Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Torah

Posted by Esti


Is the Torah true? Was the Torah actually written by Hashem? According to Rabbi Ed Romm, Director of Education and the Center on Campus of the United Synagogue Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center for Conservative Judaism, the Torah is true and really did happen. He says that the Torah is a book telling us about the relationship we have with Hashem and what we must do to keep this relationship going. The Mefarshim, he says, are used to explain what the Torah means to each generation, since different generations have different problems and questions. After the Jews agreed to "Na’aseh v’nishma" ("we will do and we will hear"), we were able to know the exact written rule rather then to just guess what we believe to be morally correct. Since there are 70 ways of translating the Torah, we are still allowed to have different definitions of halachot.
But why then are their still other religions if Judaism is the correct one? Rabbi Shlomo Chein says that Judaism is correct since we have “withstood the test of time and space”. Judaism is the only religion that was not started from only one individual (since it did not start with Abraham, but rather at Har Sinai when we were given the Torah). Judaism was also started in the Middle East and spread throughout the entire Middle East, and stayed that way until present. Hinduism also may seem timeless, but only recently did Hinduism spread out to most of the world, and there is not as much ancient writing about Hinduism then about Judaism. But still, there is no proof archeologically that Har Sinai occurred.
Was the Torah real? Did the stories actually happen? Why are there still many other religions? Did Hashem actually write the Torah?

20 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

All I can say to Estis blog is belief. In any religion or opinion you have, there may not always be proof to what you feel but you jsut feel as if its correct because you beleive. But this is a very big issue now, bc what if someone dosent belive? How do we bring back people to Judiisim who have given up because they jsut can beleive. There is no right answer to this question. Some people may go throguh life never asking questions or anythinng, but there are others who jsut cant belive and question. I think that a way to communicate and answer their prayers is to go back to the beiging of time, the beginng of the Torah and slowly and hopefully theyll begin to understand evyerthing that Hashem has done for us and why the Torah did acutaly happen. Althoguh we can do that, and Im sure there are other ways to keruv people back to Judisim, ultimatly its the person who dosnet belives decison to open up and accept what has been put in front of them. In my opinion, if you dont have belief, not jsut talking about religion but in life and general things in life-then what do u have? To me, belief is somehting that can be hard at times, but so fullfilling at other times. And to accept the Torah ande verything that comes with it is something very hard, but if you are willing to accept what is inside of it hten you can begin to belvie.
shira zurndorfer

December 17, 2006 9:38 PM  
Anonymous chavie said...

i completely agree with shi-z. the question of the reality of the torah is similar to the question of free will...how do we know it exists? its a little different in that we can explain torah-malogically that the torah is real and was written by hashem but we cant explain time...however, both can simply be answered by Belief. if you dont have belief you have nothing. And about people that dont believe..how do we get them to believe? remember that rabbi that came to talk to us last yr about ppl who dont believe and he said you just have to tell them the story"....right sooo like shi-z said, if ppl are open to it, you need to explore the torah from the beginning.
But if we can never prove it archaeologically, then all you have/need is belief.

December 17, 2006 10:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mmmmmm commenting on my own blog..real coool. so i feel like judiasm is the right religion since we have been here for so long and nevr died out liek all otehr religions. i also feel liek the torah is real since like each letter, if it is put in a certain way can spell out teh events, liek after teh holocaust happened, they put it into the thing and they were able to see that if they knew teh pattern, they would have known that the holocaust was coming. so hashem msut have written the torah. but with such a great proof of relifion, i still dont get why there would eb otrher religions/ the ejws now arent like perfect, well not perfect but like do all the mitzvot they are capable of.
esti

December 18, 2006 5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the comment Steph made, religion is based off of faith and belief.
Therefore it does not matter if what happened in the torah is real or not (It does, but not in terms of wether we BELIEVE the torah exists).
If we can belive in God and believe it happened it gives validity to not only the existance of the torah, but the existance of the Jewish nation.
Th bible is the number one best selling book of all time, and the fact that Jews have stood the test of time show that something is RIGHT about the torah. Although there are some disturbing parts, it overall sends good messages (for us, to teach our children). To take a page out of Stephen Colbert's book, the torah FEELS true (in my gut). No matter whan any encyclopedia may say, due to the existance of the Jews today...I know I am not the only one.

