.

Caleb:

"how do you know that Ezra made stuff up out of thin air?"

I don't think he made it all up out of thin air, but substantial portions. See Jewish Atheist's post which cites Who Wrote the Bible, inter alia.

"The Babylonian exile was only 70 years. There were Jews who remembered the First Temple and some who retained learning and traditions from that era."

Where do you get that from other than talmudic stories written hundreds of years after the fact? I'll admit there is a large measure of speculation on my part, but will you? Also, read the posuk itself- it says *no one* had celebrated Succos since the days of Yehoshua. Not the babylonian exiles only. Haven't you ever thought it strange that every holiday is a zecher of leaving egypt? I know the explanations, but it seems to be a bit of overcompensation. Pesach is one, Succos another, Shavuous, even Shabbos. It's quite possible that Ezra created Succos around the time the 2nd temple was built. After all- it had never been celebrated. And he just "found" the scrolls lying there in the temple.

Anyway, one thing at a time- this post undermines the Kuzari. Please try to refute that Caleb, then we can tackle other subjects.

And everyone keep commenting that the post is sarcastic. Sorry, that's how I react when my intelligence is insulted for several years!

Others might react differently, like praising those who insult them so... whoops, I did it again.

1/15/2006 10:49 PM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Why would Ezra have to invent the commandment to dwell in a succah? The commandment is stated clearly in the Chumash. Are you saying Ezra wrote the commandment into the Chumash?

I'm not BTA, but the common argument goes that the succot laws about the arbah minim come from a different document than the laws about the sacrifices given on the holidays. This document was unknown to Ezra's people until it was either rediscovered or just created anew. Ezra (or someone in his lifetime and with his skills) redacted the documents into what is now known as the Five Books of Moses.

I went into this aspect in detail on my blog.

Obviously Succos was not a surprise to Nechemia or Ezra.

This is not obvious at all. It plainly states that they "found" (vayimtzu) the laws of Succos. In other words, they didn't have them and then they did.

Metzudas David explains that the posuk referring to Yehoshua bin Nun means that they kept the mitzvah of succos that year in the highest fashion...

He can explain all he wants, but this is contrary to the plain meaning of the posuk. How does he justify his explanation?

1/15/2006 10:50 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Chardal,

"Also, according to your reading, why would chazal canonize a text that undermines their claims of an Oral Torah."

That's an obvious, but good kasha. I was surprised you didn't raise it during my two Solomon posts.

Chazzal could also have been said to err in letting in all of tanach, since the whole of tanach is missing any reference to the oral law. Then in the prophets, normative OJ halacha is violated willy-nilly.

But there's another reason why they couldn't just delete a towering historical figure like Ezra (there are records of him going to distant lands trying to get Jewish communities to move to Jerusalem, and most spurned him, even in what later became Rashi's hometown of Worms. Deleting Ezra or Solomon would be just too much. So they deleted the Maccabbees.

One last reason: the Samaritans and Essenes and Sadduccees all had the tanach canonized more or less as we have it now. Ask S. for verification of this. So, it would look pretty bad from that standpoint as well.

"Basically what you are doing is accepting the authority of chazal to canonize a text while not accepting their right to interpret it in such a way that does not contradict the Oral law."

Nice try, but that's not how it works. What I am doing is impeaching chazal with a document that inherently has more gravitas than their own statements. This is no different than their acharonim impeaching each other with statements of tannaim.

And again, the Kuzari is not a work of chazal, is it? I am simply attacking that argument whether it's put forth in the Kuzari or by David Gottlieb, who is rather fond of it. Again, please Chardal, instead of making collateral attacks on the weight given to this or that statement, just address why you feel the Kuzari withstands my disproof of it.

1/15/2006 11:00 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Moishe K:

"Why would Ezra have to invent the commandment to dwell in a succah?"

I don't know, ask him! It's a good question, but not really a kasha. There are evidence-supported arguments for Ezra's partial authorship/redaction of the Torah in "Who Wrote the Bible." Have you read that book?

"Why would Ezra have to invent the commandment to dwell in a succah? The commandment is stated clearly in the Chumash."

Well, again I don't know why, but I think the stage was rather well-set, given that according to the passage: "And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so."

If this hadn't been done since Joshua's time, and Moshe didn't do it, that means it was completely new!

You have no evidence otherwise, and if you did, you'd be outright contradicting a book of Tanach. Take your pick.

"You don't seem to have much of a handle on the material."

You act as though the first time you saw a contradiction in textual analysis/tanach interpretation that was tenuous! Face it, all of the rabbis' interpretations of this book and of Solomon which I posted about previously (note that Rambam claims all of Solomon's 1000 idol worshiping wives "converted) are completely apologetic.

You like to swallow it whole cloth, fine. But try and back it up. After all you stand on the shoulders of giants, and I'm just an am ha'aretz throwing out some common sensical stiras.

So far, the silence is deafening from your side. Not one of you has defended the Kuzari principle in light of the contradiction this post raised.

1/15/2006 11:08 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

NOTICE: NO MORE ANONYMOUS POSTS- THEY WILL BE DELETED, NO MATTER HOW PROFOUND.

1/15/2006 11:09 PM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

why the sudden policy change? just curious

1/15/2006 11:20 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Benjamin:

"If you read these sefarim, you will see that the people of Israel returned and many wept when they starting buidling the Bais haMikdash again."

That is a total distortion of the text! Here is the relevant portion:

"8:9 And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; MOURN NOT, NOR WEEP. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law."

They were mournful and weepy because they had just heard the whole Torah read to them and they realized they had broken most if not all of the mitzvash- aseh and lo aseh.

Your source is made up apologetics, but I commend you for tracking it down or having previously learned it. It doesn't say they were crying until after they'd prostrated themselves and heard Ezra's birchas ha torah and then the reading itself with explanation from the elders and levites. Give me a break that they were weeping from building the temple!

"Metzudas David explains that the posuk referring to Yehoshua bin Nun means that they kept the mitzvah of succos that year in the highest fashion, a Mitzva Min HaMechubar in such a high and wonderful and joyous and elevated and beautiful manner as had not been seen since the days of Yehoshua bin Nun, so excited and elated were they to be back in Eretz Yisrael keeping the Torah."

Ok, seriously- do you believe that? I really want to know. Because that is EXACTLY what I am talking about on this blog and it is precisely the intellectually insulting kind of apologetics I despise. Now, clearly this commentator heard my kasha, and anticipated it or explained it his way. But this is so lame. Anyone can say what he says. And the reason it's apologetics is that he NO BASIS in fact or history for what he's saying. He just came up with a pat explanation.

Please tell me why you believe this, Ben. It is a key to all of these debates. I would really like to understand how to relate to people like you and do so in a way you can react to me without just hearing my scorn.

Also, like the others, you have not come to the defense of the Kuzari, although I see what you're trying to do with this commentary. Do you think the Kuzari is defensible?

1/15/2006 11:21 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Elul:

"The books do not say that the Jews forgot ALL the Torah. Why would anyone think that?"

Yes it does! The only reason Succos is focused on is that, at the time they read it to everyone, it was "the seventh month (Tishrei) and just about time for Succos.

Take a look at the last verse of chapter 7:

"7:73 So the priests, and the Levites, and the porters, and the singers, and some of the people, and the Nethinims, and all Israel, dwelt in their cities; and when the SEVENTH MONTH came, the children of Israel were in their cities."

So, don't think the rest of the torah was known to them. My point about the tefillin was simple, that it was strange for them to focus on the mitzvas of succos to the exclusion of others that were year-round and ostensibly relevant to Succos, e.g., tefillin. I use this as a side arguement that tefillin weren't even worn back then, but were a later invention.

I agree with Rashi's grandson- the Rashbam that tefillin were metaphorical and not actually worn.

http://www.karaite-korner.org/tefillin.shtml

See http://www.karaite-korner.org/tefillin.shtml#table1

Now, if your blood isn't boiling over, please get back to the main topic- that the Kuzari is sunk. Is it worth supporting in your view, Elul? If so, how do you support it?

1/15/2006 11:32 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"why the sudden policy change?"

It isn't. I told the anonymous who posted above the same thing in the 2 prior posts he made.

I like to keep track of which one I'm responding to. It shouldn't be too hard to make up a pseudonym- even for him.

1/15/2006 11:34 PM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

BTA,

There's a way to turn off anonymous posting.

1/15/2006 11:35 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Happy:
"My impression is that BTA feels if he posts something, (and it is in an angry enough tone) it must be true."

I think my tone was facetious, not angry. But you knew that, so why not address the point of the post. If you and other supporters of Kuzari can't come up with anything better than I've heard, then, yes, I'll be even more convinced my straightforward take on this post is true.

1/15/2006 11:37 PM  
Anonymous Benjamin said...

Well, I see this is pretty hopeless. My impression is BTA either can't read accurately or doesn't want to. BTA, as you admit, you sorely lack Jewish learning. You don't have a clue. You don't have any idea what you are talking about. It's worse than pathetic. You are not even logical. Your challenges to the texts are ignorant and nonsensical for the most part. So, so long BTA. Enjoy your blog.

1/15/2006 11:51 PM  
Blogger chardal said...

Again, please Chardal, instead of making collateral attacks on the weight given to this or that statement, just address why you feel the Kuzari withstands my disproof of it.

I don't even think you understand the Kuzari's argument properly and I really don't want to write a whole post explaining it right now.

I think the kiruv organizations misrepresent the Kuzari's work.

The Kuzari is not a book of proposed philosophical proofs like the Moreh is. It takes a different inherently non-philosophical approach.

Also, your assertion that the texts have authority outside of chazal's inclusion of them in the canon is simply false. They explicitly rejected certain books (ben-sira) while debating others (koheles) and debating the geniza of others (yechezkiel) because they felt it would be mis-interpreted by people without the proper knowledge of how to read the text (hint hint).

The only reason you even accept this as the tanach is because of chazal. So I think my challenge still stands. If you take away chazal's canonical authority, then anything goes, you might as well argue that they made up the whole calendar since there are apocryphal works that use a solar calendar. Without chazal, it is every bit as authoritative a work as Ezra/Nechemia.

1/16/2006 12:02 AM  
Blogger happywithhislot said...

bta
nope i didnt know that. I do have trouble reading people emotions.

Re the apologetics stuff, Im not a kuzari expert, havent read it. So i cant talk to it.
But i do feel, its not apologetics because you say its so, to claim that an eye for eye never meant literally poking out someones eye.

What is your literal meaning of pesukim that say words like "as i have shown you" or no details about how to do a bris. Are you saying ezra made up the bris, and taught a mohel class at the same time?

Re tefillin, Now you read it allegorical, when the literal meaning is more plain that IT means something physical.

Why shouldnt i understand that when its convenient, you take the literal pshat, when its not, you go for some other meaning.

I know i do too, but i base that on chazal. How do you decide what you take literal and what you dont?

And I dont get the argument that you can impeach chazal with tanach, since they were closer to the source than you are. You cant say i have to prove chazal got it right. They believed they did.

You want to read tanach literally, fine. but i can say, im impeaching your reading with chazal.

1/16/2006 12:05 AM  
Blogger chardal said...

Also what bugs me is the inconsistency of the skeptics.

When they try to argue that the text does not portray history accurately, then they quote any and all archeological and anthropological evidence to rip the text apart.

Then they put on their bash chazal and oral law hat and they turn the literal reading of text into the most accurate historical account possible so that chazal can be discredited. Make up your mind.

1/16/2006 2:17 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

Benjamin:

"Well, I see this is pretty hopeless."

Yes, when all you have is a sorry piece of apologetics with no factual or historical basis other than wishful thinking- your position is quite hopeless.

"BTA, as you admit, you sorely lack Jewish learning."

No, liar, I admited no such thing. But my acumen in Hebrew notwithstanding, you translated your brilliant commentary and I shot it full of holes using the text. Jewish Atheist had the same to say for your commentator's apologetic bunk.

With nothing left in your arsenal other than your claim to fantastic credentials in biblical analysis, you resort to the following cognitive dissonance-inspired brilliancies:

"You don't have a clue. You don't have any idea what you are talking about. It's worse than pathetic. You are not even logical. Your challenges to the texts are ignorant and nonsensical for the most part."

Well, I'm glad you got that out of your system! I wonder what college you are the president of. Your utter lack of tolerance or ability to admit you're wrong must make you quite fun to work with. I just hope you aren't kicking your dog right now on my account.

It must be very frustrating to have invested so much in learning and to have so little to show for it, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically.

Not that it surprises me in the least. You are after all, just imitating your betters.

"So, so long BTA. Enjoy your blog."

It just got a little bit better.

Come back if you have anything substantive to say. Or if you can factually support your tired apologetics.

1/16/2006 2:17 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

Chardal,

You say I don't understand the Kuzari. I gave the Kuzari "proof" in a nutshell at the beginning of the post and it is correct. If you can't correct it in a line or two, and need to go on and on, it's not much of a "proof."

Now, let's get this straight so there's no contradiction even from your perspective.

I don't think Tanach is historical. I don't need a specific Documentary Hyp. or specific theory of biblical criticism to say I am thoroughly unconvinced of the divine origin of Torah in particular, and the latter portions of tanach as well.

Tanach at least seems somewhat historical, as there are figures mentioned who seem to have existed. Unlike Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov, David and Shlomo and Ezra clearly seem to have existed.

