Friday, April 27, 2012

Yom HaAtzmaut


In the previous post we noted Rabbi Slifkin’s opinion re Yom HaAtzmaut (YH). He suggests that one of the reasons people choose not to celebrate YH is because they maintain the “non-rationalist” view that Chazal and the people depicted in Tanach were incomprehensibly greater than us in spirituality. They feel that only individuals of a spiritual caliber such as Chazal may confer spiritual significance on a given event. People such as us fall woefully short of the task. On the other hand, rationalists “don't look at people from the Biblical and Talmudic era as being that different from people today. Accordingly, it is perfectly possible for people of today to be involved in events of monumental religious significance.

While this author disagrees with Rabbi Slifkin’s opinion regarding the motives of those who don’t celebrate YH, there is an important issue that needs to be dealt with before discussing YH. The following question must be asked:

Is the view that “Chazal and the people depicted in Tanach were incomprehensibly greater than us in spirituality” non-rationalist?

The answer is no. Our nation reached the summit of perfection at Mount Sinai. As the subsequent generations unfolded, their level of spirituality declined. This attitude is axiomatic to our religion and functions as one of its defining principles. It is ubiquitous in our writings, from the Tanach itself down to Chazal, Rishonim and Acharonim. It appears so many times that citations are entirely superfluous. It is impossible to be connected to traditional Judaism without understanding this idea. Consider the following.

  • Three times a day we beseech Hashem to accept our entreaties by dint of our connection to the Avos.
  • The entire dor midbar experienced prophecy of the highest order, never to be repeated again in subsequent generations.
  • The Torah states that never will a greater spiritual giant arise than Moshe.
  • Shmuel Hanavi cried all night because the nation was transitioning from the period of shoftim (relating to Hashem as King in a direct fashion) to the period of melachim (relating to Hashem as King via a human intermediary).
  • The nation was exiled by the Babylonians.
  • The Temple was reestablished 70 years later but the nation was exiled again and the Temple did not return. This prompted R’ Yochanan to comment that the fingernails (lifeless material) of the preceding generations are greater than the stomachs of the subsequent generations (Yoma 9b).
  • The era of the Tana’im ended with the Mishna.
  • The era of the Amoraim ended with the Talmud.
  • The era of the Rishonim ended around the time of the Spanish exile.

The list is endless! Any traditional Jew accepts the idea that, as a rule, the spiritual level of the Jewish nation decreases over time. This is a given. There are countless examples in the Talmud. The first time this idea was ever challenged was in the 18th century by the patrons of Jewish Enlightenment. Unfortunately Rabbi Slifkin’s attitude (which he refers to as “rationalist”) is reminiscent of the attitude of European Haskala. I broached this topic back in November of 2010 regarding the issue of Scientism but more needs to be said.

Several years ago Rav Shlomo Miller (Kollel Avreichim, Toronto, Canada) issued a letter of admonishment criticizing precisely this attitude. He writes as follows:
The truth is, he (Rabbi Slifkin) has followed the ways of those who scoff at the sages, like the maskilim who ridiculed the exegeses (drashos) of our sages while considering themselves all-knowing… So too in our time, Slifkin advances questions against our sages from current theories and in place of honoring the words of our sages, he denigrates their opinions. If he encounters a question for which he possesses no answer, it would behoove him to say “I have not merited to understand the words of the sages” just as all of our great scholars have done through the ages whenever they encountered a question on a subject in Talmud… If we approach the Torah and its sages with awe and humility, then we will traverse confidently and not stumble in the fundamentals of our religion as Slifkin has done…   
Rationalist Judaism is a blog which is dedicated to “an exploration into the rationalist approach to Judaism that was most famously presented by Maimonides”. Rationalist Judaism Blog, perk up your ears! Here’s what Maimonides has to say regarding our very sugya (hakdama to Pirush Mishnayos – my translation, my highlights)
And therefore, we must establish the truth of their (Chazal’s) words in our hearts. We must delve deeply into them and not hurry to dismiss a single saying of theirs. Rather, if something is found in their words which seems strange in our eyes, we must orient ourselves in the appropriate [corresponding] disciplines until we understand their meaning in this particular topic, assuming that we are even able to comprehend [their words] in the first place. For even our [latter] sages of blessed memory, despite the fact that they delved exceedingly into their studies, were clear of mind, were appropriately fit for the comprehension of wisdom, attached themselves to great people and entirely detached themselves from material pursuits, [and yet despite all this they] attributed a ‘lacking’ to themselves when comparing themselves to previous generations…so much more so ourselves…how can we not attribute a lacking to ourselves in comparison to them. And since they [the latter sages] knew that all of the words of the sages are well established from every angle, they were very protective of them and enjoined against slandering them and stated ‘whomsoever blandishes the words of the sages is judged in boiling feces’ and there is no worse ‘boiling feces’ than the foolishness that leads one to denigrate [the words of our sages]. And therefore, you will never find one rejecting their words but one who chases after lust, who favours materialism, who never enlightened his mind with any illumination whatsoever." (Kapach ed. pg. 20-21)
For some reason I don’t recall seeing this quotation from Maimonides on Rationalist Judaism. I wonder why…

In the following posts we intend to explore the halachic and hashkafic issues associated with adopting YH as a national holiday.

57 comments:

  1. Hi Rabbi Coffer I hope you are well, please forgive me for going off topic, but I thinks its very important that you comment on the recent events in israel, namely the incident involving the little girl in Beit Shemesh and the horrific protest with hundreds of card carrying charaidim, many dressing up as people in the holocaust. The silence of the charaidi leaders is deafening. I know that you don't live in Israel so I understand if it is unfair for me to ask you to comment, but you do realize that discussing this issue is a billion times more important then showing the problems with rabbi Slifkins views.

    From what I see with my own eyes, most people don't really care about evolution and how it does or does not fit in with Torah, or if chazal knew about modern science or not, yes they interesting discussions but at the end of the day the entire discussion ends when hundreds of "frum" people can mock those that died in the holocaust, and I am sorry there is no excuse to be silent, contrast the silence to what Rav Lichtenstein had to say years ago www.vbm-torah.org/archive/ral1-rab.htm
    Even my charaidi friends are horrified at what is going on, Rabbi Coffer you cannot deny that you world is cracking, and I am not saying these things to attack it is very painful.

    Ps I haven't thanked you yet for responding to my question about a year ago, it was very kind of you to take the time to try and help me, even tough we don't know each other, thank you, I appreciate it

    ReplyDelete
  2. Picking up from another thread

    RSC stated:

    I don’t understand your sentence. Are you saying that

    a) you believe that God did not write the Torah and Chazal were not extraordinarily intelligent, and that you base your beliefs on circumstantial evidence?

    Or are you saying that

    b) you believe that God did not write the Torah and Chaza are not extraordinarily intelligent because any evidence I’ve supplied to support these two assertions is only circumstantial?

    My response:

    I meant “a)”.
    That the evidence, based on science, archaeology, textual analysis, etc. (at least to me) is very convincing that God was not the author of the Torah, or maybe if He was the author then He purposely wrote a very flawed document, or maybe that the document we have is not the original and the copyists over time very much corrupted God’s original text.

    Also, that Chazal had NO knowledge about the natural world and general history other then was known to mankind at their time. There likely was some kind of mesorah but it must have been laced with myths.

    As for “b)” I am sorry but nothing much of what I read of your posts provides any “evidence” for the truth “in toto” of the Torah as we have it. Exposing the flaws in the Th. of Evol. is not evidence that Chapt 1. of Ber. is divinely authored

    RSC states:

    After 40 years, and at the behest of God, Moshe committed the entire “written” portion of the Torah to writing.

    I ask:

    Could you kindly clarify this a bit. Did B’nei Yisrael have the whole Torah immediately post Mt. Sinai or not. If yes, why did Moshe choose to write some mitzvoth only 40 years later. And if no, did they not keep or know about the mitzvoth that were only presented in Devarim?

    RSC wrote:

    It’s that I’ve been taught how to analyze the information I assimilate from books and assess it for its “truth quotient”.

    I say:

    Wow, what a great statement. But honestly, did you apply this technique to the Chumash as well.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Danny,

    Shalom Aleichem!

    My remarks to your comment follow below.

    Hi Rabbi Coffer I hope you are well, please forgive me for going off topic, but I thinks its very important that you comment on the recent events in israel, namely the incident involving the little girl in Beit Shemesh and the horrific protest with hundreds of card carrying charaidim, many dressing up as people in the holocaust.

    I’m not sure why it is so important for me to comment on this but since you requested I will say that I think that the media blows things out of proportion. There are a million Charedim living in Israel. In what way are the actions of a few idiots in Beit Shemesh reflective of Charedi society as a whole? Rabbi Slifkin is on a mission to denigrate the Chareidim. I know that, you know that, and anyone reading Rationalist Judaism knows that. I don’t judge him. He was burnt by the gedolim and he wants revenge. I would probably do the same if I was in his shoes. But does that mean I have to comment every time Rabbi Slifkin highlights some petty issue? I’m interested in explicating the hashkafa of our Torah in line with our mesorah. I’m not interested in politics. If you’re looking for politics, this is the wrong blog.

    The silence of the charaidi leaders is deafening.

    Yes! It demonstrates in the loudest terms that the charedi leaders don’t think it is as big a deal as you or Rabbi Slifkin or the media are making it out to be.

    I know that you don't live in Israel so I understand if it is unfair for me to ask you to comment,

    You know, I just got back from Israel a few months ago. I have a very close friend in Ramat Beit Shemesh and I visited him with my daughter. I asked him about the incident and he was not nearly as put off as you. In fact, the incident barely caused a ripple there. People are used to demonstrations in Israel. It was the media that created the brouhaha. Those are his words. Oh, by the way, my friend wears a kipa seruga. Just thought you should know that.

    but you do realize that discussing this issue is a billion times more important then showing the problems with rabbi Slifkins views.

    No, I don’t realize that. But as I mentioned before, if you are looking for political commentary you need to search elsewhere.

    Even my charaidi friends are horrified at what is going on,

    “At what is going on”??? Why, what on earth are you talking about? The incident in Beit Shemesh has come and gone. Why are you flogging a dead horse? Everyone understands that it was individuals who acted in Beit Shemesh. Like Moshe Rabeinu said; “ha’ish echad yecheta, v’al kol ha’eida tiktzof”???

    Rabbi Coffer you cannot deny that you world is cracking

    My world is just fine Danny. You need to stop being so melodramatic.

    Ps I haven't thanked you yet for responding to my question about a year ago, it was very kind of you to take the time to try and help me, even tough we don't know each other, thank you, I appreciate it

    Please don’t be insulted but I don’t remember you writing to me or me responding. I get a lot of emails and do my best to respond on a question to question basis. I’m glad my response was helpful though.

    May Hashem grant you much success in all your worthy endeavors.

    SC

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  4. elemir,

    I meant… the evidence, based on science, archaeology, textual analysis, etc. (at least to me) is very convincing that God was not the author of the Torah, or maybe if He was the author then He purposely wrote a very flawed document, or maybe that the document we have is not the original and the copyists over time very much corrupted God’s original text.

    OK. So my response to you is the same as it always was. If you have a particular issue you would like to broach, I will gladly discuss it with you. Billions of people today accept as historical fact that the Torah was written by God. The Jewish Nation has an unbroken tradition regarding this. The Torah is a historically proven document. In fact, the Torah was already in the hands of the gentiles thousands of years ago which provides independent corroboration to our own traditions. If you don’t believe in Torah MiSinai, please provide proof against it and I will gladly respond.

    Also, that Chazal had NO knowledge about the natural world and general history other then was known to mankind at their time.

    Maybe, maybe not. It’s not worth arguing about.

    As for “b)” I am sorry but nothing much of what I read of your posts provides any “evidence” for the truth “in toto” of the Torah as we have it. Exposing the flaws in the Th. of Evol. is not evidence that Chapt 1. of Ber. is divinely authored

    I don’t mean to offend you elemir but this blog, (and Rationalist Judaism too) is written primarily for those who believe in the Divinity of the Torah. My posts on this blog do not provide evidence for Torah MiSinai (TM) because TM functions as a point of departure both for Rabbi Slifkin and for me. If you are having issues with TM, write me privately and I will provide you with all the evidence you need.

    RSC states:

    After 40 years, and at the behest of God, Moshe committed the entire “written” portion of the Torah to writing.

    I ask:

    Could you kindly clarify this a bit. Did B’nei Yisrael have the whole Torah immediately post Mt. Sinai or not.


    Moshe Rabbeinu received the body of the Torah on Har Sinai. However, there were a few mitzvos that were given during the course of the 40 years. Pesach Sheini and Hilchos Nachalos (i.e. if a man dies with no immediate male relatives) come to mind.

    continued in the next comment

    ReplyDelete
  5. continued from the previous comment

    If yes, why did Moshe choose to write some mitzvoth only 40 years later.

