The Muffti has a question. Kenny recently turned Muffti’s attention towards a book called Who Wrote the Bible by Richard Elliott Friedman. Let the Muffti give credit where credit is due: Friedman’s work is lucid, comprehensible and decidedly not written merely for consumption by the members of the ivory tower. Friedman makes several claims that I was curious about so I’d like to poll the Jewlicious nation on a couple of them.

First, Muffti noticed that Friedman claims that “…At present, however, there is hardly a biblical scholar in the world actively working on the problem who would claim that the Five Books of Moses were written by Moses – or by any one person.”(p. 28) The Muffti, a product of (rather shoddy) hebrew school upbringing never had even heard so much as a suggestion that the author of the written tradition wasn’t given directly to Moses and put to paper. What he is curious about is whether or not others are privy to this information about serious biblical scholarship or not? Is it common coin amongst our people that the bible is multi-authored or is do the lay people (like Muffti) only know of the single author hypothesis?


Second, Muffti found himself (as usual, and over quite a few drinks) arguing with aforementioned Kenny over the relevance of the finidng that up to four (possibly five) distinct authors put together the Torah. And not only several authors, but several authors with apparent political agenda that explains some of the contradictory moments of the text. The Muffti, not suprisingly, found this to be an obvious vindication of the anti-religious view point. Kenny saw otherwise. Some of the crucial breaking points, as we saw them were:

  • Does the legitimacy and holiness of the Torah derive from its allegedly divine source or from its acceptance as a document that Jews have come to accept over the past 2700 years?
  • Does the temporal distance from the revelation at Sinai cast skepticism on the accuracy of both the laws we’ve come to accept (since apparently Leviticus came quite late!) and on the accuracy of the narratives that depict our alleged history?
  • The book claims that Deuteronomy was most probably written by Jeremiah, who also wrote the subsequent 6 books (and then further edited them once the first exile came about). Since it is an apparently continuous narrative and the author makes no indication to how to group them, should we be skeptical about the division between what is the Torah and what the Prophets comprise?
  • Muffti thinks, in order: yes and so much the worse for its legitimacy. Yes, and so much the worse for its accuracy. Yes, and so much the worse for traditional divisions that reflect dogma rather than history. However, the Muffti is open minded and soliciting opinions. Expert opinion in particular is both sought after and welcome. (Rabbi Yonah?) And are there any remaining serious efforts to rebut the Friedman’s claims?

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    43 Comments

    • I think that it is a fair assessment to say that, amongst the scholarly community, the multiple-authors hypothesis is standard. That holds true amongst non-orthodox religious scholars, too. For example, the new Conservative Humash, Etz Hayyim, refers to this view in many places.

      The more interesting question, which you asked, is: “Is this relevant?” Yes. And no. Friedman, himself, wrote a book “The Hidden Face of God,” in which he marvels at the thematic structure of the whole Jewish Bible. Multiple authors or no, Friedman sees a powerful message in the development of human-Divine interactions in the Tanakh. In his “Commentary on the Torah,” Friedman also shows that he marvels at the fine “editing” of the Torah, with words so carefully placed and chosen that the final product amazes, independent of its source. So, I would have to say that for Friedman, the strength of the Tanakh as an impression of humanity reaching toward God and vice versa is undeniable, even though he holds firmly to the multi-author theory.

      Might I throw my own two cents in here? We are human. We are finite beings, existing in 3 spatial dimensions and 1 temporal dimension. As creative and remarkable as we are, we are limited by our own existence. Try to imagine a square. No problem. Try to imagine a cube. No problem. Try to imagine what a four-dimensional cube looks like. Can’t do it? Try to imagine what it means for the past, present, and future to be simultaneous. It’s tough. Sure, we can write down the mathematical formulae and play around with them. But we are always limited to speaking in language and seeing in images that we can understand. God, unlike us, is infinite. God exists in all space and all time, infinitely dimensional. If you and I cannot imagine a four-dimensional cube, how are we to perceive God? We can only see those aspects of God that “project” into our space, our world. Is that image perfect? Complete? Of course not. Is it of value? Absolutely. We are compelled and required to seek out God, even though we know that our comprehension will be limited.

