Monday, August 22, 2011

The Eternity of the Torah

In a recent post entitled Ever Changing Morality, Rabbi Slifkin writes as follows:

It does weaken our ability to claim that the Torah's amazing morality is evidence of its truth/ superiority. For by what measure can we assert that the Torah is perfectly moral? We can only do so by claiming that it agrees with our own sense of morality…

This assertion is false. From a historical perspective, the Torah is the most dominant work mankind possesses. This alone is a demonstration of its superiority. The two largest systems of morality practiced today (Christianity and Islam) are fundamentally based on the Torah. Without the Torah mankind would lack many elements of societal harmony and self-preservation. Rambam writes that with the advent of matan Torah, a great light descended upon the gentile world. Although the goyim took the Torah and, in many cases, warped its teachings, it still serves as the most influential element in the civilization of mankind.

But the flip side of this is that it also means that those who claim that the Torah is immoral, in its attitudes to homosexuality, women, etc., are also severely weakened in their case. How can they judge the Torah to be lacking vis-a-vis their own modern Western standard of morality, when their own standard is so transient?

This makes no sense. If standards of morality are indeed transient, than what’s wrong with judging the Torah?

The truth of the matter is, the term “transient morality” is a misnomer. As soon as morality becomes transient, it loses its ability to act as an intrinsic standard for human behavior.

Yet, on the other hand, there is a school of Torah thought which claims that there is an ethic independent of Torah –

There’s obviously no such school of “Torah” thought. The Torah is the expressed Will of G-d and as such is the ultimate representation of Truth. Its guidelines are absolute. As it happens, the universe is also the expressed Will of G-d. Consequently, an astute observer of nature might be able to glean some of the truths of the Torah, perhaps even the majority. Our father Avraham followed such a system and, according to our sages, managed to glean all of the basic tenets of the Torah! But his conclusions were not independent of the Torah. The claim that there can be an ethic “independent” of the Torah, meaning, an ethic which is capable of expressing a conclusion or idea which is not in conformance with the Torah, is clearly anti-Jewish. To claim that there is a “school of Torah thought” that promotes such an idea is sheer folly.

2 comments:

  1. The way I understood the "school of Torah thought which claims that there is an ethic independent of Torah" was something like this: http://www.dovidgottlieb.com/comments/MORALITYINDEPENDENTOFTORAH.htm

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  2. E S said...

    Shalom Aleichem! Welcome to our blog. I appreciate the fact that you choose to spend some of your time here in our humble abode. I hope your “stay” here will be fruitful.

    The way I understood the "school of Torah thought which claims that there is an ethic independent of Torah" was something like this: http://www.dovidgottlieb.com/comments/MORALITYINDEPENDENTOFTORAH.htm

    Then you misunderstood. Rabbi Slifkin specifically entertains the idea that there could be an ethic which countermands the Torah. He even gives an example of a person on an island…

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