This is a great article on the possible reasons for the exile in Egypt - is largely textually based.
Thursday, 10 August 2017
Monday, 31 July 2017
The Fasts which are outside of Yom HaKippurim are observed widely across Rabbinic Orthodoxy and Karaite Orthodoxy.
Nevertheless, these are not prescribed in the Torah, and do not have status of a Torah commandment.
Furthermore, there is some discussion in the Book of Zechariah regarding the nature and status of these fasts.
Let us start with the problem – there are 4 fasts, plus the additional fast of Esther (which is not addressed by Zechariah, presumably because it had not been instituted in his day).
Ch.7 of Zechariah describes a Judaism that is unfamiliar to any practicing Jew of today, especially Rabbinic Orthodoxy.
2 When Bethel-sarezer, and Regem-melech and his men, had sent to entreat the favour of the LORD,
3 and to speak unto the priests of the house of the LORD of hosts, and to the prophets, saying: 'Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done these so many years?'
Contrary to the Rabbinic myth of the Sanhedrin, there is no Sanhedrin or collection of Rabbinic sages who are asked a legal / practical halachic question. The question is asked of the Kohanim הַכֹּהֲנִים and the Prophets. There are no Rabbis or Sanhedrin Sages. This is because the Sanhedrin is a Greco-Roman institution, and not part of the TaNaKh. There was no Oral Law, but Divine inspiration, the Kohanim and the prophets would consult to receive Divine inspiration -
4 Then came the word of the LORD of hosts unto me, saying:
5 'Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying: When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and in the seventh month, even these seventy years, did ye at all fast unto Me, even to Me?
This flies in the face of the Rabbinic myth, which is most widely distributed in the famous story of the Oven of Akhnai. In that myth, the rabbis attack Rabbi Eliezer for getting Divine answers to legal questions, and they propel the new concept of “Not in heaven” regarding the Torah. The rabbinic concept of majority is introduced as the means of achieving legal truth. There is no evidence for it in the TaNaKh, and is refuted by our very own chapter 7 of Zechariah.
In any case, the Prophet answers Bethel-Sarezer and Regem-melech, asking whether in fact they fasted for God? This was the 70 years without the Temple. That is an important distinction, since
some would argue that in post 2nd temple times, the fasts would still apply. However, this is clearly questioned by Zechariah, and is in fact refuted. These fasts have not record of being instituted by Prophets. It is important to reiterate that it was the prophets and the Kohanim who were arbiters of the Law and not a Rabbinic Sanhedrin type institution.
Contrary to the false practice of Bethel-Sarezer et al, Zechariah says:
7 Should ye not hearken to the words which the LORD hath proclaimed by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her, and the South and the Lowland were inhabited?'
This is because the response to the destruction of the temple was incorrect – instead of listening to the prophets of the previous generation, e.g. Jeremiah, they instituted fasts and self-mortification, which was not part of the Torah. Indeed, one of the greatest Rabbinical commentators , Ibn Ezra, remarks on v.5 “ did ye at all fast unto Me” , “I did not command”, i.e. God did not command these man made fasts.
So, according to this interpretation of Zechariah, the fasts were never valid, and are not valid today.
The response to the temple's destruction is to see where the underlying error was. Fasting will rectify nothing.
The question of why the Temple was destroyed, remains the topic of further discussion.
Thursday, 27 July 2017
In Deut. 27, Moses is commanded to set up an altar on Mount Ebal, and to write the Torah on plastered stones.
3 And thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law, when thou art passed over; that thou mayest go in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, a land flowing with milk and honey, as the LORD, the God of thy fathers, hath promised thee.
We see in Joshua 8, that this is precisely what Joshua does when he enters the Land of Israel.
32 And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote before the children of Israel.
34 And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the book of the law.
35 There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that walked among them.
There is some dispute as to what was written on these stones, at least as far as Rabbinical exegetes are concerned. Saadiah Gaon – the great rationalist and also one of the fiercest opponents of Karaites claims that this was in fact a summary of the Laws, in the format of his own book of Mitzvoth! Others claim that the term מִשְׁנֵה תּוֹרַת מֹשֶׁה refers to the Book of Devarim.
Nachmanides, who was one of the greatest rabbis of all time, and also one of the greatest friends of the Karaites (along with Ibn Ezra) brings a source that says the entire Torah was written on the stones, which were every large stones.
The ideological nature of these rabbis are quite predictive of their comments. Saadia is of course fighting anything that has Mikra only implications, whilst at the same time self-promoting his own book. Nachmanides, is being intellectually honest and promoting the truth regardless of implications.
The last few verses of Joshua Ch. 8 state that he read all the words of the Torah of Moses.
It is not clear if he read from the stones or from the Torah scroll. Although it is possible that v. 34 is suggesting that what Joshua read from the stones was 100% in accordance with what was written in the Torah scroll.
Verse 35 tells us that everything that Moses commanded was read by Joshua. Nothing was left out.
This statement explains why Rabbi Saadia Gaon, the president of the Babylonian Gaonate, was trying very hard to degrade what is written in the Book of Joshua. Being a great philosopher and logician himself, Saadiah was well aware of the logical implications of this verse. It is saying the precise opposite of what he himself believes. It is saying there is no Torah outside of what is written in the book of Moses. Thus there is no oral law. This makes Saadia's entire world view redundant.
On the other hand, Nachmanides, who was a perfect model of Rabbinic Judaism at its best, has the trait of rigorous intellectual honesty (which is why he often disagrees with Rashi). Hence he accepts that the entire Torah was written on the stones, and by implication, the entire Torah is written in the Torah.