      At the height of ancient Greece, a body of scientific and mathematical knowledge blossomed that was unprecedented. That gift remains with us today. At the same time and earlier, the ancient Hebrews developed a body of belief and theological knowledge that we prize even today. They looked out into the universe and say unity, morality, meaning, purpose, and order. That is, they saw God, and they wrote about it. A great interaction with the Divine took place, a projection of God into our world, which was written down in our language. From that interaction, we got the Tanakh. What form did the interaction take place? Well, whether it was dictated to Moses or collected by a later editor, it is what it is: a great advance in the human understanding of the universe and our place in it.

      Amazingly, though, our ancestors didn’t stop there. The rabbis realized that we are material folk. Clear perceptions of God and purpose are rare. In order to maintain that channel to God, they projected God onto our daily lives. Sure, belief is great. But, I don’t walk around believing. I dress and eat and love and work. So they looked back to that earlier fuzzy image of God, our Tanakh, and drew out of it a system of practice, of halakha. Designed with the express purpose of keeping our eyes open to God at all times that we might understand God better and seek to improve ourselves and the world.

      Who wrote the Torah? Hashem? Moses? Jimmy the 8th century BCE pulp fiction writer? It doesn’t matter as long as we understand it as part of the human struggle to understand God and God’s struggle to get us to understand. There is no doubt that Einstein wrote the Theories of Relativity, and not some diving being. Does that mean that those theories are less relevant to an understanding of the universe? Absolutely not.

      Ooooo-kaaaayyy. I’m rambling. Sorry about that. Though not so sorry that I’m not about to press

    • Shtreimel’s post recalls a very common view. It has somehow become accepted in much of the Jewish community, at least the orthodox community, that the Documentary Hypothesis, died long ago. I don’t know how this belief came about. Certainly, the theory has undergone revision and reworking (like, say, quantum mechanics or evolution), but in its basic form, the Documentary Hypothesis is accepted by most scholars in the field (again, like qm or evolution). One is certainly free to feel that the Documentary Hypothesis is flat-out wrong and to accept the criticisms of it by orthodox authorities, but to say that it has been “debunked” is misleading. Debunked implies that the theory is considered invalid by a majority of scholars, not simply a majority of orthodox rabbis.

    • I’m not a theologian nor do I claim to know the JEPD theory, or, it’s antagonists, with any expertise. But I remember reading about the JEPD theory when I applied to JTS (also while taking a Bible class at McGill) and getting all hot and bothered about it. And the very same professor at McGill (a Rabbi and dean of the relig. dept) who introduced us to the topic, ripped it a new one. In the end, the prof, and subsequent books/articles that I’ve read, made me appreciate that the JEPD theory is about as scientifically valid as someone saying that the entire written law and oral were
      given by God to Moses, etc.

      The arguement is boring to me because, as Heschel states, the believer and the non-believer must reach a certain point, a gulf, where they cannot discourse anymore.

      So I find the discussion a little boring and dated…for me anyway.

    • Hello – first post on this site… Just want to provide a link to a short methodological critique of Bible Criticism… There are also some references there which might be of use…

      http://www.dovidgottlieb.com/comments/Biblical_Criticism.htm

      (I find Gottlieb refreshingly willing to consider criticism of his position – if you take a look around his site you will find his detailed and honest responses to critiques of his writings – which leads me to take him much more seriously…)

      With a handshake in thought
      Rav Shmuel

    • Boring and dated? Most frum people don’t even know that there is a Documentary Hypothesis. Frum people think that the origins of the Torah are shrouded in mystery, utterly oblivious the the vast corpus of scholarship available outside of their reality distortion bubble.

