Volume 16 Number 28
                       Produced: Tue Nov  1 23:47:52 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Comments on the Septuagint & Sources
         [Stan Tenen]
Nobel Prize petition
         [Ira Rosen]
Science and Torah
         [David Charlap]


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Thu, 27 Oct 1994 20:55:04 -0700
Subject: Comments on the Septuagint & Sources

Moshe Bernstein posted (m-j 16, No. 14 10/27/94): "can't we get our
facts straight?  the passage about the day of the _targum hashivim_ (the
"parent" of the Septuagint) being analogous to the day of making the
Golden Calf is in Soferim 1:8-9 (also reference in Megillat Taanit Batra
regarding fast decreed on the purported day of the translation).  The
Sanhedrin did not make the translation. ....."

First, I must thank Moshe Bernstein for these references and
corrections.  One of the most important reasons I know of for why the
work I have been doing MUST be done with and within the Torah community
is precisely because otherwise, I, not having any Yeshiva education,
cannot by myself find or quote these references and sources properly.

Further, I was writing from memory, and I apparently confused two
adjacent quotations.  Here are the actual quotations and sources I used:

 From Rabbi Eli Munk's "The Seven Days of the Beginning," 1974,
Feldheim, N.Y., page 11, note 6: "The day that five elders wrote the
Torah in Greek for King Ptolemy was as hard for Israel as the day when
the (golden) Calf was made, because the Torah could not be translated as
it should be."

I had confused this quotation (from a responsible Jewish source, albeit
in simple English) with the following quotation:

Stated to be from Zohar,iii, 152, as quoted by Louis Ginsberg on pages
144-145 of "On Jewish Law and Lore" 1955, Jewish Publication Society of
American, N.Y: Athenum, 1970:

"Wo unto the man who asserts that this Torah intends to relate only
commonplace things and secular narratives; for if this were so, then in
the present times likewise a Torah might be written with more attractive
narratives.... Now the narratives of the Torah are its garments.  He who
thinks that these garments are the Torah itself deserves to perish and
have no share in the world to come.  Wo unto fools who look no further
when they see an elegant robe!  More valuable than the garment is the
body which carries it, and more valuable even than that is the soul
which animates the body.  Fools see only the garment of the Torah, the
more intelligent see the body, the wise see the soul, its proper being,
and in the Messianic time the 'upper soul' of the Torah will stand

(I would not be so harsh as to use terms like "fool", but otherwise I
believe the ideas presented are accurate.)

I apologize for writing in haste without taking the time to quote

If my research is going to be taken seriously enough for persons who are
knowledgeable about Torah and Talmud, Halacha and Mitzvot to spend time
on, first I must be able to speak their language and provide proper
context (among other requirements, like my becoming increasingly shomer
mitzvot, etc.)  Not only do I not dispute this, I shout it.  I need
help, if the work I have begun is to be able to help to shine the light
of Torah in the world.

This is one reason why we are planning to move to an observant
community.  No where else, certainly not here in Marin County (north of
San Francisco) can I find the opportunity for the Talmud-Torah learning
that I need.

However, while Moshe's references are closer to the source, more
accurate and more reliable than my secular/scholarly/non-Halachic
sources - or even Jewish sources translated into English - he does not
really dispute the thrust of what I was saying.  Yes, it is important to
distinguish between the Septuagint and the Targum Hashivim, and the
other corrections and clarifications are also important.  However, even
more important is the implications of the situation of the Septuagint
translation, as I posted.

And, yes, there are other possible reasons for the "Golden Calf"
comparison than the one I posted.  But, given the point I was trying to
make, all these reasons are not so different.  (Moshe Bernstein is
correct about proper citations.)  The bottom line is that the Septuagint
does not reflect the deeper levels of Torah (such as the sequence of
Hebrew letters in Torah) and, historically, it did in fact enable other
faiths to interpret the stories differently from our tradition, and it
has led to fundamentalist Christians and Moslems (and apparently even,
sadly, some Torah Jews) to take the Septuagint's version of the Pshat
as, in effect, literally true and complete in itself.

That is why some Torah Jews try to prove that the 6-"days" of creation
are physically equivalent to, say, 18-billion years of "normal" time.
The inappropriateness of this approach, and its ability to demean Torah,
was made clear, in one example, just this morning when NASA scientists
(according to the morning news), based on recent Hubble telescope
findings, have now estimated the "age of the universe" as ONLY 8-12
billion years.  With the literalist-physicist approach, we would have to
revise the "apologia" every few years as science makes another estimate
of the age of the universe.