Debbie K

December 18, 2006 5:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that not every person was raised to be an Orthodox Jew. there are other religions out there because other people believe in them. They were raised to believe in them and the societies of the past and present have promoted them. Spirituality is human nature and societal religion follows. There is a saying: "Chochma bagoyim yesh". Non-Jews also believe with a firm belief that their religion is correct. This is perfectly legitamate. I heard somewhere that even when Mashiach will come there will be non-Jews who believe in their own religions. Judaisim is faith based. We believe in what we believe and the other B'nei Noach believe in what they believe. Coexist everyone!
Rachael

December 18, 2006 5:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, I have to say that I agree with what has been mentioned before- that religion is mainly based on faith and belief. Once you have faith and belief, then you will undoubtly believe everything in your religion. However for example since I do not believe in christianity I do not bleive anything, whereas a christian will believe everything in their religion. I hope that makes sense.

Next, I want to elaborate on an idea that Esti mentioned in her blog. She wrote about how the Torah is written in a specific way and alludes secretly with codes to many events written after the Torah. I once was watching a show on the History Channel about the codes in the Torah ( it was actually really interesting). Anyways the show depicted how the Torah alludes to many events including 9/11, WWII and the concentration camps. I think that only a book that is truthful and written by a G-d could correctly hold events that occured in the
past, present and future. If we are supposed to live by the Torah and its a book of life then it only makes sense that it encompasses the events from the past present and future.

amanda

December 20, 2006 9:51 PM  
Anonymous Lisa Amy said...

Ok, so to amanda's post and the part in the blog about codes and that the torah alludes to events in history... i know people belive in that, but i dont know if i can buy it. There are so many ways letters and words in the torah that can be translated so many different ways- so if an event happens and you want to find biblical proof a person can just open up the torah and manuver words to fit his specifications...
but, anyway, going on to the point about how there are other religions in the world- first of all before we recieved the torah there were numerous nations in the world and when God asks the nations who wanted the torah only the jews jumped up... seems pretty obvious to me right now that obviously the people who didnt jump up shouldnt have the torah... but also - i think there need to be non jewish nations- this goes back to the topic of free willl. If everyone in the world were jewish, then a person wouldnt have a choise whether he should follow God according to torah's specifications- judaism wouldnt be special- everyone would be doing it and so the religion woulnt have the same meaning as before- i also dont think people would be performing torah's acts fullheartedly. Lastly, even though this is kinda bad but jews wouldnt be able to prove that thee religion is everlasting and such because there would be no attacks against us.. people would just be judaism is here because no one ever questioned it... I think that would kinda suck.
have a great break everyone!
lisa

December 26, 2006 12:36 PM  
Anonymous dasi said...

I definitely agree with what everyone is saying. Our religion is based on faith. But I’m just going to play a little eaimonides as well. We can also think of Judaism as reason. Events form the Torah are being historically proven every day. Archaeological digs uncover biblical mysteries which we have been skeptical about for years. I know I’m supposed to believe, but in the spiritual phase I’m in now, l9oooking at the facts help. It is easy to relate characters in eh Torah to ourselves, and we can see many things happening historically. The point about Judaism being an Everlasting religion-that does not have to be a “mystery of the book”. Based on simple things in the Jewish tradition, we can see how Jews have prevailed throughout all these years. Our sense in close community, our need to be dispersed due to persecution, our tendency towards cleanliness-all factors. So, yes, I agree that believing in the word of God requires faith(e.g. the splitting of the sea) but reason uncovers more every day as to why the Jewish nations still strong.
-das

December 26, 2006 4:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm slightly scared that what I'm about to post might get me kicked out or something but whatever...
So what if the stories aren't true? Honestly, I have a really hard time believing in a lot of Geneisis. Especially creation---how could it only have taken God seven HUMAN days to create the world, when science shows the world being millions and millions of years old? Don't get me wrong-I think the Torah is Divine. I believe that it is God's word. But I also happen to think that we're never going to be able to literally understand every thing in the Torah, and maybe some of it needs to be taken as more of a fable, rather than fact. After all, we're CONSTANTLY reminded that the Torah is not a history book. Maybe the donkey never really "talked" to Bilaam. Maybe Esau never really sold Jacob his birthright for some lentils. Maybe Joseph was never really asst. Pharoh. Most of all, maybe we were never really slaves in Egypt. I mean, don't you think there would be some archeological evidence in Egypt that there had been 10 plagues, one of which involved the killing of ALL first born boys, and then the drowning of all Egyptian soldiers in the Red Sea. Something more than a vague reference to a slave revolt---we're talking hundreds of years of us being enslaved and all we get is one reference?

