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Saturday, 11 November 2017

Not in Heaven - Rabbinical vs TaNaKh Interpretation part 1

Deut. 30:


יא  כִּי הַמִּצְוָה הַזֹּאת, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם--לֹא-נִפְלֵאת הִוא מִמְּךָ, וְלֹא רְחֹקָה הִוא.
11 For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not too hard for thee, neither is it far off.
יב  לֹא בַשָּׁמַיִם, הִואלֵאמֹר, מִי יַעֲלֶה-לָּנוּ הַשָּׁמַיְמָה וְיִקָּחֶהָ לָּנוּ, וְיַשְׁמִעֵנוּ אֹתָהּ, וְנַעֲשֶׂנָּה.
12 It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say: 'Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?'
יג  וְלֹא-מֵעֵבֶר לַיָּם, הִואלֵאמֹר, מִי יַעֲבָר-לָנוּ אֶל-עֵבֶר הַיָּם וְיִקָּחֶהָ לָּנוּ, וְיַשְׁמִעֵנוּ אֹתָהּ, וְנַעֲשֶׂנָּה.
13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say: 'Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?'
יד  כִּי-קָרוֹב אֵלֶיךָ הַדָּבָר, מְאֹדבְּפִיךָ וּבִלְבָבְךָ, לַעֲשֹׂתוֹ.  {ס}
14 But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it


לֹא בַשָּׁמַיִם, הִוא  - 

or Not in Heaven have developed into a specific Rabbinic halachic motto, which has been debated for generations. A famous book by Rabbi Dr Eliezer Berkovits uses this as its title, “Not in Heaven: The Nature and Function of Halakha”.

The Talmudic use of this motto in the famous story about the Oven of Akhnai, teaches that halacha is not objective in terms of heavenly signs or proofs, but one of a majority vote. Hence, even “truth” often takes this path in rabbinic thought.

A plain reading of the Torah text will lead to a completely different understanding of these passages.


The context of these verses is the practice of the Written law as per verse 10: “to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law”

Thus, we see in the following verse “For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not too hard for thee, neither is it far off.” The phrase “Not in heaven” is referring to the sky, i.e. the practical, mental and physical requirements of keeping the Written Torah are not sky high. They are not a cinch, but they are largely attainable without having to give up one's ordinary life. For example, there is one day of Atonement and fasting in the Written Torah, whereas the rabbinic Oral Law requires an additional 5 fast days, and an extra 3 weeks of mourning between the fast of “Tammuz” and the fast of “Av”, plus 33 days of mourning within the Omer period, although some will mourn the entire 49 days. Similarly, Islam was originally mimicking the Torah, but then decided an entire month of fasting is better than just the 1 day of Yom Kippur.

The Torah seems to be ruling out these exaggerated man-made religions, which are bent on ascetism and self harm in the name of religion.

The Torah is not up in the sky, but as we shall see, this has been misinterpreted by others.

To be continued…..














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