    I think there is some confusion here. Moshe didn’t come down from the mountain with a Torah scroll. He came down with the Ten Commandments, that’s it. The remainder of the pesukim of the Torah resided in Moshe’s memory and he transmitted them to the Jews in the wilderness, pasuk by pasuk. So for instance, Moshe taught the following pasuk to biney yisrael: “ba’succos teyshvu shivas yamim”. You shall dwell in “succos” seven days. The Jews repeated this pasuk several times until they too memorized it. Moshe explained to them that it was permissible for them to write this pasuk down because it comprises part of what would ultimately be the “Written Torah”. Moshe then provided a detailed explanation for this pasuk. What does sucah mean? Well, it means a temporary dwelling built of at least three walls, at least 10 tefachim high, and containing a roof. The material of the roof must grow from the ground, cannot be fashioned into a vessel, and cannot be currently attached to the ground. This, Moshe explained, was what Hashem told him on Har Sinai. Hashem also told him that the description of a sucah must be transmitted orally from generation to generation. Hence, we have two parts to the Torah. The Written Torah and the Oral Torah. At the end of the 40 year period, just before Moshe’s death, Hashem instructed him to make 13 final copies of the Written Torah which included all of the incidents that occurred to the Jews during the 40 year period. There is a dispute amongst our sages regarding the final 8 pesukim of the Torah which describes Moshe’s death. One opinion maintains that Moshe wrote these pesukim too and they comprise a prophetic description of his own death. The other opinion is that Yehoshua wrote them. I hope this clears everything up for you.

    And if no, did they not keep or know about the mitzvoth that were only presented in Devarim?

    Devarim is referred to as Mishneh Torah. Moshe repeated some of the mitzvos that were already given in the past. Very little was added.

    RSC wrote:

    It’s that I’ve been taught how to analyze the information I assimilate from books and assess it for its “truth quotient”.

    I say:

    Wow, what a great statement. But honestly, did you apply this technique to the Chumash as well.


    I am dedicating a significant amount of time to your queries. My responses are sincere. I am not looking for a pat on the back. However, I must insist on a modicum of derech eretz. I am willing to spend forever trying to explain a concept but I don’t do well with mockery.

    Sincerely,

    SC

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  6. “In what way are the actions of a few idiots in Beit Shemesh reflective of Charedi society as a whole?”
    It is not a few idiots, you are ignoring the protest in Jerusalem that had over 1500 participants. I’m sure you are aware that at this protest people were mocking the holocaust, and even made their very own children make a joke out of the terrible suffering that the Jewish children when through in the concentration camps. you do realize that officials from the Eidah participated in this rally. I always thought that the eida was the Top beth din in Israel, Real “daas Torah”
    So its definitely not a few idiots.
    “ I’m not interested in politics. If you’re looking for politics, this is the wrong blog”
    Hang on just on second, you write “you know why Rabbi Slifkin refers to certain individuals as “Charedi far-right”? Because these individuals are most vociferous in upholding the authority of ourgedolei Torah. What he doesn’t seem to understand is that this attitude is a fundamental dogma which undergirds the very essence of TOJ.”
    I have tried my best to uphold this dogma but I’m afraid I can’t do this anymore unless I lie to myself.
    My comments are not simply about politics, please don’t run away from uncomfortable issues with the excuse that its politics. You believe that “upholding the authority of ourgedolei Torah “ is a fundermental dogma”, and I assume you mean our charaidi gedolim.
    “Yes! It demonstrates in the loudest terms that the charedi leaders don’t think it is as big a deal…”
    That’s part of the problem!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'd actually be interested in the flip side to slifkins post which is why is it that Zionism seems to frequently ( if not always ) go hand in hand with modern orthodoxy? I have noticed that many Zionists also have a weaker attachment to the mesorah in general, especially when it comes to issues of Halacha and hashgapha sounding the state of Israel, but also in other areas, for example, the use of Midrash in education.

    ReplyDelete
  8. >>> I am willing to spend forever trying to explain a concept but I don’t do well with mockery.

    I am truly sorry that you took it as mockery. I am the most respectful of people and so I apologize, but it was a serious question. But you indirectly answered it, by saying that it is axiomatic for you that the Torah, as we have it, was fully authored by God, so then your analysis does not allow you to be as critical as you are when reading other disciplines. So, no further comment is necessary.

    As to my question, you failed to clearly answer it so I will repeat.

    In your view, did B’nei Yisroel have and perform ALL mitzvoth in the desert including the ones found in Devarim?

    Some examples …. (a) Shiluach hakan. (b) laws of divorce (c) aishet yephat tohar … (d) korban pesach as described in Dev, quite different from Shemot, etc.

    And if yes, do you a have a suggestion as to why Moishe chose to record them in Dev., after the 40 years. Or, in other words, do you see an underlying theme as to the choice, by Moishe, of the law contents of Devarim?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Danny

    It is not a few idiots, you are ignoring the protest in Jerusalem that had over 1500 participants.

    I’m not ignoring anything. That protest was specifically for the reason I mentioned to you in my previous comment! The chareidim in meah shearim were protesting the media’s unfair depiction of chareidi society in general based on the actions of a few extremist individuals in Beit Shemesh or on some city buses!

    I’m sure you are aware that at this protest people were mocking the holocaust, and even made their very own children make a joke out of the terrible suffering that the Jewish children when through in the concentration camps.

    Your reaction is exaggerated. I agree with you that the few individuals (it was only a few amongst over a thousand) that wore yellow stars were out of line. It was poor taste. But it was not mockery. They were trying to send the message that they were being persecuted for their Jewishness just as the Jews in Germany were persecuted for their Jewishness. They did not mean to make a joke of the holocaust victims chs’v. Many of them are no doubt children of Holocaust survivors themselves. Unfortunately your reaction is characteristic of the Israeli media which jumps to conclusions, utilizing every opportunity it can to portray the charedim in the worst possible light. My advice to you is to stop reading newspapers. You are obviously a highly emotional and sensitive person. You will drive yourself crazy if you allow every minor Israeli confrontation to occupy your mind.

    “I’m not interested in politics. If you’re looking for politics, this is the wrong blog”

    Hang on just on second, you write “you know why Rabbi Slifkin refers to certain individuals as “Charedi far-right”? Because these individuals are most vociferous in upholding the authority of our gedolei Torah. What he doesn’t seem to understand is that this attitude is a fundamental dogma which undergirds the very essence of TOJ.” I have tried my best to uphold this dogma but I’m afraid I can’t do this anymore unless I lie to myself.

    You and I must live on different planets. All the gedolei Torah I know are ba’alei middos who eschew violence and dedicate their lives to helping klal Yisrael. They are links in the chain of our mesorah and they act as living role models for us.

    My comments are not simply about politics, please don’t run away from uncomfortable issues with the excuse that its politics.

    Why not? It’s not an excuse. It’s a statement of fact. I don’t like talking about gedoley Yisrael and second-guessing their actions. I refer to this as politics. If you don’t like that word, choose another one. But I refuse to get dragged into a discussion like this, especially in public.

    You believe that “upholding the authority of our gedolei Torah “is a fundamental dogma”

    Most definitely. And so should you. I’m not saying that you must follow the dictates of every kol koreh issued by a gadol. Sometimes the gedolim in question are very old and lose control of what is said in their name. So pick a rebbi and follow his hashkafos. But in general you should revere gedoley Torah and it is a big mitvah to speak positively about them (as Dovid haMelech states in Tehilim: “imru tzadik”). Certainly you should never speak disparagingly about them, especially in public. One who does this on a regular basis is destroying his neshama and loses his share in the world to come.

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  10. Marcus,

    Shalom Aleichem! Welcome to our blog and thank you for writing.

    I'd actually be interested in the flip side to slifkins post which is why is it that Zionism seems to frequently ( if not always ) go hand in hand with modern orthodoxy?

    Then stay tuned. My next post will take you on a historic tour of the establishment of the state, the various groups of people that were involved in its development, and the ideologies that separate them. I just started writing it but I realize it will probably have to be a three part post. There’s a lot of background information that needs to be provided.

    ReplyDelete
  11. elemir

    I am truly sorry that you took it as mockery. I am the most respectful of people and so I apologize, but it was a serious question. But you indirectly answered it, by saying that it is axiomatic for you that the Torah, as we have it, was fully authored by God, so then your analysis does not allow you to be as critical as you are when reading other disciplines. So, no further comment is necessary.

    I must confess, I am a bit confused. Although I did mention that Torah MiSinai is a point of departure for this blog, I did not say that it is axiomatic. I specifically told you that I believe the Torah’s authenticity rests on solid grounds and that “If you are having issues with TM, write me privately and I will provide you with all the evidence you need.” So my belief in the authenticity of the Torah is based on demonstrable evidence coupled with historical proof. You write that “for you that the Torah, as we have it, was fully authored by God, so then your analysis does not allow you to be as critical as you are when reading other disciplines” but this is not true. On the contrary, my opinion is a product of my considered analysis of the evidence.

    As to my question, you failed to clearly answer it so I will repeat.

    In your view, did B’nei Yisroel have and perform ALL mitzvoth in the desert including the ones found in Devarim?

    Some examples …. (a) Shiluach hakan. (b) laws of divorce (c) aishet yephat tohar … (d) korban pesach as described in Dev, quite different from Shemot, etc.


    I’m flattered that you are looking for my view. This issue is discussed at length in the Rishonim and Acharonim. In any case, I was hoping to get some feedback re my Yom Atzmaut post. The subject you are pursuing is entirely off topic. However, I did invite you to schmooze so I guess I owe you a clear response :-)

    There is a lot of material on this subject and I can’t cover all of it here so I will pick one approach and present it in such a way that some of the questions the other commentators ask on it are automatically answered. Let me know if this approach satisfies you.

    Your question can actually be broken down into two parts.

    a) Did Biney Yisrael have all the mitzvos in the desert, including the ones found in Devarim? Assuming they did,

    b) Did they perform all the mitzvos in the desert including the ones found in Devarim?

    Let’s deal with question a) first. According to Chazal Moshe received all of the mitzvos of the Torah on Har Sinai (except for maybe some aspects of nachalos and pesach sheni) so Moshe Rabbeinu definitely had all the mitzvos from the beginning. The question is, did he reveal all of them to the Jews right away? And the answer is no. The obvious question is why? And the answer depends on the mitzvah in question.

    Continued in the next comment

    ReplyDelete
  12. Continued from the previous comment

    The following answer applies to almost all the mitzvos that were first revealed in Devarim. The reason Moshe didn’t reveal them to the Yotzei Mitzrayim is because they were infrequent. So, Yibum, Motzee Shem Ra, Geirushin, Eidim Zomemim, Shiluach haKein etc. are, at best, infrequent. 99% of the dor midbar would never practice them. So if the situation arose Moshe revealed the halacha to the particular individual. Otherwise he kept the nation’s focus on the mitzvos that occur more frequently. However, at the end of the forty year period he had to reveal all of the mitzvos to the new generation. Moshe was soon to die and the entire Torah needed to be passed along to the Jewish nation. So in Devarim he finally revealed the details of mitzvos such as divorce etc. to the entire nation rather than just to individuals.

    The preceding is one of the basic answers given to question a) and is a pretty good answer (although it doesn’t address all of the mitzvos revealed in Devarim, such as Birchas HaMazon). There are some meforshim that have issues with this teretz but the problems can be resolved. If you happen to broach any of the issues, I will be forced to respond. Otherwise, I hope this answer satisfies you for Question a). Let’s move on to Question b).

    Question b) is: Did they perform all the mitzvos in the desert including the ones found in Devarim?

    The answer is no. First of all, Chazal say they did not perform bris milah or korban pesach in the wilderness. As far as the ones found in Devarim, according to our answer in Question a), it would seem that if the mitzvos listed in Devarim happen to come up, say, divorce, Moshe instructed the individual in question and he kept the mitzvah. Also, I recall a friend of mine (a talmid chacham) mentioning to me that the tefillin of the Yotzei Mitzrayim must have been different than the tefilin of the new generation entering eretz yisrael since the parshios of Shema and Vi’Haya im shamoa were only given at the end of the forty years.

    The bottom line is, the giving of the Torah and it’s acceptance by the Jews did not happen instantly. It was a process that occurred over a forty year period and culminated with Moshe’s death.

    Elemir, I know my response was not detailed. I don’t know if it serves to address your questions. If it does, I’m glad. If not, please let me know and I will try and find the time to expand upon this sugya.

    And if yes, do you a have a suggestion as to why Moishe chose to record them in Dev., after the 40 years. Or, in other words, do you see an underlying theme as to the choice, by Moishe, of the law contents of Devarim?

    Basically the theme is mitzvos that were not tadiros (frequent) were finally revealed in Devarim before Moshe’s death.

