Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Long "Lost", Nice Piece on Biblical Criticism

This interesting piece by someone who really asks questions of those who offer answers (personally, and interestingly, David Weiss Halivni and Tamar Ross). One interesting bit is in her assessment of David Weiss Halivni and his resolutions regarding Biblical Criticism and Torah min Ha Shamayim (ital. mine);

"Halivni’s only serious departure from traditional doctrine is clearly in his denial of the aspect of Torah min haShamayim, as defined by Maimonides, that our Torah is exactly the same as the one which Moshe received on Mount Sinai." (p.23)

This has actually been addressed at length by Marc Shapiro in his essay and book on Rambam's 13 Principles. There and elsewhere, it is noted that Rambam himself in Hilkhot Sefer Torah was clearly aware of variant texts in his day;

Since I have seen great confusion in all the scrolls [of the Law] in these matters, and also the Masoretes who wrote [special works] to make known [which sections are] "open" and "closed" contradict each other, according to the books on which they based themselves, I took it upon myself to set down here all the sections of the Law, and the forms of the Songs [i.e. Ex.15, Deut.32], so as to correct the scrolls accordingly. (Hilkhot Sefer Torah 8:4. Trans. Menachem Cohen here).

It was therefore likely that he did not intend that those who reverenced these texts were deniers of Torah. Interestingly, the Aleppo Codex, which a great many scholars both religious and secular agree is the text the Rambam refers to as most authoritive...

The copy on which we based ourselves in these matters is the one known in Egypt, which contains the whole Bible, which was formerly in Jerusalem [serving to correct copies according to it]. Everybody accepted it as authoriative, for Ben Asher corrected it many times. And I used it as the basis for the copy of the Torah Scroll which I wrote according to the Halakha.

...varies from [most...] authorative printed/copied texts of the Torah by some 9 occurences...which could make all of us deniers. Yes, even the Temanim, whose Sifre Torah also vary from the A.C. by 4-5 variations both textual and in spacing and word division (See B. Barry Levy, Fixing God's Torah, p. 162, n.116) .

Or it could be that the sanctity of Torah is not bound to the contentious (at least historically) claim of a singular, exactingly uncorrupted text in our time. It would seem to be that there have been (this being just one example of many Text issues), far too many on the side of the Masorah and on the side of the Gemara regarding what the text should 'say' (Leiman, Sid Z. "Masorah and Halakhah; A Study in Conflict", in Tehilla leMosheh ; Eisenbrauns, 1997), for us to abide - with functioning certainty - on one single, exacting textual form that all the sources and opinion-holders we have held dear, would unanimously be found to agree on. Again, this is only one of the Textual issues (Levy gives more).

In more ways than halakhically, Torah that we learn and live has not been "in Heaven" for a long time. It has indeed been in our very human (just had to get that link in there one more time) hands [I believe] since Sinai, and [I believe] Halivni is pointing at something possibly containing a grain of truth in the era of corruption preceding Ezra ha Sopher. Just to clarify, I am not merely reiterating what many kiruv organizations will say - that our text may not be completely letter perfect but it's got everyone else beat; it's not easy to say, looking at what we have (sources above and below), that we've had an exacting text for a long time...and I'm not sure that is such an issue if there isn't a faith investment in non-"legal" variant spellings (Leiman as noted above gives examples of the few legal ones). [also see newish post on R. Tov Elem]

Further reading; Marc Shapiro's Limits of Orthodox Theology (w/ reviews), and B. Barry Levy's Fixing God's Torah w/ sources noted by them.


At 4/13/2007 6:57 AM, Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

As much as I agree with you that the Rambam must have meant "in essence," as per the interpretation of the late rosh yeshiva of Ner Yisrael, R. Weinberg, as quoted by Marc Shapiro, I don't think we actually have a prooftext from the Rambam. I think it must be that the Rambam was aware of the textual situation because he was really, really, really smart and, as he says, he examined many sifrei Torah and found them wanting.

However, the specific text you cite regarding his endorsement of the Ben Asher codex refers only to the pesuchos and setumos, and most particularly, to the two shiros. Although these were of course regarded as being established by Moshe, the paragraphing and pagination of the Torah is hardly the same as the text.

Given this, perhaps the Rambam even intended people to think he meant the consonantal text, an example of a 'necessary belief,' (and in fact that there is and was one consonantal text of the Torah is precisely the common belief among the hamon, Orthodox and non-Orthodox, today) although surely he was aware of the textual situation.