Thus, since Nehamia seems to have some historical basis (but still absolutely no divinity) I can make some points about it that impeach the rabbis.

Here's how it goes: The rabbis claim Tanach is historically true, especially Nehamia. Nehamia contains the passages I've cited. Those passages belie a total lack of familiarity with the Oral Torah version of succos. And more to the point of this post- the passage in question demonstrates that the Jews had no idea about succos and hadn't observed it perhaps ever by the time of bais sheni.

If you'll agree the Kuzari proof claims that the revelation at Sinai was unique to Judaism and the truth of it is borne out by the fact that hundreds of thousands witnessed it and passed it on as a tradition, well this passage refutes that entirely. The Sinai myth could have been created by Ezra and none of those present would have said otherwise.

The Kuzari Principle is what I'm talking about in the post. Scroll down to that heading:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuzari

1/16/2006 2:38 AM  
Blogger chardal said...

I agree with Rashi's grandson- the Rashbam that tefillin were metaphorical and not actually worn.

This is NOT the Rashbam's position at all! If you want to know how the Rashbam saw the interplay between text and oral law, you should read Rabbi Martin Lockshin's work on the Rashbam. He is only the world's expert on the matter! You can even email him or call him if you like. Don't use karaite propaganda to bolster the claims of the skeptics.

1/16/2006 2:41 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

Also, let me state for the record something that Chardal and Happy and others have undoubtably heard many times, but can't seem to internalize:

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof."

You have the burden of proof in any argument where you ascribe divinity to a book that empirically appears to be an ancient book of mythology, sometimes loosely, sometimes closely based on the prevailing Mesopatamian religions at the time.

On top of that burden, I've created a simple counter-argument here, assuming for the sake of argument that your proof text directly contradicts the concurrent existence of your Oral tradition proof "texts."

In response, you've conjured up a few very lame apologetic arguments, and no facts. You must know on some level that you can no more prove the truth of your claims than you can prove the truth of greek mythology.

1/16/2006 2:44 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

"This is NOT the Rashbam's position at all! If you want to know how the Rashbam saw the interplay between text and oral law, you should read Rabbi Martin Lockshin's work on the Rashbam. He is only the world's expert on the matter!"

Ok, so Rashbam's own words are less authoritative than a modern-day rabbi's interpretation of those words?

You've really lost it now.

1/16/2006 2:49 AM  
Blogger chardal said...

The rabbis claim Tanach is historically true, especially Nehamia

Not the way you want them to. They did not see it as a history book at all and to any extent they cared about history at all, they would definitely not consider any particular details to be relevant, only the larger historical events it describes.

The Kuzari Principle is what I'm talking about in the post.

The Kuzari is not making any philosophical/empirical claims. He spends the entire beginning of the 1st essay refuting the ability to arrive at truth using reason alone. The rest of the book must be read with this principal in mind. The rest is a combination of pointing out how believing in the Torah is reasonable and natural for someone who accepts/experiences the assumptions of klal Israel. This paragraph does not do the work justice but you might want to talk to people who are well learned in Jewish machshava to verify this. The Kuzari is abused by the kiruv world.

Regarding Ezra (7:25-26):

And thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God that is in thy hand, appoint magistrates and judges, who may judge all the people that are beyond the River, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye him that knoweth them not. 26 And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed upon him with all diligence, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment.'

Sounds like two groups of people to me. One who know the word of G-d and one that does not. I am sure you will claim that you are reading it as peshat and I am engaging in apologetics, but what can I do? That’s the way I see it.

1/16/2006 2:56 AM  
Blogger chardal said...

In response, you've conjured up a few very lame apologetic arguments, and no facts. You must know on some level that you can no more prove the truth of your claims than you can prove the truth of greek mythology.

I know this very well. I don't claim to prove anything. I believe because I choose to believe just as you do not because you choose not to. I am just trying to point out that what you wrote is not proof of anything to the contrary of what I believe.

Ok, so Rashbam's own words are less authoritative than a modern-day rabbi's interpretation of those words?

He is not an interpreter of the Rashbam. He is the world's expert on the Rashbam's work and methodology. He has studies all of the Rashbam's work including his halachic work. You do not learn halacha or a rishon's halachic philosophy from their Torah commentary! The Rashbam did not deny the mitzvah deOraita of tefillin and it is dishonest to say he did.

1/16/2006 3:02 AM  
Blogger chardal said...

bta,

I am done with this blog for the next few days. I have a very busy week ahead of me and I do not have time for this lovely back and forth.

What frustrates me about what you write is your uncritical acceptance of anything mis-nagid puts your way (you seem to order any book he suggests ASAP) but your total disregard and skepticism of any scholarship that views the sources differently than the way you do. In the end, if you ever choose to believe, you will not have any problem with these texts, if you do not, then you can find a million more holes in them to reinforce your opinion.

1/16/2006 3:08 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

Fun fact re: tefillin:

The custom of wearing phylacteries was not as widespread in the first two centuries of the Common Era, as the Rabbis would have us believe. For the wearing of phylacteries was seen as one of the criteria distinguishing a haver (member of the rabbinic "society") from an 'am haares (one not observing rabbinic customs). According to Josephus, himself a Pharisee, there were only about 6,000 of them in Israel during the late Second Temple period (Ant. 7:2:4), out of a possible Jewish population in Israel of some 2,000,000. Thus the 'am haares formed the overwhelming majority of the population, and the wearing of phylacteries was limited to a small group. "

Yes, this is from a karaite website, but do you expect an OJ rabbi to admit these facts or even address them? Why are there not thousands and thousands of pairs of tefillin in genizas? Because they were only worn by the elite.

Just think what if he's right? Then tefillin are not a mitzvah to wear and have aristocratic origins not divine ones.

This whole article is quite interesting and addresses major kashas. For example, if tefillin were really physical commandments, why then were the parshiyos not set out in the "oral law?" That wouldn't seem too hard to convey.

http://www.karaites.org.uk/phylacteries.shtml

1/16/2006 3:08 AM  
Blogger chardal said...

Oh, and also....

Good night and G-d bless. :)

1/16/2006 3:09 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

Chardal- goodnight. Thanks for adding so much to the debate. Don't think I don't value your views.

As for the mis-nagid reference. He was saying there were books out there that said what I was trying to say, but in a much more scholarly and educated fashion. His books agreed with me, and so I'm inclined to read them.

And, buying a few books from amazon is quite a bit cheaper than the tens of thousands I invested in going to learn in a BT yeshiva!

Money is only a vehicle, and so is time, so I see no reason for you to waste your time on my blog any more than I need to waste any more time and money on works of apologetics.

But I'll miss you. ;) g-night.

1/16/2006 3:14 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

Chardal:

"Sounds like two groups of people to me. One who know the word of G-d and one that does not."

I agree 100%. But the learned and the unlearned are both in Jerusalem. And yet, neither of the two groups had observed Succos since the days of Joshua.

So, I don't see how that helps your position.

"I am sure you will claim that you are reading it as peshat and I am engaging in apologetics, but what can I do?"

It seems like we're both reading peshat, but you are reading it somewhat less plainly than I am. When I first read your quote, I was taken aback, because if it meant the people in Bavil were learned and the ones in Jerusalem were not, then my theory would have a problem. However, both groups "found" the scroll and read it and wept (is that where the expression "read it and weep" comes from? ;) ) Anyway, no one, learned or unlearned had observed succos at that time.

1/16/2006 3:29 AM  
Anonymous Holy Hyrax said...

Where do you get that from other than talmudic stories written hundreds of years after the fact?

And he just "found" the scrolls lying there in the temple.

BTA

I have skimmed through Ezra and Nehemiah and I don't find any references to him finding a book. I believe you get this notion from Masechet Sforim. This, too, then would be considered to by something written "after the fact" But let me know if I am wrong.

Tanach at least seems somewhat historical, as there are figures mentioned who seem to have existed.

Thus, since Nehamia seems to have some historical basis

"seems." does not sound very scientific to me, for a person that requires evidence for everything ;)

1/16/2006 4:42 AM  
Anonymous deadnetben on AIM said...

I'm was so excited to read my thoughts echoed in both your and jewishatheist's blogs. I have been thinking about these p'sukim every day since I left the my yamulkah in the dustbin (allegorically) around two years ago. At that time I was in Derech Chaim a significantly Yishivisher yeshivah. I was struggling very hard with my belief in science at that time. One of the Rabbis there was very kind and would spend hours talking to me about how eveolution can either be reconciled with Judaism and how it must be false. Anything to keep my emunah. Then one day in Shul during a boring sedra I decided to read Ezra-Nechemia within a mikroas gedolos navi, (since by then I've learned not to trust Rashi's sole judgement seeing how the ibn ezra usually disregards rashis distortions) I was absolutely astounded to read the account of ezra reading the torah to the ZIKNEI YISROEL the ELDERS. If they needed a lesson in the sholush regolim then surely the famous kuzari's argument crumbles to dust.
Till today the issue stirs up so much anger in me. Thinking back to my very difficult hassidic upbringing and all the bullshit beliefs they pushed down on me.....I can't even begin to formulate to words all that is wrong with this religion. It really frustrates me how people can be so blind to such obvious explanation to the origin of the torah.

1/16/2006 7:22 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

"I have skimmed through Ezra and Nehemiah and I don't find any references to him finding a book. I believe you get this notion from Masechet Sforim. This, too, then would be considered to by something written "after the fact" But let me know if I am wrong."

It's actually in 2 kings.


http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/2kg/22.html

1/16/2006 7:27 AM  
Anonymous Elul 53 said...

BTA complains that when he makes statements about Judaism and Jewish history, people call him an An Ha'Aretz (which he misspells as am haares; I presume from his imprecise transliteration he does not know Hebrew). What a surprise that people think BTA is an Am Ha'Aretz.(note the sarcasm) I would go further: the poor fellow can't even read an English translation and understand the simple words. Example: He has failed to grasp the significance of the first chapters of the Sefer Ezra where it clearly describes how Nevi'im (prophets) such as Mordechai, returned to Erertz Yisroel from Bavel. He misses that entirely. Moronic. This blog, above all, is boring, because BTA and his cohorts lack sufficient knowledge of Judaism to keep it interesting.

1/16/2006 8:33 AM  
Blogger happywithhislot said...

BTA
Re Josephus and karaite claims.
1. I could swear ive read historians says josephus figures werent reliable.
2. even if they were, tefillin were expensive. Why do you think the gemera spends so much time talking about lost tefillin and what to do with it.
3. Just like esrog, maybe the tefillin played a communal role, shared amongs the towns folk
4. I think what diffrentiated the rabbi from am haaretz was that rabbanan used to wear tefillin a whole day.
5. you talk of recent invention of tefillin. if we go with your hypothesis that its elites who wore them, then why stop at chazal. Maybe elites wore them for a thousand years earlier?
6. so what was the sign that either ezra wrote or was given at sinai. he must of been referring to something? literal pshat demands that it is something they wore. There, i impeached youre argument. And that is what the pharisee said to the kararites who didnt believe in the mitzvah.
7. Josephus is writing in a time of devestation. I think that context is importatnt to the figures you quote.
8. extrodinary literal reading claims require extrodinary apologetics. ;)

1/16/2006 8:39 AM  
Anonymous Reader Aleph said...

It is well known that there were times in Jewish history, even relatively recent times, when tefillin were not worn by everyone. There were periods in medeieval Europe when tefillin observance was much rarer than today. This is a well known historical fact, and it is recounted in various seforim of Jewish history.

1/16/2006 8:55 AM  
Blogger happywithhislot said...

BTA
took a look at the karaite site.
The theme of the site author is sort of like this.
"I was looking for the truth and I realized hey beis shammai argues on beis hillel. So how can the oral law be true if it has contradictions. "

good kashya.

1/16/2006 9:42 AM  
Blogger Neil said...

BTA,
First of all, you refer to the notion that the belief of Sinai is based on the fact that it has been accepted throughout the generations as the so called Kuzari princliple. Perhaps you could attribute it to the author, Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi. Furthermore, he is not the only that subscribes to this. Read the Rambam perek 8 of Yesodei Hatorah and the introduction of the Sefer Hachinuch that both discuss this idea at length. This is a notion that is accepted by the greatest of Rishonim.
Regarding your question about Nechemia perek 8. See the malbim's commentary. The gemara in Eiruchin 32b discusses this . You are not the first one to see this question. Rather than jump to conclusions based on your superficial reading of the text, carefully consider the issues first. And realize that what you call "debunking the Kuzari" is actually a challenge to the eighth ani Ma'amin!

1/16/2006 9:56 AM  
Anonymous Elul 53 said...

The problem with BTA is that he has the most superficial knowledge of Judaism, yet he feels qualified to sit on this blog and spew out all kinds of conclusions based on his truly elementary school level of knowledge and understanding.

1/16/2006 10:00 AM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>One last reason: the Samaritans and Essenes and Sadduccees all had the tanach canonized more or less as we have it now. Ask S. for verification of this. So, it would look pretty bad from that standpoint as well.

The Samaritans? They've got Genesis through Joshua. The rest isn't in their Scriptures, or did you think they were going to have the story of the House of David all the way through *Ezra* in their Scriptures?

Also their Torah contains changes which demonstrate that any group could have "gotten away" with doing things to the text.