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  13. "Your reaction is exaggerated. I agree
    with you that the few individuals (it
    was only a few amongst over a
    thousand) that wore yellow stars
    were out of line"

    There was a big truck right in the middle of the protest with people in stripped pajamas and wearing stars. Why did the mass of protesters not walk away? Why did no one stop this terrible chillul Hashem?
    Have you seen the photos?
    It is not a few individuals on the side, look at the photos, on yeshivaworldnews, it almost seems like they were on stage, as I typed this I went back to look at the photos, in the hope that it is just a terrible nightmare, but its real!

    And its not just "poor taste" It is an utter disgrace. Let me give you an analogy, imagine that there is a holiday youth camp,the older kids are in charge of the younger kids, the older kids decide to keep all the nice food for themselves because they are older and more mature, so they give the younger kids bread and vegetables, the young kids organize a protest against this, they decide that there might be a similarity between their situation and the jews in the holocaust, just as the jews in the holocaust were discriminated for purely physical characteristics, i.e. Being born a jew, so to they were being discriminated against for purely physical reasons, i.e being young. So they dress up as jews in a concentration camp, and pretend to gas themselves in the shower. Is this bad taste, or a disgrace and mockery? You might want to argue that the discrimination of chariadim in israel is worse than the discrimination of these young boys, but compared to children being gased by nazis and the elderly being pushed to the window in their wheelchairs and thrown out to their death, the boys and the charaidim are exatcly the same.


    "You and I must live on different
    planets. All the gedolei Torah I know
    are ba’alei middos who eschew
    violence and dedicate their lives to
    helping klal Yisrael"

    When did I say that the gelolei Torah
    don't have good middos and are pro violence? What I am saying is that I don't believe that they can be an authority for me in terms of my outlook, and I believe that they have completely lost control and are in fact not leading anyone anymore.
    I would even say (and I know this will make you upset but I am just explaining my thoughts). That because they have been isolated from the outside world for so long, they simply can't relate to it.
    This does not mean that I cannot respect them.

    Let me tell you something, just last month a had a major fight with a relative of mine, because of the terrible things he said about the gedolim, I think part of the problem is that he reads failedmessiah on a daily basis (now that blog is probably the most hateful blog around) it is tragic I could simply not tolerate the horrific things he says about the charaidi gedolim anymore, we are no longer speaking to each other and it does not look like that is going to change.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Danny,

    I acknowledge your point of view in your previous comment. I have nothing of substance to add.

    Be well,

    SC

    ReplyDelete
  15. Rabbi Coffer:

    Thank you for taking the time to respond, but your explanation (differentiating between common and rare mitzvot) is very unsatisfying as there are just too many exceptions to make it credible to me.

    BTW, if you have time I am still uinterested in why you claim that archaeology supports the Torah, when my reading of the subject is exactly the opposite, especially the mabul, age of the world being < 6000 yrs, and the migdal babel being refuted by the field.

    in any case all the best to you
    elemir

    ReplyDelete
  16. elemir

    Thank you for taking the time to respond, but your explanation (differentiating between common and rare mitzvot) is very unsatisfying as there are just too many exceptions to make it credible to me.

    Perhaps. But oddly enough all the examples you gave fall squarely in that category. If there are indeed “many exceptions”, perhaps you’d like to provide four or five for my perusal. I am aware of some exceptions (e.g. birchas ha’mazon) but overall the principle seems to provide a credible theme. I will wait for your (many) counter-examples.

    BTW, if you have time I am still interested in why you claim that archaeology supports the Torah, when my reading of the subject is exactly the opposite, especially the mabul, age of the world being < 6000 yrs, and the migdal babel being refuted by the field.

    I wish I could dedicate time to this pursuit. But it is long and I don’t have the scientific literature organized as well as I do with other disciplines such as evolution. But I think I should mention the following.

    There are two issues at hand. 1) Does archeology refute our Torah traditions, and even if it doesn’t, 2) does it provide positive evidence for our traditions? I maintain that it provides evidence for our traditions and in the past I believe I provided you with fish fossils on top of mountains as evidence for a flood. As far as the Bible itself, I have dozens of examples from archeological finds corroborating the events depicted in Tanach. In the past 100 years, modern archeological discoveries have continuously refuted the claims of the bible-critics. But as I mentioned earlier, I don’t have all the scientific material organized properly yet so I generally do not appeal to archeology as a means of supporting our mesorah. But your claim is entirely different! You maintain that archeology disproves our traditions! If you wish to advance such a claim, you must provide evidence for it and point me to the proper scientific sources corroborating your assertions. If you do this, I will gladly enter into a discussion with you regarding your sources.

    So to sum up, I am waiting for several examples of mitzvos that were first introduced in Devarim that do not fall under the category of “infrequent” and I am waiting for several examples of archeological discoveries which refute events such as “mabul, age of the world being < 6000 yrs, and the migdal babel”

    The ball’s in your court.

    SC

    ReplyDelete
  17. Response to part A …. I.e to provide a list of mitzvoth that are rated (by me) as “frequent”-type yet appear in Devarim.

    Note: I specifically omit all mitzvoth that pertain to the Land or to the court system since for these 2 categories of commandments it makes sense that Moishe includes them in hiss pre-entry address and not elsewhere in the Torah.

    While I suppose the definition of “frequent” is subjective. I would view the following as candidates. In Dev. we find.

    1) Shema and teaching your children
    2) “Benching”
    3) Not to refrain from lending money to the poor.
    4) the special treatment for false witnesses (“zome’mim”)
    5) Rules for war: exemptions; female prisoners; keeping the war camp “clean”
    6) Remembering: Miriam; Amalek; Mattan Torah; Egypt; the desert journey
    7) Rules for a person’s estate w.r.t. to a “hated” first born (maybe this one is infrequent)
    8) bill of divorce (“get”)
    9) not remarrying your divorcee if she married someone else.
    10) men not wearing women’s clothes
    11) accusing a new bride of infidelity
    12) never to marry a Moabite, Ammonite, Maamzar
    13) permitting marriage of a Egyptian after 3rd generation
    14) not returning a runaway slave
    15) not allowing prostitution nor using its avails for the Mikdosh
    16) Being prompt on paying vows and adhering to promises

    One might consider adding to this list all those mitzvoth that are repeated in Devarim but have added or “changed” specifics. Pesach, tzitzit, tefellin, eved ivri, lost objects, etc.

    Further as a logical counter to your explained distinction of frequent/not frequent, it make no sense that Torah’s Sinaic list of commandments should include anything that relates to the Land, i.e. shmittah, yovel, orlah, peah, etc. etc.. These should all have been left to Devarim.

    Part B. my questions on archaeology to follow, hopefully tomorrow.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Elimir,

    Response to part A …. I.e to provide a list of mitzvoth that are rated (by me) as “frequent”-type yet appear in Devarim.

    That’s not exactly the response. The requested response is “to provide a list of mitzvoth that are rated (by me) as “frequent”-type yet appear for the first time in Devarim” I’m not sure if that’s what you meant so I wanted to clear that up.

    While I suppose the definition of “frequent” is subjective. I would view the following as candidates. In Dev. we find.

    1) Shema and teaching your children


    Not “teaching your children” but you’re right about the mitzvah of saying Kirias Shema. But I mentioned this in a previous comment. For some reason the parshios of shema and vi’haya were not given until the end of the forty years. It stands to reason that the mitvah of tefilin developed over forty years from two parshios, mentioned in Shemos, to four parshios. Perhaps the subject matter of these two parshios pertains primarily to the people entering the land i.e. memorialize the great of love and unity of Hashem by putting it on the doorsteps of your homes, be aware that transgressing the Torah will cause the rain to cease falling and end up in your exile etc. So in other words, there was a mitzvah to recite the oneness of Hashem even before but the parsha of shema itself was not given until the end.

    2) “Benching”

    I have a long and lamdushe teretz for this. Maybe a little later. But you’re right. This is an exception. But I mentioned this already.

    3) Not to refrain from lending money to the poor.

    This mitzvah appears in Shemos (im kesef talveh es ami)

    4) the special treatment for false witnesses (“zome’mim”),

    Not just infrequent in the midbar; non-existent!

    5) Rules for war: exemptions; female prisoners; keeping the war camp “clean”

    Ditto. The first time they went to war was at the end of the forty year period

    6) Remembering: Miriam; Amalek; Mattan Torah; Egypt; the desert journey

    That’s simple to answer. These events happened to the people in the midbar. Obviously they remembered. Moshe had to wait to tell the children who were leaving the wilderness and entering the land not to forget the great miracles that occurred in Egypt and in the wilderness.

    7) Rules for a person’s estate w.r.t. to a “hated” first born (maybe this one is infrequent)

    Umm… Yeah…

    8) bill of divorce (“get”)

    The dor midbar were the greatest generation that ever lived. They all married l’shem shamayim. Even when they were in Egypt, the ervas ha’aretz, never did any of the Jews fraternize with the Egyptians. This is a remarkable fact! They were entirely gedurim mey’arayos. Never mind “infrequent”; the divorce rate was probably nil in the midbar.

    9) not remarrying your divorcee if she married someone else.

    And you think this happened frequently in the midbar? C’mon elemir…

    Continued in the next comment

    ReplyDelete
  19. 10) men not wearing women’s clothes

    So, you think the men in the midbar had an overwhelming urge to dress like the opposite sex? I don’t think so. This mitzvah falls under the category of infrequent for all generations of frum Jews, not just the dor midbar!

    11) accusing a new bride of infidelity

    Unheard of in the midbar. Even Bilaam admitted this. The Jews were a holy nation even in Egypt, kal va’chomer in the midbar!

    12) never to marry a Moabite, Ammonite, Maamzar

    You can answer this yourself elemir! The Moabite and Ammonite injunction did not pertain until the end of the forty years when they went to war against Sichon and Og and the Moabites would not let them pass. Mamzer was non-existent in the midbar.

    13) permitting marriage of a Egyptian after 3rd generation

    Non-existent in the midbar.

    14) not returning a runaway slave

    Non-existent in the midbar. The first time they had slaves was at the end of the forty year period.

    15) not allowing prostitution nor using its avails for the Mikdosh.

    Elemir, I think you are losing track here. We are discussing mitzvos which are infrequent. Do you think prostitution was frequent in the midbar?

    16) Being prompt on paying vows and adhering to promises

    Did not pertain until they entered the land (private korbonos were not brought in the midbar)

    So, I think I did a pretty good job countering your sixteen mitzvos; yes, no, maybe so? Let me know.

    Further as a logical counter to your explained distinction of frequent/not frequent, it make no sense that Torah’s Sinaic list of commandments should include anything that relates to the Land, i.e. shmittah, yovel, orlah, peah, etc. etc.. These should all have been left to Devarim.,

    This is a good kushya but your question is irrelevant to our subject. The question is not why Moshe mentioned certain mitzvos earlier but rather why he waited to mention certain mitzvos later and for this question I have provided you a theme (infrequency) which addresses almost all of the mitzvos in Devarim.

    Part B. my questions on archaeology to follow, hopefully tomorrow.

    I can’t wait.

    ReplyDelete
  20. >>>. So, I think I did a pretty good job countering your sixteen mitzvos; yes, no, maybe so?

    No really. All I can say, and at the risk of being criticized for mockery, is that your responses overall remind me of the advice given to sharpshooter that to guarantee excellent scores, he fire at a blank wall and then draw the bulls-eye around his shot. I was going to add “yevomah” to my list, but then realized that in the “midbar” nobody ever died childless, so it too can be called infrequent.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Elemir,

    All I can say, and at the risk of being criticized for mockery, is that your responses overall remind me of the advice given to sharpshooter that to guarantee excellent scores, he fire at a blank wall and then draw the bulls-eye around his shot.

    And all I can say is that I am profoundly disappointed. Your mashal is obviously flawed. I provided you with a theme before knowing what mitzvos you would counter with. I didn’t ask you to shoot off your list of mitzvos first and then draw a convenient explanation around them! This whole enterprise followed the scientific method to a tee. I proposed a theory (infrequency) and you proposed sixteen scenarios where this theory could be tested in the field and in almost every one the theory was corroborated. Either the mitzvah was infrequent or it was non-existent. You mentioned nedarim and nedavos but this was non-existent in the midbar (I can provide you with sources in Chazal if you want). You mentioned prostitution but this was surely non-existent in the midbar. You mentioned the laws of war but war was non-existent in the midbar. Just read the chumash! You mentioned amon and moav but this mitzvah was not given until they refused bread and water and did not allow the Jews to pass. This happened at the end of the forty year period; just read the chumash! I provided you with rational answers to your questions but instead of addressing my responses you regale me with stories about sharpshooters and bulls eyes. If this is your standard MO, I cannot commit to responding to you in the future. I need to feel that I at least have a chance that my questioner will give my responses objective consideration. Otherwise, what’s the point?

