Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Textuality; Oral and Written becomes Text, becomes Torah
[links to hopefully be added in over the next week]
There is account of Sifre Avot, of writings of the Forefathers that were passed down until they reached the person of Moshe and the place of Sinai, where in the forge of Nevuah they were recast and refined through Moshe's Nevuah, into a singular, unified Torah ( I agree with [sources] that this was completed at the end of the years in the Midbar). Supposing this, were the only oral accounts and laws those that were Sheh Ba'al Peh from Sinai? (I would emphasise the "Oral Torah as the setting of the text", with R. Hirsch) What of that which was done by the Avot and known of by their descendants before Sinai, and treated within the Torah as 'mitzvot'? Did people simply cease discussing, cease recounting what was clearly held to be of great significance before? Was only narrative from before written down, and only in Bereshit? Or were things continued orally, perhaps melded to TSBP from Sinai, as with the Sifrei Avot?

Writing down (in a specific "folked" language particularly) - while adding potential for errors, amendation and expurgation - can also help checkmate competing accounts ("Versions") as well as ensure a "failsafe" of crossreferencing between oral/written, multimedia, multidimensional material from which gross errors/interpolations and meanings, will stand out. One aspect of "multi-dimensional" may be in something going from a human origin to becoming Divine when HKBH puts his haskamah on it (I'm not speaking of Sefer Devarim or something, but of statements, words by people; was Pharoah a Navi for his statements in Torah? Alexander, from Gemara?). If every bit of Torah and Mitzvot were conceptually alien to Israel, how could they efficiently accept it? It seems a not unreasonable possibility to suppose that "Laws of the people Israel", tribal laws, became sanctioned as many of the new Mitzvot from Sinai, much of which could have been previously shared with their neighbors, but now had new, Divine-oriented 'spins' on them, more refinement, no longer the laws of a tribe common to others - but now Mitzvot, Chukim, Mishpatim. Thus the time spent learning in the Midbar indeed was a clarification of new connections, new meanings to the precedent case material. IOW, it was not totally "news" to them. A new generation becomes a new nation from what had been before, genetically and materially. Provided this, it is not unreasonable to then see the previous diverse laws, which now apply as a unified specific system, as having certain affectations that would evidence this earlier nature. One example would be quite revealing - as it is not unlike Torah views on differing halachot and the psak as it manifests in TSBP.

If anything was continued that preceded Sinai, it was now measured by what was Sanctioned from Sinai (Nevuah and maps metaphors from my earlier piece, strong/weak signals, non-exhaustive history in Tanakh from previous posts). From a rabbi I've been in coorespondence with;

"Ancient legal codes were compilations of case precedents and that they did not seek a comprehensive clarification of the underlying principles, rather expecting that each particular judge will specifically apply the precedents to his particular situation. A comprehensive reconciliation of underlying Law did not happen until the Justinian's code in Byzantium and until early 12th century in Western Europe."

Thus, Pre-Sinaitic legal material (for which "coresponding Mesopotamian texts abound", as the critics like to say) - "the Torah the Avot kept" - could very well have been recast as such a specifically-Jewish network of "compilations of case precedents", bound to an oral setting, with the goal of fluidity and eternal relevance in mind (hallmarks of true Darche Torah, and definitely a substantive stream in Sephardic halacha and lifeways). This sounds a bit like Parshat Yitro. Yet each law explicates a different facet of the singular law (though not "clarified" without intertextuality/orality; only those who do it, i.e., Jews, could unpack it, could make the connections) through the TSBP. Perhaps after Sinai, by the time of Ezra, clarifications under Nevuah (this might be w/ R. Bonfils on Ibn Ezra, but I seem to recall laws specifically not being altered), of certain specific terms could be made that would be accounted for in the cumulative give-and-take of application of TSBP and fixed text, but soully for clarifications sake?

I'm not stating these things, just setting them out while I look for basis and check with others (I've written this largely in isolation from the views of the Documentary Hypothesis, as I have no idea how the uncited posukim to which I refer are divided and dated; as it is as the heart of the challenges I'm writing about in this piece, I hope to do so later). Some of it is already normative and/or reasonably supposed, but I want to put it together to a certain end. A position taking into account the above might answer the following; there are (1) seemingly 'competing' and divergent halachot that have (2) 'different' origins which (3) presume multiple interpretive contexts. (4) Posukim that have 'symptoms' of 'postdating' Moshe Rabbenu could be that which was narrative potentially specific terms within specific halachot), susceptible to later Nevuah clarification (Bonfils et al), under Ezra and the Anshe Knesset haGedolah, etc.

All this would apply only to the period ending with Ezra - not simply out of some faith commitment on my part, but also out of the general consensus in academia that there existed a unified Torah text and some solid indications of a Rabbinic Tradition from this period; this does not deny the existence of ever-present 'competitors', for which I offer a suggestion above ("competing accounts").


At 12/14/2009 12:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps there is indeed a subtext of Bonfils and other stipulation that laws COULD NOT be altered, because post-Ezra [I say Ezra instead of Moshe, as Moshe Received Revelation directly unlike any other, but Ezra's Nevuah - as noted in the comments in the Midrash about the nekudot - was regarding prextant texts - maybe?), they are Woven together in a precise manner and cannot now be "unwoven" or edited to "make" sense of them - since the sense they make is Divine, inter'textual' as well as bound up with the check/balance of Oral Torah. Pierre

At 2/05/2010 8:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

maybe Talmud, which wasn't "supposed" to be written, and the later Medieval codes we've composed - are a violation of "changing the laws", in the sense of removing them from the settings they were placed in, if only for the sake of "convenience"...


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