As for the canon, the Essenes didn't canonize Esther. Various churches canonized various apocryphal works.

The record of rabbinic canonization is freely recounted in rabbinic writings. There has been no coverups and they could have successfully included or excluded whatever they liked.

Ironically, the Samaritans themselves are the biggest debunking of the Kuzari proof of all.

1/16/2006 10:27 AM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>Ok, so Rashbam's own words are less authoritative than a modern-day rabbi's interpretation of those words?

I seriously question if you've seen the Rashbam inside. Rashbam gives what he thinks to be the peshat of the verse, the metaphorical sense of binding.

But you said:

>I agree with Rashi's grandson- the Rashbam that tefillin were metaphorical and not actually worn.

Rashbam does not say what I bolded.

1/16/2006 10:38 AM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>which he misspells as am haares

There is nothing wrong with his transliteration. "S" is a perfectly valid transliteration of "sadi."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebrew_Transliteration

1/16/2006 10:44 AM  
Anonymous Elul 53 said...

It's OK to argue with the Kuzari, or the Rambam, for that matter. The Vilna Gaon, and other great luminaries, often took positions of dispute with other scholars. But the difference is these men were actual scholars. They could legitimately argue a point in halacha. This blog is a joke. You have a BTA and others whose knowledge of Judaism could be put in a thimble, and even that knowledge is flawed, combined with an approach that lacks logic and consistency.

1/16/2006 10:45 AM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Elul,

Torah siva lanu morasha kehilath ya'akov.

It belongs to all of us to discuss and learn, not just an elite.

If you've got critiques to make, make them, but don't bother exclaiming who is and isn't 'qualified' to discuss Torah.

1/16/2006 10:50 AM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Elul,

Torah siva lanu morasha kehilath ya'akov.

It belongs to all of us to discuss and learn, not just an elite.

If you've got critiques to make, make them, but don't bother exclaiming who is and isn't 'qualified' to discuss Torah.

1/16/2006 10:50 AM  
Anonymous Elul 53 said...

Judaism is one subject that everyone, no matter how ignorant, feels qualified to have opinions, no matter how ill informed. Yes, Torah is an inheritance, but the stuff that BTA publishes on this blog is not Torah, nor is it an honest attempt to discover the truth. Rather, it is search an angry and uninformed expression of contempt toward Torah and Chazal.

1/16/2006 11:16 AM  
Anonymous Elul 53 said...

Another little fact that may be of interest to BTA: Only a fraction of the Jews in Bavel left with Ezra. The rest remained behind in Bavel. If Ezra had re-created Torah from whole cloth, as BTA claims here (without a shred of evidence) then his Torah would have been markedly different from the Jewish practice in Bavel. But it was not.

1/16/2006 11:18 AM  
Anonymous Ziggy Popponstopper said...

I looked up the Hebrew transliteration site on Wikipedia mentioned by Fred. I did not see any reference to the Tzaddi being pronounced as an "S". That seems totally wrong to me. Eretz is clearly with a TZ at the end, not an S. As an Am Ha'Aretz, not Am Haares. I'm sorry Fred, but I don't think you are right on this, as a Tzaddi is clearly pronounced as TZ. Not such an important point, but I thought I'd mention it.

1/16/2006 11:27 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Wow, look at everybody attack BTA personally when they can't defeat his argument. One doesn't have to be a scholar to see the plain meaning of the text. In fact, as we have seen, being a scholar can prevent you from seeing the plain meaning.

The posuk says, "And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so." The fact that some respected Rabbi claimed that the posuk doesn't mean what it says doesn't make a plain reading stupid or unreasonable. The Rabbis simply have no basis for twisting the plain meaning of the posuk except to justify their other beliefs which would otherwise be contradicted.

See Melachim bet, perek 22:

8
And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe: 'I have found the book of the Law in the house of HaShem.' And Hilkiah delivered the book to Shaphan, and he read it.
9
And Shaphan the scribe came to the king, and brought back word unto the king, and said: `Thy servants have poured out the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of the workmen that have the oversight of the house of HaShem.'
10
And Shaphan the scribe told the king, saying: 'Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book.' And Shaphan read it before the king.

11
And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the Law, that he rent his clothes.
12
And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Micaiah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah the king's servant, saying:
13
'Go ye, inquire of HaShem for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found; for great is the wrath of HaShem that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us.'
14
So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asaiah, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe--now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the second quarter--and they spoke with her.
15
And she said unto them: 'Thus saith HaShem, the G-d of Israel: Tell ye the man that sent you unto me:
16
Thus saith HaShem: Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read;
17
because they have forsaken Me, and have offered unto other gods, that they might provoke Me with all the work of their hands; therefore My wrath shall be kindled against this place, and it shall not be quenched.
18
But unto the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of HaShem, thus shall ye say to him: Thus saith HaShem, the G-d of Israel: As touching the words which thou hast heard,
19
because thy heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before HaShem, when thou heardest what I spoke against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become an astonishment and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before Me, I also have heard thee, saith HaShem.


Many (non-Orthodox, of course) scholars believe that this book was Devarim.

1/16/2006 11:37 AM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>Ziggy Popponstopper said...

I looked up the Hebrew transliteration site on Wikipedia mentioned by Fred. I did not see any reference to the Tzaddi being pronounced as an "S". That seems totally wrong to me. Eretz is clearly with a TZ at the end, not an S. As an Am Ha'Aretz, not Am Haares. I'm sorry Fred, but I don't think you are right on this, as a Tzaddi is clearly pronounced as TZ. Not such an important point, but I thought I'd mention it.


My reference to Wikipedia was to demonstrate the problem of transliteration, not to show or favor one particular form of it.

Many Sephardim, for example, pronounce "tsadi" closer to "sadi" and will transliterate with an "s."

See 'Aram Sova,' Aleppo, which is spelled with a tsadi but often written "Aram Sova" in English.

Eretz is clearly with a צ at the end of it, not any particular English set of consonants. There are a variety of ways to transliterate Hebrew into English.

Here is an example:

חנוכה

I could write it:

Chanukah
Hanukkah
H.anoukkah
Chanukoh

and many more ways, all of which would be logical and internally consistent were I to use those transliterations consistently.

In short: typing "am haarets" is by no means an indication that the person typing it is, in fact, an 'am ha-aretz.

1/16/2006 11:38 AM  
Anonymous Ziggy Popponstopper said...

BTA spelled the word "am haares". That is simply wrong. There is no way a Tzaddi can be pronounced as an S. Sorry, it is wrong and indicates somebody who is illiterate in Hebrew.

1/16/2006 11:58 AM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>Ziggy Popponstopper said...

BTA spelled the word "am haares". That is simply wrong. There is no way a Tzaddi can be pronounced as an S. Sorry, it is wrong and indicates somebody who is illiterate in Hebrew.


It's almost as if you didn't read my post.

Ziggy, you're wrong. There are at least two ways to pronounce a tzadi. One of them is closer to "s" as pronounced in "hiss." This is why Jews who themselves pronounce it this way often tranliterate tzadi as "s." Like I said, google "Aram Sova." Google "miswah" while you're at it.

1/16/2006 12:02 PM  
Anonymous Ziggy Popponstopper said...

OK, I googled Aram Sova and got a reference to Yemenite pronounciation of Hebrew. Are you saying that BTA was trying to give us a Yemenite transliteration. Oh Okay. ????

1/16/2006 12:40 PM  
Anonymous mivami said...

before y'all jump to conclusions unwarranted, you may want to see my comments at JA.
also, if ur gonna argue with the Kuzari re Neh 8 u may want to see what he actually says re Neh 8 (not that it offers more validity, but lets not jump down a pre-modern's back bec he didnt live in modern times with all that that implies.) se kuzari 3:54, 63

1/16/2006 12:58 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>OK, I googled Aram Sova and got a reference to Yemenite pronounciation of Hebrew.

Not just Yemenite. Aram Sova is in Syria. It is a widespread Mizrahi pronunciation.

I have no idea what BTA's ethnic heritage is, but its not the point. The point is that there are numerous transliteration scheme's for Hebrew into English, all of which are valid.

"Am haares" is as valid as "Am HaAretz" or any of the many other ways Hebrew can be written in Roman characters. You can infer very little from someone's transliteration. Many great Jewish thinkers (R. Eliezer Berkovitz comes to mind) used very idiosyncratic Hebrew transliterations and it didn't mean that they were amaratzim.

1/16/2006 12:58 PM  
Anonymous Holy Hyrax said...

It's actually in 2 kings.

I thought we were talking about Ezra not Josiah

1/16/2006 1:22 PM  
Anonymous Holy Hyrax said...

Oy. Ziggy and Fred, how about getting back on topic. :)


Ironically, the Samaritans themselves are the biggest debunking of the Kuzari proof of all

Are you saying that meaning that the Samaritans were not part of klal Israel and just accepted the Torah? Which implies that any group can be very willing to accept any religion (ie Torah) without question?

1/16/2006 1:31 PM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

W/r/t the transliteration issue, there is no such thing as correct or incorrect transliteration. And anyway, ashkenazi Hebrew (for example) is much farther from the original than s is from tzadi.

I thought we were talking about Ezra not Josiah

Maybe Ezra was incorporating the found book (D?) of Josiah. At the very least, the passage in Melachim lends evidence to the idea that there were separate books which were later combined into one.

1/16/2006 1:31 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Ziggy:

"BTA spelled the word "am haares". "

See my most recent post. The "am haares" spelling was from a karaite website.

The author is actually an expert in biblical hebrew, and like other karaites he no doubt intentionally spelled it that way to show he know the "real" spelling, get it? We just so happen to have an expert on this blog who knows all sorts of pronounciations and spelling variations in Hebrew. I'm of course talking about S. He also has written and read a bit about Karaites, so this clarification will probably make sense to him.

However, you have taken a stupid cheapshot by Elul and with S. made this an interesting digression.

What if I constantly wrote our Torah is a "torath emeth" and that I believed we all should be "shemirath shabbath?"

You could mock that, but those are ancient, (and perhaps Yemenite) spellings that are used even by ashkenazi publishers to give a "fancy" sound to their pronunciations.

Still, while this is interesting, you really can't seem to address the topic of the post- that Ezra 8 contradicts the Kuzari Proof. Try again.

It was from a block quote. However, you

1/16/2006 2:28 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>Are you saying that meaning that the Samaritans were not part of klal Israel and just accepted the Torah? Which implies that any group can be very willing to accept any religion (ie Torah) without question?

The Samaritans believe that they are descendents of Israelites who were at the foot of Sinai and received the Revelation to the Benei Yisrael. Not only that, in their version of the Revelation God commands Benei Yisrael to build a miqdash on Har Gerizim.

I will not take a position on what their true origin is, only to note this fact and that it is at variance with Jewish tradition. True, there are few Samaritans today, but in antiquity they were numerous.

1/16/2006 2:29 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Elul:

"Another little fact that may be of interest to BTA: Only a fraction of the Jews in Bavel left with Ezra. The rest remained behind in Bavel."

Ok, there was 1 substantive point. Yes, I'm aware of that. How does that explain that the posuk which says that succos was not practiced since the time of Yehoshua Ben Nun?

Here's a hint: it doesn't.

"If Ezra had re-created Torah from whole cloth, as BTA claims here (without a shred of evidence)"

I never said he created the whole torah. I think I made the point, not an innovation by any stretch, that Ezra had the ability to rewrite the Torah and likely did write parts of it. This is set forth in Who Wrote the Bible, which is really a compendium of various sources of biblical criticism.

But you won't "go there," because that would be "kefira," right? So, why even raise a straw man argument that I said Ezra wrote the whole torah, when you won't entertain the idea that he wrote even one word of it?

Really, you are cheap and dishonest, and not a good representative of your dogmatic cause.

1/16/2006 2:38 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Elul:

"Ezra where it clearly describes how Nevi'im (prophets) such as Mordechai, returned to Erertz Yisroel from Bavel."

Yes, I am aware of that. That still does not answer the point that Succos was not observed since the times of Yehoshua. In fact, it make the point all the more strong, don't you see?

1/16/2006 2:44 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Neil,

Excellent comment, clearly well informed.

"The gemara in Eiruchin 32b discusses this . You are not the first one to see this question."

I never in a million years thought I was the first to address this.

In fact, look at the first paragraph of the post where I say:
"I have a response to the Kuzari which I haven't heard elsewhere, although I'm sure it's out there somewhere."

So, what is your response based on these commentaries?

"And realize that what you call "debunking the Kuzari" is actually a challenge to the eighth ani Ma'amin!"

I am aware of that, yes.

1/16/2006 2:54 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Jewish Atheist:

"One doesn't have to be a scholar to see the plain meaning of the text. In fact, as we have seen, being a scholar can prevent you from seeing the plain meaning."

So, true. But, be prepared to be called an am ha'aretz for that impertinent remark. ;)

1/16/2006 2:59 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Mississippi Fred:

"The Samaritans? They've got Genesis through Joshua. The rest isn't in their Scriptures,"

I stand corrected. That's why I asked you. I had in mind the Essenes, but I didn't know that Esther was not part of the Essene canon.

"Also their Torah contains changes which demonstrate that any group could have "gotten away" with doing things to the text."

Or could it be *our* Torah that "contains changes" which demonstrate this?