    So, where’s your examples of archeology that contradicts the bible? By the way, I’ve been busy. I am beginning to compile archeological data that supports the bible. I have dozens and dozens of examples, perhaps hundreds! The more I investigate, the more becomes revealed. It’s absolutely incredible! I am currently investigating the scientific sources and hope to provide you with a coupe dozen examples in the near future. Meanwhile I await your counterexamples.

    ReplyDelete
  22. >>> Your mashal is obviously flawed.

    My moshel was meant as a bit of a joke…but seriously, do you not realize what you did. Anything that didn’t match your stated criteria, you simply said it didn’t exist or wasn’t important or is not relevant. I could do the same thing., I say that Moshe left all mitzvoth for Devarim that they had a tradition to do already and was not needed to be stated at Sinai. Presto any list that is provided to counter my criterion, I simply say they had a “kabbala” and didn’t need to be instructed, only reminded at the end.

    But any way, lets review my list :

    1) you said: “prostitution but this was surely non-existent in the midbar”.. Why, how do you know. Prostitution was quite prevalent in all societies, specifically temple prostitution as part of idolatrous rites. How would B’Y know that a divine decree forbids them unless they are told so.
    2) you said: “…..but war was non-existent in the midbar.” Did you ever hear of Amalek. And, the war with sichon and og happened before the moab address. I would think laws of war should have been given over at that point.
    3) “You mentioned amon and moav but this mitzvah was not given until…”. OK granted…
    4) but when was the law of permitting a “mitzri” invoked? You say “Non-existent in the midbar.” Aside from the fact that this is simply a blanket assertion…I say that among the erev rav there must have been many converted Egyptians hanging about, at which point, this mitzva becomes most relevant.
    5) Claiming that “get” was not needed in the midbar is frankly absurd. But OK… I don’t believe it, but I can’t know for sure.
    6) Not to refrain from lending money to the poor.

    You said: “This mitzvah appears in Shemos (im kesef talveh es ami)”
    no it doesn’t. in shemos the key word is “IF” , then don’t charge interest. Not don’t refrain from lending because of shmittah.

    7) ) the special treatment for false witnesses (“zome’mim”),

    You say: “Not just infrequent in the midbar; non-existent!” says you … out of curiosity…is there a cite in Chazal for your claim, as well?

    8) Remember Amalek etc. OK about the remembering part, but there is also the mitzvah to destroy Amalek, logic dictates that it belongs immediately after the war.

    9) not remarrying your divorcee if she married someone else.

    you said “And you think this happened frequently in the midbar? Well of course it couldn’t happen, nobody ever got divorced but I say, they did and among a half million couples, there must’ve been a few that wished to re-marry. And unless told it was forbidden, why shouldn’t they?

    10) men not wearing women’s clothes

    you said: “This mitzvah falls under the category of infrequent for all generations of frum Jews, not just the dor midbar” I say…how do they know its assur until they are told.

    Finally, What about “Yibum”


    As for your general contention that they were holy, so the B’Y didn’t do many of these aveirot. I reject that view... why else did they get into some much trouble, if not a portion of the nation was just not up to snuff.

    I’ll grant that some things may have been non-existent or irrelevant . But enough mitzvot do not match your criterion to leave me unconvinced that this was Moishe’s theme.

    ReplyDelete
  23. >>>> So, where’s your examples of archeology that contradicts the bible?

    What I am about to say I’m sure you know very well, but I am still interested in your response.

    It’s not a matter of specific examples. Its more the general picture as presented by archaeology. Based on hundreds of excavations and millions of artifacts, archaeology has pieced together what it purports to be a history of the peoples, languages and cultures of the countries of the near middle east, most prominently Egypt and the various Mesopotamian nations. There is no doubt that this picture has very many flaws; in accuracy of the various dating methods, in the translations of textual material, and even the credibility of the text itself. However, there are several key points that stand out and are most compelling to me.

    1) The period purported to be between 2500 to 1500 BCE. The Torah’s timeline tells us that the entire history of mankind begins about 2000 BCE (post-deluge) and also that the variation of languages happened about 200 or so years later. Firstly, of the millions of pieces of text that are in the hands of archaeologists, none mention a very recent flood, nor is there any gap in the history as would have been created had a flood occurred and destroyed mankind as depicted in the Torah. Second, the artifacts when taken as a whole claim a much longer history.. Could it all have been fabricated or exaggerated?? Yes, some of it, but there is much material on the names of kings, places,and events that is corroborated across sources, so I just don’t think its all false.

    2) The period 1500 to 1200 BCE. The evidence is very strong and convincing that Egypt and the Hittite empire were powerful nations during this age, the period covering the Exodus and the settlement of Israel. And that Egypt had sovereignty over much of Canaan during this period and spent much military activity contending with the Hittites. So 2 things stand out:

    (a) if what the Torah says is true about what happened to almighty Egypt due to the events surrounding the Exodus, then the destruction of Egypt should have permitted revolts by the many cities and/or peoples under Egypt’s rule, and certainly the Hittites would have prevailed. There is no record of this happening.
    (b) Both the Chumash and Sefer Yehoshua show absolutely no knowledge of the power and control that Egypt had over the eastern Mediterranean portion of the near east. B’Y would not have been able to conquer Canaan without defeating Egypt. The is no mention of any wars or encounters with Egypt post Exodus. A very compelling argument.

    3) In addition, the population size of the B’Y as given in the Torah is simply not credible, in terms of: (i) archaeology’s view of the national populations in the era, (ii) lack of any indication in the reord of the economic effect on Egypt such a Exodus (iii) the complete lack of any evidence from places purported to have been visited by the fleeing nation (Kadesh Barnea, etc.). (iv) the logistics, overlooked by the Torah of the of over 4 million people and their livestock (v) and the claim by archaeology that the is little evidence that millions of people suddenly inhabiyed Canaan in this period.

    >>>> I am beginning to compile archeological data that supports the bible. I have dozens and dozens of examples, perhaps hundreds! The more I investigate, the more becomes revealed. It’s absolutely incredible! I am currently investigating the scientific sources and hope to provide you with a coupe dozen examples in the near future.

    I am very interested. I believe the Torah is based on actual events and its very important to show this as much as possible. I hope you publicize this work.

    ReplyDelete
  24. >>> Your mashal is obviously flawed.

    My moshel was meant as a bit of a joke…

    A joke? You asked me to provide you with a theme for why certain mitzvos make their first appearance in Devarim. I provided you with “infrequency”. You then claimed that my theme was faulty. I challenged you to produce mitzvos that don’t satisfy the parameters of the theme. You attempted to list 16 mitzvos. I responded to each one separately and demonstrated that the vast majority do satisfy my criterion. You responded with sharpshooters. Sorry but I don’t get the joke.

    but seriously, do you not realize what you did.

    I guess not.

    Anything that didn’t match your stated criteria, you simply said it didn’t exist

    What do you mean “I simply said” that it didn’t exist? My theme is that the mitzvos mentioned in Devarim were infrequent in the midbar. If I said a particular mitzvah didn’t exist in the midbar, that’s because I was asserting that it satisfied my criterion. If you have an issue with my assertion regarding any of your mitzvos, please challenge it directly.

    or wasn’t important

    This is false. Not once did I marginalize your examples.

    or is not relevant.

    If by “not relevant” you mean “not relevant in the midbar”, see my comment re “didn’t exist”.

    I could do the same thing., I say that Moshe left all mitzvoth for Devarim that they had a tradition to do already and was not needed to be stated at Sinai. Presto any list that is provided to counter my criterion, I simply say they had a “kabbala” and didn’t need to be instructed, only reminded at the end.

    Now this is a joke I can understand. You are joking, right? Your theme is clearly not “the same thing” as mine. Your theme is not falsifiable, mine is (and indeed was falsified in 2 out of 16 mitzvos, benching, and kerias Shema).

    But any way, lets review my list:

    1) you said: “prostitution but this was surely non-existent in the midbar”.. Why, how do you know. Prostitution was quite prevalent in all societies, specifically temple prostitution as part of idolatrous rites. How would B’Y know that a divine decree forbids them unless they are told so.


    There are certain mitzvos in the Torah that the human mind understands intuitively even without being told. Prostitution is one of them. Remember when Yaakov chastised Shimon and Levi for killing the entire Shechem? What did they respond? “Will he (Shechem) make our sister like a prostitute”? Also, we have a kabala from Chazal that Biney Yisrael in Egypt and in the wilderness were entirely removed from sins of sexuality. The first time they transgressed such a sin was with the daughters of Moav at the end of the forty year period. We also have the testimony of Bilaam who waxes poetic about the sanctity of the Jewish nation in the wilderness. He is referring to sexual purity. (See Rashi ad loc)

    continued in next comment

    ReplyDelete
  25. continued from previous comment

    2) you said: “…..but war was non-existent in the midbar.” Did you ever hear of Amalek.

    You’re losing focus. We are talking about post matan Torah wilderness. The Torah wasn’t given yet at the time of amalek. And after amalek war was non-existent in the midbar until the end of the forty year period.

    And, the war with sichon and og happened before the moab address. I would think laws of war should have been given over at that point.

    First of all, why? Sichon and Og was the first time they fought a war in the midbar in 40 years! That clearly makes the laws of war infrequent, correct? Second of all, who says they weren’t given over at that time? The mitzvos that first appear in Devarim are the ones which Moshe finally gave the Jews at the end. Maybe he gave them the laws of war around the time of Sichon and Og? As to why it is not recorded at the end of Bamidbar, that’s because Moshe is about to record all of the infrequent mitzvos in the next sefer (Devarim) so he lumps the war mitzvos with all the rest. Devarim comes right after Bamidbar, remember?

    3) “You mentioned amon and moav but this mitzvah was not given until…”. OK granted…

    Amazing! I would just like to note that if you accept this, then you should also understand my second response in the previous comment re sichon and og

    4) but when was the law of permitting a “mitzri” invoked? You say “Non-existent in the midbar.” Aside from the fact that this is simply a blanket assertion…

    Yup, it sure is. You want to know my source? The chumash! After the splitting of the sea, the Torah states that all the Egyptians were drowned and there was not left even one.

    I say that among the erev rav there must have been many converted Egyptians hanging about, at which point, this mitzva becomes most relevant.

    No sir. The erev rav stood at Har Sinai and accepted the Torah along with all the rest of the Jews. They had full status as Jews and were not considered Egyptians. Remember, even the Jews were not considered a nation until matan Torah. They became a nation due solely to the Matan Torah phenomenon, an event that the erev rav participated in to the fullest extent.

    5) Claiming that “get” was not needed in the midbar is frankly absurd. But OK… I don’t believe it, but I can’t know for sure.

    Get was infrequent in the midbar, that’s my only claim. It couldn’t have been entirely unneeded. After all, Moshe Rabbeinu got divorced, remember?

    6) Not to refrain from lending money to the poor.

    You said: “This mitzvah appears in Shemos (im kesef talveh es ami)”
    no it doesn’t. in shemos the key word is “IF” , then don’t charge interest. Not don’t refrain from lending because of shmittah.


    Sorry elemir but you’re wrong. The term “im” there does not mean “if”. It means “when”. In other words, “when you will lend money to your brother, the poor…” It is an obligation to lend a poor man money. See Rashi ad loc. and the Mechilta. See also Rashi in parashas Yisro on the pasuk “im mizbach”.

    ReplyDelete
  26. continued from previous comment


    7) ) the special treatment for false witnesses (“zome’mim”),

    You say: “Not just infrequent in the midbar; non-existent!” says you … out of curiosity…is there a cite in Chazal for your claim, as well?


    No. Just the chumash. The sins of the dor midbar are all listed in the chumash. Even sins of individuals like the mikalel, the michalel Shabbos, and korach and his people.

    8) Remember Amalek etc. OK about the remembering part, but there is also the mitzvah to destroy Amalek, logic dictates that it belongs immediately after the war.

    Yup. And so it is. See end of parshas Bishalach and rashi ad loc.

    9) not remarrying your divorcee if she married someone else.

    you said “And you think this happened frequently in the midbar? Well of course it couldn’t happen, nobody ever got divorced but I say, they did and among a half million couples, there must’ve been a few that wished to re-marry. And unless told it was forbidden, why shouldn’t they?


    Couples that wanted to remarry each other after divorcing were told the laws individually. But you admit yourself that there were only “a few that wished to re-marry”. So, that makes the mitzvah infrequent, right?

    10) men not wearing women’s clothes

    you said: “This mitzvah falls under the category of infrequent for all generations of frum Jews, not just the dor midbar” I say…how do they know its assur until they are told.


    They don’t. If a man tried dressing up like a woman, Moshe went over to him and told him to cut it out. The point is that the mitzvah is infrequent and therefore the mitzvah first appears publicly in Devarim. That’s my theme. You keep on losing sight of this.

