Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Response to XGH

Beha'alotcha inconsistancies

The Lonely Manna of Faith

So XGH has some BC posts up at his kofer-lite blog. (Sorry XGH, but you aren't a real kofer if you actually do the mitzvot. A least, not in my book. Rambam might tell me to throw you in a pit and let you die though.)

BC - I'll say it again - offers the most parsimonious explanation of the Bible. Sadly, this explanation is not that Moshe got the text of the Bible 100% dictation from Horeb.

It looks like different narratives were stitched together.

Now, the primary question is, why should I care?

The answer is, if you ask Rav Schachter what Moshe got on Sinai, he would say

1. Some explanations as to the peshat meaning of some verses ("Beautiful fruit"="Etrog", Moshe had divorced his Cushite wife, etc)
2. Some stuff not in the Torah at all (Make Teffilin black squares... etc.)
3. The rules for pulling rules out of the Torah, and the mandate to do so
4. The Torah itself, 100%

Now, this all fits nicely together. The problem is, we can only apply our rules (We end up with 13 in Rabbi Yishmael's time) to Divinely inspired text, right?

Well, maybe we can apply the logical rules to faithful human representations of the past to try and find what was left unsaid.

So, my conclusion is this:

A. G-d gave Moshe 1 and 2, and for 40 years they worked out a set of normative laws.
B. The humans wrote down what had happened
C. Ezra ended up collating everything
D. As everyone was trying to faithfully represent the past, at every step of the way it was both appropriate and expected to use logical tools to derive laws.

Does the Torah itself say that it was given in its entirety "Al pi ado-shem, b'yad Moshe"? No. We tacked that on so that simple folk would follow the commandments. As Ibn Ezra says, the wise will understand.

[Edit] After some thought, G-d doesn't need to give Moshe explanations to written things. He just needs to tell Moshe stuff. Then Moshe n' Pals write it down, lest they forget, and some stuff gets written about in great detail, but some stuff not so much, and they keep that stuff as part of the Oral Tradition until we are forced to write it down later.

Why have an Oral Tradition at all? I suspect it was some flexibility built in the system. Precisely so that we don't have to worry about disagreeing with Rishonim... if we hadn't written their shailot u'teshuvot and hashkafa, we wouldn't need to worry about the shitot of anyone who wasn't alive.

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