My assertion that the reason why the rabbis disapproved or cautioned
about the Septuagint is unproven given the references we have available,
but it is not unproven given the research that Meru Foundation has
conducted.  We can demonstrate that narratives of the Septuagint (and
all other word "translations") do not, in themselves, provide more than
a "flattened" view of Torah.  However, our work has no ability to do
this, unless it is reviewed by persons with a Talmud-Torah background
who adhere to Halacha and Mitzvot, etc.  My assertion is "unproven" in
that the purported proof has not been considered or examined widely.

On a related subject: We generally do not look to non-Jewish sources for
understanding of Jewish tradition or history.  There are many good
reasons for this and I do not dispute this policy - where it rightly
applies.  When dealing with stories, narratives, and descriptive
literary texts, this teaching is entirely valid, because we have no
reason to trust that the outside information is accurate and unbiased
(among other important reasons.)  But, this is not appropriate for
sources that can be corroborated by internal consistency and/or by
historical witness that still survives.  (There is little or no
historical witness - a photo of the Temple, for example - that survives,
so we can dispense with that case.)

Unlike literal word language, formal languages do offer the possibility
of tests for internal consistency.  The topological relationships that
we have found specified by the letter sequences in the Hebrew (and NOT
any translated) text of B'reshit are extraordinarily self-consistent,
and they are meaningful in both a Torah and a mathematical/scientific

There is much non-Jewish literature that purports to tell us what
happened at the time of the Septuagint translation.  The best (or worst)
example is the so-called "Letter of Aristeas."  This document is
dismissed by both the Jewish and the secular world.  It is definitely
NOT a Jewish document and therefore it is not even examined for its
information content by the Torah community.  The academic world
considers it a forgery - mostly because the academic scholars cannot
make sense of what it seems to say.  However, a Torah Jew who was also a
mathematician who might examine this document would not likely dismiss
it so easily.  But, what Torah Jew mathematician has done so?  I am
aware of no serious discussion of this document.  (Although with my
meager education, this may not mean much.)

When I examine the "Letter of Aristeas", I find explicit and precise
descriptions of the "Temple Furniture" for the Second Temple.  To my
knowledge, except in obscure kabbalistic sources, there are no
comparably detailed descriptions or specifications for these objects -
that actually allowed detailed reconstruction of them.  Yes, there are
many theories and many different solutions and designs have been
proposed for, say, the Menorah.  Rabbi Kaplan illustrates some alternate
theories in his "The Living Torah" chumash.  (This is from memory, I do
not have access to check this reference before I post this.)

How could a Torah Jew trust a description in a decidedly non- kosher and
non-authenticated document of unsure venue?  Only if there is something
that can be tested and identified.  - And there is.  But, unless we know
what we are looking for (namely that the descriptions are real
descriptions of real objects that have a coherent relationship to each
other), we, like the academic scholars, will see nothing of value and
nothing that we can trust.  Unless persons who are knowledgeable in both
Torah and science examine this document, nothing will be learned from
it.  If it is properly studied, it could help us to understand Talmudic
discussions of the Temple Furniture with sufficient precision to be able
to reconstruct them accurately.

Hopefully, there is a halachically acceptable way to do this.

Thanks again for the corrections.


From: Ira Rosen <irosen@...>
Date: Mon, 31 Oct 94 6:23:18 EST
Subject: Nobel Prize petition

THe following was forwarded to me and I though it might be appropriate if it
were posted on the mail-jewish forum.	-Ira

The following is the cover letter and the petition being sent out to people
and organizations all over the country to protest the giving of the Nobel
Peace Prize to Arafat. If you are on a campus, please try and collect
signatures and fax them to us. Signatures may also be emailed for
submission. Details on sending signatures are explained below.
To Whom It May Concern:

Enclosed please find a copy of a petition to the Nobel Prize Committee
urging that body to reconsider one of the recipients of this year's peace
prize. This petition is being circulated not only to students on campuses
worldwide, but also via e-mail and fax to countless political and religious
organizations with differing affiliations. Please sign your name or your
organization's name to our list of endorsers.

This act will show that you treasure the moral fiber of the next
generation, and that you will not stand for someone with as tarnished a
history as Mr. Arafat's to be glamorized with the world's highest honor for
peace. Would we teach our young that one who ordered the murder of women
and children could overnight change his image and escape his bloody past
with without remorse? Would we forget the souls of his innocent victims and
their families who have suffered as a result of his actions? If you
struggle with either of these questions, please join us in our quest to
bring this petition to Oslo in December with a list of names long and
distinguished enough to make a difference.

                   Thank you for your time.
                Please return this via fax to:
                Students Against Indifference
                       (617) 731-0037

              or to send via e-mail, send it to:
              with the subject set to 'signature'
             and you name or name of organziation
                 and your location in the text.

