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Monday, October 26, 2009

Models of Torah III

Some have compared the world to a book, but we can also compare the Book, the Torah, to the world.[i] Like the physical world, the "olam ha'Torah" consists of raw materials and technological built-up.[ii] Certainly the technology is implicit in the original raw materials[iii] and limited by it,[iv] but, nevertheless, our world is wholly unlike the world of previous generations.[v] Moshe saw the future vision,[vi] or saw the general laws of nature which would later evolve into the Torah of today.[vii] The Torah, however, is not open for manipulation; like the world,[viii] it is governed by rules of interpretation, a worldview which informs proper interpretation,[ix] and honesty.[x]

[i] See here.
[ii] R. Kook, Hakdada l’Ein Aya; R. Moshe Shmuel Glaser, Hakdama l’Dor Revi’i (a partial translation here).
[iii] This does not mean that an interpretation has be intended by the original statement, as long as the interpretation makes sense of the raw materials, the words, in a comprehensive and sound way. See here.
[iv] R. Cooperman, Peshuto shel Mikra.
[v] In fact, according to the oft-quoted interpretation of “Asher Bara Elokim La’asot,” the rectification of the world is our responsibility (also see Tanchuma, Tazria 5; the Sfas Emes, beginning of Tazria writes that Man’s role is to spiritually complete the world as well). This model also explain the Ohr ha’Chayim (Vayikra 13:37): "...and all of their derashot are only according to the [received] halakhot, and they enclothed them in the perfect written Torat Hashem. After them until this day it is the holy work (Avodat ha'Kodesh) of b'nei Torah."Connecting halakhot to the written Torah is “avodat ha’Kodesh” because it is building the Torah (even though according to the Ohr ha'Chayim only the derashot were innovated, not the halakhot).
[vi] Tosfot Yom Tov, Hakdama l’Mishna.
[vii] Shemot Rabbah 41:6 and Maharzav there.
[viii] Ramban, Vayikra 19:19; Zohar (vol. 3, p.86b)
[ix] Even the Dor Revi’i writes “The intent is that one who incessantly occupies himself with the Torah that is with us of old and "kills himself over it" can derive totally new insights which were never [apprehended] before.” The technology of the Torah cannot be forced upon her; it must be gently drawn out of her with her best interests in mind. Furthermore, this is one of the reasons why the Torah was partly Oral: This ensures a close-knit relationship with a teacher which in turn ensures a close-knit community; the Torah is personal, not just an intellectual topic and thus can only be kept and understood within a covenantal community and culture. As Rav Soloveitchik was quoted as saying, the fifth volume of the Shulchan Aruch is “pas nisht (not appropriate).” The Dor Revi”i explains that this is why the Talmud is binding and cannot be overturned today; “For, only when the holiness of the Jewish nation could develop securely in its own land was the Torah given over to be explained and interpreted according to the understanding of the contemporary judges whose judgments were to be followed even if they said "right is left" or "left is right," but not when the nation is scattered among the other nations and its sages oppressed by the yoke of physical and spiritual exile, when all the influences of the nations of the world are buffeting them and destroying the holy spirit within them.” Regarding interpreting the Torah from within its own “Jewish” framework, also see here.
[x] See here.

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