    Finally, What about “Yibum”

    Infrequent. It is infrequent even today! (today we automatically do chalitza by the way)

    As for your general contention that they were holy, so the B’Y didn’t do many of these aveirot. I reject that view... why else did they get into some much trouble, if not a portion of the nation was just not up to snuff.

    So much trouble? Why, what in heaven’s name do you mean? A nation of millions of people wandering in the wilderness for forty years, forced to live practically on top of each other, and all we have is ten misdeeds in forty years! That’s an average of one every four years! There is no generation in the history of the world that can compare to the dor deah in piety. This is axiomatic to Judaism.

    I’ll grant that some things may have been non-existent or irrelevant . But enough mitzvot do not match your criterion to leave me unconvinced that this was Moishe’s theme.

    Well, at least I tried…

    ReplyDelete
  27. Elemir,

    I skimmed through your comment re archeology and although I am not ready to respond to it just yet, a few comments are in order. First of all, you make several blanket statements without any support whatsoever. The purpose of this exercise is for you to refer to specific archeological evidence which, in your opinion, contradicts the bible. This would then allow me to investigate your claim and respond accordingly.

    Also, it seems you swallow the propaganda of the bible critics lock stock and barrel. You must investigate before accepting their claims. For instance, you write as follows:

    1) The period purported to be between 2500 to 1500 BCE. The Torah’s timeline tells us that the entire history of mankind begins about 2000 BCE (post-deluge) and also that the variation of languages happened about 200 or so years later. Firstly, of the millions of pieces of text that are in the hands of archaeologists, none mention a very recent flood,

    Really? We have no texts in our hands that mention a recent flood? First of all, here’s a 2000 year old text that not only mentions the flood, it mentions the existence of many other texts that record the flood. Here’s Josephus:

    Quote
    Now all the writers of barbarian histories make mention of this flood, and of this ark; among whom is Berosus the Chaldean. For when he is describing the circumstances of the flood, he goes on thus: "It is said there is still some part of this ship in Armenia, at the mountain of the Cordyaeans; and that some people carry off pieces of the bitumen, which they take away, and use chiefly as amulets for the averting of mischiefs." Hieronymus the
    Egyptian also, who wrote the Phoenician Antiquities, and Mnaseas, and a great many more, make mention of the same. Nay, Nicolaus of Damascus, in his ninety-sixth book, hath a particular relation about them; where he speaks thus: "There is a great mountain in
    Armenia, over Minyas, called Baris, upon which it is reported that many who fled at the time of the Deluge were saved; and that one who was carried in an ark came on shore upon the top of it; and that the remains of the timber were a great while preserved. This might be the man about whom Moses the legislator of the Jews wrote."
    End Quote

    Second of all, what about the 19th century discovery of the Epic of Gilgamesh? Here is a concrete example of 18th century BCE Mesopotamian literature depicting the flood story of the bible almost to a tee! Archeologists do not deny this. So here you have an example of ancient Sumerian “flood literature” that pre-dates even the bible!

    I have many more such examples. It is well known that practically every culture on earth possesses some kind of tradition, either in writing or orally, regarding a massive flood which destroys all of mankind. But now is not the time and place.

    To be continued…

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  28. RSC,

    I think you missed my point about the Flood. I was not stating that there never was a flood EVER, I was talking about the year 2000 or so BCE.

    To my knowledge, the Torah is the only document that dates the occurrence of the Flood, and as per our traditional interpretation of the Torah’s timeline, this dating puts the flood at about 2100 BCE.

    My point was simple, (1) no documents that archaeology “dates” around that time mentions any flood having just occurred and (2) more importantly the history purported for that time period for the middle east shows no major gap, i.e. if the world was destroyed 2100 BCE, civilization would not have re-appeared until 100-300 years later and (3) documents have been “dated” preceding 2100 BCE, which certainly would have been destroyed.

    As for being more specific, I’ll try to get around delineating some prominent artifacts from that time. Unfortunately, I will gone for about a week.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Elemeir,

    I think you missed my point about the Flood. I was not stating that there never was a flood EVER, I was talking about the year 2000 or so BCE.

    Yes. Obviously.

    To my knowledge, the Torah is the only document that dates the occurrence of the Flood…this dating puts the flood at about 2100 BCE.

    Yes. You are correct (regarding the relative date) but this is irrelevant to our current discussion. The Torah is the only document that provides an accurate date for anything relating to that period of time. The Torah is the only ancient document (by ancient I mean over 3300 years old) that possesses an internal, self-verifying date system still relevant today. The Torah is the only text-based source of history mankind possesses for “pre-historical” periods. What is left to archeologists is to investigate the archaeological record and determine via indirect means whether the episodes related in the bible can be supported. See my next comment.

    ReplyDelete
  30. My point was simple, (1) no documents that archaeology “dates” around that time mentions any flood having just occurred

    First of all, let’s clear something up. You claim that archaeology possesses documents which it dates to “around that time”. Which documents are you talking about? Archaeology possesses artifacts from that time; they possess tombs of Sumerian royalty from that time; they even possess tablets with cuneiform (Epic of Gilgamesh, not long after the flood) and Egyptian tablets with hieroglyphics from that time. But no documents. At least none that I know of. Perhaps you’d like to share with us these documents (plural!) that you are referring to? The fact is, due to the dearth of written material from that time, modern Archaeology is coming to rely less on written documents and more on artifacts and “social” sciences.

    Second of all, you seem to be missing the point of my examples. Archaeology is a broad discipline drawing upon several cross-disciplines such as history, geography and linguistics. As a sincere Jew, you have a problem. You are looking for some independent verification of the Biblical Flood in order to reinforce your emunah. I have provided you with such. I’ve informed you that practically every society and every region on earth possesses some kind of tradition regarding a catastrophic flood event which wiped out mankind. I’ve demonstrated to you that Josephus makes reference to ancient historical documents written by the Berosus the Chaldean, Hieronymus the Egyptian, and Nicolaus of Damascus confirming that the ancient Chaldeans, Egyptians and Syrians all had traditions regarding the Biblical Flood story. I provided you with the monumental discovery of the Gilgamesh Epic which clearly demonstrates that the post-flood Sumerians had a clear tradition regarding the Biblical Flood Epic. This should be enough. I have more. But if you’re simply going to sweep aside all this evidence because I haven’t provided you with a document dated to the flood period which specifically points out the exact date of the flood, then I’m afraid none of my evidence will satisfy you. It would be a waste of time to continue this particular line of investigation.

    and (2) more importantly the history purported for that time period for the middle east shows no major gap, i.e. if the world was destroyed 2100 BCE, civilization would not have re-appeared until 100-300 years later

    What do you mean “the history purported for that time period for the middle east shows no major gap”. What history? The Bible is the sole source which documents the history of mankind during pre-historic times and it does show a gap. It clearly discusses the reestablishment of human civilization after the flood.

    and (3) documents have been “dated” preceding 2100 BCE, which certainly would have been destroyed.

    Really? Like what? Which written documents have been accurately dated to pre 2100 BCE? I wish you would stop making unverified claims. It’s not very helpful. Besides, who says they would have been destroyed? Perhaps the Flood deposited a thick sedimentary layer on top of the preceding generations thereby locking in their history? In fact, the great archaeologist Leonard Woolley (1930’s) proves that such a thing did indeed occur. He documents that for hundreds of miles in Mesopotamia there was a 10 foot layer of clay which separates Sumerian society from pre-Sumerian society. The artifacts post-clay were more advanced than the articles pre-clay! Sounds suspiciously like the flood…

    As for being more specific, I’ll try to get around delineating some prominent artifacts from that time. Unfortunately, I will gone for about a week.

    I held off responding to you for a week. I trust you are back now. So, please make good on your word and provide me with “prominent artifacts from that time” that contradict the bible. I’d love to see these examples you have. Somehow, though, I feel I might be disappointed…

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  31. >>>> Yes. You are correct (regarding the relative date) but this is irrelevant to our current discussion.
    I don’t understand your point…it is very relevant to judging the accuracy of a supposedly divinely authored document. I.e. to my mind, if inaccurate, then it’s suspect as to its divinity.

    >>>>>> First of all, let’s clear something up. You claim that archaeology possesses documents which it dates to “around that time”. Which documents are you talking about?

    OK.
    I am not all that knowledgeable in Archaeology but I’ll give you some that I recall reading about over the years. To my mind there should not have been much of civilization for say 150-200 years post deluge which allows for dating between 2100-1950 or so…… I admit that I don’t know the parameters that went into dating these, nor do I have any way of checking even if I knew.

    Thus, and in no special order and I might misspell some of the names
    Egyptian:
    Heqanakt papyri
    Kahun papyri
    Prisse papyrus
    Stele of Djary

    Mesopotamian
    Code of Ur-Nammu
    Laws of Eshunna
    Lipit-Ishtar


    >>> possesses artifacts from that time; they possess tombs of Sumerian royalty from that time; they even possess tablets with cuneiform (Epic of Gilgamesh, not long after the flood) and Egyptian tablets with hieroglyphics from that time. But no documents.
    Ok… and what, artifacts don’t count as evidence of civilization?

    >>>> You are looking for some independent verification of the Biblical Flood in order to reinforce your emunah.
    Not quite, I am looking for independent verification for the Flood as provided in the Torah and that includes reasonable dating. I grant that there is little or no history of that period, written as history just immediately after, but there is enough documentation (eg. King lists, lamentations of tragedies (Ipuwer), correspondences) to bit aspects of a history and none reference a tragedy that destroyed all of the middle east.
    BTW, talking about history, how do handle Manetho’s history? Is his documentation of the Old and Middle Kingdom mythology? Or is it real and one compresses all of the OK & MK into the time frame 2000-1600 BCE? To me it seems impossible that there is no reference to Egypt being destroyed about BCE anywhere.

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    Replies
    1. cont'd ...

      >>>> Really? Like what? Which written documents have been accurately dated to pre 2100 BCE?
      I understand the operative word here is “accurately”. I grant that I am unable to independently verify or offer an opinion as to accuracy.
      In any case, some examples.
      · Abusir papyri “dated” about 2360.
      · Jemdet Nasr circa 3000 BCE
      · Not to mention all the pyramids and their contents. Are hieroglyphics not counted as documentation. Would they have survived flooding?

      >>>> Besides, who says they would have been destroyed? Perhaps the Flood deposited a thick sedimentary layer on top of the preceding generations thereby locking in their history?
      Oh please, how reasonable is it that everything, absolutely everything that archaeologist pre-date 2100 BCE shows be unaffected, not a drop of water damage. And where is the residue of this sediment.
      >>>> thereby locking in their history?
      What history, according to the Torah, doesn’t Egypt’s history begin at around 2000 BCE? do you not nterpret Breis. 10:6. as the same “Mitzraim”, that gave the name to Egypt.
      >>>> In fact, the great archaeologist Leonard Woolley (1930’s) proves that such a thing did indeed occur. He documents that for hundreds of miles in Mesopotamia there was a 10 foot layer of clay which separates Sumerian society from pre-Sumerian society. The artifacts post-clay were more advanced than the articles pre-clay! Sounds suspiciously like the flood…
      Ah, Woolley. I first read about him many years ago in a book by Werner Keller entitled “The Bible as History”. I came away with the following
      a) That the Chumash story is very likely based on an actual flood and its not some myth made up out of nothing.
      b) However, his work also showed that the flood plain was limited to only a few hundred sq. mi.
      c) He dated the clay layer at 4000 BCE (obviously, I have no idea as to the dating accuracy, but could he have been 2000 years off?)
      d) And most importantly it demonstrated that a flood would very likely leave some geological residue, but such signs are few and far between if one postulates a worldwide flood.

      >>>>> As a sincere Jew, you have a problem
      well I only have a problem because I think there is a very basic and obvious premise that should be considered and that is that a belief system must not enforce requirements for believing in something that has extensive “evidence” against it. (maybe a la the Ra’vaad on heresy) You may not accept the evidence against something but if most everybody else does, that has to be considered.

      >>>> Somehow, though, I feel I might be disappointed.
      Yes, I fully expect that you will.
      Still, I look forward to your work on Archaeology.

      Delete
  32. Dear Elemir,

    I am impressed with your response! I don’t know if you and I will end up agreeing but this has turned out to be a worthwhile exercise and for this I am grateful. Thank you!

    >>> Yes. You are correct (regarding the relative date) but this is irrelevant to our current discussion.

    I don’t understand your point…it is very relevant to judging the accuracy of a supposedly divinely authored document. I.e. to my mind, if inaccurate, then it’s suspect as to its divinity.

