The experience of covenant is accessible as a real spiritual phenomenon, an experience which you, anyone, is capable of having.
But before we go there, I would like to talk a bit about some of the problems within the current modes of Judaism: modes, because there are different denominations which emphasize different aspects of Jewish spirituality and thought, but which, to my mind, make similar errors-of-thought (idolatries):
First and foremost—and I know this opens up quite a can of (unkosher?) worms—and it is going to take a while to un-pack the can– is the problem of REVELATION, and the so-called “giving of the Torah to Moses”.
It is, by contemporary, factual, biblical-archeological and literary data, absolutely untenable, if not ridiculous to say that the Torah— meaning the Pentateuch (Greek for Chumash, in Hebrew, meaning “5”) or the Five Books of Moses was actually given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Deuteronomy (9:10) asserts it was the Ten Dibrot, not the entire Pentateuch. Contemporary scholars are quite certain that the redaction of the Torah did not take place until after the Babylonian Exile!!
It is a common sentimentality that all of the Pentateuch was given to Moses, and not just that, along with the entire Oral Law, too. This is not FACT.
THE FACT is the Pentateuch was not given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. It is not a LAW from God in this simplistic sense. If it WERE a LAW from God, fixed and immutable, there would be no need to interpret the law, through the oral law.
Looking at it nakedly, it seems we have an excessively-fixed LAW, and then, we have flexibly-interpretative Law. Why would we need two laws? In fact, both are there to balance the other, because the very concept of LAW from Moses at Mt. Sinai, is EXAGGERATED in the rabbinic tradition, in the first place!
Far easier it is to remove the EXCESS AUTHORITY of the Torah, from a religious and philosophical perspective (not in terms of its value for Jews), then, multiply laws, and then sanctify them and the authorities that elaborated them.
Indeed, it is the rabbinic tradition that made the declaration that the whole of the oral and written law was given to Moses at Mt. Sinai! But, the oral law was an elaboration more than a thousand years later.
Why did they say this? What did they mean? Did they mean it as fact? Many of the modes of Jewish thought TREAT IT AS FACT, even though it isn’t fact. That does not mean there isn’t truth to it. But, truth and fact are not the same thing! One can glean truth from fiction, or read a brilliant novelist, such as Dostoyevsky.
I think it’s best to stop here—- and take this in. Because this can be very, very scary at first. Losing the God-given nature of the Torah, do we have to lose our identity as Jews? I don’t think so. But, first, let’s talk this over. But, this pushes a deep, deep button within Jewish minds and hearts.
Moreover, if you remove this belief—- what happens to Christianity and Islam, that are based upon it? What happens to our secular government systems which are, however “democratized”— are nonetheless the inheritor of the biblical “laws”? What is authority?
Please, your comments first.
A last note: some new subscribers have been sent e-mails, but have not answered my responses, when I sent you some. I’d like to strike up a conversation! Blessings Rabbi Michael Shevack
To be continued.
Let’s begin the blog— with a clog!!! It’s a tangle, a mess, a conflict, a theological hornets nest. It threatens to topple the foundation of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, as well as the entire world global culture which is rapidly forming, largely as a result of the thrust of Western civilization.
In my opinion, everyone is terrified about facing it. People dance around it all the time.
Upon WHAT is AUTHORITY founded? Religious authority? Jewish Authority?
Christian Authority? Islamic Authority? Governmental authority, religious or secular? Authority in marriage? Authority in your personal life? Authority of a kindergarten teacher? Authority in economics? Right and Wrong? Atheist,
Humanist, Agnostic authority, too?
The tendency of Western civilization, largely because of the Jewish heritage, is to
“define” authority as “revelation”, some transmission of knowledge from God to Man, whether Mosaic, or embodied-as-or-in-Jesus, or transmitted by prophets, include its proclaimed “seal”, Muhammad?
I’m not denying the truth within all these views. Nor, am I denying the truth in the democratic non-Church-State viewpoint which makes the individual the authority, often in a psychological reaction formation from the “group” authority of the past, like King George Vth.
But, I think it’s time, especially in an era of fundamentalisms of all kinds, religious and secular, and all sorts of governmental CULTS, to re-examine the issue of AUTHORITY.
Is revelation real? Is the whole of the written and oral law given to Moses at Mt. Sinai, FACTUALLY? Upon what is rabbinic authority based, which was often claimed to have been replaced by other faith-authority systems?
If we lose “revelation”, how can we be so certain that “Thou Shalt Not Murder” is
I’m opening up this can of worms, because it is time it is at the core of our problems
the world, at the core of the problems in our personal life and in our society. Anyone
care to take some worms out of the can?