      And if it’s so boring, and so “thoroughly debunked,” Why is the frum world so insecure about it as to never talk about it. Not one yeshiva ever gives a class on it, nay, not even a single lesson.

    • “And if it’s so boring, and so “thoroughly debunked,” Why is the frum world so insecure about it as to never talk about it. Not one yeshiva ever gives a class on it, nay, not even a single lesson.

      Rabbi Gottlieb is disqualified on grounds of making the genre mistake.

      Comment by Mis-nagid — 12/29/2004 @ 6:10 pm”

      To answer your first question: Because it is a waste of time to spend debating things that are irrelivant. By DEFINITION a “Yeshiva” is a place where we study the word of GOD. We don’t discuss OPINIONS if there is a God or not. That type of wasted talk can be done on the internet. If others want to try to seek ways of DISPROVING G-d, they are going to have a hard time convincing me of that. About the same amount of trouble that you are going to have to convince me that a table is a chair. Comprendo? I can only bring SUPPORT that there is a G-d. The more support a person brings to his argument that is call PROOF.
      If you can show me on PAPER that there is more support to your ideas than what is written in support of G-d we may be getting closer to a SOLUTION. I wish you luck. YB

    • I’m always amused at how frum people, when put on the defensive, reflexively defend Deism, as if that really the claim in question, or representive of their beliefs. It’s the flipside of all the other straw man arguments in YB’s post, and complements them magnificently.

    • YB,

      Okay, you’ve convinced me that there is a god!!! I can’t think of a way to refute that there is a god, so there is a god!!!!

      But I have a little problem in that I can’t prove that god wrote the Torah or that god isn’t, say, Jesus.

      Now please don’t consider this wasted talk on the Internet because this theory is the primary theory taught in most universities with biblical studies…

    • I’ll throw you all for a loop here. I personally do not believe that the entire Torah- written and oral was dictated by Hashem to Moses at Mt. Sinai, which is what the Orthodox believe.
      However, I do believe that all the laws of ethics in the written Torah are commanded by Hashem.
      Why do I believe as I do? Because if I believed that the entire Torah, written and oral was dictated by Hashem, then all other religions (even other pure monotheist religions such as Islam and Sikhism) are totally false, and it’s Hashem’s will that every single human being becomes an Orthodox Jew. Since I believe Hashem is The One Merciful Creator, and therefore is kind to all human beings, and accepts their level of spirituality, at least as a starting point, I cannot except such an exclusivist belief as to believe in Torah Mi Sinai. However I do believe that at some time in the future all humanity will recognize that Hashem is the One and Only and Indivisible Merciful Ruler of the Universe, but that doesn’t mean that I think they’re all going to become Jewish.

    • Dave, I don’t think the idea of Torah as spoken as Sinai necessitates that all other religions be considered false. God says pretty clearly that s/he is the only real game in town, but there is never any claim that what became known as Judaism has an exclusive on the truth. Why could it not be that The Word as presumably spoken at Sinai was meant to be the way to live for those standing at Sinai, and their decedents, but not for the world at large? That everyone else is meant to live and recognize the one God in their own unique way.

    • I dunno guys. Y’all are pretty liberal… I do definitely consider all other religions, well, wrong. But I respect everyone’s right to practice whatever they like as they see fit, assuming a quid pro quo. I don’t think G*d even needs other people to be Jewish – G*d just wants people to be good – our religion’s pretty reasonable that way. This all or nothing proposition reflects other religions and is kinda foreign to my understanding of Judaism. Non-Jews do not have to be Jewish, they just have to follow 7 relatively simple noachide laws. Sounds pretty tolerant to me. But what do I know, I’m no rabbi. Google it or go to askmoses.com for more details …

    • Laya, I understand your point, however I do not agree, for the following reason: If I am to believe that God dictated all the oral and written Torah to Moses on Mt. Sinai, and if the entire Torah, oral and written (not just the ethical laws, and not just certain parts) is the word of God, then that means there can be no other word of God, then why were the other nations of the world not given this priviledge, since I will always believe that God is merciful beyond human understanding. My belief is that the understanding of God’s Unity, Ineffableness, mercy, and other attributes are implanted by God into the hearts of all humanity, except some humans choose for various reasons to ignore it, and/ or they put a whole bunch of other stuff on top of this understanding, which obscure this understanding. That is why I believe that at some time in the future, all human beings will come to the understanding that God is One, Ineffable, and Merciful.