So let's say the Torah is more metaphorical-how does this affect our understanding of the text? I think we're still bound by the commandments, laws, and mussar given through the text because it is God-given. However, I also think it gives us more license to examine the morals of the stories and lessons learned, and to be a little less worried about reality.

Please don't put me in charem.

-Tali

December 26, 2006 7:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok, well i actaully disagree with alot of the previous posts. I do think there is an element of belief, like in terms of after-life cause there isn't anything written on that in the Torah proper, but there is definitly logic and proofs. G-d isn't stupid, so he wouldn't give a religion to a people and tell them "just believe". Humans are not like that. we are curious, we are contemplative, and we are rebellious, so giving us a bunch of laws/ceremonies/etc. to do based just on beliefe would not work. First, im going to say what R. Mechanic said when he came to talk to us. Even though i disagree with alot of what he said and did, I agree with his logic that the torah was given to thousands of people at Har Sinai, that isn't something that can be made up cause there were too many witnesses, you can't make up 600,000 witnesses! Second, there is a sort of proof of certain things in the torah, for example there is a "flood story" in 3 other ancient cultures, giving some more validity to the story of Noah. There are 5 (i think) animals named as kosher w/ the 2 signs of kashrut, and not a single other animal with both those signs has been found. If things like that are true, the torah in its entirety must be true.
Did the stories actually happen? well Rambam actaully believes that nothing is true until Avraham, until then its all an allegory. I happen to believe it is all true.
Why are there still other religions? because Judaisim is true for the jews. You can't expect everyone to observe all these laws, and some laws concern ppl who aren't jewish (slave laws, etc.). There are Shevah mitzvot b'nei noach for non-jews, a moral code of conduct if you will for non-jews, but not everyone can be expected to be jewsih, its tough.
did Hashem write the torah? well ,this goes back to the proof,s how could a human know all of these things? not possible. it must have been divine.

-Laya

December 27, 2006 1:15 PM  
Blogger saragaut said...

i agree with a lot of what tali said.First of all i do agree that Faith is the main ingredient here. a lot of people just say to have faith and the rest will take care of itself. However i definitely think that nothing should be taken literally and things in the torah are written a certain way in order to teach us certain lessons. I for one don;t have the greatest amount of faith i mean how hard is the whole splitting of the sea thing to believe, a lot of me is the kind of person that needs proof. However, this has been one of the biggest issues in Judaism how do we believe all this stuff we've never seen, how can we believe in a g-d we've never seen. I do believe in faith and simply believing b/c its all we've ever known, but in terms of the events in the torah, i don't think anything was written exctly the way it happened, i think that they are written to teach us lessons, and i don;t think we are meant to actually understand what is written in the torah b/c it was written that way for a reason.
have faith kiddossss or at least try.
--sata

December 27, 2006 5:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i thought i posted on this but i guess not. so basically i have struggled with this topic for quite someitme. it is difficult from my point of view to believe that a scroll written thousands of years ago is still "intact" and followed today. like sara g was saying it truly is a matter of belief. belief isnt somehting that can neccesarily be taught. i think that in the jewish religion one is born into it. its a difficult task to be able to be able to question this because when question the legitamacy of the torah you are questioning your life and your livelihood. i think this is a topic that we should explore in calss because we are all at an age when we have a lot of questions and in the shcool we are at these questions are sort of given the cold shoulder it is somehting we hsould just know
-iris wertheimer
(sorry)

