Saturday, 14 December 2019

Ki Tavo – and Bible Criticism (of the Rabbis)

Deuteronomy Chapter 27 דְּבָרִים

The title contains “Bible Criticism” which I am attributing to the Rabbis, of all people. Isn’t that rather harsh, considering  Orthodox /Phariseeic Judaism  has given us the famous 13 principles of Maimonides, and strictly holds the Torah to be divine?

Well, we need to look at the evidence to answer these questions.

The above Parsha discusses the writing down of the entire Torah.

1 And Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying: 'Keep all the commandment which I command you this day.

2 And it shall be on the day when ye shall pass over the Jordan unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, that thou shalt set thee up great stones, and plaster them with plaster.

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.

And again:

ח  וְכָתַבְתָּ עַל-הָאֲבָנִים, אֶת-כָּל-דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת--בַּאֵר הֵיטֵב.  {ס}
8 And thou shalt write upon the stones all the words of this law very plainly.'

10 Thou shalt therefore hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and do His commandments and His statutes, which I command thee this day.'

The above verses clearly refer to the Torah, thus all the law was commanded to be written down.  If there was an non-written Law, i.e. orally transmitted, the verses above would be wrong, and redundant. The verses are talking about the entire body of Law commanded – to be re-written on the great stones. Thus there is nothing that has been commanded to Moses, that remains unwritten.   This is the thesis of this chapter.  The claim of the Pharisees, is the anti-thesis of this chapter, and hence denial of the Torah itself.

Some rabbinic commentators have claimed that the verses refer only to the blessing and curse that follow in the next chapters.  However, this is definitively disproven by the opening verse of  Ch.28
1 And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all His commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all the nations of the earth.

2 And all these blessings shall come upon thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.

If we compare V.1 of Ch.28  to v1, and v10. of Ch.27 – they are almost identical.

The blessing and curse of Ch. 28 is not conditional upon keeping only the commandment of writing  on the stones – that would make things quite absurd. That single law was fulfilled, and if that were the case,  there would not be any room for a curse or exile, ever again.  The entire Torah is being referred to – the contract is encasing the entire Torah, which was written down. Therefore we see further in this chapter:

נח  אִם-לֹא תִשְׁמֹר לַעֲשׂוֹת, אֶת-כָּל-דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת, הַכְּתֻבִים, בַּסֵּפֶר הַזֶּה

58 If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and awful Name, the LORD thy God;


69 These are the words of the covenant which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which He made with them in Horeb.

The Covenant /Brit is new, but Laws are the same Laws of the Torah.  Moreover, verse 58 specifies the words of the Torah which are written in the Book. 

These words and commands are the same as those in 27;3, all to be written on the stones on Mount Ebal.  There is no mention of any supposed “oral law”. In fact, any now written law is excluded by these verses.  Observance of the Written Law without observance of a single rabbinical or oral law  is sufficient, and necessary to enjoy the blessings.  Violation of the entire rabbinic law , whilst performing the entire Written law has no consequence as far as the Torah is concerned. It simply did not exist at the time of the giving of the Torah. To insist that the Torah missed something out, which is what the rabbis do, is denial and criticism of the Torah.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Lubavitcher Rebbe - Messiah or Anti-Messiah?

The late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson was widely praised as being a Tzaddik (righteous man), a mystic and miracle maker by his followers, and friends. Many people from all over the world sought advice from him, including Israeli Prime Ministers and military leaders.

At some point in his career, his followoers openly starting claiming he was the Messiah of the TeNaKh, the King who will redeem Israel.  Even non-Lubavitch rabbis were making such implications, saying he was the best qualified to be Messiah. I even heard from one of my favourite  rabbis that he was the reincarnation of Moses!   By the late 1980s,  there was a split in Orthodox Rabbinic Judaism, between his supporters and his opponents. Of course, after his death, in Brooklyn, having never even visited Israel,  it was clear to all that this was a false Messianism, based on lies and distortions.