Irrespective of that question, do these changes undermine the Kuzari principle. Is that what you were referring to when you said:

"Ironically, the Samaritans themselves are the biggest debunking of the Kuzari proof of all."

Please explain.

1/16/2006 3:06 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"BTA complains that when he makes statements about Judaism and Jewish history, people call him an An Ha'Aretz (which he misspells as am haares; I presume from his imprecise transliteration he does not know Hebrew)."

Elul- you have really made a case for my previous post. "Today's Talmud Chacham Equals Yesterday's Am Ha'aretz!" Did you happen to notice how I spelled Am Ha'aretz in the title?

And now, the cheapest ad hominem you can come up with is that I can't spell the phrase that I clearly properly spelled a few days ago?

Well, you clearly have a problem with reading comprehension and, thanks to you, this blog digressed about spelling, which was probably your intent, since you have no rebuttal to the plain argument that Ezra 8th perek contradicts the Kuzari Proof.

If you could simply READ, in the comment where it says "am haares" is from a block quote from a karaite website, you moron!

Here's what I said right after the quote:
"Yes, this is from a karaite website, but do you expect an OJ rabbi to admit these facts or even address them?"

Here's the link AGAIN:
http://www.karaites.org.uk/phylacteries.shtml

1/16/2006 3:08 AM

I hope you really don't like this site, because I will simply ban you if you pull that again.

Anyway, look at the thread. What brilliant points have you raised that demonstrated any sechel or chochma whatsoever?

Every time S. posts, he clarifies. He's a talmud chacham and a scholar. He posted 3 times or so and I learned something from each post. And he basically points out where I'm wrong. So, don't try to say I'm against you because you're critical of me.

As Jewish Atheist points out, you and others like you who engage in ad hominem are simply ill-equipped to deal with my argument. I don't care about my "reputation" or "credibility" in the field of biblical criticism, as I've been rather successful in a field that requires a shall we say a modicum of intellectual acumen.

What I do find interesting is watching you twist in the wind when your mesora is challenged. And I would hope the questions I raised at least crossed your mind once in your life, or else you are a braindead follower. There is no question that some of the biggest talmedei chachamim use sharp skeptical inquiries to get to core questions. If I did a post questioning whether Ashuri (Assyrian) script or "Temple Script" was the real script of the original Torah, you might go berserk as well. Yet, that dialogue takes place in mesechta Sanhedrin and there are sages on both sides.

I also enjoy intelligent, informed people like Chardal and S. clarifying issues and outright proving me wrong.

So, let's see you make a substantive point. Or else, bug off. I'm not here to help you vent at your inner demons and existential angst.

1/16/2006 3:12 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>Or could it be *our* Torah that "contains changes" which demonstrate this?

I'm not sure what you mean by that. The earliest textual witnesses show that the Torah was basically our Torah. Not on the consonantal level, but on the matter of the basic information contained therein and the 5 books were canonized by the 3rd century BCE for sure.

>Irrespective of that question, do these changes undermine the Kuzari principle.

The Kuzari principle is a part of a polemical work defending rabbinic Judaism from competing religious claims of the 11th century. That is it used in seminaries and quickie presentations today in defense of Orthodox Judaism is no fault of Rav Yehuda Ha-levi.

>Is that what you were referring to when you said:

>"Ironically, the Samaritans themselves are the biggest debunking of the Kuzari proof of all."

>Please explain.

It's simple. The Samaritans believe that they are descended from Israelites. Either they are or they aren't, or perhaps they're a mixture. It's not the point. There is an entire minor tractate in Talmud that deals with their status. You can read Lawrence Schiffman's "Who Was a Jew?" for further info.

The point is that they consider themselves people who are descended from people who were at Sinai/ Horeb and who heard, as it were, God say "Anochi..." According to Jewish tradition--indeed, perhaps according to Tanakh itself--they are actually descendents of Cutheans and not Israelites. If so: then how, according to the so-called Kuzari principle, did such a "lie" ever develop? After all when you tell people "your father saw so and so or did so and so" then they'll know its a lie if it isn't true. So, are the Samaritans descended from Israelites?

Secondly, their Torah contains an entirely different commandment by the revelation at Sinai: to build a Temple on Har Gerizim. Now, no one believes that this was an original reading of the text, but it isn't the point. I think you see the point.

1/16/2006 3:31 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

BTA
Please read the commentary of the malbim in Nechemia. Whether or not you accept his answer is not the point. The main point is the approach he takes, that it simply cannot be that for hundreds of years that the jewish people never observed sukkot. This is an example of how the Chachmei Hamasora teach us how to study torah with emunas chachamim. Study critically, ask questions, of course. But within guidelines and without violating basic beliefs.

1/16/2006 3:34 PM  
Blogger Jak Black said...

BTA,

Pay attention to neil's last comment, because he hit the nail on the head. You presume to read the "plain meaning" and build a literal Tower of Babel based on your simplistic understanding. But if you'd scratch just a tiny bit beneath the surface, you'd see that your simple understanding simply cannot be true. It cannot be - for reasons entirely within the simple peshat of other pesukim and sugiyos in Tanach - that the Jewish people did not observe Sukkot from the time of Yehoshua. Thus, even according to the strict peshat, there must be an alternate meaning. This is the same answer that I gave you regarding Shlomo, and I'm sure it's the same answer you'll get regarding most of your questions. They're good questions, BTA, but the answers are better.

1/16/2006 3:53 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>Study critically, ask questions, of course. But within guidelines and without violating basic beliefs.

Reb Neil,

You can't study anything criticially if certain questions can't be asked. I am not saying that you are not religiously correct, but don't call it critical thinking.

1/16/2006 3:54 PM  
Anonymous Holy Hyrax said...

based on your simplistic understanding. But if you'd scratch just a tiny bit beneath the surface

Jak

I do believe that they probably had a different way of writing back then to convey certain messages out. But, with that, there is also the historical statements its making and its probably just as silly to outright dismiss what the simple pshat is also trying to convey. We are not talking about the books of Yeheskel or other prophesising prophets which clearly have alot of depth to it, this is the book of Nehemia which still wants to convey a certain degree of history. I do believe these are questions that should be asked, as to why they did not celebrate sukkot till Joshua. Obviously there was periods of the kingdom that the Jews faced great problems such as wars and evil kings, but what about the "golden era" of David, why was Sukkot not celebrated then?

1/16/2006 4:14 PM  
Anonymous f said...

It's not the questions that are wrong; it is the smug supercilious and almost hostile attitude toward chazal that BTA exhibits that turns me off.

1/16/2006 4:45 PM  
Blogger Jak Black said...

Hyrax,

Did you read my post at all? I said that yes, his question was a valid one. But the simple peshat does not stand up to extended scrutiny. Not because of some Rabbinical derush, but because of the peshat of other sugyas. Keep in mind that for Chazal, the entire Tanach was an open book. Thus, the meaning of the simple peshat must be adjusted according to our understanding. The Malbim explains why it CANNOT be that Sukkos was not observed since the time of Yehoshua. Not from his head, not from grafitti, but from other places in Tanach itself. Thus, either Tanach is not divine and is contradictory (which BTA believes, by the way), or it is divine, and there must be another explanation for the seemingly simple peshat.

1/16/2006 4:53 PM  
Anonymous Holy Hyrax said...

Thus, either Tanach is not divine and is contradictory (which BTA believes, by the way), or it is divine, and there must be another explanation for the seemingly simple peshat.

I think thats a bit broad. I am sure there is a happy medium there. Someplaces might be divine where others the authors are trying to convey something. Not with divinity in mind, but through experiences they wish to keep and pass on to their decendants. Like I said, the ancients did not right like we expect them to, but pshat cannot always be thrown away also. I would also like you to explain why Malbim thought it impossible due to other portions of Nach. Where in the prior books does it give a report of the the nation celebrating Sukkot.

1/16/2006 5:02 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>Where in the prior books does it give a report of the the nation celebrating Sukkot.

I think the point is basically this. On the one hand, appealing to Tanakh to report historical situations in Israel from, say, 1200 BCE to 400 BCE. On the other hand, not really giving Tanakh much validity as a historical source. There is a disconnect there. In what way, shape or form do we believe that Ezra or whomever wrote the book was in any position to report on the festival practices in Israel 300, 400, 700 years earlier? To do that means to uncritically accept the statement in Nehemia at face value without wondering if it was possible in 400 BCE to comment on religious practices of hundreds of years earlier. A

nd if we accept this, why don't we accept similar things when the cards fall the other way? What about the 'discovery' of the book in Josiah's court, which scholar and lamdan alike agree was Deuteronomy? It does make mention of sukkot and its unlikely that it wasn't observed during the period of reform, although the verses mention Pesah, presumably because it occurred at that time of year--just as Ezra's reform occurred around sukkot time.

There is a another way: that Nehemia is using hyperbole in this instance. At the very least, it isn't nuts or insane to posit that. Because there is good reason to doubt that sukkot was 1) entirely new and 2) if so, had been totally ignored for 800 years.

1/16/2006 5:34 PM  
Blogger Jak Black said...

HH,

I meant, "Divinely Inspired." As for the Malbim, I'll try to post on it tomorrow.

1/16/2006 5:37 PM  
Anonymous mivami said...

>Where in the prior books does it give a report of the the nation celebrating Sukkot

as i mentioned earlier, see my comments to JA's post on the topic. Like i said there, the report in Ezra ch 3 does mention Sukkot in the time of Yeshua ben Yotzadak in 516 bce, some 80 years -- not 800!- prior to Ezra and co. The comment in Neh 8 is not an exaggeration but it probably does represent a curruption

1/16/2006 5:46 PM  
Anonymous Holy Hyrax said...

Fred

I think that is what I was trying to get at in BTA's last post about Solomon:

http://offthederech.blogspot.com/2006/01/king-solomon-wisest-and-most-off.html#113732233934869522

(just scroll down till you hit my long comment)

Yours (as usual) sounded better written and more intellectual (damn you) :)

Basically the point I was getting at was that skeptics tend to look at Nach as this pot-of-gold consisting of accurate hystorical narratives while at the same time tearing at every single statement of Torah and how it could not have happened. They accuse Chazal (maybe fairly, I'm still not sure) that they were only into power grabs and therefore invented the Oral law, but still capable of quoting Nach without asking for actual evidence of those incidents and people ever existing as they would other times.

1/16/2006 5:58 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>The comment in Neh 8 is not an exaggeration but it probably does represent a curruption

That's an interesting idea, but quite a textual corruption. How does bn nun get inserted like that?

But definitely something to think about.

1/16/2006 6:00 PM  
Blogger Michalle said...

Dealing purely and, I'm sure, grossly inappropriately and uneducated-ly with the English translation given here, it seems as though the issue is almost one of punctuation.

To me, the plain reading of: "And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so." would seem to be "for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day, had not the children of Israel done so?

If the meaning of the text was meant to be the opposite, wouldn't it say, "for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day, the children of Israel had not done so."

Perhaps that's completely rendered moot by the original Hebrew. What is it?

1/16/2006 6:07 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Yeah, the original Hebrew doesn't have that sense. Besides, it doesn't fit contextually since two verses earlier it reads: "And they found written in the Law, how that the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month" which implies that this wasn't something they'd done last year and the year before and the year before etc.

It's a nice idea though!

1/16/2006 6:12 PM  
Blogger Mis-nagid said...

"How does bn nun get inserted like that?"

When a gloss gets subsumed into the text. Not so shver. I'm not convinced (to put it mildly), but it's not a wild suggestion. There's just no evidence for it whatsoever, it's pure speculation.

1/16/2006 6:16 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

I know about glosses getting subsumed into the text, but you have to explain what bn nun was doing in this particular place.

What, did someone add "bn nun" into every mention of a Yeshoshua in Tanakh in a particular text which was then copied mistakenly here? Does that make sense?

1/16/2006 6:23 PM  
Blogger chardal said...

Also notice the thematic connection. Both Yehoshua and Nechemia are somewhat parallel texts.

The idea that upon entering the land, there is a qualitatively new level to the observance of the festivals is not a stretch. Chazal's explanation of the verse is probably the most likely explanation - that the holiday was celebrated in a way that was qualitatively better than it was before.

1/16/2006 6:30 PM  
Blogger Mis-nagid said...

"Does that make sense?"

No, of course not. And there are other problems with the suggestion. I was only answering the very specific "how" question you asked: "How does bn nun get inserted like that?"

1/16/2006 6:31 PM  
Anonymous Holy Hyrax said...

Chardal

Sometimes in scripture, we see parralells in the way texts are written in different places. If we were to find a parralell in Nach of using that type of phrase (from Nehemia) in describing an elevated degree of celebration, than perhaps it would work. But I don't believe we do.

1/16/2006 6:45 PM  
Blogger chardal said...

Hyrax,

I think its similar enough to the lashon of Chronicles II 35:18

וְלֹא-נַעֲשָׂה פֶסַח כָּמֹהוּ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל, מִימֵי שְׁמוּאֵל הַנָּבִיא; וְכָל-מַלְכֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֹא-עָשׂוּ כַּפֶּסַח אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה יֹאשִׁיָּהוּ וְהַכֹּהֲנִים וְהַלְוִיִּם וְכָל-יְהוּדָה, וְיִשְׂרָאֵל הַנִּמְצָא, וְיוֹשְׁבֵי, יְרוּשָׁלִָם.