December 28, 2006 10:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i mean, im not sure if esti is asking if the actual stories of the torah are real, or if the whole concept of torah, judaism etc is real. either way, i agree w/ what others have said before. as for the stories, there are many meforshim that comment on them being metaphorical, but thats just disturbing. i mean, how can we be studying this holy book day and night, just to find out that the stories of our forefathers never happened, b/c avraham avinu wasnt a real person? no, it just doesnt seem right to me. but then again, we have to wonder if the stories are real, why would moshe be allowed to write the torah, when half of it happened after his time? wouldnt he be tempted to tell yehoshua to watch out for the terrible things to come? sorry, i tend to ask more questions than give answers. even though torah is based on our faith, i think there are tons of cold hard facts that prove we are the right religion and the torah is real(even if its only metaphorical). we just have to look for them.
Aviva

December 28, 2006 8:25 PM  
Anonymous Kel said...

i didnt read other peoples blogs so forgive me if i repeat, i just had my own thoughts and didnt want other peoples to influence me. I think the only way to actually know that the torah is real is to have belief. but besdies that, recently in chumash class we were learning about kashrut, and some laws and things stated in the torah are not only extremely applicable today but for example the animals listed that chew their cud but dont have split hooves or vice versa, are the only animals still today that are found to only have one of the two signs. After hearing this its hard not to belive that the torah is real nor can you not think that Hashem is the one that wrote the torah, while Hashems restirctions were based on something we dont kno, and we dont know why we keep kosher, so many of his laws are consistent with medical belifs of the present. for example- pigs have a lot of fat and its not healthy, there is no way anyone except for Hashem could have written that and made that law about not eating pig. or maybe perhaps its just a coincidence that the pig is the fattiest animal and we dont eat it, but i highly doubt it, the only explanation thats clear in my mind is that Hashem wrote the torah.
happy new year!!!
p.s. i apoligize if this doesnt make sense in writing, but it did in my brain

December 28, 2006 10:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, everybody has pretty much been repeating that the only way to know if the stories in the Torah actually happened is through faith. While I do believe that this is true, I would like to respond in a somewhat different way.
Let's say hypothetically speaking the Torah was not recorded word for word by G-d, that it was divinely inspired, but really written by Moses. We can even take it further and say either it was written by Moses without the assistance of G-d, or that it was written by somebody else altogether. (Please note, these are not my personal beliefs, but there seemed to be some doubt lurking behind the surface of the blog post.) So lets say that the Torah is not directly written by Hashem - it is possible to think this, for nobody really saw Moses on Mt. Sinai - what is the harm? On a basic level...people who follow the words of the Torah are not harming anybody, and in my opinion are even leading more moral lives. We are not killing other and our beliefs don't actually cause harm to others. On a higher level, the Torah seems to present the most productive way of functioning. I think arguably one of the most important parts of the Torah is when Yitro tells Moses that he can not judge alone. The setting up of courts to govern is one of the most important concepts in government. We use this system in American government with checks and balances. In Judaism we do not believe in a single leader - this system seems to have been the most functional throughout history.
Every story in the Torah seems to teach us the proper way of living. Even if G-d did not write the Torah, whoever wrote it, wrote it with divine awareness.
As "kel" said before me, I apologize if this did not make so much sense. It is merely an oversimplification of a much deeper perspective.
-Rebecca

December 31, 2006 5:39 PM  
Anonymous tova said...

ok soo all of these posts have a billion comments already on them so chances are im benig repetitive, but esti i really like this topic cuz it always mind boggles me. i skimmed some peoples comments already....however with judasim or any religion for that matter, the core to all answers is BELIEF. its nothignt hat comes easy and if u dont have beelif u may think well that impossible b/c u need something more substantial in a way...like how am i supposed to get that beleif? however i do think everyone has the beelif somewhere in them its just a matter of finding it. ur right, in jewdaism we only have the torah and we r supposed to beleive that. to me its just something ive grown up with so it seems kinda natural. but i mean dont get me wrong of course i have doubts also, but in terms oof questioning how we know this stuff aka the torah to be true and that hashem wrote it, i do beleive the only answer u can get for that is by believing. of course there r the meforshim where u can find reasoning for what is written, but that wont help unnless u have the basis of ebeliving the torah. in order for u to trust anything, the first step is getting the basics of beleiving the torah. u cant advance if u dont have the first step down pat, and i beelive the first step is the torah and beleivng that. beleif is a gradual pocess that everyone questions, but u cant start questinoning and trying to beleive all the tough stuff if u dont have the first down (which is beeliving/having faith in the torah/whats in it) i think this is why a lot of people have problems gainign this faith...because we jump past the first step or beleving in the basics/core of our jewish religion and try to question the complex before understanding the simple.
beelive is a one step at a time process!!!