    • but ck, some people are just naturally born with a desire to connect to the divine being. Religion is how most people try to do that. Other people crave structure and ritual to give their lives more meaning. Religion as an institution helps there also. Other people need a sense of community and find it centered around places of worship. If you desire these things and you happened to be born Jewish, boy are you in luck, But for the other 99.5% of the world, what can we offer them? 7 simplistic rules to guide them and challenge them thru their whole life?

      Dave said:

      If I am to believe that God dictated all the oral and written Torah to Moses on Mt. Sinai, and if the entire Torah, oral and written (not just the ethical laws, and not just certain parts) is the word of God, then that means there can be no other word of God, then why were the other nations of the world not given this priviledge,

      why do you have to make that leap? why can there be no other words of God? no other way,if this one is true? where’s the logic that say’s that there simply cannot be more than one right way? Doesn’t Judaism teach us that on a regualr basis? Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai disagree, and at the end we learn that they are *both right*, but nonetheless, we follow Beit Hillel.

      To answer your other question, yes. And for those who may not be familiar, here are the 7 Noachide laws;

      1. Avodah Zarah: Prohibition on idolatry.
      2. Birchat HaShem: Prohibition on blasphemy and cursing the Name of G-d.
      3. Shefichat Damim: Prohibition on murder.
      4. Gezel: Prohibition on robbery and theft.
      5. Gilui Arayot: Prohibition on immorality and forbidden sexual relations.
      6. Ever Min HaChay: Prohibition on removing and eating a limb from a live animal.
      7. Dinim: Requirement to establish a justice system and courts of law to enforce the other 6 laws.

    • Dave dude – it seems like it might, but again, I’m no rabbi. Please consult a competent religious authority or perhaps one will post here soon. Hello??? Rabbis, hello???

    • And uh… laya, there’s a difference between the beit hillel/beit shamai debates (ie in what direction does one light one’s chanukah candles, for instance) and the belief in our monotheistic religion with it’s Torah revealed in Sinai and say the worship of beelzebub and its required child sacrifices and ritual goat intercourse. If that’s the way you try to connect to the divine, well, I have no problem saying that in my ever so humble opinion, you’re cracked.

    • dude, i meant within the framework of monotheism, i guess i needed to state that explicitly– within the framework of monotheism.

      But you still didn’t answer my question.

    • Fine laya. I am going to assume that the 7 noachide laws are followed, given that I think the following: I think G*d would cut most Christians some slack despite this Jesus is God thing many of them keep going on about. They gotta lose those creepy statues though. Muslims are pretty safe for the most part, except for suicide bombers of course, 72 big guys called bubba waitin’ on them in Club Hell… Most secular people living in societies wherein the “Judeo Christian” ethic forms the basis of the legal system should be ok as well. Thus all these folks can practice whatever form of spirituality it is they practice, and be fine vis-a-vis Judaism. Other religions may be more or less problematic but like I said, I am totally sure G*d will cut all good people lots of slack. Except for the Jews of course. We have 613 commandments to follow. Ooof. It’s hard being of the mosaic persuasion.