Even within the rabbinic halakhah, the famous codifier Maimonides writes a number of qualifications and conditions that need to be fulfilled by someone claiming to be Messiah.  Below are some excerpts from Ch. 1 and 12 of  the Laws of Kings and Wars:

"In the future, the Messianic king will arise and renew the Davidic dynasty, restoring it to its initial sovereignty. He will build the Temple and gather the dispersed of Israel...

The main thrust of the matter is: This Torah, its statutes and its laws, are everlasting. We may not add to them or detract from them....

If a king will arise from the House of David who diligently contemplates the Torah and observes its mitzvot as prescribed by the Written Law and the Oral Law as David, his ancestor, will compel all of Israel to walk in (the way of the Torah) and rectify the breaches in its observance, and fight the wars of God, we may, with assurance, consider him Mashiach.
If he succeeds in the above, builds the Temple in its place, and gathers the dispersed of Israel, he is definitely the Mashiach....
When the true Messianic king will arise and prove successful, his position becoming exalted and uplifted, they will all return and realize that their ancestors endowed them with a false heritage and their prophets and ancestors caused them to err...

In that era, there will be neither famine or war, envy or competition for good will flow in abundance and all the delights will be freely available as dust. The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know God...."

There is very little difference, I would argue , between the Tenakh version and the Maimonidean version - the main point of contention is obviously the "oral law" he mentions. Nevertheless, it is important to note that the Lubavitcher rebbe opposed Zionism, and the  establishment of the State of Israel. He opposed migration to Israel.  He told his followers to stay put in exile, until the Moshaich arrives!   Thus the key events that did occur in the Zionist era - return to the Land of Israel, winning wars and Israeli territory, liberation of Jerusalem and Temple Mount - were all achieved outside of the Lubavitch framework.   In fact, the very man who did fight to liberate jerusalem, Rabbi Shlomo Goren, was told by the Rebbe of Lubavitch to resign from the post of Chief rabbi (althouogh it wa said more respectfully than by other hareidi leaders). 

The "believers" claimed that the Rebbe had single handedly brought back millions of Jews to Orthodox observance - even though in his own time there were only approximately 1 million Ultra-Orthodox Jews who were that way from birth.  He never fired a single shot in any war, and did not enlist himself or his followers into the Israeli army.  They claimed that the "wars" were spiritual wars, such as convincing people to wear tefillin (even though the Book of Wars by Maimonides focuses on military warfare).

IN sum, it is clear that Rabbi Schneerson was not the Messiah of the TeNakh, or of Maimonides. 
The victories in Israel's wars were won by largely secular soldiers and generals, whose State and Army were opposoed by Lubavitch Hassidim in previous generations, and also by Schneerson himself.   His instructions were the opposite of the requirements of messiah - i.e. to gather the exiles into Israel. he wanted to keep them in exile. This not only makes him a false messiah, but also an Anti-Messiah!


Monday, 21 October 2019

the Parah and the Red Heifer

The Red heifer rite is one of the most memorable in the Torah, and has explicit instructions on how and by whom it is performed.  As we can see it was designated for the priest (Kohen) to perform this ritual.

 19 בְּמִדְבַּר

ד  וְלָקַח אֶלְעָזָר הַכֹּהֵן, מִדָּמָהּ--בְּאֶצְבָּעוֹ; וְהִזָּה אֶל-נֹכַח פְּנֵי אֹהֶל-מוֹעֵד, מִדָּמָהּ--שֶׁבַע פְּעָמִים.
4 And Eleazar the priest shall take of her blood with his finger, and sprinkle of her blood toward the front of the tent of meeting seven times.
ה  וְשָׂרַף אֶת-הַפָּרָה, לְעֵינָיו:  אֶת-עֹרָהּ וְאֶת-בְּשָׂרָהּ וְאֶת-דָּמָהּ, עַל-פִּרְשָׁהּ יִשְׂרֹף.
5 And the heifer shall be burnt in his sight; her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall be burnt.
ו  וְלָקַח הַכֹּהֵן, עֵץ אֶרֶז וְאֵזוֹב--וּשְׁנִי תוֹלָעַת; וְהִשְׁלִיךְ, אֶל-תּוֹךְ שְׂרֵפַת הַפָּרָה.
6 And the priest shall take cedar-wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer.
ז  וְכִבֶּס בְּגָדָיו הַכֹּהֵן, וְרָחַץ בְּשָׂרוֹ בַּמַּיִם, וְאַחַר, יָבֹא אֶל-הַמַּחֲנֶה; וְטָמֵא הַכֹּהֵן, עַד-הָעָרֶב.
7 Then the priest shall wash his clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he may come into the camp, and the priest shall be unclean until the even.

