Wednesday, September 07, 2005

DovBear on the Eighth V

Dear Readership:

I was very pleased to see that most of you avoided my rhetorical traps. [Polls 1, 2 and 3]

You knew, for instance, that (according to many) all of the Torah wasn't given at Sinai - the last 6 verses at least, and Moshe's final oration, for example, came later. You also knew (though you were blurry on the reasons) that the Torah we use today isn't the same Torah (word-for-word, and letter-for-letter) that Joshua took across the Jordan. And, finally, (in the biggest surprise, of all) you recognized that the Rambam's Eighth principle (which I purposly misquoted in poll 3) does not require Jews to believe that every word and every letter of the Torah we use today was received by Moshe at Sinai.

Frankly, I was expecting a little more intellectual self-satisfaction, a little more smugness, which is a little disapointing because, now, the snark I prepared can't be used. (Though on the bright side, maybe Mis-Nagid will stop referring to you as mindless cult members.)

I'll have more on the Eighth later on.

Yours truly,


PS - Above I said you were blurry on the reasons so, for your reference, here's some source material (and if you're one of the very few readers *cough* Akiva *cough* who disagreed with the more knowledgable majority, you'll want to study it carefully)

a - Talmudic and midrashic sources list between 7 and 18 tikunei sofrim (scribal corrections) and 5 ittur sofrim (scribal omissions)

b - In many places the Talmud quotes psukim that do not appear in that form in our Torah. The most famous example is in Sanhedrin 4b where Rabbi Yshmael derives a law from the spelling of the word totafos. However, in all known copies of the Bible the word is not spelled the way Rabbi Yishmael has it. There are about 20 example of this, and regarding this phenomenon Tosfot says Hashas shelonu cholek in haseforim shelonu (our gemrah disagrees with our books)

c - Avot d'rabi Nathan and the Midrash Raba both suggest Ezra, not Moshe, wrote the dotted words.

d - The Talmud tells us that three scrolls containing varient readings were once found in the Temple courtyard. The differences were resolved, in each instance, after the majority. It's unlikely that the result, in every instance, matched the original revelation.

e - Rav Yosef in Kiddushin 30a says: "They are expert in matters of defective and plene spelling; we are not expert." This refers to a system of using consonants to indicate certain vowels. Rav Yosef is saying we've forgotten the system. Therefore, our current Torah can not be a leter-for-letter match with the original revelation.

f - We also have a system in which marginal notes indicate that certain words are to be read differently than they are spelled in the text, called "kere and ketiv." Regarding this the Radak wrote: "It appears that these words are here because during the first Exile, books were misplaced and lost and scholars died; when the Great Assembly restored the Torah they found conflicting information in manuscripts and went according to the majority. " Again suggesting that our current Torah is not a perfect match to the original.

g - In his introduction to Masoret Seyag LaTorah, the Ramah wrote: "If we seek to rely on the proofread scrolls in our possession, they are also in great disaccord. Were it not for the Masorah which serves as a fence around the Torah, almost no one would find his way in the controversies between the scrolls. Even the Masorah is not free from dispute, and there are several instances disputed [among the Masorah manuscripts], but not as many as among the scrolls. If a man wishes to write a halakhically "kosher" scroll, he will stumble on the plene and defective spellings and grope like a blind man through a fog of controversy; he will not succeed. Even if he seeks the aid of someone knowledgeable, he will not find such a one. "

h - R. Yom Tov Lipman Milhausen, in Tikkun Sefer Torah wrote: "Because of our many sins, the Torah has been forgotten and we can not find a kosher Torah scroll; the scribes are ignoramuses and the scholars pay no attention in this matter. Therefore I have toiled to find a Torah scroll with the proper letters, open and closed passages, but I have found none, not to mention a scroll which is accurate as to the plene and defective spellings, a subject completely lost to our entire generation."