    • I agree partly with Laya and partly with CK. What I was trying to say is that I cannot believe in Torah mi Sinai. I still think the Torah is holy, but I cannot believe the entire Torah is the literal word of God, because the logical consequence is that all other religions are utterly wrong instead of having some erroneous beliefs, and I personally cannot accept that. I do believe the Torah is divinely inspired, and I do believe all the ethical laws are divinely commanded.
      However, I cannot believe that the entire written and oral Torah is the word of God, because the logical consequence of that is that the rest of humanity is in deep spiritual trouble, or they’re somehow spiritually second class citizens and only we Jews have the true faith, which I cannot accept. However, I do believe that all humans will ultimately come to the belief/ come to re-believe that God is One. I realize that sounds inconsistent.
      Ok, I may be being inconsistent

    • By the way, CK, I believe that at some time in the future, Christians will also come to the belief that God is One.
      Also, did you know that the Rishis, ancient Hindu teachers also believed that God is One and cannot be represented by any image. Its in the Vedas somewhere.

    • OK cool. We’ll make sure to invite that Rishis dude and his followers to our G*d party.

      And Laya? Inner pluralist? Hardly. I fully embrace pluralism, why some of my best friends are totally misguided spiritual retards …

    • Since someone called for a little Rabbinic involvement on this comment page, I should note that we did get a little input and a web link from Rav Shmuel. Despite his funky grooves, he _is_ a competent orthodox rabbi. Rav linked us to a brief discussion of the Documentary Hypothesis by Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb. With due deference to Rabbi Gottlieb, who does have a Ph.D. in logic and taught and Johns Hopkins, I don’t feel that he offers a good critique of the hypothesis. As in other arguments of his that I have read, Rabbi Gottlieb tries to apply a pure mathematical logic to distinctly “messy” situations. Consider the following: We have a text. It is comprised of various stories, laws, themes, characters, etc. Certain stories contain anachronisms. Other snippets of text are first mentioned at later dates than the rest. Writing styles change from book to book. Linguistically, different sections don’t always match up. Rabbi Gottlieb points out, quite correctly, that these facts in no way disprove that the Torah was given verbatim by Hahem to Moshe. However, the facts also fit well with the documentary hypothesis, with multiple authors, sources, and redactors. Those seeking to disprove the multiple author hypothesis must do no less than to offer incontrovertible proof of the Torah’s divine origin. Hence, the continuing belief in the Documentary Hypothesis by most scholars.

      But, given the inability to prove one way or another, and my above claim that the Torah as a record of human-divine interaction is independent of its specific author(s), I still declare the argument semi-irrelevant to faith. Halakha is a brilliant system for connecting the human to God, the finite to the infinite. Rabbinic Judaism is another form of human-God interaction which developed from our written texts, independent of their authors.

    • The Muffti half-agrees with Fineline (well, he agrees with half). Gottlieb’s critique while interesting seems to not get to the main point: we have a puzzle on our hands involving linguistic, thematic and temporal inconsistencies to resolve. Whether the details of JEPD are correct, the general anti-single-author tenure fo the view is the most reasonable hypothesis on the table. No one expects a refutation of any particular view; what is important is to come up with a view that fits the evidence best and the evidence makes a single author very unlikely.

      Anyhow, let’s assume the hypothesis correct. The interesting theological question, as far as the Muffti was concerned, is whether it matters or not. This is where agreement with Fineline comes to an end I’m afraid. After all, if Halkcha is another construction of a human mind that records tradition, what evidence do we have to think that the religion is vindicated by a divine source? And if it doesn’t terminate in a divine source, why should we think it is a great way to get in touch with God?

    • There are two factors that I’d like to throw into the cholent pot here.

      1. If it were possible to prove conclusively that the Torah was the direct word of G-d then Free Will would presumable be diminished somewhat – no?

      2. If the style of the Torah were more straightforwardly consistent in style and sequence there’d be a lot less to analyze discuss and debate about. Few people would read it and it could not have spawned the scholarship across so many religious borders that it has.