In verse 7 we are told that the priest will launder his clothes and bathe his flesh, but will remain unclean until evening.  The bathing process is done in daytime, but he does not attain purity until evening.

This  is quite explicit, and was practiced by the Kohanim until the foreign interference of the Rabbanites, who very likely  did not have Jewish roots (many of the Pharisee rabbis were in fact foreign converts, most notably  Shemaya and Avtalyon).  This is also evidenced by the fact the genuine Kohanim of  the 2nd Temple era were Sadducees, and the Pharisees  did not have genuine Kohanim who would serve in the temple, Instead, they devised false methods to tamper with the Priesthood, the rituals and the Torah.

The Rabbinic body of literature has its first appearance in the Mishnah, which recounts how they dealt with all sorts of issues, including the Red Heifer.  The aptly named Mishna “Parah”  provides an account of how they went about achieving their ends, and how they falsely interpreted the Torah.

In Parah 3:7 we see:

לֹא הָיְתָה פָרָה רוֹצָה לָצֵאת, אֵין מוֹצִיאִין עִמָּהּ שְׁחוֹרָה, שֶׁלֹּא יֹאמְרוּ, שְׁחוֹרָה שָׁחֲטוּ. וְלֹא אֲדֻמָּה, שֶׁלֹּא יֹאמְרוּ, שְׁתַּיִם שָׁחֲטוּ. רַבִּי יוֹסֵי אוֹמֵר, לֹא מִשּׁוּם זֶה, אֶלָּא מִשּׁוּם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר יט), וְהוֹצִיא אֹתָהּ, לְבַדָּהּ. וְזִקְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הָיוּ מַקְדִּימִים בְּרַגְלֵיהֶם לְהַר הַמִּשְׁחָה, וּבֵית טְבִילָה הָיָה שָׁם. וּמְטַמְּאִים הָיוּ אֶת הַכֹּהֵן הַשּׂוֹרֵף אֶת הַפָּרָה, מִפְּנֵי הַצְּדוֹקִים, שֶׁלֹּא יִהְיוּ אוֹמְרִים, בִּמְעֹרְבֵי שֶׁמֶשׁ הָיְתָה נַעֲשֵׂית:
If the cow refused to go out, they may not take out with it a black one lest people say, "They slaughtered a black cow" nor another red [cow] lest people say, "They slaughtered two." Rabbi Yose says: it was not for this reason but because it is said "And he shall bring her out" by herself. The elders of Israel used to go first by foot to the Mount of Olives, where there was a place of immersion. The priest that was to burn the cow was (deliberately) made unclean on account of the Sadducees so that they should not be able to say, "It can be done only by those on whom the sun has set."

We learn that these Pharisee “elders” would deliberately defile the Kohanim, and thus invalidate them from the ritual.  This was to negate the meaning of the Torah in Bamidbar 19:7, which says the priest will remain unclean (impure) until sunset. The new interpretation of the Pharisees was that the bathing itself will purify the Priest from the contact with the Heifer and the burning process, and that the verse in the Torah is referring to an unrelated form of impurity which does not invalidate him from the Red heifer ritual!
If one delves into this claim of the Pharisees, one will layer by layer uncover the falsehood of their methods, and the  cynical and sinister nature of their political goals.
1)      The Torah is very clear and explicit in what it says. The verse is giving a sequential prescription for the process of the Red heifer and the multi-stage  purification process. It states explicitly that the bathing does not cause ritual purity on its own, and in fact it is the sunset which  brings to an end that impurity.
2)      To claim – as the Pharisees do – that the sunset is not part of the process , is a vile and cynical  attack on the torah itself, rendering it illogical and rendering the verse a non-sequitur.  How exactly can they derive anything from the verse if it is not logical?
3)      Instead, they claim that there was all along an unwritten rule book which gave the true meaning of the verses in the Torah, even when the clear and obvious meaning goes against their beliefs.
4)      The intention of the Pharisees was never to really comply with the Torah, it was to undermine the true heirs of Moses and Aaron, the Kohanim, who also had the Temple to tend to.  Their intention was a coup, to take over from the Priestly sadducees, and to own both the Temple and the wealth of Israel. Their destruction of Temple purity resulted in the physical destruction of the temple. In this aspect, they only had short term success followed by long term misery and exile of the remaining Jewish people.