Or Kings II 23:22

כִּי לֹא נַעֲשָׂה, כַּפֶּסַח הַזֶּה, מִימֵי הַשֹּׁפְטִים, אֲשֶׁר שָׁפְטוּ אֶת-יִשְׂרָאֵל; וְכֹל, יְמֵי מַלְכֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל--וּמַלְכֵי יְהוּדָה.
ישעיהו פרק כג

I will admit it’s not the exact same structure but it is very similar and the psukim are obviously talking about the quality of the celebration.

1/16/2006 7:57 PM  
Blogger dbs said...

Well, I liked the post, though personally I think that we Jews celebrated the harvest festival right back to our pagan forefathers.

As for the Kuzar’s argument, it never made too much sense to me: The Torah must be correct and from Sinai because the Torah says that there were many people at Sinai.

Hmmm….isn’t this a bit circular?

1/16/2006 8:32 PM  
Anonymous Holy Hyrax said...

Chardal

As long as you admit it. :-)

1/16/2006 8:33 PM  
Anonymous mivami said...

i cant go over the details of the argument now. please see my comments in Jewish Atheist's post at his page.
when i get more time i will explain further. but in the meantime would mis-nagid please explain the "other problems" with the theory.

1/16/2006 9:39 PM  
Blogger happywithhislot said...

BTA
Id like to get your thoughts on this angle.
After reading the karaite website it reminded me again that your arguments are what the karaites and sadducees probably argued with the pharisees.

Why are you expecting an answer to a machlokes?
The pharisees, lishitaso, read the pshat their way, the saducees lishitascha, your way as presented in these posts.

Im not understanding the need to defend the pharisees against the saducee argument. I hold like the pharisees.

Another issue i have is quoting the karaite website and daring a rabbi to answewr thier claims.

If you quote the come and hear website, do the rabbis have to answer all their claims?

If you quote a moslem website, do the rabbis have to answer their claims?

I think the claims get answered when they become serious threats.
Like there are alot of anti missionary sites, and some rebuffs of antisemitic sites.

Like daatemet, that got Rabbi Slifkin in trouble.

By the way, it was amusing to see the pictures of the karaite sukkah. Its exactly the type of sukkah that mishnayos points out is invalid! (teepee or tent like)
I always wondered why they gave so many cases.

1/16/2006 11:09 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Jak said:

"You presume to read the "plain meaning" and build a literal Tower of Babel based on your simplistic understanding. But if you'd scratch just a tiny bit beneath the surface, you'd see that your simple understanding simply cannot be true."

Ok, this is the basic emunas chachamim approach set forth by Neil. It doesn't work for me. Here's why: you are saying I am building a "tower of babel" by using plain meaning as my mode of interpretation. In the next breath you say, the plain meaning here *can't* be true because other plain meanings (which ostensibly are not as controversial) directly contradict this plain meaning which *is* controversial.

Now, what empirical or objective reason is there to follow this approach? Is this a quest for "truth" of just to feel comfy about our mesora, such as it is?

So, setting aside for the moment the potential bias of just wanting to shore up the mesora, what objective means are you employing (or the malbum)? I don't have that book and if it's not in english, it won't do me a lot of good right now. Are you saying that since the number of pshat statements in other parts of nach outnumber Nehamia, that they therefore trump it?

If so, then I think S. aptly described the conundrum that that approach leads to. He also essentially pointed out the folly of my approach in relying on tanach as historically definite. (Chardal made a similar point).

Nevertheless, I don't think this post relies on historiocity of nach overall. Succos, as we view it religiously today, is not a mere historical detail that could be brushed aside. For that reason, I'd at least say there are some huge elements of Succos that are add-ons in our mesora.

Also, I think we can all agree that Succos had not been celebrated whatsoever for a "long time" or "as long as we can remember" from Ezra's perspective. Even if that much is true, and Yehoshua was someone 100 years earlier, Succos loses it's meaning and it begs for theodicy- why would God create a huge "zecher l'tzius mitzrayim" and just let it vanish like that? Would he really?

It also undermines the "unbroken chain of observance" so often claimed by OJ as opposed to reform/conserv.

Last, let's not forget that this chapter poses multiple mesora-related problems. Another is the fact that the rabbis have a new and different item "the fruit of a beautiful tree" - esrog- that is not even mentioned, though all the halachic details of succos are otherwise mentioned. This would seem to imply that either Ezra found a defective scroll (absurd for many reasons) or that the fruit of a beautiful tree is an addition to the torah (seemingly absurd).

1/17/2006 12:43 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

Happy

You just don't seem to get it. I don't think it's because you can't, I think you are being obtuse intentionally. I can't begin to respond to you because you have so little interest in gaining perspective. A kasha is a kasha is a kasha. A moslem kasha is not a kasha to OJ.

But if a karaite poses a good kasha about a hebrew based interpretation of the torah, the rabbis should be able to answer it. Many times they have an answer, but beware when their best answer starts off with: "most foolish ass of a man!..."

I'm not on a sadduccee bowling team or something, I am asking kashas. They upset people perhaps because I'm not coming from a place where it seems I am looking to accept the mesora unquestioningly.

I will address that briefly in my next comment.

1/17/2006 12:49 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

F:

"It's not the questions that are wrong; it is the smug supercilious and almost hostile attitude toward chazal that BTA exhibits that turns me off."

F- That complaint has come up more than a few times. I don't want to alienate people, but look at the context- I am constantly being told my questions are the questions of an am ha'aretz, etc. Clearly this is ad hominem 101.

Also, when debating ideas, I see no reason to extra kovod to a lame argument simply because it's origin is a long ago rabbi.

If I were to have such obsequious deference to the rabbis as a starting point, I would have no questions. I would just read Artscroll tanach and smile and go to bed. ;)

Seriously, the posuk says "the beginning of wisdom is the fear of hashem," not "of rabbis." And if you tell me they do equal hashem, because they say so, well then...

Anyway, I make the post lively, and it starts a debate. Then hopefully I attract those who have really delved into this material and I essentially sit back and watch them discuss.

Don't be too thin-skinned about it. Chazzal can handle it. First off, they're dead and dont' read blogs. Second, have you not read how they debated each other? It gets pretty cagey at times.

Imagine of the gemara were instead done on a blog!

1/17/2006 1:07 AM  
Blogger Chava said...

Your premise seems to assume that the torah was not taken with the Jews to Babylon. However, the greatest academies of Jewish learning became situated there during the time of the first diaspora (where they included study of the 'purported oral law'). There is an opinion that Sukkot was considered to be one of the mitzvot 'taluya b'aretz' - only observed in the land of Israel - and hence was not being observed in Babylon. Being tied to the temple observance, this makes logical sense in that time period. When the Jews returned with Ezra and Nechemia, they were once again able to observe this mitzvah as they had 'in the days of Yehoshua ben Nun'. This makes more sense to me than Jews suddenly saying 'OH MY GOSH! We forgot to keep sukkos!'

1/17/2006 1:46 AM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

In doing some review I noticed the following on Masechet Shabbat 104a:

אמרי ליה רבנן לריב"ל אתו דרדקי האידנא לבי מדרשא ואמרו מילי דאפילו בימי יהושע בן נו"ן לא איתמר כוותייהו

" The Rabbis told R. Joshua b. Levi: Children have come to the Beth Hamidrash and said things the like of which was not said even in the days of Joshua the son of Nun."

Mention of Joshua the son of Nin is clearly being used here as an idiomatic expression. Thinking about other mentions of Yehoshua bn Nun I recalled the walled cities from "the days of Yeshoshua bn Nun" in the first pereq of Masechet Megillah.

I'm not sure to what extent we can project back from the Talmudic and Mishnaic expression (the walls are in the Mishna). But it is clear that reference to Yehoshua did mean "a really long time ago" at some point. Maybe that's all it meant in Nehemia as well.

1/17/2006 8:48 AM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>he greatest academies of Jewish learning became situated there during the time of the first diaspora

What do you mean by that?

1/17/2006 8:52 AM  
Blogger Shlomo said...

Ezra and Nechemiah were agents of Korush.
That alone should make you wonder what they were really up to. The Persians had a policy of co-opting local deities into their own religious philosophy to maintain unity in the Empire. They also forced those they conquered to speak the national language.

Zoroastrianism was the religion of Ezra, and it was from that time forward, many things of Judaism changed. This is why Jews in Israel didn't remember anything what Ezra was talking about. They had never heard it before! The Judaism they knew was nothing like what Ezra offered them.

1/17/2006 9:47 AM  
Blogger happywithhislot said...

BTA
whats up with the horny datingmaster guy?

1/17/2006 9:53 AM  
Blogger happywithhislot said...

SLA
please explain how succos is remotely related to Zoroastrianism ?

1/17/2006 9:57 AM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>Zoroastrianism was the religion of Ezra, and it was from that time forward, many things of Judaism changed. This is why Jews in Israel didn't remember anything what Ezra was talking about. They had never heard it before! The Judaism they knew was nothing like what Ezra offered them.

The alleged Zorastrian influence on Judaism is 1) overstated and 2) mainly dates from the Talmudic period.

1/17/2006 10:03 AM  
Blogger happywithhislot said...

BTA
"I'm not on a sadduccee bowling team or something, I am asking kashas. They upset people perhaps because I'm not coming from a place where it seems I am looking to accept the mesora unquestioningly."

Im not upset about the questions.
Im just telling you my point of view which is the debate happened already. Im a pharisee. You cant impeach me from the saduccee reading of the text. The pharisees werent convinced. In no way can i be an expert enough to defend their position. Its like asking me to talk about biology. And getting upset that i cant defend biology.
It really is no big deal for me to rely on them for what they felt was correct interpetation.
And Im not sure why that seems to upset you.

1/17/2006 10:09 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

"However, the greatest academies of Jewish learning became situated there during the time of the first diaspora (where they included study of the 'purported oral law')."

What do you base that opinion on, pray tell?

1/17/2006 2:28 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Chava- Ezra lived between 456 BC and 444 BC. Are you claiming there were "academies of oral torah study" in Bavil hundreds of years before Ezra went to Jerusalem, and over 600 years *before* Rabbi Akiva? Again, where do you get this from? Or if I misunderstood you, please clarify.

1/17/2006 2:35 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"Im a pharisee. You cant impeach me from the saduccee reading of the text."

You should play professional sports. Then when the other team wins, you can look at the scoreboard and say, "I reject that score, we won. Just look at my shirt."

"The pharisees werent convinced."

No, it's the other way around. The pharisees came up with the oral law as a divine transmission that had been around as long as the written torah, and the saducees and others aligned with them in rejecting this concept as a power grab "weren't convinced."

Your statement belies a lack of knowing the basic historical arguments. You've internalized some rehashing of polemical statements in the gemara that occurred fully 600 years after the historical events themselves. The mishnaic references to sadduccees are rather brief (pelting a pharisee with esrogim and throwing the kohen godol on the dung heap in Yoma) and are hardly historical.

"In no way can i be an expert enough to defend their position. Its like asking me to talk about biology."

Have you tried a biology blog?

"And Im not sure why that seems to upset you."

No, I am only bothered that you are simply shooting from the hip and are adding nothing when you say "I'm a pharisee, I can't be impeached, blah blah." It's like you are talking politics. Try to say more substantive things. That's all I'm asking. I clearly don't mind hearing pro-pharisees.

1/17/2006 2:45 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"The alleged Zorastrian influence on Judaism is 1) overstated and 2) mainly dates from the Talmudic period."

S.- have you posted on that influence? I'm curious what, if any, zoroastrian influences there were.

1/17/2006 2:47 PM  
Blogger Shlomo said...

Fred,

Check your dates again. Zoroastor lived around 600 BC. If one compares the purity laws of Zoroastrianism (vestas) and those of modern halacha, there are striking similarities. The particular changes in Ezra's time were the expansion of laws concerning tumah, tahara, and eugenics.

Many of these changes lasted through the Mishnaic and into the Talmudic period and made their way into halacha.

1/17/2006 2:52 PM  
Blogger Shlomo said...

http://shlomoaronovitz.blogspot.com/2004/12/judaism-original-or-just-extra-crispy.html

1/17/2006 2:54 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"I'm not sure to what extent we can project back from the Talmudic and Mishnaic expression (the walls are in the Mishna). But it is clear that reference to Yehoshua did mean "a really long time ago" at some point. Maybe that's all it meant in Nehemia as well."

Yasher koach! That is very interesting. However, we can't overlook the possibility that it could be an expression that comes from the Ezra phrase itself, since biblical phrases make their way into the vernacular of the gemara quite often.

But, let's say it was just an expression, even in Ezra's time, that still poses 2 problems.
1. That Ezra and the others hadn't celebrated Succos for such a long time that they had no memories and their bubbes and zaydes had no memories of it. This still would only serve to bolster my argument that the Kuzari Proof would have been undermined by the fact that a zecher l'tzisu mitzrayim had been forgotten- a safeguard that we wouldn't forget the exodus and sinai- so why trust that there was truly an unbroken chain of passing this down at all?

Now, you posted yesterday that Kuzari has a limited purpose and we should not bash the work and I agree. I am just saying that Nehamia 8 casts great doubt on whether anyone can claim, except using the bible itself as testimony, that Sinai was historical in any way, shape or form.