      So maybe it’s the question that’s important – much more important than the answer. G-d/Someone/The Comittee – whomever – has forced us to confront ourselves on a daily basis in every age. Not too many books around that can do that…

      I’d like to be clear that although I am an Orthodox Rabbi I am not writing a ‘position’ paper when I post here – just musings along with the rest of you. My personal belief system is in constant flux driven by the input I receive from sacred and secular texts, students, friends and sometimes even bloggers.

    • Oh- and also Mis-nagid can you clarify what you mean when you disqualify Rabbi Gottlieb “on grounds of making the genre mistake”? Do you mean what fineline said two posts up? Or something else entirely?

    • The Muffti respects Rabbis but Rav Shmuel has left him somewhat bewildered. Allow me to say why. Rav Shmuel said:

      1. If it were possible to prove conclusively that the Torah was the direct word of G-d then Free Will would presumable be diminished somewhat – no?

      Ummmn, well, so far as the Muffti can tell, decidedly no. And the Muffti is a little confused as to how it could possibly matter to free will whether or not God wrote the Torah. The problem of free will is a deep and thorny one; but the Torah seems (with appologies for the reductive overtones) a book of history, poetry and laws. Surely whatever history we have isn’t relevant to free will; Surely whatever the value of the poetry in the Torah doesn’t affect our free will; and surely whether or not the laws come from a divine source doesn’t affect our ability to choose whether or not to follow them. So perhaps Rav Shmuel would kindly elaborate for the Muffti is too dumb to follow his line of reasoning.

      Even more confusing to the Muffti is:

      2. If the style of the Torah were more straightforwardly consistent in style and sequence there’d be a lot less to analyze discuss and debate about. Few people would read it and it could not have spawned the scholarship across so many religious borders that it has.

      I don’t know how to evaluate counterfactuals like this one. I suppose if the bible contained less contradictions, fewer appologists would have tried to set them straight. And I suppose that if the bible didn’t seem to be written by multiple sources, fewer books like Freidman’s would have come out attempting to discover the identity of the authors. But, on the other hand, perhaps more people would actually believe that it was a divinely inspired book rather than a few chronicler’s primary-sourceless, politically inspired tales about the a) history of the jews and b) amazingly, the creation of the universe, and the generations that preceded an apparent flood that wiped away all signs of history occuring before said flood. heh. Then again, now that i read the last part this post, I realize that perhaps I’m just proving your point…

    • El Muffti Grande,

      I think that, to some extent, your disagreement with me is a misunderstanding. (Isn’t it always that way?) We really have to clarify what “a Divine source” means. We cannot understand God in any complete way. Rabbi Yishmael felt that even the Torah had to be written in the language of man. I would propose that “in the language of man” is much more than a linguistic statement. It means that our understanding of God, even through the Torah itself, is never a clear image of the mind of God. Instead, we get a “feel” for God and the Divine will put into the context of our historical “wrestling” . Jacob wrestled with a divine being (see Alli’s Bat Mitzvah parsha 😉 ). Come morning time, he didn’t know his adversary’s name nor who he really was. The whole thing was quite abstract, its meaning unclear. Nonetheless, we understand it as a life-changing interaction with God. We don’t have to look God in the eye to know that we need to look for God. Rav Shmuel is right. If we were to know God in any complete way, or even know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Torah and halakha are pure and direct from heaven, we would lose our free will. A solid belief in halakha as the direct will of God only provides a stronger motivation for observance, not a logical basis for the system itself. It is simply a very logical, meaningful, and effective means for physical humans to reach out to God, something we seem inherently driven to do.

      Again, I will relate these ideas to science (I have to do something physics-related at work). Our modern theories of physics are, without exception, products of the human mind. Nonetheless, we believe them to reflect something very real about our universe. They reflect a very real interaction between the universe and the human mind which struggles to understand. The whole scientific endeavor reflects the drive by humanity to understand and make sense of the universe. Even if the Torah or Rabbinic Judaism are products of the human mind, they, too, reflect (I believe) a very real interaction between God and the human mind which struggles to make sense of God’s creation. That interaction, as in science, must be recorded or play out in ways that humans can comprehend: math, language, actions, behaviors, etc. The important belief is not about the hand that wrote the law but in the value of the law as a true way to bring ourselves, and the whole world, closer to God.