However, their long term success was in writing a new religion, a surrogate “Judaism” which undermines the Torah and its teachings, and purports to be the “authentic” form of Judaism to the undiscerning.

Saturday, 24 August 2019

How to be an Orthodox Karaite

Rabbinic orthodoxy and Karaite Judaism are in many ways mutually exclusive, since they deny each other's view on the Oral law and the Written law.

However, within the Oral Law/halachic system there is a method which does allow one to be a practicing Karaite.

This method or mechanism is the distinction that rabbinic halacha makes between Torah Law (D'oraita in Aramaic) and rabbinic law (D'rabbanan in Aramaic). When there is a conflict between rabbinic law and Torah law,  the mechanism allows the individual, or compels him, to  violate the rabbinic law and uphold the Torah law.  For example, embarrassing a person is a violation of Torah law, and hence a rabbinic law which will cause embarrasment can be discarded, so as not to embarass someone else (or even oneself). Another example is honoring one's parents. If a rabbinic law will violate this torah commandment, then the rabbinic law should be discarded.

Now, the Karaite can learn to play this system (if necessary). There is a Torah commandment of Lo Tosifu - do not add!   Rabbinic laws , by definition, will violate this Torah law.  It is not only the Karaite's  duty to discard rabbinic laws,  it is also that of rabbinic Orthodoxy.  Thus, even if a jew, whether orthododox or otherwise, consideres the possibilty of there being such a thing as "oral law" the oral law itself has a mechanism to reject the rabbinic law if it conflicts with the Torah.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Was Rambam a Karaite?

The ostensible answer to that question would be no.  He was the Rabbi and law maker par excellence.  Indeed, he writes against the Sadducees and Karaites, and also devotes many chapters to the strengthening of the oral law and rabbinic laws/additions.

However, there is a counter-current where he seems to be saying the opposite of all his rabbinic notions. In his legal corpus, the “Mishneh Torah”, a section known as “De’ot”, he writes  the following:

Ch. 3:
A person might say, "Since envy, desire, [the pursuit] of honor, and the like, are a wrong path and drive a person from the world, I shall separate from them to a very great degree and move away from them to the opposite extreme." For example, he will not eat meat, nor drink wine, nor take a wife, nor live in a pleasant home, nor wear fine clothing, but, rather, [wear] sackcloth and coarse wool and the like - just as the pagan priests do.
This, too, is a bad path and it is forbidden to walk upon it. Whoever follows this path is called a sinner [as implied by Numbers 6:11's] statement concerning a nazarite: "and he [the priest] shall make an atonement for him, for his having sinned regarding [his] soul." Our sages declared: If the nazarite who abstained only from wine requires atonement, how much more so does one who abstains from everything.
Therefore, our Sages directed man to abstain only from those things which the Torah denies him and not to forbid himself permitted things by vows and oaths [of abstention]. Thus, our Sages stated: Are not those things which the Torah has prohibited sufficient for you that you must forbid additional things to yourself?
This general statement also refers to those who fast constantly. They are not following a good path, [for] our Sages have forbidden a man to mortify himself by fasting. Of all the above, and their like, Solomon directed and said: "Do not be overly righteous and do not be overly clever; why make yourself desolate?" (Ecclesiastes 7:16).
שמא יאמר אדם הואיל והקנאה והתאוה והכבוד וכיוצא בהם דרך רעה הן ומוציאין את האדם מן העולם אפרוש מהן ביותר ואתרחק לצד האחרון עד שלא יאכל בשר ולא ישתה יין ולא ישא אשה ולא ישב בדירה נאה ולא ילבש מלבוש נאה אלא השק והצמר הקשה וכיוצא בהן כגון כהני העובדי כוכבים גם זה דרך רעה היא ואסור לילך בה המהלך בדרך זו נקרא חוטא שהרי הוא אומר בנזיר וכפר עליו מאשר חטא על הנפש אמרו חכמים ומה אם נזיר שלא פירש אלא מן היין צריך כפרה המונע עצמו מכל דבר ודבר על אחת כמה וכמה לפיכך צוו חכמים שלא ימנע אדם עצמו אלא מדברים שמנעתו התורה בלבד ולא יהא אוסר עצמו בנדרים ובשבועות על דברים המותרים כך אמרו חכמים לא דייך מה שאסרה תורה אלא שאתה אוסר עליך דברים אחרים ובכלל הזה אלו שמתענין תמיד אינן בדרך טובה ואסרו חכמים שיהא אדם מסגף עצמו בתענית ועל כל הדברים האלו וכיוצא בהן צוה שלמה ואמר אל תהי צדיק הרבה ואל תתחכם יותר למה תשומם:

Interesting is the counter-statement of the Jerusalem Talmudic Sages, which opposes that of the Babylonian Talmud – “Are not those things which the Torah has prohibited sufficient for you that you must forbid additional things to yourself?” (Jerusalem Talmud, Nedarim 9:1).

The argument could be made that this is referring to personal vows, and that what the Rabbis forced is valid. However, what applies to individuals also applies to other individuals. The message of the Jerusalem Talmud is giving a rationale to the Torah prohibition of adding.  The violaters of this principle, say the reverse, to justify the adding of laws and restrictions.
Rambam wrote a compilation of halachic rabbinic Judaism from various sources, and there is no guarantee that his writing is internally consistent (after all the Talmud is not without contradiction).  It is sufficient, however to take this point of view into account, to show that even the Talmudic rabbis of the Yerushalmi  had severe reservations about the newish Testament of the oral law.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

The Talmud agrees with me!

In an earlier post,

I explained why the Oral Law is not a good idea.  Questions of its authenticity aside, the method of oral transmission of a vast and complex legal system is definitely not a good idea.

The Talmud (Temurah 16a-b) goes so far to say that when Moses died, 3000 laws were forgotten by the next generation , i.e. Joshua and his leadership.


These are supposed oral laws. Now this itself is an interesting topic of discussion, but in essence, the Talmud itself is providing evidence that supports my claim.  If Joshua could forget 3000 laws which Moses allegedly taught him, then the oral law is a complete disaster.

Again, this claim by the Talmud must be scrutinized,  but that is for a later occasion.  It is important to note that the system of oral law is so dysfunctional, that within the very first generation, according to the Talmud itself, it has already broken down.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Rabbi David Segal (the TaZ)

Rabbi Segal is widely known as the TaZ , after the name of the commentary he wrote on the Shulchan Aruch – the rabbinical work of day to day practical halacha.

He was greatly respected and is still considered a major Rabbinic authority.

It is stated by tha Taz on several occasions that “although the Sages have leeway to enact their own new prohibitions, they may not prohibit something explicitly permitted by the Torah” 

Indeed, this is itself derived from the Talmud.

If this is to be the case, and it appears to be quite widely accepted, then he is essentially making the same argument as Karaites do.  Of course there are endless examples,  but if we look at the prohibition of consuming chicken with dairy products, which is purely rabbinical, it is quite clear from the Torah that this is not forbidden.  It might be argued that not everything is explicitly permitted, however, that is nitpicking. The principle is very powerful, and can be applied to almost every case where Karaites would argue against adding to the Torah.