                Appeal to the Nobel Committee

It has been announced that Yassir Arafat will be awarded the Nobel Peace
Prize in Oslo, Norway this December. Although he has made a significant
contribution to the current peace process, the majority of his life's work
has defied international standard of humanity. The following is a list of
some acts he ordered en route to this honor:

        - May 22, 1970: terrorists attack a school bus in Israel murdering

        - Sept. 5, 1972: eleven Israeli athletes massacred at Munich Olympics

        - May 15, 1974: twenty-seven children killed in a schoolhouse in

        - March 11, 1978: thirty-seven civilians died in a terrorist attack
on a

        - October, 1985: cruiseliner hijacked and a wheelchair-bound man shot
          cold blood

        - Sept. 6, 1986: twenty-two murdered while worshipping in an Istanbul

We, the students of the world, cry out to the conscience of humanity and
for the dignity of Arafat's innocent victims. We condemn the Nobel
Commitee's decision to reward his acts with this coveted symbol of peace
and achievement. We implore people everywhere to voice their concern and
bring about a reversal of this miscarriage of justice.

    Philip Trauring                <philip@...>
    Brandeis University MB1001
    P.O. Box 9110                  "We Jews have a secret weapon in our
    Waltham, Ma  02254-9110        struggle with the Arabs - we have no
    (617) 736-5282 ['94/95]        place to go." - Golda Meir


From: <david@...> (David Charlap)
Date: Thu, 27 Oct 94 13:04:19 EDT
Subject: Science and Torah

Marc Shapiro <mshapiro@...> writes:
>the Genesis story) you will be told that they are not to be taken
>literally. Obviously the world is more than five thousand years old
>and there was never a flood which destroyed the entire world...

Are Orthodox yeshivot actually teaching this theory?  I find that

Yes, there are many ways to interpret the Torah, but if you propose
this, you deny the literal meaning of the text.  While I understand
that some text requires interpretation, the literal meaning is usually
an inaccuracy (like a "day" of creation being a term used for a more
generic "time frame").  I don't think there is any place where
traditional interpretations (effectively) say that the literal meaning
is simply wrong.

>It is pointless to even discuss, never mind argue, with someone who
>adopts this view since there can be no point of reference between the
>fundamentalist and the historcally minded.

What's your point?

Let me try and put it this way.  I personally wasn't present when the
world was flooded.  I wasn't present billions of years ago, either.  I
also never had any first-hand experience trying to calculate the age
of various species.

The only things I have to go on are published books.  Both from
scientists and from Torah scolars.  I believe that both groups are
doing the best they can with the knowledge they have.  But, as a Jew,
I must believe in the Divine trush of the Torah, and if science
appears to contradict it, I will try and find a way to understand it
such that they don't contradict.  But if science comes out and says
"the Torah is wrong" (like when they deny that there ever was a
flood), I have no choice but to respond "no, you're wrong".

As you said, there's no way to argue against somone whose challenging
your basic axioms.  One of my basic axioms is that the Torah is never
wrong, only sometimes misunderstood.

>	Since Modern Orthodoxy has always accepted the value of
>history, it is no surprise that the flood story is seen very
>differently in its scholarly circles than in Haredi circles.

???  Who are these "Modern Orhtodoxy" you're referring to?  You're
claiming that they deny the Torah when it comes into conflict with
scientific observations.  Doesn't sound very Orthodox to me.

>If people ask the professors at Bar Ilan's Bible department or
>history or philosophy departments about the flood and other things
>the answers will obviously be very different than what is given at
>traditional yeshivot

No kidding.  I wouldn't expect a history or philosophy professor to
give a Torah-based answer.  Would you?  The fact that these professors
are at an Israeli college, and that they're probably Jewish does not
change anything.

All of this boils down to what you base your learning on.  At some
point, asking "why" must end up with "because I said so", both in
science and in Torah.  There are basic principles that can't be proven
in both systems.  So which set of principles would you choose to
believe?  I'll put my faith in the Torah, which was given to me by
God.  If you wish, you can put your faith in science, which was
invented by human beings.

>I mention this only to point out that there is a difference between
>what the so called moder Orthodox intellectuals are doing and what
>the so called moder Orthodox laity believe. It seems to me that this
>needs to be brought more into line. 

Who needs to be brought into line with whom?  If these "modern
Orthodox intellectuals" are teaching people that the Torah is wrong,
that key events never happened, and that key figures never existed,
then the Haredim are right - this is apikorsis, and it has no business
being presented as an Orthodox (modern or otherwise) Jewish opinion.


End of Volume 16 Issue 28