    • The Muffti understands and still disagrees. Let’s pursue your analogy: science presumably aims at uncovering how the universe works by presenting models that explain the phenomenon we observe. We can tell that our understanding of the universe has been furthered when we see more and more phenomenon get subsumed under common explanatory principles. In doing so, it has an external check: given counter-observations that we take to be accurate, we tend to reject the model (or, I suppose in extreme cases, we get suspicious about the apparatus we are using to collect the data).

      Nothing like the external check part exists when it comes to halkha (sp?) In particular, if halkha is just a product of man’s imagination or a record of practices people held sacred at the time, I don’t see any reason to believe that we are getting closer or interacting with God. Perhaps we are attempting to but interaction is a two way street and I don’t see how you can make any claims about success in interaction unless there is an external check (i.e. God’s approval). For all I know, God hates pigs and his will, if done, would involve me slaughtering them in the most cruel way possible and then eating bacon every morning. Now, were we to know, or at least not have counterevidence, that the torah was at root a document written or at least approved by divine authority, the basis for interaction WOULD be there: it would be there in that it was approved by God so we’d know that following it would put us in line with what God’s will. We have no way of knowing that if the connection to that source is severed. To bring the analogy home, we have no friction against God where we can tell if we are doing well or badly, unlike science where we have the friction of the world providing data to tell us how we are doing. At best, if the torah and so forth are just products of the human mind, it strikes me as just another lame attempt towards transcendence that we seem to need, desire but ultimately should realize we can’t have.

    • I never meant to imply, though I suppose I did, that we judge scientific models and religious models in the same way. We most certainly don’t. Science, as you point out, has the experimental check: Does it make predictions we can test? Do they work? Swell. Religious systems make no such predictions. Some people base them on faith. Some on faith mixed with logic. Your question was whether the factuality of the multiple authors hypothesis is relevant to the whole Jewish system. I am simply saying: “Not necessarily.” It may make all the difference in the world for you. It may make none for me. Really, the question of “Who wrote the Bible?” has more relevance on those who want one question of faith, and one only. If God did write it, great, you can deal with all the halakha. If God didn’t, then nothing else matters. But, there are much more subtle questions of theology than that. “Is human-God interaction valid if humans do more of the talking?” might be one.

      You are right. We cannot know if the connection to the source is severed. But, we are not so much required to constantly believe in a historical connection to the source as we are to constantly attempt to make a connection.

      To me, a religious system which eschews the material world is unrealistic and denies the beauty of creation and enjoyment. On the other hand, a religious system which focuses on getting into heaven and avoiding hell is self-serving. Judaism does neither. It accepts and legislates material dealings, embraces the beauty of the physical world, insists on the need for humans to complete and improve on creation, and sets a group aside to promulgate these beliefs. Judaism even gives us a set of behaviors which help turn our minds towards God and helps keep us focused as the human world has developed through the millennia. To me, that system makes a lot of logical sense. Therefore, I accept it as a marvelous and authentic product of human-Divine interaction. At what level of interaction the writing of the Torah took place doesn’t seem particularly relevant.

    • I really enjoyed Rav Shmuel’s website and music. I recommend “I Know I’m in Love.”

      I do have a question Rav Shmuel…feel free not to respond if it’s too personal or an issue you’d rather avoid, since it’s just nosy curiosity on my part. You have six children, but you don’t seem to have a congregation. How do you make a living? Also, your site makes no mention of your wife, but I presume there is a wife bearing the children. Yes?

    • In answer to your questions;

      1. I am happily married and have been so for the past 18 years. While my wife appreciates my music she is not interested in being part of the publicity that sometimes comes along with it.

