Friday, July 19, 2013

The nature of evil

Apparently, I'm evil. This post-Tisha B'av message of good cheer was delivered to me on Facebook, in the exchange the follows. After the jump, I reproduce it in full, with names redacted, so that you can all see, first hand, what evil looks like. Bear witness!

For those who won't read it all, a quick summary:

a) All I did was recite certain facts about the age of the Hebrew used in the Torah's songs. Those facts are not "politically correct", but they are still facts. I did not attempt to interpret or explain those facts. I merely presented them.

b) My correspondent judged this "evil" and responded in the manner of a Mea Shearim thug, though the rocks he threw were verbal. 

c) The interesting issue raised here is this: My correspondent seems under the impression that something essential will be destroyed if people are told that the Hebrew used in the Torah's songs is (generally)  much older than the the Hebrew used in the narrative parts.

But isn't this putting the cart ahead of the horse? 

Because if the older style of Hebrew is a reality, how can anything important be endangered by recognizing it? All that's put in danger is an error, and whatever else was based on that error. Why should a mistake be protected?

(We said the exact same thing during the age of the universe battles. Some said, "recognizing the reality will endanger [something]," but if the old universe is a reality what is threatened other than a mistake? And if the seal of God is truth, isn't defeating such mistakes a way of serving Him?)

The Facebook Exchange

Note: This was a Facebook conversation, so of course appears disjointed, and unlike a real dialog. In the reproduction below, new paragraphs represent new comments

The evolution of Hebrew among the books tends to affirm the ages of the traditional attributions.

Well that isn't true. The oldest Hebrew is found in poetic sections. For example, the song of the sea and Devorah's song are both written in a Hebrew that is judged to be much older than the Hebrew used in the narrative descriptions of the splitting of the sea and devorah's victory over sisrah. (in fact *KEFIRAH ALERT* the story told in Devorah's song is not the same, in all details, as the story told by Samuel in the Book of Judges) In the story, Sisrah is lying down, and asleep when Yael crowns him. If the song, he is standing.

Of course poetry is written in a more stilted archaic language. Don't compare genres, it could always be the style of the genre. Compare Shiras haYam to Shiras Devorah, and qeri'as yam suf to the rest of seifer Shofetim. If you relied on more objective sources, that would have been made kind of obvious. 

It is also quite possible that the song, tracking what someone thought happened on the day it happened, wouldn't match what they or someone else eventually learned happened. you love playing with kefirah too much.
Please don't use "objective" as a synonym for "stuff that fits my preconceived notions" There is nothing non-objective about my source materials. Also, don't attack the source material (when you don't even know what it is) That's an ad hom attack, and they aren't effective. 

There isn't anything "stilted" about the language in the Songs. Its just an older Hebrew. Sure, it could be a later author faking an older style (as in Ruth) but (1) that's not what it looks like and (2) who created the fakery? Shmuel? And for what reason?

The *fact* is the song of Devorah and the story in Judges don't fit in all the details. Sure, you can try to explain why that its true, but you'll note I didn't offer any explanation. I just pointed out the fact, ie, that the discrepancy exists. I felt no need to try and smooth it out.

 And its not merely a different genre. Its a different, older dialect which can be deduced from the diction and the grammar.

I only commented on your raising the kefirah issue. If you really didn't want people to leap to a particular explanation, why bring it up. why the warning? no, u wanted to plant doubt. raising questions for which the "frum" answer is only one of many. i am wondering y.
Song is a different genre. The idea that poetry is intentionally written to sound old and formal isn't absurd.
again, you claim to be just raising issues, but u don't want the third party to be happy with an orthodox answer. this is why your blog didn't last long on my rss reader

Why did I bring it up? (a) Who cares. What I said wasn't false. (b) it flowed naturally from your incorrect claim about the language the books use conforming with the traditional ages of the book. That isn't so, as the much older Hebrew used in the songs tells us.
You seem very hostile. Comment after a comment is mean or personal. Why are you doing that?

because heresy is dinei nefashos. what you're doing is very evil.

Song is a different genre. The idea that poetry is intentionally written to sound old and formal isn't absurd." But that's not the case. The songs are NOT formal (or stilted) and they don't show signs of being written in an older style by someone who spoke a newer style. There are ways to tell. The diction is older as is the sentence structure. Anyway, you haven't explained why someone would fake an older style (or absent printed materials, or video) how he would know the older style well enough to imitate it

Evil is such a strong word. You should probably rethink that, expecially as its not heretical to suggest the NACH has fingerprints of different authors. Nowhere does it say I am required to beleive that Samuel wrote the whole book of judges in one sitting. So unless you've redefined the word heresy, to include things that RAZAL did not, l I think you're making a mistake. And should apologize.
i mean heretical in your intimation that [Az Yashir] is later than moshe. or that you declare it heretical and then promote it, as though it's your game to shake people's confidence in orthodoxy -- even if your actual substance is orthodox. u are making a game out of leading people away from mesorah. i'll stick to evil.

For the record you can be happy with an orthodox answer. But let it be a good one. Insisting that poetry is supposed to sound old (why?) without explaining how anyone could have mastered an old style without access to lots of examples he could study, isn't much of an answer.
 it's the style for songs. are you consciously trying not to have things work.
 I think people should know things. I am sorry that you would rather that they didn't know things, but this difference of opinion doesn't make me evil.

[You said:] The oldest Hebrew is found in poetic sections. For example, the song of the sea and Devorah's song are both written in a hebrew that is judged to be much older than the Hebrew used in the narrative descriptions of the splitting of the sea ..." Are you saying the rest of chumash is newer than Az Yashir?

I am not conciously trying to have things not work. I am explaining the problem and rejecting weak answers. That's not evil either.

Or are you just hinting at this age issue, passively-aggressively leading people off?

I am saying the rest of the Chumash is written in a later dialect of Hebrew. I have not said why that it is so (and in truth I don't know why that it is so) but it is so.

And the fact that it is so means your original claim about Hebrew tracking with the traditional age of the books, is simply false, and because it is false, you shouldn't say it.

Again.... Compare song to song, narrative to narrative, declaration to declaration, and then get back to me. You are publicly trying to make things not work. You think it's a game, a mere exploration. I think you're playing with people's souls. You are not evil, but what you think is just intellectual exploration is indeed an evil. But since I'm up to "again" and repeating myself, I'll stop going in circles.

I am not trying to make things fail to work. I simply refuse to put my head in the sand, and I refuse to accept weak answers. The reality is the Hebrew of the songs is older. The reality is the details of the story in the songs differ from the details of the story in the narrative parts. You can offer explanations. I haven't stopped you. I haven't mocked your explanations. I haven't even gone to the trouble of explaining exactly why your explanations are so bad (which I assure you I could do) I am too taken aback by your fierce, unkind reaction to a simple recitation of undeniable fact. I suppose you think it makes you look frum to throw intellectual rocks. From where I sit it doesn't. I wonder what others think?

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