Monday, August 12, 2013

Deuteronomy is Different (Part 1)

If I'm reading my scorecard correctly, the current and continuing  conversation about Orthodox Jewish heresy was initiated when A. Gordiner accused Rabbi Zev Farber of denying the "singular Divine authorship of the Torah."  One wonders what he would say to Abaye? 

Quite by chance I discovered this passage at the end of BT Megilah. (31b). The gentlemen of the Talmud are discussing the curses that are announced in Leviticus and Deuteronomy and wondering if we are permitted to interrupt them to start a new aliya. We join the conversation in progress:

Said Abaye: This rule (against making an interruption  was laid down only for the curses in Leviticus, but in the curses in Deuteronomy a break may be made. What is the reason? — In the former Israel are addressed in the plural number and Moses uttered them on behalf of the Almighty;in the latter Israel are addressed in the singular, and Moses uttered them in his own name.

Tosoft and others are quick to point out that Moshe spoke through prophesy. Even so,  you  can not deny that Deuteronomy is viewed by Abaye as categorically different from the other four books. As a result, his halacha treats Deuteronomy differently. 

Is this the same as denying the "singular Divine authorship of the Torah"? It depends on how much credit Moshe is given. Most of the book is made up of his speeches. Was he the author of hs own words or not? On Megillah 31B Abaye, plausibly, is saying he was.

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