      2. At this point I do not have a congregation. In fact I have never had one. I am a teacher. I run a Yeshiva in New Jersey and that’s how I put food on the table. While it is no great secret as to who I am – the Yeshiva prefers at this point that my music career be kept low key as it might not be so good for recruitment. If you are interested in more specifics – I have nothing to hide – just e-mail me privately through my website…

    • Nope, that was interesting and answered my key questions – thank you for being so open. Best of luck with the music career…

    • This is what I heard in Yeshivah and I thought it was pretty standard good sense:
      1) Faith is built on faith, so if you don’t want to believe then you won’t.
      2) There are two possibilities here:
      G-d wrote the Torah
      man wrote the Torah
      If man wrote the Torah, which is the assumption of many many professors, then indeed it may well be that it was written by multiple authors.
      The Torah itself appears to infer that G-d dictated the document to Moses. We also have an over 3000 year old tradition held by an entire nation to that effect.
      If G-d wrote it, professors need not bother to analyse the text. G-d could write the Torah in 15th century Japanese, He could write it in the style of a blog, G-d has this power. If He wanted to write a document with different aspects to it, with different voices, He could. Why would he? There is a whole genre of literature coming out of Machon Herzog in Israel dealing with that question. Rav Soloveitchik wrote the book “Lonely Man of Faith” building on the first two chapters of Genesis, often quoted as an example of different authors. For Rav Soloveitchik, the multi-layered reality of this world requires a multi-layered response. Hence we need a multi faceted text.

    • I’m not Jewish. I’m a born-again atheist. I was raised a rabid, fundamentalist, evangelical Christian until I finally saw the light.

      It’s amazing to me that even secular Jews will often defend their faith to the death or at least to the last beer! Why is it that someone who hasn’t even been to a synagogue in decades will still insist that their religion is the one true religion and that indeed there really is a god? Why don’t they practice it?

      For me, atheism is much more relaxing and comforting. I’m responsbile for my own actions. There is no god or satan or other spiritual creature out there waiting to pounce on me when I screw up! I suffer my own consequences here and now in this life on this planet! End of story.

      If I’m wrong and their is life after death, so what? I’ll worry about it when I get there. If not, I won’t know the difference.

    • religious people (that’s any religion) like to state how much proof they have for the existence of god or son of god when actually the real truth there is no proof or way to prove it. The torah is just stories written by people and people decided which stories were to be in it. so much about nothing. Why is it that the more ancient it is and less likely to be proved easier to accept as true?

    • In reply to Jet, religions are man tryin ta define god. In judaism God defined himself and gave Tanakh to man. Ancient doesnt matter, the zarathustrians are 5000 b.c.e. i had tha understand that they were not mono-theistic. Recentley i read they it is. Tha inmportant thing is ta realise that two mono-theistic religions, Christianity and Muhammedanism stem from Judaism. While drastically different and nonsensical, i ahve heard that it is gods way of teaching mankind Torah. Propably not.

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      Peace!
      WesleyWes

    • I am very greatful to God and the Jewish people for the Torah it is a very important part of my Christian Bible. I beleive God loves everyone, even unbeleivers. God exists and God is one I have no doubt. My faith is based on practical life experience where I have witnessed the power of scripture which the Torah is an essential part and the Love God has for every man & woman on earth. I beleive that to Him we are all precious in the extreme. I recently have become interested to investigate who wrote the bible however I come only with knowledge based on life experience which allows me to say that the Torah without doubt is inspired by God so on reflection for me the person accredited as the human author has become less important although still quite interesting.
      For unbeleivers I think it important for them to be aware that although God loves them and us and His love is perfect He is also perfectly just. We are in the valley of decision and the choices we make are crucial concerning turning to Him and He would healed and justify us. Without His healing we cannot have eternal life with Him. The alternative is too bad to contemplate. Only important ofcourse if you beleive in eternal life.

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