This one idea of the Taz, repudiates the entire Oral law thesis, the Talmud and the Shulchan Aruch which he comments upon.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Is the Oral Law a Good Idea?

From a purely pragmatic perspective, is it a good idea to have a large body of vital law and principles committed to memory and not to writing?

The believers in the oral law claim that an Oral law was given to Moses and not written down. They then argue that it was transmitted /taught orally for another 1500 years or so.  The excuse they give for it to be written down is:

"In the lifetime of Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi (around 1700 years ago), Roman persecution, the recent destruction of the second Temple and the disruption of stable Jewish community life threatened our ability to properly retain and transmit this oral law. Rabbi Yehuda, therefore, wrote down the bare basics in the Mishna. A couple of centuries of hardship and persecution later, the rabbis of Babylonia saw a need to record even more detail and compiled a written version of what is known as the Talmud"

It seems to be a very inefficient  system and design.  Why would this section be given in oral form originally, if it was inevitable for it to be written down?
And what is unique about the the hardship of Roman persecution?  There was persecution even before the Romans, and there was the destruction of the First Temple. In First Temple times, there were many periods of idolatry, when even the Written law was lost or forgotten. how could the oral law be remembered then?  And if it existed, why wasn't it written down in those times?

So the form of oral transmission is really not a good idea. it is impossible to verbally remember a mass of information the size of the Talmud.  If there was no written format, then even a photographic memory would not suffice.  So it follows that not only is it a bad idea, it was impossible to implement.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Aryeh Kaplan's False Translation

The late Aryeh Kaplan was quite poplar in his time, an he even wrote a Translation of the Torah. However, this would be better described as a mistranslation.  He consistently misrepresented what is written in the Torah, and instead puts down false statements that suit his own goals.

One example is in this article he wrote about the Oral Law.

He alleges "If I would have written the majority of my Torah, [Israel] would be counted the same as strangers" (Hosea 8:12).

However, this is not what Hoshea wrote or said.

The plain translation is given on Mechon mamre:

יב  אכתוב- (אֶכְתָּב-) לוֹ--רבו (רֻבֵּי), תּוֹרָתִי:  כְּמוֹ-זָר, נֶחְשָׁבוּ. 12 Though I write for him never so many things of My Law, they are accounted as a stranger's. 

The Law was written, containing so many things, but still considered as "foreign" - because the sinners in Israel and Ephraim had taken to false gods.

This in no way is alluding to the existence or necessity of a an oral law, quite the opposite. It is attesting to the fullness and completeness of the written law, which is still rejected, by the idolaters, and perhaps also by those who feel it is incomplete.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Halacha LeMoshe Mi Sinai

Image result for shin on tefillin

 The 4-headed "shin" on the Tefillin is an unusual variation of the modern Hebrew letter shin, which ordinarily has only 3 heads.  There is also a 3 headed shin  on tefillin, with the same calligraphy.  It appears nowhere else in Hebrew literature, And, the explanation, according to Maimonides, is that is is one of the 31 alleged Halachot that were given orally to Moses at mount Sinai, but not committed to writing (until the Oral Law became a book).

In fact, apart from this list of 31 halachot, many others are also claimed to have been given to Moses but not mentioned in the Torah.  It is interesting - how does one verify philosophically such a claim?
The problem  is that there is no written contemporaneous evidence of there being an oral law or these specific halachot being given to Moses. The claim occurs some 1150 years after the event.

This particular claim, of the style of the shin, its calligraphy etc. can be refuted. That is because the Hebrew script at the time of Writing of the Torah was not the same as the one we have today or at the time of the Mishnah.  The Hebrew script of the Bible was paleo-Hebrew.  And the paleo-hebrew alphabet does not look the same as the modern square letters , which are in fact Aramaic.

Paleo-hebrew alphabet.jpg

The second last letter of this alphabet looks very much like an English "w" and that in fact was a Biblical shin.

Had the halacha of this shin (and indeed tefillin ) been given to Moses at Sinai, it is unthinkable that it would be written in the form of a future vulgate language. It is likely that the scholars who concocted this story of the 31 or so laws were unaware of the history of the Hebrew language.