    Yes of course. But you omitted the remainder of my paragraph wherein I explained its irrelevancy. I do not deny that there are ancient writings in existence today. But these were only discovered recently. Archeology, as a science, is still in its developmental stages. There are many disagreements about dating systems and the like. But mankind does have certain ancient documents which have been in circulation since their composition and are universally accepted by all of mankind as authentic. I have several books like this at home. For instance, I possess a copy of Josephus Flavius’s writings. This book is almost 2000 years old but no one would deny its age or authenticity because mankind has had it in its possession since its composition. Or for instance, I have a copy of Aristotle’s writings at home. This book is about 2400 years old but once again no one would deny its age or authenticity. But I have another “book” (le’havdil) at home that precedes Aristotle by 900 years. It’s the oldest book I possess and it has been in the hands of the Jewish nation for over 3300 years. Now granted, the gentiles did not have wide access to it until a thousand years later but the Jewish nation has an unbroken tradition regarding the Torah’s composition.

    My next point was that the Torah is the only ancient document with a self-verifying date system which corresponds to our methods of dating. So for instance, based on your reading of the Torah, you conclude that the flood occurred in the year 2100 BCE (actually 2104). How did you manage such accuracy? Simple. The Torah is an open book. No hieroglyphics. No vague references. And no self-referencing. Everything is objective. Everything is as clear as a bell. It is easy to date the events of the Torah and of the Tanach in general. The later books make references to the earlier books and delineate the passage of years in the clearest terms. This applies especially to the Torah itself. So for instance, anyone reading the Torah can easily see that it documents the passage of exactly 2488 years, from Creation to the death of Moses.

    So, as I wrote at the end of that paragraph, to my mind “The Torah is the only text-based source of history mankind possesses for “pre-historical” periods.” There is no ancient document today (over 3300 years old) that even begins to resemble a coherent and unequivocal record of pre-history. Accordingly I conclude my paragraph by stating that “What is left to archeologists is to investigate the archaeological record and determine via indirect means whether the episodes related in the bible can be supported.” I think even you would agree that all the digging in the world will never produce a document like the Torah.

    Just to expand a bit, what I mean to say is that the ancient writings of Mesopotamia and Egypt cannot contradict the Torah’s dating system because they do not possess an objective dating system of their own. Their age is merely a matter of speculation amongst Archaeologists and Historians. One speculates this way, the other another way. That’s no way to unseat the authenticity of a universally accepted document such as the Torah.

    continued

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  33. I will be responding to the rest of your comments but I’d like you to know that archaeology is not my forte, at least not yet. This is a learning experience for me and I’m glad I’ve found a partner with which to explore it. However, one caveat. My arguments are tentative, at least for now. I suspect that further communication with you may lead me to modify some of my views and possibly even reject some of them. So let’s wait until we’re done before you quote me to others. Deal?

    >>>>>> First of all, let’s clear something up. You claim that archaeology possesses documents which it dates to “around that time”. Which documents are you talking about?

    OK.
    I am not all that knowledgeable in Archaeology but I’ll give you some that I recall…
    Egyptian:
    Heqanakt papyri
    Kahun papyri
    Prisse papyrus
    Stele of Djary

    Mesopotamian
    Code of Ur-Nammu
    Laws of Eshunna
    Lipit-Ishtar
    .

    Very good! That’s fantastic. Now that you’ve illustrated your point with concrete examples, we can go on to analyze them.

    So the first thing is to set up some parameters. The Torah discusses a flood. I’ve supplied you with Sumerian writings (the Epic) which depict a flood akin to that of the Torah. But this is not enough for you. You would like to see many more writings of many more peoples depicting the flood and if you don’t this constitutes disconfirmation for the Torah. And here’s what I say. It depends. If the writings depict historical events which occurred just prior to the writings in question then yes, I would agree that it is odd that no mention of the flood is made. But let’s go through your writings one by one.

    Heqanakt papyri – These were letters that discussed the prices and wages in Egypt i.e. economics, not history.

    Kahun papyri – Once again, these are texts that discuss academic issues such as mathematics and medicine, not history. Furthermore, the Kahun letters are dated 400 years after the deluge! Surely Egypt had other things on their mind by then.

    Prisse papyrus – The Prisse is also dated to several hundred years after the deluge (as much as 400, minimum 200) and does not discuss history. Besides, they only have a tiny fragment, one document in total.

    Stele of Djary – Sorry, never heard of it. I tried Googling it and couldn’t find it. Please supply a source.

    Code of Ur-Nammu – Is exactly as it sounds; a code of Sumerian laws, not history. Why should the flood be mentioned in their code? It is dated 150 years after the Flood which is enough time for the Sumerian kingdom to have arisen. Besides, as I mentioned, I’m not ma’amin be’emunah shileima in the dating system of archaeologists. They could be off by fifty years, a hundred years, or more.

    Laws of Eshunna – dated even later than the previous codes and discusses laws, not history or stories.

    Lipit-Ishtar – 350 years after the flood! And once again, a legal system of codes, not stories, not history.

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  34. Here’s my take on your above-noted documents. First of all, there is nothing odd about the fact that they do not discuss the flood incident. They were specific writings designed to deal with specific things. Second of all, if we were looking for types of documents that would verify the flood, we couldn’t have asked for better examples! Mankind was just wiped out. They needed to start all over again. Eventually civilizations began to arise and naturally we find codes of laws and governance abounding during this time frame! Also, assuming the narrative of the Biblical flood, surely Noach’s family explained to the future generations that the flood was due to God’s displeasure with the deeds of mankind. So what should we expect to find in these codes? Injunctions against stealing and sexual crimes, the very thing that caused the mabul. And guess what? That’s exactly what appears in these codes at length!

    I must tell you something. All these years I was bothered by a certain ma’amar Chazal which Rashi brings in parshas Va’Yishlach. He says that when the brothers came home and found out about Dina’s rape, they were very upset because “such a thing is not done” and Rashi comments that the nations of the earth accepted upon themselves not to commit such crimes due to the mabul. What bothered me is that Avraham was afraid to go down to Mitzrayim and Yitzchok was afraid to go to the pelishtim because these people were mired in lasciviousness. But wait! What happened to the Rashi that claims they refrained from such things? And also, it seems from both Avraham and Yitchok’s story that the respective kings were angry that a “sin” was almost brought down upon them. What sin??? Why do they care about sexual indiscretion? Now thanks to you I understand the whole thing perfectly!

    The nations understood that they must refrain from forcibly taking a maiden or fraternizing with another man’s wife and that’s why the codes speak specifically about these items. Avraham and Yitzchok understood that despite their supposed codes the Egyptians and Canaanites were an immoral people and they were worried that Pharoh/Avimelech would find some pretext to get rid of them thereby circumventing the codes and clearing the way for taking Sarah. And that’s why the brothers were so angry. Because Shechem had no excuse whatsoever! He violated the codes outright and “such a thing is not done”.

    Oh, by the way, here’s an example of something Chazal knew (codes of the post-flood nations) long before it was dug up in the 19th century! I think I’ll call Rabbi Slifkin and tell him! :-)

    I gotta run. Won’t have time before Shabbos to finish responding to the rest of your stuff. Bli Neder I will respond after Shabbos. I’d like to reiterate how pleased I am with this interchange. Also, I look forward to responding to your next paragraph. You make a vigorous argument there and I’m not sure if I will be entirely successful in repelling your attack (I like using warlike terminology; It makes our dialogue exciting… ) I might even have to make some concessions (heaven forfend!) Let’s see after Shabbos…

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  35. Elemir,

    Gut voch. We continue.

    >>>> Really? Like what? Which written documents have been accurately dated to pre 2100 BCE?

    I understand the operative word here is “accurately”. I grant that I am unable to independently verify or offer an opinion as to accuracy.
    In any case, some examples.
    • Abusir papyri “dated” about 2360.
    • Jemdet Nasr circa 3000 BCE
    • Not to mention all the pyramids and their contents. Are hieroglyphics not counted as documentation. Would they have survived flooding?


    Alright. For the sake of argument I hereby acknowledge the academic view that there are documents that predate 2104 BCE. So what? Would pre-flood artifacts and documents survive the flood? Maybe. I don’t know. In my last comment I mentioned Woolley’s idea that artifacts can be sealed in with a flood-like sedimentary layer of clay. It sounds reasonable to me. I don’t really have any idea what the affects of a catastrophic flood would look like from a geologic perspective and frankly I don’t believe anyone else does either. It’s all speculation. So, if we have some tablets with writing on them that actually existed before the flood, so be it. There are many inventions that are attributed to pre-flood civilizations. According to my Rebbi, that’s why Hashem granted them such long life. Mankind was in its infancy. Things had to be invented. The Torah talks about this. It talks about the invention of the nomadic lifestyle (collapsible tent etc.), it talks about the invention of metal extraction from the ground, it talks about the fashioning of tools, and it even talks about the creation of musical instruments. It’s quite possible that writing was also invented pre-flood. Noach and his family were recipients of this vital knowledge and passed it along to the post-flood civilizations. That’s why they were able to develop so rapidly after the flood. They built upon prior knowledge.

    >>>> Besides, who says they would have been destroyed? Perhaps the Flood deposited a thick sedimentary layer on top of the preceding generations thereby locking in their history?

    Oh please, how reasonable is it that everything, absolutely everything that archaeologist pre-date 2100 BCE shows be unaffected, not a drop of water damage. And where is the residue of this sediment.

    First of all, you’re making an unverified claim. I have no idea, and neither do you, if all the artifacts are free of water damage. Besides, the argument can be made that only artifacts that were somehow not exposed to the flood waters were able to survive. This is a logical argument and accounts for a lack of “water damage” in the artifacts. Again, neither you nor I are experts in the mechanics of artifact preservation. According to L. Woolley, he dug at the Mesopotamian site of the ancient city of Ur and hit a solid layer of clay fifteen feet deep with no artifacts in it. In other words, a sudden cessation of a thriving civilization. It was sensationalized all over the world as finding the biblical flood. But Woolley wasn’t satisfied. He wanted to verify his hypotheses. So he dug deeper and discovered less advanced artifacts (e.g. the pottery above the clay was constructed via the “wheel-turning” process and the pottery below was hand-made). Woolley says nothing about “water damage” to the artifacts beneath the clay. Apparently it is not an issue.

    Now don’t get me wrong. I do not claim that Woolley’s thesis is without objection. On the contrary, there are several places in Mesopotamia where this layer of clay is not found. And although I can come up with possible reasons, I am aware that it amounts to special pleading. My only point here is that I don’t think “water damage” plays a role in the considerations of archaeologists. If there is indeed some mechanism that can preserve artifacts, it must be a moisture-free one.

    continued

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  36. continues from previous comment

    >>>> thereby locking in their history?

    What history, according to the Torah, doesn’t Egypt’s history begin at around 2000 BCE? do you not nterpret Breis. 10:6. as the same “Mitzraim”, that gave the name to Egypt.

    Yes. But I wasn’t referring to the “locking in” of Egyptian artifacts. You claimed that there were “documents” from the pre-flood and I simply said that they could have been locked in. But you’re right; if they are Egyptian documents then I’m in trouble. But as I told you before, the dating of the Egyptologists is purely speculative. You admit that you are unable to verify their dating methods. So, the onus is on you. Speak to archaeologists and ask them how they know that Egyptian document x is 3000 BCE years old. Forget carbon dating by the way. Most of the artifacts have not been subjected to carbon dating yet and besides these dates of the archaeologists have been around for a hundred years, way longer than carbon dating. So, I want to know how they know that Egyptian culture existed over 6000 years ago??? I challenge this assertion and I am entitled to a response.

    Ah, Woolley. I first read about him many years ago in a book by Werner Keller entitled “The Bible as History”

    Great book! I’m a fan of Keller (and in fact his book is sitting on my desk right now… I wonder why… :-)

    I came away with the following
    a) That the Chumash story is very likely based on an actual flood and its not some myth made up out of nothing.


    Gevaldic. That’s a first step.

    b) However, his work also showed that the flood plain was limited to only a few hundred sq. mi.

    Yeah. That’s a problem. But I am willing to overlook this problem for now. Let’s go with the “local flood” thesis for now. I’d like to see if we can at least agree that a major catastrophic flood incident did indeed occur around the time the Torah claims it did.

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  37. Continues from previous comment

    c) He dated the clay layer at 4000 BCE (obviously, I have no idea as to the dating accuracy, but could he have been 2000 years off?)

    Yes. It’s like I told you. He doesn’t have any positive means of attributing such a date to the pre-clay artifacts. Here’s what he writes on page 28-29.

    “At the foot of the old staged tower of the Sumerians, at Ur on the lower Euphrates, anyone could climb down a latter into a narrow shaft and see and touch the remains of a gigantic and catastrophic Flood which had deposited a layer of clay almost 10 ft. thick. Reckoning by the age of the strata containing traces of human habitation, and in this respect they are as reliable as a calendar, it could also be ascertained when the great Flood took place. It happened about 4000 B.C.”

    So, pay close attention to the method by which Keller dates the strata. He claims that if we refer to traces of human habitation in the strata, this informs us of the age of the strata as “reliable as a calendar”. Let me translate that for you in English.