December 31, 2006 5:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Besides believing/ having faith, in addition to what Kel said, when I think about the Torah as a whole, (not talking about if Avraham had a brit ben Habetarim or if Yosef was really sold or not, but rather I'm talking about) Toshba (love it and live it!..hah), I believe it is the truth. Focusing on Kashrut and Ben adam lechavero/makkom, to me the Torah makes sense. Although I may not agree or understand certain kashrut laws and traditions, I still think that overall the Torah is true. How could it be that a Divine Long ago knew, wrote ALL of these factual, moral and ethical things long before humans have figured it out? Just like meat and dairy (together) is bad for your health- heart and arteries, as well as developing heart diseases, I think that it is pretty amazing for it to be all written and a warning in the Torah. Also, all of the teachings and lessons that are mentioned, depicted and talked in length about how people should treat each other, the Torah seems to know it all. (Being courtious, humble, honest, friendly, respectful and moral, etc., humans use the Torah to be their life guidelines and rubric to live their lives.) Not to mention that it alluded to a lot of events in history and present that were uncovered. Although we certainly don't know a lot of them or can understand and discover Hashem's mysteries, we can still believe and live our life knowing that the Torah is true.

-Yaelle

December 31, 2006 6:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a second comment, I would like to talk about how people feel comfortable in their lives, and not changing what they normally know. Even with all the chaos and fights, and problems, and religion, people don't want to change. Either b/c they don't know any better or b/c they are not ready/ don't want to know-scared to know the truth...and be told that they are wrong. No one likes to hear that they are wrong, therefore they avoid feeling that discomfort by not putting themselves in that situation and doing something different, just because it's different than they ever grew up or lived with. For example, usually people who are abused (verbally or physically) will wind up being with an abusive person. This is because it feels "comfortable" because to them it is the norm. They don't know any better, and if they do, they are scared of the outcome (perhaps of being independent, alone, or perhaps banned- from cult, family, religion). If someone changes their life by breaking the bad/ false/and perhaps chaotic life, that takes a lot of courage, strength and most of all faith -for the better that will come their way. Most of all people don't want to make that change/ cut and commit. That is why numerous people don't change. Although, that does not necessarily mean that they don't actually know the truth or what's the correct religion. Therefore, many people go with the "flow", if there is any "flow" and don't cut the chain and live their life differently...unless if a frightning/ near death or life changing event.

-Yaelle

December 31, 2006 7:03 PM  
Anonymous becky said...

i have always thought to myself...well obviously judaism is right if my teachers and parents belive in it....but how many christians in the world think well christianity must be right because...it just is. I think people can pull in as many "proofs" as they want to back up why judaism is the true religion but it is just as easy to shut those down. im agreeing with pretty much everyone in the whole belief thing....but more than belief it has to be trust

January 01, 2007 3:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ah. my whole thing just got erased and im so frustrated!
anyways, back to this topic.
wow, i cant even count how many times this topic has been discussed in and out of class. However, it seems the most common answer people have been giving is belief and faith. Ofcourse you need to believe and have faith in Hashem in order to believe in the Torah. I always ponder to myself whenever I'm sitting in my judaic classes why are we learning this? what if the torah isn't real, and we're just learning all this information and believing it cause that's what we are raised to do? It is deffinatly common nowadays that people believe in a certain religion because that's how they were raised. In my opinion a person needs to have some back up evidence or logical reasoning in order to trigger a certain belief. A person can't just randomly decide what they believe in or not. I think a person has to go through some type of emotional, personal, or even drastic change or event that makes them realize that not only god, but the torah and all the special prayers, and brachot we recite everyday are real and make a huge impact on our everyday lives. I find it so amazing how one thing that could happen to a person can totally change thier whole outlook on their belief in god, torah, and the jewish religion as a whole.

- Devora

January 07, 2007 7:14 PM  

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