Although not directly related to this question, for interesting furhter reading see "The Silence of Maimonides," by E. Werner; L. Kravitz in PAAJR, Vol. 53. (1986), pp. 179-201. This articles discusses the interesting question as to why Rambam never wrote anything about the te'amim.

If you don't have access to this article, please email me dbmin9 at aol dot com and I'll be happy to send you a copy.

At 4/13/2007 10:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have read only a bit on the 'necessary beliefs' thing, and R. Weinberg did mention specifically letters, not spacing. The list from B.B. Levy from footnote gives variations the Temanim have in spacing. not the changes to my post.

At 4/13/2007 10:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry meant re; R. Weinberg; "letters, not just spacing"

At 4/13/2007 10:41 AM, Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

I know that R Weinberg addressed the letters, but neither he nor anyone else can cite that most famous passage in the Rambam to refer to variae lectionis in the text. The Rambam neither mentions letters nor doesn't. But he brings the Ben Asher codex as an authoritative source for the spacings, and nothing else. True, we can infer that he also 'held' the text to be authoritative for the letters too, since he mentions that the Codex's credibility stems from the fact that Ben Asher corrected and recorrected it constantly. Although the Rambam does not say it, we also know that Aharon ben Moshe ben Asher was an expert, and presumably the Rambam meant his letter text was the most error free as well. Further, as was shown by the late R. Breuer, the Temani Torah is, essentially, identical with the Aleppo Codex, which makes a great deal of sense given that the Temanim were highly influenced by the Rambam to the exclusion of other rishonim.

So, in short, the Rambam must have known, at least in general, about the textual problems that existed. But the Rambam doesn't say anything about the consonants; it is but what we infer! Either we infer, incorrectly, that Jewish dogma holds that letter for letter (even with one or nine exceptions) the Torah is the same as Moshe's, or we infer that "in general" this is so.

Incidentally, I wonder what, say, R Weinberg would make of modern scholarship which definitely holds that in Moshe's time matres lectionis (letters like aleph, vav, yod) were not used (putting aside, of course, the fact that scholars don't believe that the Torah is as old as Moshe's era)? Would R Weinberg believe that it violates the spirit of the Rambam's ikkar to believe that the first Torah of Moshe read ברשת בר אלהמ?

At 4/13/2007 11:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yup thanks. Had you seen Menachem Cohens piece before? Last I'd checked no one had really blogged about halivni, so thats how the post began. Did you read the Goldstein-Saks paper yet?

Random thought; I also recall that on this here lecture;


Marc Shapiro quotes R. Immanuel Jacobovits as saying the discovery of a Deutoronomist Source wouldn't be a challenge to Torah judaism.

At 4/17/2007 9:18 AM, Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>Marc Shapiro quotes R. Immanuel Jacobovits as saying the discovery of a Deutoronomist Source wouldn't be a challenge to Torah judaism.

I need to hear that in context; in any event, it sounds nice, but let's be realistic. The less Jews believe that the Torah is Mosaic the less Jews believe. I'm not saying that intrinsically this need be so. Suppose 2000 years ago Chazal said clearly that Devarim was written 700 years after Moshe. I doubt that would have wrecked the entire edifice. After all, fervent Christians believe their Scriptures are divine even though they believe they were written by people, decades after the fact and even contain contradictions. Christians, in a word, are used to a composite text that isn't dictated by God. I imagine that fervently religious Jews would have known how to deal with such a position in the time of Chazal (which is not to suggest that Chazal's theology was arbitrary and "could have been" anything we like; only that I imagine identifying a Deuteronomist source 2000 years ago and incorporating it into rabbinic Judaism would not have destroyed it...I think.).

But today, post-Enlightenment, after modernity, with the rise of secularism, skepticism, etc?

It would be the end of Orthodoxy, except among the few. I know that Torah True Judaism can contemplate the idea of a sherit hapletah, but at a certain point saying something "wouldn't be a challenge to Torah judaism" is like saying that modernity itself wasn't a challenge to Torah Judaism, when the result was that most Jews are very far from observing the laws of Judaism.

At 4/17/2007 3:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, let's be realistic. I...
*also* do not agree that it wouldn't mean the end of Torah Judaism. It was just a side note that was somewhat relevant to my post. It's a pretty out-there claim regarding R. Jacobovits, and if it's true that he'd said's still kind off by itself.


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