Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Bluke's Challenge

Saw this challenge from a mental midget named Bluke in the Ganze Hemmoroid's comment section:

Godol and others [Note: That's me. I'm an other]:

Here is a very partial list of supernatural events described in the Torah and Neveim please say whether you believe that they happened or not and how you understand them:

1. mabul
No idea. It could have been a local flood. It could have been a global flood. It could be moshol. Or it could have been a local myth that found its way into the Torah post-revelation during the period (see the Books of Judges and Kings) when the Jews were almsot all idol worshippers and the book Moshe recieved was largely forgotten and ignored. The burden of proof, incidently, is on those of you who say that it was a global flood. You need to explain the inconsistancies in the story, and you need to explain the absence of physical evidence. Not a slam dunk.

2. dor haflaga
Perhaps it happened. (If it did, incidently, that's no proof that every other supernatural story is true.) More likely, we've misunderstod the story, or, it's an allagory or it could have been a local myth that found its way into the Torah post-revelation.

3. Avraham fighting against the 4 Kings and winning
Not a miracle. He might have had more men on his side, or his tactics could have been superior. Ancient warfare wasn't like modern warfare.

4. The Akeida
Avraham, who was a prophet, saw a vision telling him to sacrifice his son; subsquently he had a second vision telling him to spare his son. Prophesy is an aspect of the supernatural I accept, but there has not been a prophet in almost 3000 years.

5. Yaakov fighting with a malach
A vision

6. The whole story of Yosef's sale
What about it?

7. Yosef being the second most powerful man in Egypt
What about it?

8. The story of Bnei Yisrael in Mitzrayim
What about it? The six kids per pregnancy? Didn't happen. And you have no reason to think it did.

9. The burning bush

10. The Makkos
What about it? God caused the nation of Egypt to suffer. I do believe in God you know. And if the Torah tells me that God did something I generally accept it. The trouble starts when sources other than the Torah make these claims on God's behalf.

11. Krias Yam Suf
See above #10

12. The manna that they ate for 40 years
See above #10

13. The be'er that they drank from in the midbar
See above #10

14. the fact that Bnei Yisrael were in the midbar for 40 years
Big deal.

15. Revelation at Sinai
See above #10

16. Who made the luchos?
The second Luchos were fashioned and written by Moshe, as recorded in the Torah

17. The sun stopping for Yehoshua
I don't know what happened at Givon, and neither do you. Perhaps the sun stopped. Perhaps it didn't. Nothing follows from this, so who cares? The religion doesn't collapse if it turns out Yehoshua made a mistake. For the sake of the story all we must do is agree that Yehoshua THOUGHT the sun had stopped, and I have no problem with that.

18. Eliyahu hanavi bringing down fire from heaven
I don't know. Possibly a magician's trick. Possibly an authentic miracle. If it was an authentic miracle, it was done by God, not the prophet. Anyway, this story is one isolated event that tells us nothing and proves nothing about other stories about miracles. Every story needs to be evaluated on its own merits.

19. Elisha and the miracle of the oil
See #18

20. Elisha and Eliyahu resurrecting the dead
See #18

21. Hashem talking to Moshe panim el panim
Prophecy, see #4.

Take away points:
(1) We have an obligation to accept the Torah. We do not have an obligation to believe anything else. In fact, in every other situation we're obligated to use our minds, and not to abdicate reason and logic in favor of belief.
(2) The fact that miracles may have occured in the time of the Torah is no proof the occured in our day
(3) You need to evaluate every miracle story on it's own merits. The fact that kriyas yam suf occured, and was a miracle, for example, is no proof that the talking fish of New Sqaure was real.
(4) DovBear believes in prophecy, but he thinks it stopped a long time ago.