    There are four strata in question here. The uppermost strata possesses Woolley’s monumental find of the Sumerian tombs of Kings and the like. This strata is arbitrarily assigned a date of approximately 2700 BCE. As Woolley writes: (page 27 of Keller’s book) “About sixteen feet below a brick pavement which we could with reasonable certainty date to 2700 B.C.” “with reasonable certainty…”

    Woolley dug further and this is what he wrote. “Directly under the floor of one of the tombs of the kings we found in a layer of charred wood ash numerous clay tablets, which were covered with characters of a much older type than the inscriptions on the graves. Judging by the nature of the writing the tablets could be assigned to about 3000 B.C.” The tablets “could be assigned”.

    They kept on digging for a while with no change which led them to believe that centuries had passed with no advancement in Sumerian technology. Finally they reached “ground level” and hit the clay deposit. They couldn’t figure out why there was a clay deposit with no artifacts but they kept on digging and eventually hit another strata with thousands of potsherds and pottery. But the pottery was less advanced (hand made) so they announced that they had found the flood. It is this fourth stratum that Keller describes as being 4000 B.C. years old.

    So, what does Keller have? Does he have any proof of the age of the strata? Did he date them with carbon dating? Does he have historical records from other civilizations which would corroborate the flood date he provides? Here’s what he has. Stratum #1 can “reasonably” be dated at 2700 B.C. Stratum #2 “could” be assigned the age of 3000 B.C. Stratum #3 is undefined and Stratum #4 can somehow be reliably ascertained at 4000 B.C. based on human evidence from the previous three strata! So the age of #4 is based solely on the acceptance of the upper three strata, nothing more. And the upper three strata are dated based on the archeological claim of “reasonableness”. What I’d like to know is why this claim is any more reasonable than the timeline of the Torah? I’d also like to know why the unverified date claims of the archaeologists posses such a problem to one who would otherwise be convinced of the Divinity of the Torah?

    I’d like to mention something here. Keller is a Christian and his book was obviously written for the express purpose of supporting the bible. This of course is a wonderful project and his book is amazing. But for some reason the Christians of his day got it in their heads that Creation occurred about 10 thousand years ago so naturally he tried to reconcile biblical events according to this timeline. His research is invaluable but sometimes his dates are off. Apparently, in order to reconcile the biblical flood with archaeology he just took Woolley’s word for it. All this is my speculation of course. You’re welcome to reject anything I say.

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  38. d) And most importantly it demonstrated that a flood would very likely leave some geological residue, but such signs are few and far between if one postulates a worldwide flood.

    I’m not so sure. When I first read it I thought the same as you. But this conversation with you has caused e to re-examine. Here’s what I’m thinking. Woolley couldn’t believe his eyes the first time he saw a whole civilization under a layer of clay so he told his men to dig another shaft three hundred yards away from the first and they found exactly the same thing. Now check this out. On page 27 Keller describes the next step Woolley took. He writes as follows:

    “Finally, to remove all doubt, Woolley made them dig a shaft through the rubble where the old settlement lay on a natural hill, that is to say, on a considerably higher level than the stratum of clay. Just at about the same level as in the other two shafts the sherds of wheel-turned vessels stopped suddenly. Immediately beneath them came hand-made clay pots. It was exactly as Woolley had supposed and expected. Naturally the intermediate layer of clay was missing”

    So, it seems from Keller and Woolley that it is “expected” that higher ground can segue seamlessly to lower ground without any intermediate clay layer. The clay bearing water simply ran off to lower levels and only there should we expect to find the intermediate clay layer. What happened to residual tell-tale signs? For some reason they don’t seem to have a problem with that. Now you happen to be right. Keller does seem to reject this whole idea but not because of what you’re saying. It’s because they didn’t find this clay layer uniformly all over the lower parts of Mesopotamia. But if it wasn’t for this, I’m not convinced that you are right and that we need to find flood residue wherever we look. However, you make a strong point and in fact much of my proofs for a global flood rest on tell-tale signs of the flood all over the world. So at this point I am not sure what to think.

    well I only have a problem because I think there is a very basic and obvious premise that should be considered and that is that a belief system must not enforce requirements for believing in something that has extensive “evidence” against it.

    I agree.

    You may not accept the evidence against something but if most everybody else does, that has to be considered.

    I don’t agree. You are arguing from the force of numbers. Rabbi Slifkin does the same thing to me. He is always throwing “the global consensus of scientists” in my face. I’ve discussed this a million times and explained that this issue has to do with the philosophy of science and other topics unrelated to our current thread. I don’t care what “most everybody” does or does not accept. I care about one thing and one thing only. What does Elemir think about the anti-Torah evidence and can he prove it? And if he can’t, then can he provide a coherent explanation for why this “evidence” still bothers him? You’ve been on this blog long enough to know that I could care less about the opinion of the olam golam. I do not feel that general opinions of the masses must be considered. But that’s just me…

    >>>> Somehow, though, I feel I might be disappointed.

    Yes, I fully expect that you will.

    See? Both you and I expected something and both of us were wrong. I was not disappointed. The examples you provided were good and I had no business making that snide remark. I apologize.

    Looking forward to your remarks. Meanwhile I will continue on my archaeology kick and see if I can’t produce some solid evidence for the Torah.

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  39. Dear Elemir,

    As promised, I am continuing to search for archaeological evidence to support the Torah. I hope you enjoy the following. I’d like to focus on two examples of archaeological corroboration for Tanach. One relates to the Torah (Sodom), the other to Nach (Sancheirev).

    1) The Torah relates that at the time of Avraham there was a district composed of five distinct cities and that this district was a thriving metropolis with lush fields described as “similar to the Garden of Hashem”. Sodom and Amorah is first introduced in the fight of the five kings against the four in parshas Lech Licha and the cities are mentioned in a very specific order. Since Wellhausen, Bible critics have denied the existence of these cities claiming that the whole thing was a fable.

    Tel Mardikh is a village located in the South East of Idlib, Governorate of Syria. It is a famous location. Italian archaeologists from the University of Rome began excavating at Tel Mardikh in 1964 under the direction of one Professor Paolo Matthiae. In 1976 they made one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the 20th century. After extensive digging they unearthed what is known today as the Ebla Tablets, an archive of thousands of cuneiform tablets written in a Sumerian language hitherto unknown to archeologists, currently referred to as the Ebla language, a type of Semitic language. In addition to the wealth of new information contained in these tablets about ancient Syria and Canaan, they also contained historical information which was remarkable in its similarity to the information contained in the Bible. On January 19, 1979, The New York Times reported as follows:

    “Yet another strange parallel with the Bible is a list of five towns (Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela, also called Zoar.) Both the Ebla tablets and Genesis, written more than a thousand years later, give the same list in the same order. In the Bible, Sodom and Gomorrah, often assumed to be allegorical, are destroyed for their wickedness. In the Ebla tablets, they are thriving commercial centers.”

    So, this is remarkable, is it not? Here is confirmation for the veracity of the Torah in the face of over 100 years of academic mockery. I mentioned that I was going to provide corroboration for Biblical Sodom but I can’t resist quoting the very next paragraph in the Times. Here it is.

    “The tablets also contain a poetic account of the creation of the world that is much like the Genesis story. And there is an Eblaite tale of a great flood that destroyed the world, an account similar to the flood stories of both the Bible and Sumerian poetry.”

    So Elemir, now we have Gilgamesh and the Ebla tablets confirming the flood! I hope this information provides you with some of the archaeological evidence you were looking for. If you like this line of evidence, I have many more such examples along these lines. I just need to research them first before posting.

    The following comment will discuss archaeological evidence supporting the Bible story of Sancheirev and Chizkiya, his failure to capture Yerushalayim, the mysterious nature of his defeat at the gates of Yerushalayim, and his assassination by his own two sons.

    Please let me know what you think on Ebla confirming Sodom and the Flood.

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  40. i expect to be responding within a few days.

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  41. Dear Elemir,

    i expect to be responding within a few days.

    I look forward to it. Meanwhile, the following are some comments re the history of Sancheirev. The Bible relates that when he returned home from his campaign against Judah, his two son’s Adarmelech and Sharezer assassinated him while he was worshipping his idol. The Bible critics scoffed at this story as neither one of these names were found in Assyrian records. But clay tablets unearthed in the Library of Ashurbanipal eventually confirmed the exact details of the assassination as recounted in the Bible.

    The tunnel and water reservoirs which Chizkia made were not corroborated by any known source so the critics simply dismissed it as an attempt by the author of Melachim to aggrandize Chizkia. Meanwhile today we have Chizkia’s tunnel and reservoir on full display with an inscription in biblical Hebrew describing the whole affair.

    The same situation applies to Sancheirev’s father Sargon. The critics denied his existence too until archaeology revealed his reign in full detail.

    I am not going into full detail here because my claims can easily be corroborated online. If you have any issues, please let me know.

    There are many more examples of archaeological discoveries which support the Torah but I want to hear from you before I continue.

    Looking forward to your comments…

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  42. Dear Elemir,

    While you mull-over your responses, I have some more examples for your consideration.

    In 1948, William Albright verified the authenticity and dates of the Dead Sea Scrolls. All five books of the Torah were represented in the scrolls and other than some minor variations they exactly match what we have today! Some of the scrolls are dated to as early as 2300 BCE. Bible critics of the 18th and 19th centuries questioned the authenticity and dating of a document that was over 3000 years old but with the discovery of the DSS we have now been transported back in time 2300 years making the Bible only 1000 years old. Its text is universally accepted not only by the Jewish nation but also by the Greeks who had the Bible translated in 2400 BCE (Septuagint) using a failsafe system. And the last of its books (many of which are represented in the DSS Archives such as Yirmiya, Yechezkel and Trei Asar) were canonized a scant 300 years before! It is inconceivable that the events of a few hundred years before could simply be fabricated and then universally accepted by the entire nation! This is as unreasonable a proposition as could be.

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  43. Continued from the previous comment

    The critics questioned the story of Shishak the Egyptian Pharaoh who swept through the Judaen land after Shlomo’s death and carried away much of the Temple vessels (Milachim 14:25-26) but subsequently archaeological discoveries in Meggido and other places verified this. Here’s a snippet from Wikipedia under the heading “Sheshonk I”.

    “Hedjkheperre Setepenre Shoshenq I (Egyptian ššnq), (reigned c.943-922 BCE)… Sheshonk I is frequently identified with the Egyptian king "Shishaq", referred to in the Old Testament at 1st Kings 11:40, 14:25, and 2 Chronicles 12:2-9. According to the Bible, Shishaq invaded Judah, mostly the area of Benjamin, during the fifth year of the reign of king Rehoboam, taking with him most of the treasures of the temple created by Solomon. Shoshenq I is generally attributed with the raid on Judah. This is corroborated with a stela discovered at Megiddo.”

    And under the heading Shishak, Wikipedia shows the following:

    “Shishak or Susac…or Shishaq is the biblical Hebrew form of the first ancient Egyptian name of a pharaoh mentioned in the Bible… Shishak is best known for his campaign through Israel and Judah, as recorded in the Hebrew Bible (1 Kings 14:25;2 Chronicles 12:1-12)… In the very early years after the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs, on chronological, historical, and linguistic grounds, nearly all Egyptologists identified Shishak with Sheshonk I. This position was maintained by most scholars ever since, and is still the majority position. The fact that Shoshenq I left behind "explicit records of a campaign into Canaan (scenes; a long list of Canaanite place-names from the Negev to Galilee; stelae), including a stela [found] at Megiddo" supports the traditional interpretation.”

    Incidentally, the preceding statement was made by eminent Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen of the University of Liverpool. He is arguably the greatest expert in Egyptology today.

    You know, the more I delve into this line of investigation, the more I am convinced of the foolishness of questioning the historicity of the events depicted in the “Old Testament” Bible. I am scanning the books of my Rebbe (the incomparable Rav Avigdor Miller) and he has dozens of such examples! Each time I investigate his claims they are fully corroborated in the archaeological literature! I had exactly the same experience when I investigated his sources regarding evolution (see my post here). Personally I think I am wasting my time. If anyone wants to be convinced, just read my Rebbe’s books! He is an endless fountain of wisdom and knowledge. Rabbi Slifkin publicly mocked me for saying this but I don’t care. It’s the truth. But don’t worry Elemir; as long as you continue with this thread, you can count me in. I won’t force my Rebbe’s books on you…

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  44. Dear Elemir,

    Here’s another one from Rabbi Miller’s book. “King Asa sent them to Ben-Haddad the son of Tabrimon the son of Hezion the king of Aram (Melachim 1 15:18)”.

    Bible critics never encountered these names and insisted they were fabrications. But in 1939 the Malqart stele was unearthed during excavations in northern Syria and on this stela was recorded this ruler and his ancestors exactly as they are recorded in Melachim.