2. The second problem is that if tanach plainly says "they hadn't observed succos since Joshua's time..." and it was just an idiomatic statement, that makes reading tanach a very speculative venture if one is trying to undertand a "message" in it. If you want it just for stories and poems, fine, but as a lesson book?

1/17/2006 3:04 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Tanakh is full of idiom, and that is inarguable. Idiom is simply a feature of language, certainly of language that isn't colorless. I don't know if its even possible to write a text of any length in any language without employing idiom. I bet you could find couple of dozen examples just on this page.

In fact, the previous sentence contained idiom (unintentionally) since I did not really make a wager at all.

1/17/2006 3:37 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

As for the Kuzari proof, it is not a proof. I don't know if the Kuzari considers it proof or not, nor is it relevent. As I said, it is what it is and it is not what it is not. Your beef is with those who use the text not with the text itself.

But in any case, as FKM (Freelance Kiruv Maniac) correctly pointed out to me once: the fact is that the Kuzari argument *has* convinced people.

1/17/2006 3:40 PM  
Blogger chardal said...

No, it's the other way around. The pharisees came up with the oral law as a divine transmission that had been around as long as the written torah, and the saducees and others aligned with them in rejecting this concept as a power grab "weren't convinced."

This is against everything the dead sea findings teach us. If anything, there was a battle between competing oral traditions. You claim that the Pharisees invented tephilin. Well we found tephilin belonging to other groups. Some of those tephilin had 5 compartments (the extra had the 10 commandments in it). This goes against a clear instruction of chazal.

What really happened was that the political situation caused splinter groups to be formed that were manipulating the oral traditions. Chazal were trying to preserve/defend what everyone already had.

1/17/2006 3:57 PM  
Anonymous Holy Hyrax said...

That Ezra and the others hadn't celebrated Succos for such a long time that they had no memories and their bubbes and zaydes had no memories of it. This still would only serve to bolster my argument that the Kuzari Proof would have been undermined by the fact that a zecher l'tzisu mitzrayim had been forgotten

Not celebrating it, is not the same as saying they had no memory of it.

Chardal reminds of the book "From text to tradition by Lawrence Schiffman. He's a Dead Sea scrolls expert that I believe has looked extensivly in this area and has concluded that many of the practices of the Essense are remarkably similar to laws found in the "Oral Law."

1/17/2006 4:15 PM  
Blogger chardal said...

Chardal reminds of the book "From text to tradition by Lawrence Schiffman. He's a Dead Sea scrolls expert that I believe has looked extensivly in this area and has concluded that many of the practices of the Essense are remarkably similar to laws found in the "Oral Law."

Just look at the MMT scroll. It puts to rest any idea that any group in bayit sheini totally rejected the concept of Oral Law. (It also shows how remarkable chazal preserved the tradition of the debate which was not recorded in pharisee writing until 400 years later.)

1/17/2006 4:30 PM  
Blogger happywithhislot said...

BTA
"No, it's the other way around. The pharisees came up with the oral law as a divine transmission that had been around as long as the written torah, and the saducees and others aligned with them in rejecting this concept as a power grab "weren't convinced."
"

I dont get it, because you claim its the other way around, it automatically forces me to agree?
I say it wasnt the other way around. What am i missing?

It could be your more well read, so youve read something that says it happened your way.

Regardless, even if it was a power grab, Can you really prove it was a power grab full of lies, or it was a power grab to assert what they felt was right?

1/17/2006 4:55 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>Just look at the MMT scroll. It puts to rest any idea that any group in bayit sheini totally rejected the concept of Oral Law. (It also shows how remarkable chazal preserved the tradition of the debate which was not recorded in pharisee writing until 400 years later.)

Bear in mind though that the notion that other groups didn't have the concept of Oral Law in fact comes from Chazal.

We now know that their views were written in a polemical fashion, just as we know that Karaites really don't hang tzitzis on the wall, even though in rabbinic polemics against Karaism as late as the 20th century this was repeated.

But as you say, it is pure fallacy to believe that any ancient Jewish group ever imagined that they reinvented Torah, as it were, each day without any recourse to time honored traditions and interpretations.

1/17/2006 5:42 PM  
Blogger chardal said...

We now know that their views were written in a polemical fashion,

Yes, we have to always keep in mind that the term Oral Torah has many different meanings depending on context. There is traditional teaching and there is acceptance of Rabbinic authority. Both are concepts of oral law as we have it today but when chazal say that the tzaddukim rejected oral Torah, they could very well mean that they rejected rabbinic authority as represented in the sanhedrin.

1/17/2006 5:46 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Well, I'm not sure what an amora of the last generation thought the Tzedukim believed, but I'm reasonably sure that their contemporaries realized that they weren't Torah literalists.

1/17/2006 5:54 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"Well, I'm not sure what an amora of the last generation thought the Tzedukim believed, but I'm reasonably sure that their contemporaries realized that they weren't Torah literalists."

so what do you make of the polemical statements that Sadduccees died out because they wore tefillin between their eyes and ran into walls, thus piercing the skull and killing them? On one hand, it's clearly polemical. On the other, it contains the concept that even sadduccees held by a form of head tefillin at a minimum.

Or do you kind of chalk the whole statement up to polemics?

1/17/2006 6:22 PM  
Blogger chardal said...

so what do you make of the polemical statements that Sadduccees died out because they wore tefillin between their eyes and ran into walls, thus piercing the skull and killing them?

What do you make out of the fact they wore teffilin at all. According to your shita, it was a Pharisee invention.

1/17/2006 6:48 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

First of all, of course it is polemical. Secondly, 'Sadduccees' often became a shorthand for a wide variety of groups. Although I'm unaware of a reference to the Essenes in rabbinic literature, it wouldn't surprise me if it would have called them Sadduccees, even though they technically weren't. Thirdly, as Chardal pointed out, it wasn't only Pharisees that wore tefillin. There is a Mishna (I think) that says that the Boethusians wore tefillin with a 5th parsha, the 10 Commandments, and that such tefillin are invalid. And just that type of tefillin was excavated, demonstrating that 1) it was an actual practice and 2) not only Pharisees wore tefillin. I'm not sure if *the* Sadducces wore them or not.

But the point is that people who weren't actually Sadducces were sometimes called Sadduccees. Roman Catholics sometimes called early Protestants Karaites. Rabbinic polemicists sometimes called Karaites Sadduccees etc. It's just a matter of understanding idiom and especially pre-modern polemical writing.

1/17/2006 6:49 PM  
Blogger chardal said...

There is a Mishna (I think) that says that the Boethusians wore tefillin with a 5th parsha, the 10 Commandments, and that such tefillin are invalid

I think its a sifra.

1/17/2006 6:50 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Is it? Thanks. I have a memory that continually frustrates me.

1/17/2006 6:58 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"Secondly, 'Sadduccees' often became a shorthand for a wide variety of groups."

What is the derivation of "Sadduccee"? I wondered if they called them Tzudukim because of Tzadok or if it were the other way around.

1/17/2006 7:57 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"What do you make out of the fact they wore teffilin at all. According to your shita, it was a Pharisee invention. "

Well, if I said the whole thing was a pharisee invention, I didn't mean that, since I knew that they'd found a few tefillin, at least tefillin shel rosh, at the dead sea excavation.

However, what I think is that the idea that god gave a verbal description of tefillin at sinai along with the torah was a phariseeic invention.

Even if some of the "oral law" deniers wore tefillin, and the fact that so few of these very sturdy creations were found, and that so few were recovered from genizas, leads me to believe it was not a widespread custom (that's right-custom) to wear them. Clearly it wasn't a universal commandment for a very long time.

The sadduccees and their ilk never claimed an oral law from sinai- that to me was overreaching by the pharisees/rabbis.

1/17/2006 8:02 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

I should've looked here first:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadduccee

it was from Tzadok.

1/17/2006 8:03 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

It's worthy of mention that chabad really likes to emphasize mitzvas that depend on oral tradition with beginners. Of course, it could just be a coincidence that rabbinic mitzvahs are the most identified with OJ, but let's take a look:

1. candlelighting- a rabbinic invention in halacha that essentially ensured that all jews would go with the rabbinic reading of the posuk that says "you shall have no fires burning in your houses" on shabbos. This way, the rabbinic interpretation "kindling", is conducted from the outset- the fires are lit before and must burn into shabbos, and must be in the home, thus the plain meaning is trumped by the rabbinic explanation. When jews light candles, I doubt that 99% have any idea this is why candles are lit.

2. tefillin- as we can see, the idea that tefillin are this monolithic unassailable tradition dating from sinai (and even god wore them if you literally read the midrash) is due entirely to the rabbinic version. Not just wearing tefillin by every jew, but also the way the tefillin are set up, with the scrolls. The karaites have a good kasha on tefillin- how could rashi and rabbenu tam types, along with the 5 comparment types, and 4 compartment types with 10 commandments have ever become a maklokess if there were a divine commandment to wear tefillin?

After all, unlike the explanation for other maklokesses, tefillin are not "oral" and suject to the "game of telephone" phenomenon.

Moreover, tefillin are quite resiliant- not like a piece of parchment. So, they could literally have been handed down from generaton to generation and when worn out, they could have been taken apart and studied to make the next batch.

3. lulav and esrog- pretty monolithic tradition which is called into question by Nehamia 8, especially the esrog.

1/17/2006 8:17 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Chardal

I should mention that I think tefillin were probably meant to be worn in some form at least on the head. I just question the full version of the design we have having been used since day one.

I note the torah specifically says "don't make a bald spot *between your eyes*" that is with the same phrase as with the tefillin shel rosh. Thus it makes sense that the head tefillin was really meant to be worn on the head in the same place where folks might make bald spots in mourning.

1/17/2006 8:24 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

S.- what is the best book in your opinion that describes the redaction of tanach and the process by which some of the books became apochryphal?

1/17/2006 8:31 PM  
Blogger chardal said...

Even if some of the "oral law" deniers wore tefillin, and the fact that so few of these very sturdy creations were found, and that so few were recovered from genizas, leads me to believe it was not a widespread custom (that's right-custom) to wear them. Clearly it wasn't a universal commandment for a very long time.

Or that it was so expensive and difficult to manufacture that only a few people could afford it. Much like the gemara said about techeilet.

You are conflating two issues:

1. The fact that there is machloket within the tradition is undeniable as is the fact that machloket sprouted from external pressures that made it difficult to transmit the oral laws properly.

2. The claim that the oral law represents an tradition that dates all the way back to the giving of the written Torah and is divine.

These two positions are not mutually exclusive. Rishonim readily admit that machloket comes from a weakening of the messorah. We who see G-d's providence in history and in the very development of Judaism throughout the ages have no problem with admitting both these facts. I am fully confident that every generation did their best to preserve the oral law to the best of their abilities and I have no doubt that the oral law as we have it today is how Hashem wants us to live.

1/17/2006 8:33 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Chardal:

"The fact that there is machloket within the tradition is undeniable as is the fact that machloket sprouted from external pressures that made it difficult to transmit the oral laws properly."

Actually, I don't really have a problem with the existance of maklokess per se, since the torah itself has had variations.

I am well aware of the arguments explaining the loss of halachos. I've read Zvi Lampel's "Dynamics of Dispute- the makings of maklokess in talmudic times," and it makes reasonable arguments for how maklokesses came into being, although not completely satisfactory.

But the example of tefillin is a much tougher issue for an oral tradition vis-a-vis tefillin, for the reasons cited above (they were long-lasting *material objects*. They were portable as well.)

Thus, all the explanations for loss of oral halachos leading to maklokesses don't apply to tefillin in my view. The halachos were oral, but the tefillin were like halachos trapped in amber! Just dissecting them, you'd get 1)shape and size 2)contents- which parshiyos 3)how many compartments 4) their composition. In other words- "a tefillin is worth a million words" halachically.

Might have to post on this one soon.

1/17/2006 9:13 PM  
Blogger chardal said...

But the example of tefillin is a much tougher issue for an oral tradition vis-a-vis tefillin, for the reasons cited above (they were long-lasting *material objects*. They were portable as well.)

Thus, all the explanations for loss of oral halachos leading to machlokesses don't apply to tefillin in my view. The halachos were oral, but the tefillin were like halachos trapped in amber! Just dissecting them, you'd get 1)shape and size 2)contents- which parshiyos 3)how many compartments 4) their composition. In other words- "a tefillin is worth a million words" halachically.


Actually, there is very little dispute in chazal about tephilin. There is pretty much a unanimous opinion regarding how they should be. Any machloket that arises by the time of the rishonim is about the order of the parshiot and other finer details. Almost all of the variants come from sources outside of chazal and we even have a pretty good idea regarding their angle and agenda since we have found the Qumran scrolls.

1/17/2006 9:37 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"Actually, there is very little dispute in chazal about tephilin."

I know that, silly. I'm talking about those who came before chazal by hundreds of years and were contemporaries of the original pharisees as well as the pharisess.

1/17/2006 11:46 PM  
Anonymous Holy Hyrax said...

I have to admit BTA, this has probably been your best post yet. Its really led to great comments from both sides.


If the scroll had been lost until the time of Josiah, again, the chain of transmission...

Are you saying it was lost before leading up to his reign or after it? I believe the time between Manasheh and Josiah was only 60 years. True, kanks could have appeared in the tradition, but I don't believe the chain could have been that seriously broken in that given time. If its after, well, the Torah would obiously been in place. When would it have been forgetten entirely? I don't think it would have happened from the time of Josiahs reign to the first expulsion.

1/18/2006 2:26 AM  
Blogger happywithhislot said...

BTA
I was really let down!
I thought my comments provided the stimulus for chardal....

Oh well..maybe next post.

1/18/2006 7:53 AM  
Anonymous fit2btied said...

BTA,

Your summary of the discussion was excellent;
cogent and strightforward. It shows how well you can make your point if you leave out the dripping sarcasm and invective often found in your other posts.

Two points:

You state:Nehamia perek 8 is also problematic for the oral law concept, in that the rabbis claimed to have an oral tradition that the esrog was "the fruit of a beautiful tree" mentioned in the Torah. The problem is that Ezra and the rest begin gathering several types of sticks and foliage, half of which are in common with rabbinic tradition, and also olive branches which clearly are not."

This point is unsubstantiated since the verse you are citing clearly discusses the gathering of these woods to use to construct booths (succot) not to use as the arbah minim. Check the text in that regard.

If the Bnei Yisrael did not have a strong, unbroken tradition (a la Kuzari) about the revelation at Sinai, why would they care about what Ezra was reading, why would they mourn and prostrate themselves? Why would they care that they had not been fulfilling the law? Why would they run to fulfill the law?

1/18/2006 8:46 AM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>S.- what is the best book in your opinion that describes the redaction of tanach and the process by which some of the books became apochryphal?

Offhand, it is this one.

1/18/2006 10:31 AM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>What is the derivation of "Sadduccee"? I wondered if they called them Tzudukim because of Tzadok or if it were the other way around.

As you might imagine, it's debated by scholars and talmidei chachamim alike.

As a quaint aside, many Karaites believe that during Biblical and Second Temple times their forebears were a group known as the Tzadikim--which they insist are not identical with the Tzedukim.

1/18/2006 10:33 AM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>However, what I think is that the idea that god gave a verbal description of tefillin at sinai along with the torah was a phariseeic invention.

Why would you think that? If non-Pharisees wore tefillin they probably also thought it was of Siniatic origin. Why else would they have worn them?

>Even if some of the "oral law" deniers wore tefillin, and the fact that so few of these very sturdy creations were found, and that so few were recovered from genizas, leads me to believe it was not a widespread custom (that's right-custom) to wear them. Clearly it wasn't a universal commandment for a very long time.

Its only a happy coincidence that some tefillin were found in the extremely dry climate of the Judean desert. Tefillin are made from animal skin and animal skin disintegrates unless it is fortuitously preserved in the right climate. You probably wouldn't find tefillin or ancient leather scrolls in Jerusalem or most other parts of Israel, because they have all disintegrated. But I'm sure you won't deny that there were tefillin-wearers in Jerusalem. So this is literally the epitome of an example where the absence of evidence proves nothing. The New Testament attests that tefillin were worn and archaeological findings have shown that they were, and rabbinic writings which attested to various aspects of tefillin, including the "wrong kind" have been confirmed as well.

But in any event, whether or not people actually wear tefillin doesn't really impact its status as a religious ritual. In one of the Orthodox Forum books it was shown that in Muslim Spain, for example, many, many, many people neglected to wear tefillin entirely. But surely you don't believe that rabbinic Judaism didn't require tefillin 800 years ago. Additionally, tefillin might have been scarce for economic reasons, but it doesn't mean that they weren't viewed widely as a religious ritual and obligation.

Finally, I'm not sure what we're arguing about. There is certainly evidence that tefillin were a part of Jewish ritual in the centuries prior to the common era, but there is just as certainly no evidence for the centuries prior to that.

>The sadduccees and their ilk never claimed an oral law from sinai- that to me was overreaching by the pharisees/rabbis.

As I've already shown, we "know" that they never claimed an oral law from Sinai from one source!--the polemical writings of the rabbis. Yet it is obvious that the Sadduccees had and believed in traditional explanations and teachings for the Torah. They were not the early Karaites who believed that they were meant to rediscover and reinvent the Torah every day.

The truth is that I think we can't be certain what the Pharisees meant by Torah she-be'al peh. Normally we think of it as the "Dual Torah doctrine," but if we remember that Torah doesn't actually mean "the Pentateuch" but really "instruction" or something similar, then "Torah she-bi-ketav" means "the written instruction, e.g., the Pentateuch" and "Torah she-be-'al peh" means "the traditional instruction or teachings."

And of course there were/ are traditional instruction and teachings.

1/18/2006 10:45 AM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>The karaites have a good kasha on tefillin- how could rashi and rabbenu tam types, along with the 5 comparment types, and 4 compartment types with 10 commandments have ever become a maklokess if there were a divine commandment to wear tefillin?

According to the Rambam "halakha le-Moshe mi-Sinai" means nothing more and nothing less then the following: "that which there is no machlokes about in Chazal."

In other words, it is a legitimate traditional interpretation that HLMMS is an idiomatic technical term. Furthermore, the well known aggadah about R. Akiva and Moshe basically demonstrates that this was an early understanding as well.

You're pretty much going with the most farfetched fundamentalist interpretation of rabbinic Judaism in order to discredit it.

1/18/2006 10:48 AM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>But the example of tefillin is a much tougher issue for an oral tradition vis-a-vis tefillin, for the reasons cited above (they were long-lasting *material objects*. They were portable as well.)

All the example proves is that the most fundamentalist interpretation is outlandish. For example, it is well known and documented that a thousand years ago certain Ashkenazi Jewish communities wore their hand tefillin with the maavarta facing down. As you know, there are different traditions for tying the knots. There are other traditional differences.

All this proves only that the extreme fundamentalist view of them (every detail was described and prescribed from Sinai) is mistaken.

1/18/2006 10:51 AM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>This point is unsubstantiated since the verse you are citing clearly discusses the gathering of these woods to use to construct booths (succot) not to use as the arbah minim. Check the text in that regard.

No dice. The verse says "kakatuv/ as it is written." Where was it written "fetch olive branches, and branches of wild olive, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths"?

There are, obviously, various ways one could read this passuk. But it is not easily explained why haddasim and lulavim figure in as building materials for a sukka or where building materials are "written."

1/18/2006 10:54 AM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>If the Bnei Yisrael did not have a strong, unbroken tradition (a la Kuzari) about the revelation at Sinai, why would they care about what Ezra was reading, why would they mourn and prostrate themselves? Why would they care that they had not been fulfilling the law? Why would they run to fulfill the law?

Why does a contemporary baal teshuva who has no tradition or prior connection get emotional and spiritually moved when he or she realizes that they want to commit to Jewish tradition?

The audience was a bunch of non-observant, uneducated people who were told "let's get back to the religion" by people who told them what the religion was.

I'm not saying that Ezra/ Nehemia made it up--but if they did, how would the crowd have known otherwise anymore than a contemporary baal teshuva could be sold a lot of things as traditional and binding, which aren't necessarily either.

1/18/2006 10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't read the comments, so maybe this was mentioned. I apologize if it was.

The community that returned to EY with Ezra, then later headed by Nehemiah, was small in comparison to those who stayed in Babylon. By Nehemiah's time it was also a scattered, persecuted, intermarried and generally Torah-alienated enclave.

The bottom line is that when the enclave was inspired to do teshuva by Nehemiah they found out about a lot of things they hadn't known, including Sukkos. The commentators explain that that's why they had such a simchah gedolah: it was news to them.

However, that doesn't mean it was news to the established community in Babylon. Whatever was going on in the enclave in EY does not reflect what was going on in Babylon. The community there was much large, established, including yeshivos and infrastructures capable of producing an Ezra. The situation in Nehemiah's time is similar to one in Hillel's time, when he matured in Babylon and then came to EY as the undisputed leader.

The bottom line is that the passage in Nehemiah cannot be used to undermine the Kuzari principle, because it does not prove that the Jewish community in Babylon, the far larger and more learned community, did not know everything about the Written and Oral Torah, including of course Sukkos.

Such an argument would be like a Baptist in Arkansas today claiming the Jews do not keep Torah because those in his area are complete ignoramuses.

1/18/2006 12:07 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>The community there was much large, established, including yeshivos

Yeshivos no less. Oy, talk about an anachronism.

1/18/2006 12:27 PM  
Blogger chardal said...

Yeshivos no less. Oy, talk about an anachronism.

Would you prefer Mesivta, Metivta, academy, or the ever popular BT mesivsa? :)

1/18/2006 12:46 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>Would you prefer Mesivta, Metivta, academy, or the ever popular BT mesivsa? :)

I'd prefer none of them. They simply didn't exist in any way one could imagine them 2400 years ago.

1/18/2006 12:49 PM  
Anonymous suomynona said...

I would have to agree with Fit, Missi Fred at least according to BTA's posted translation as follows:

8:15 And that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, TO MAKE BOOTHS...

1/18/2006 1:00 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Depends how you read it, obviously. If you say that the five material specified are for building sukkot, then the question that can legitimately be asked is why these 5 materials are required? Is it or is not odd that two of the materials happen to be haddasim and lulavim? Also, an important clause is the end of the verse which you snipped off by writing "..."

The verse says "as it is written." It is a legitimate question to ask what is meant by that. Is it referring to the command to build sukkot? Or the materials?

It is certainly ambiguous, at least.

1/18/2006 1:09 PM  
Anonymous carbon shidduchim said...

"And that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written. [It appears that the purported Oral Law tradition of the Esrog being the "fruit of a beautiful tree" was totally unknown to them!]"

The above is not a "proof" that they did not know of the esrog. the above is simply saying what materials are kosher for s'kach, which they still are...to this very day.

CS

1/18/2006 1:20 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>The above is not a "proof" that they did not know of the esrog. the above is simply saying what materials are kosher for s'kach, which they still are...to this very day.

It obviously isn't an exhaustive list, so what is the point of it? If it is simply to record the historical fact that they used these five materials to build sukkot, fine, but it isn't apparent from the text without reading it in because of the mention of haddasim and lulavim.

1/18/2006 1:25 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

CS-

"the above is simply saying what materials are kosher for s'kach, which they still are...to this very day."

That's wrong for 2 reasons:
1) They are quoting the torah saying "as it is written." So, their version of the "torah" is different than ours.

2) The torah doesn't list kosher schach materials. Moreover, by our modern day halacha (purportedly an Oral tradition) any branches are kosher, so no need to itemize just a few. That is meaningless.

1/18/2006 1:32 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Anon:

"However, that doesn't mean it was news to the established community in Babylon. Whatever was going on in the enclave in EY does not reflect what was going on in Babylon. The community there was much large, established, including yeshivos and infrastructures capable of producing an Ezra."

Your whole post is good, thanks. You do make two arguments that were made 2 days ago.

However, there is a clear response to your point: Ezra, Nehamia, and the prophet Mordechai were all present from Babylon. Just going with your anachronistic reference to "yeshivos" (yes Chava said that too but never came back to explain it) I would think Mordechai and Ezra had been learning at one of the shtark yeshivos, so why didn't they correct the incorrect practice?

Further, why indeed does it say SUccos had not been observed "since the days of Yehoshua ben Nun?" Mordechai and Ezra could have set the record straight if they though otherwise.

1/18/2006 1:38 PM  
Blogger chardal said...

Further, why indeed does it say SUccos had not been observed "since the days of Yehoshua ben Nun?" Mordechai and Ezra could have set the record straight if they though otherwise.

You have to see it as thematic. These ignorant Jews who were entering the land for the first time (in the same way Yehoshua's generation entered were entering it for the first time) celebrated Sukkot for the first time (same way as Yehoshua's generation celebrated it for the first time)

The torah doesn't list kosher schach materials. Moreover, by our modern day halacha (purportedly an Oral tradition) any branches are kosher, so no need to itemize just a few. That is meaningless.

It could be that these were considered materials that were considered "mehudar" for the building of the sukkah. There is a consistent theme in ezra/nechemia trying to get the people to go beyond the letter of the law - "Az titaneg".

1/18/2006 1:45 PM  
Anonymous carbon shidduchim said...

Again, BTA, Miss Fred, etc, please explain how:

"It appears that the purported Oral Law tradition of the Esrog being the "fruit of a beautiful tree" was totally unknown to them!"

follows from:

"Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written."

as you have quoted it? It may be that they were unaware of the esrog, but the preceeding textual quote does not substantiate it, as BTA's exclamatory parenthetical comment implies.

-CS

1/18/2006 1:56 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>That's wrong for 2 reasons:
1) They are quoting the torah saying "as it is written." So, their version of the "torah" is different than ours.

To resume playing devil's advocate, it depends how you read the verse.

After all, the clause "as its written" *could* refer to constructing a sukkah. That would not be an implausible reading.

1/18/2006 2:11 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Carbon-

"please explain how:

'It appears that the purported Oral Law tradition of the Esrog being the "fruit of a beautiful tree" was totally unknown to them!'"

It is an inference I drew, not a syllogistic proof. If you read the entire chapter, it seems they are discussing all the halachos of Succos that were in their book. They conclude with "as it is written." It then describes them doing their preparations.

However, you do raise a novel point which I and everyone else overlooked with our biases of how the lulav is done nowadays.

That is, since the inference is that they knew the complete succos mitzvah from reading this book, there was no mitzva in there regarding waving lulav or even having/waving esrog!