    By the way, I have over 5 dozen examples like this. The reason I am submitting them piecemeal is because I refuse to appeal to archaeological evidence before researching the data myself. Accordingly, you are welcome to challenge me on any one of my assertions and insist that I produce verifiable sources. Just so you know, this applies to any scientific statement I make, under any circumstances.

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  45. Gentlemen, regarding your discussion of indications among ancient documents of the Mabul, I think the following point should be considered: You are both talking as if the Mabul was an event that was watched by people on the sidelines, and who therefore would be expected to report about the event. But the Mabul by definition was an event that wiped out all the world's people, save the few individuals of the ark. Any extant human reporting of the Mabul was solely on the basis of the report transmitted by Noach's three sons and their wives (and maybe Gog) to their offspring.

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  46. You are both talking as if the Mabul was an event that was watched by people on the sidelines...

    After re-reading your comments, I take back the accusation. But the point is still very relevant. We should not expect to see reports from people describing a flood they witnessed. In fact, it must be that way--unless we would find documents written by Noach, Shem, Cham, Yafess, their wives, and/or Gog.

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  47. Zvi Lampel,

    Hi Zvi! Thanks for weighing in.

    Gentlemen, regarding your discussion of indications among ancient documents of the Mabul, I think the following point should be considered: You are both talking as if the Mabul was an event that was watched by people on the sidelines, and who therefore would be expected to report about the event. But the Mabul by definition was an event that wiped out all the world's people, save the few individuals of the ark. Any extant human reporting of the Mabul was solely on the basis of the report transmitted by Noach's three sons and their wives (and maybe Gog) to their offspring.

    Consider the following. Say the world was wiped out today in a nuclear war with only a few survivors, would you not expect that the coming generations would all be aware of what occurred? I imagine that it would be the single most talked about historical event for hundreds of years! The fact is, memoirs of a global flood can be found in almost every district on earth. Many of them possess remarkable similarities to the Biblical account. There are literally hundreds of global flood traditions (some historical, some legend) amongst all peoples and all races in the world. This is what I expect to find. And indeed, this is precisely what I do find.

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  48. Zvi Lampel,

    After re-reading your comments, I take back the accusation. But the point is still very relevant. We should not expect to see reports from people describing a flood they witnessed. In fact, it must be that way--unless we would find documents written by Noach, Shem, Cham, Yafess, their wives, and/or Gog.

    Elemir understands that the assumption of a global flood makes eyewitness documents unlikely. He is referring to post-flood documents. His question is, why do we not find accounts of the flood in Egyptian and Mesopotamian documents such as the Heqanakt papyri or the Code of Ur-Nammu.

    By the way, Gog is the king of a nation called Magog. He wasn’t around during the times of the flood. Perhaps you mean Og, the king of Bashan?

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  49. I’m finally back … here are some more thoughts related to our discussion. Sorry, if they do not correspond with, nor cover all your points….

    >>>>I said: You may not accept the evidence against something but if most everybody else does, that has to be considered.

    >>>>> YOU replied: I don’t agree. You are arguing from the force of numbers. Rabbi Slifkin does the same thing to me. He is always throwing “the global consensus of scientists” in my face. I’ve discussed this a million times and explained that this issue has to do with the philosophy of science and other topics unrelated to our current thread. …..

    No, No … you don’t understand my point. And to me it’s an extremely important point. I am NOT saying one must believe something because the vast majority of people believe it. As you say, numbers of people do not a truth make. But, what I am saying is that if your target audience believes something, and here is the point: “because they have many reasonable arguments to sustain or reach that belief”, you cannot or should not ignore this, it must be addressed. How, and for which circumstance, is another discussion. But, for example, you do not brand someone a kofer because he thinks the earth/universe is more than 6000 years old. There simply is enough compelling reasons for one to believe in an old universe.
    >>>> But mankind does have certain ancient documents which have been in circulation since their composition

    well maybe,

    >>>> and are universally accepted by all of mankind as authentic.

    Authentic, again maybe, but here is the spoiler. If there is only one version extant of an ancient document/book, and this copy is thought not to be the actual original (as is the case of the Torah), we simply would not know if the copy on hand is a true copy of the original or has been modified. And of course, nor do we know the extent of this modification.
    Further, if a book is considered sacred by a people and represents to a certain degree their seat of authority, it would only be natural, that if the powers that be wish to amend this authority, they would add to this book. I realize that you absolutely do not believe that this is possible with the Torah and our mesorah, but again that’s simply your faith.

    >>>>> But I have another “book” (le’havdil) at home that precedes Aristotle by 900 years. It’s the oldest book I possess and it has been in the hands of the Jewish nation for over 3300 years.
    No, you have a copy of a book that you (and of course others) claim to be 3300 years old. I’m (and many others are) not convinced that the 3300 yr-age is anywhere near accurate. (A discussion for another time.) I’m also not convinced that when the initial version of this book first appeared, it’s contents were anywhere near what we read every Shabbos.

    >>>>> unbroken tradition regarding the Torah’s composition.
    Unbroken, as stated, that’s just a claim based on faith.

    next comment

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  50. Back to the flood …..

    >>>>. So for instance, based on your reading of the Torah, you conclude that the flood occurred in the year 2100 BCE (actually 2104).

    Actually, that’s not quite correct. I chose 2100 (2104) only because it was easier than getting side tracked and trying to nail the best date for the Mabul according to our tradition. The date 2104, as you well know, is based on the timeline as provided by Seder Olam, which says we are in now in 5772 as counted from the creation. However, there are many problems with this time line. The most prominent 2, as you well know, are (a) the missing 165 years, i.e. our tradition says that the first Mikdosh was destroyed in 425 BCE, while the entire rest of the world dates this at 586 BCE which would make the starting point, i.e. creation, 5772+165=5937 and the flood at year 1656 from creation being 5937-1656=4067 years ago=2269 BCE. (2) The second problem is the gap between when Yaakov arrived in Egypt and the subsequent Exodus. One verse says that this is about 400 years. (Exod. ), while the generations delineated in the Torah seem to indicate a much shorter interval (based on Chazal, we use 210 years). And, sure, I know the Meforshim reconcile the 2 counts, but the fact is that Torah has this contradiction. Further, complicating the dating, a third date for the Mabul, is that I saw somewhere that the LXX manuscript has 500 more years in its count, from Ma-aseh Breishis (can’t verify this now, and I know you don’t like blanket statements.).
    but it really is irrelevant if 2100, 2265 or something else nearby

    >>>> Everything is as clear as a bell. It is easy to date the events of the Torah and of the Tanach in general. The later books make references to the earlier books and delineate the passage of years in the clearest terms. This applies especially to the Torah itself. So for instance, anyone reading the Torah can easily see that it documents the passage of exactly 2488 years, from Creation to the death of Moses.

    I don’t see this as an argument for the veracity of the narratives or the dqating. All it says is that the author was intelligent enough to understand that “history” requires a uniform time line.

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  51. >>> So, as I wrote at the end of that paragraph, to my mind “The Torah is the only text-based source of history mankind possesses for “pre-historiacal” periods.”

    OK, but why, in your view, is Manetho and his Egyptian king-list any different than the genealogies in Breishit, objectively speaking? Aside from your “reliable mesorah” claim, which might be ascribed to the Egyptian priests, as well. They claim they maintained their history. From the archaeologists point of view the final version of the Torah was completed only a few centuries before Manetho.

    >>>> Stele of Djary – Sorry, never heard of it. I tried Googling it and couldn’t find it. Please supply a source.

    Stele of Djary referenced in this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intef_II

    In summary, with regard to all these documents, thanks for commenting on them, but the point was not to debate each and every one, but to show that established and well populated civilizations existed in the middle east with differing languages, cultures, life styles, and infrastructure in the period just before and just after the Flood and all before the Tower Bavel (circa 1750 BCE). And thus there appears to be continuity contradicting the occurrence of a flood in this time period

    I know that the key question is:

    How credible is archaeological dating of Ancient Egypt, Sumer, Mesopotamia, etc. between 2000-3000 BCE? Are archaeologists completely nuts and the wealth of information that has been uncovered is so badly misinterpreted and mis-dated by them. Are the king-lists that correspond to names in pyramids and temples, and the thousands of documents cross-referencing names and places and events so off that they all really belong in the middle of 2nd millennium not in the early 3rd or late 2nd ???

    Very hard to believe.

    In my picayune library, I have Donald Redford “Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times”. It lays out (I guess his conclusions) on the “history” of that region from 3000 BCE and through to the end of the Hebrew Kingdoms. He supplies many, many references for his take on things. I have neither the time nor the resources to follow up on how all these sources “date” the era of our discussion. But, and here's the key, he fills the 1500 years (3000 to 1500 BCE) with extensive names and places and events. For the Torah timeline to be true, all this massive account would have to be squashed into 1750-1500 or 1400 BCE.
    It just doesn’t seem do-able or likely.

    Further, allowing for the existence of these civilizations in the 3rd millennium, and that they were then destroyed and resurrected. How does one reasonably account for the resurrected societies having the same or very similar language, culture, technologies, laws, religion, architecture, etc.

    This is what I mean by continuity.


    More to follow, I hope, in a few days…..

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  52. Elemir, I think what I'd like to know is, if archaeologists were to change their minds tomorrow and say that the material remains and inscriptions found in archaeological sites were consistent with the biblical accounts, would you still claim that the biblical accounts are false? In other words, are you "forced" to say the Bible is non-historical because of what you've read in the field of archaeology and ancient history, or are you pleased to find scholarly sources which confirm an a prior view?

    The reason I ask is that every single source you've sited, and every single argument you've made, has been based on one thing: the conventionally accepted dates assigned to this or that archaeological period. You even seem aware of that. You wrote:

    =====================
    I know that the key question is:

    How credible is archaeological dating of Ancient Egypt, Sumer, Mesopotamia, etc. between 2000-3000 BCE? Are archaeologists completely nuts and the wealth of information that has been uncovered is so badly misinterpreted and mis-dated by them. Are the king-lists that correspond to names in pyramids and temples, and the thousands of documents cross-referencing names and places and events so off that they all really belong in the middle of 2nd millennium not in the early 3rd or late 2nd ???
    =====================

    But the way you phrase the question indicates that you aren't really conversant with the subject. No one is suggesting that the kings lists and other inscriptions and documents are wrong. But you have to understand: all the inscriptions and documents and physical remains can give us is a relative chronology. It's like a map without a scale. If I look at a map, I can tell that this place is to the east of that place. That this place is twice as far away from that place than the other place. All of that is relative.

    For some purposes... (cont'd)

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  53. (cont'd) For some purposes, you don't even really need a scale. If I'm driving from Evanston to downtown Chicago, I can see that I need to turn here, get on the highway there, get off at some or other exit... there's a lot of information that you can get from a map even without knowing the exact distances.

    In the case of archaeology, particularly in the ancient near east, the basic chronological lattice that serves as a sort of "backbone" for all of the things that have been found was decided on decades, and in some cases more than a century, before we had the incredible wealth of physical evidence we have now. Do you have any idea what would be involved in going back and re-evaluating everything in order to determine the correct dating anew? There's no guarantee that it would even be possible.

    There is nothing about the Ugarit kings list that says it should be dated to 1350-1200 BCE. There's a king listed who signed a treaty with Mursilis II of the Hittites. So assuming that it's the same king, and not another king with the same name (Ugarit had three Niqmaddus, two Ammittamrus, and possibly other royal names that repeated) we can tie Ugarit to Hatti at those two points. Which is great. But then you have to ask when Mursilis II reigned. We know that his son Hattusilis III fought against Ramesses II, so now we have to ask when he reigned. It's all a big daisy chain that sometimes even doubles back on itself, where Assyriologists date a king based on Egyptian chronology, while Egyptologists are dating things based on Assyrian or Babylonian chronology.

    It's a very fragile framework, elemir. And even if there wasn't a really solid reason for suspecting that it isn't accurate (there is), it would hardly be solid enough evidence to dismiss the biblical account.

    The fact is... (cont'd)

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  54. (cont'd) The fact is, when dated reasonably, the material you refer to as spanning 3000-1500 BCE (more like 3100 than 3000, but why quibble) actually spans the time from about 1800 to 1000 BCE. It doesn't overlap the Flood at all. And the "squashing" you're talking about isn't all that extreme, in reality. Historians often make reference to the slow pace of society in Canaan/Israel. The same quantity of remains can show a slow paced society over a lengthy period, or a fast paced society over a shorter period. And even then, there's no hard and fast rule for equating quantities of remains to time elapsed.

    So it all comes back to my initial question. Your entire argument rests on a very, very thin point, which is the absolute chronology of the ancient world. Which is an entirely separate issue from the relative chronology, which is incredibly rich and detailed. If it were to be proven to you that the absolute dates didn't contradict the biblical accounts, would that be good enough for you, or would you go and find some other reason to reject them?

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  55. The discussion about "Archeology and the Bible" has been reproduced (as an independent post (with that title) as of 5/31/12. Please continue in the comments there.

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