In other words, I accorded too much to the species than was necessary, perhaps all they did was dwell in booths for Succos and esrog/lulav were later additions.

No way to be sure, but I stand by my initial statement that esrog would have been mentioned and add that waving would have been added as well.

Back to you Fred.

1/18/2006 2:30 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"Check your dates again. Zoroastor lived around 600 BC. If one compares the purity laws of Zoroastrianism (vestas) and those of modern halacha, there are striking similarities. The particular changes in Ezra's time were the expansion of laws concerning tumah, tahara, and eugenics.

Many of these changes lasted through the Mishnaic and into the Talmudic period and made their way into halacha."

SL Aronowitz- sorry I overlooked this. Very interesting as was your post onthe topic which was way before my blogging time.

Did you have anything related to Succos having come from Zoroastrianism in Persia?

1/18/2006 2:35 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"To resume playing devil's advocate, it depends how you read the verse."

Fine, but let's not lose sight of the fact that our Torah version of "the verse" says nothing about olive branches or pine for that matter.

This I'm sure is dealt with in the commentaries, but it raises some other questions about the mesora- oral and written.

1/18/2006 2:40 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>Fine, but let's not lose sight of the fact that our Torah version of "the verse" says nothing about olive branches or pine for that matter.

But that is exactly what I mean by saying that it depends how you read the verse!

It says:

>Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and branches of wild olive, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.'

If you read it your way then all of the following bold text is to be read together:

>Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and branches of wild olive, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.'

But if you bold the text this way:

>Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and branches of wild olive, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.'

Then you've got an honest, plausible reading which has nothing to do with the building materials used.

Again, I've said that its ambiguously worded from our perspective. But neither reading is inherently more persusasive.

In fact, I think that the only reason why we've even noticed something odd about it is because it mentions lulavim and hadassim, which raise up flags for us. But obviously myrtle and palm branches happen to also be branches. It COULD be pure coincidence that its the building material that they used, having nothing to do with the four species which aren't alluded to.

1/18/2006 2:48 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"Again, I've said that its ambiguously worded from our perspective. But neither reading is inherently more persusasive."

Got it, but I think our reading re: species rather than building materials is somewhat more persuassive, since what use would myrtle be for building schach? Or hadassa (willow) That stuff is short and flimsy and would just blow or fall right off.

I really don't think it's reasonable to say the description is of building materials.

Unless, of course, the teva has changed and myrtle and haddassa were sturdy as oak and palm fronds back then. ;)

1/18/2006 3:03 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Well, sukkot are inherently flimsy, at least I'd imagine they were before fiberglass and steel polls entered the picture.

I personally think that the question is persuasive only because it mentions two of the four species in an unusual context. But surely it is *possible* that the branches actually were used for schach.

I mean, you do realize that at some point Jews began making sukkot with schach, and that point was in antiquity. Why not in 400 BCE as opposed to, say, 100 or 200 BCE?

1/18/2006 3:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BTA

However, there is a clear response to your point: Ezra, Nehamia, and the prophet Mordechai were all present from Babylon. Just going with your anachronistic reference to "yeshivos" (yes Chava said that too but never came back to explain it) I would think Mordechai and Ezra had been learning at one of the shtark yeshivos, so why didn't they correct the incorrect practice?

That's what the book of Nehemiah is all about: he comes to this scattered, persecuted enclave of intermarried Jews and whips them into shape. He did "correct the practice." Not only about living Sukkos but intermarriage, tithing and ultimately Torah learning. (Not to mention rebuilding the Temple.)

Why didn't he, or Mordechai, Ezra, Nehemiah, Zerubavel, etc., do it earlier? Because they were in Babylon, far away -- physically and other ways (Ezra had to be empowered by Cyrus to do what he did) -- and did not have the means to act on the community in EY.

Further, why indeed does it say SUccos had not been observed "since the days of Yehoshua ben Nun?"

This is explained by a few of the classic commentators. I don't have them handy now but can check later on.

Basically, as I recall, the idea is that the "om" -- meaning "people," but understood widely as the common people, i.e. those not necessarily so learned -- hadn't done anything like this: i.e. sit in Sukkos in the physical Temple area with such simcha gedolah.

In other words, there could have been a couple of unique things here:

1) the commoners had never really been involved in the Sukkos ceremony since Joshua

2) the commoners in the post-1st-Temple area had never been so involved in the Sukkos ceremony

3) The emphasis is the Sukkos ceremony in the Temple. This was new.

4) The emphasis can be on the simcha gedola -- the likes of which had never been experienced since Joshua.

Remember the thing about Joshua is that he was with the first group of Jews that observed Sukkos in EY. That was a great simcha. The verse in N can be telling us, simply, that their experience of Sukkos -- after so many years without a Temple -- was comparable in simcha to the experience in the days of Joshua.

1/18/2006 4:12 PM  
Anonymous mivami said...

The list of things to discuss here is much too long for a blog but has been nicely summarized to an extent by S. et al. Just a few points:
1. mordecai from esther is NOT the mordecai mentioned coming to Judea in 539. Lets not mix up midrash with the bible itself. and speakin of which, mordecai of esther is nowhere described as a prophet.
2. any discussion of ezr-neh must take into account that the chronology and association between the books is very very confusing. whether ezra and nehemiah were in "power" together is very questionable. the single mention of neh as governor in neh 8 is usually seen as an unnecessary (unhistorical) interpolation. also, there is clearly some sort of association between Ezra 3, Neh 8 and Neh 13 (where again a law is "found written" that was unknown? before.)and this must be accounted for in trying to understand any single verse in any of those three chapters.
3. As S. has written so eloquently, the reference to Joshua ben Nun can be seen as a hyperbolic statement, and formulaic: see 2K 23:22 for Josiah's Passover as not having been done since the days of the Judges (cf 2Chr 35:18 which has since Samuel) and 2Chr30:26 which has Hezekiahs passover not since the time of Solomon. It clearly cannot be seen as literal, as there are vv throughout the bible which describe a sukkot of sorts since Joshua's time (Ezr 3; 2Chr 7:8; Zec 14:16 not to mention Solomons in IK 8). Nevertheless I think the case can be made for the phrase to be a curruption (accidental or not) for Joshua ben Yotzadak. Perhaps a combination of intents was at play as well.
4. Mention must be made for a motivation of not having practiced a ritual over so long. There is one famous (though not very respected) view that there was a second and more terrible destruction of the land and recently rebuilt temple in 485 and that was what prompted Neh to be so grieved that he came to Judea. Even if this be unaccepted, there was clearly a grievous destruction some time before 445 when he came and that may have served to make it impossible to observe a ritual of outside huts. more on this can be said but not here or now.
5. Since so much has been made of the Kuzaris argument, reference should have been made to the books statement re Neh 8. This can be found in Kuzari 3:54-63. Interestingly enough, R. Kapah in his translation has a novel explanation for the "wonder" of the finding of a law. he says previously the jews had built their sukkot like yemenite jews (! :)) inside their homes, it was only in ezras time that they built them out so of course they were surprised to learn this.
6. there is so much literature to cite here but i would recommend for a survey (with no approbation attached) jeffrey rubenstein's book on the history of sukkot during the secodn temple and rabbinic periods: studies in the continuities and change of a festival

1/18/2006 7:14 PM  
Blogger happywithhislot said...

BTA
Quick question.
how do we know that zorastiansm wasnt influenced by jews and the torah?

Maybe it was like islam where mohammed met jews and used the torah as basis for his religion?

1/19/2006 8:00 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

Happy- I know nothing about the topic except that Zoroastrianism is very old and is said by many to have influenced judaism. Read SL Aronowtiz' post on it.

http://shlomoaronovitz.blogspot.com/2004/12/judaism-original-or-just-extra-crispy.html

Not sure if S. has anything on the subject.

1/19/2006 2:04 PM  
Blogger Michalle said...

Perhaps this is sort of the point that has been made already, about the meaning here simply being not having made such a holy Sukkos, but this situation reminds to some extent of ba'al teshuvahs or even marranos (not sure of the spelling - those who converted involuntarily in Spain but still maintained Jewish practices in secret). Isn't it possible that they had been keeping Sukkos, but not necessarily perfectly and without necessarily having ever seen the actual text of the Torah referring to it?

I know that I grew up keeping Shabbos and kosher, but inexactly, and without ever having really made a connection with the specific text of the Torah (although I'd obviously heard the Torah read) with relation to those practices. The first Orthodox experience of Sukkot that I had was very different from my experience of it as a Conservative Jewish child, but there was never any kind of actual break in the chain from my great-great grandparents to me, just a lot of variation in the size and strength of those links. Everyone in between certainly had some experience of Sukkos, but you could definitely say that those Sukkot which I kept halachically a few years back where perhaps the first of THAT kind since "the days of my great-grandfather" or so.

1/19/2006 11:41 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Michalle,

That is certainly plausible, and S. makes the case for it being idomatic as well.

But that explanation is also just speculation. The other questions, e.g. "why are olive branches mentioned here in their version of the Torah scroll but not in our Torah?" and building succas is really the only thing about succos mentioned (no mention of esrogim)- they built succas. So what were they doing before?

What did your conservative family do?

Also, let's not forget my main point- if they didn't remember the remembrance, what likelihood was there that they remembered the exodus itself? (The subject of the Kuzari proof).

Did your family discuss the exodus/sinai each succos? Did the marranos? See my point?

1/20/2006 1:29 AM  
Blogger jewish philosopher said...

Dear BTA, As I understand it your primary proof against the tradition from Mt. Sinai is Nehemiah 8:13 - the entire congregation made sukkos as they had not done since the time of Joshua. The obvious reason for this is the halochah, stated in Shulchan Oruch Orach Chaim 640:7 that "people who are traveling to perform a mitzvah are exempt from using a sukkah". During all earlier sukkos celebrations since the time of Joshua the people had been pilgrims in Jerusalem or Shiloh and therefore were exempt from sukkah. In the time of Ezra everyone resided in Jerusalem and therefore made a sukkah. The Steipler zt'l I believe wrote that in Birchas Peretz.

You may want to take a look at my blog. http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/

1/20/2006 4:13 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Jewish Philo,
"The obvious reason for this [Jews not having observed Succos since Joshua's time] is the halochah, stated in Shulchan Oruch Orach Chaim 640:7 that "people who are traveling to perform a mitzvah are exempt from using a sukkah"."

Ok, let me get this straight. There's this halacha, written down 1,000 years post Ezra that justifies what people did before him? Put it another way, there is this halacha, originally from Sinai, contained in the "oral law" that says if you're travelling, you are exempt from building a succa. And that oral law is given with the written torah which just gave the commandment to dwell in succas. And that halacha is not followed from the time it is given to the time of Ezra (1,000 years+/-). Does that actually make sense to you?

Do you see the possibility for total loss of any connectionto Sinai, assuming it actually had occurred? That was the point of the post.

But you demonstrate that people can be trained to believe anything if it's in a book by an old rabbi. I knew Yosef Caro had angels on his shoulders helping him write the Shulcan Aruch, but sorry, but this makes no sense whatsoever.

I get crazy just reading what you frummies write, because it's so, so primitive.

"During all earlier sukkos celebrations since the time of Joshua the people had been pilgrims in Jerusalem or Shiloh and therefore were exempt from sukkah. In the time of Ezra everyone resided in Jerusalem and therefore made a sukkah."

Riiiight. So the torah gives a mitzvah that is not to be observed for 1,000 years? I thought it was written for the people of the time it was given in.

Btw, does the Steipler really learn that living in another country is the halachic equivalent to "traveling?!" I don't think so. If he does, then what the heck are we doing building succas in the US? Is it just a minhag?

Even al pi halacha, you've got it all wrong.

1/23/2006 3:54 AM  
Blogger jewish philosopher said...

The halochah of dwelling in the sukkah is and always has been observed when the Torah obligated its observance. From the time of Joshua to Ezra the majority of people gathering at the site of the sacrificial offerings were pilgrims and therefore did not need to make a sukkah. What exactly is your problem with that?

1/23/2006 9:37 AM  
Blogger murray gewirtz said...

Aside from the argument that Jewish trdition was NOT passed down in an unchanging, unbroken chain from the time of Moses, the Kuzari Principle can be refuted another way: If the idea that the great event (revelation at Sinai) was witnessed by the entire populace (millions) was introduced much later than was the story of the revelation itself, it might have been met with nary a ripple of dissent, and from then on become an accepted part of the account.

9/25/2006 4:19 PM  
Blogger nschuster said...

Posuk 9 talks about the Leviyim hamavinim es Haam. "The Levites who helped the people understand". This would seem to indicate that there was a core of hereditary scholars who understood the Torah.

If the posuk meant that Succos was previously unknown I would expect it to use a Loshon of Vayisgaalu, " They discovered or revealed". Instead it use as loshon of Vayimtzau, "They found". This implies nothing about the state of that knowledge previously. I just checked the calender, only to "find" that Purim is approaching. I didn't discover purim, I was only reminded to start thinking about it.

The Posuk about Succos not being observed since the days of Yehoshua ends with a reference to the feerver of the people. It may very well be refering to this. The navi sometimes uses for want of a better word I'll say slang, or exagurates to make a point. Medaber Torah Beloshon Bnei Adam" MiMey Yehoshua may just mean a long time.

1/30/2007 3:23 PM  

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