Volume 64 Number 66 
      Produced: Tue, 09 Jun 20 14:04:33 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Bible criticism (3)
    [Ben Katz, M.D. Leah Gordon  Michael Rogovin]
Priorities (was Minyanim not in accordance with government rules) 
    [Keith Bierman]
Some more incongruous choices of words? 
    [Martin Stern]


From: Ben Katz, M.D.<BKatz@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 2,2020 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Bible criticism

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 64#65):

> In Mussaf on Yamim Tovim, we say "Umipnei chata'einu galinu mei'artzeinu 
> venitrachaknu mei'al admateinu ... [Because of our sins we are exiled from our
> country and distanced from our homeland ...]". This year, with shuls closed to
> avoid the spread of the coronavirus, we can feel even more vividly Rabbi
> Yochanan's observation (Ber 8a) that the Batei Kenessiot and Batei Midrashot
> outside Eretz Yisrael are considered as an extension of the Holy Land. 
> Having more time to think about Matan Torah on Shavuot, and the recent
> publication of Professor Joshua Berman's "Ani Maamin: Biblical Criticism,
> Historical Truth, and the Thirteen Principles of Faith" made me think again
> about the challenge to our belief system posed by Bible Criticism.
> In the first chapter of my book, A Time to Speak (Devora Publishing, '10), I
> suggested that the whole dispute between Torah min Hashmayim and Bible
> Criticism is based on a logical fallacy.
> To summarise my argument, I posited that the Bible Critics were applying
> literary techniques designed for analysing the authorship of texts composed
> by humans. Torah min Hashmayim claims that the Torah was composed by HKBH so
> such techniques are inappropriate - i.e. the former's 'reconstructions' are
> based on a paradigm fallacy.
> While there is no objection to studying Bible Criticism as a 'hava amina
> [hypothesis]', as was done, for example, by Harav David Hoffman, this must
> always be born in mind. IMHO my approach immediately neutralises the claim 
> that Bible Criticism undermines Torah min Hashmayim by pointing out its use 
> of the rhetorical device called "poisoning the well" where a 'hidden' 
> assumption is made which undermines one's opponent's position in the hope
> that it will not be noticed.
> As I have not seen this argument being put forward, I suspect that it may be
> fallacious but I cannot see my error. Can anyone point it out or, 
> alternatively, if they have seen it elsewhere, provide a reference?

Mr Stern's argument is a very obvious one that I have heard at least since my
college days (early 70's).  If the Bible is not meant to be read like any other
book, then it is immune to any analysis.  However, if it is meant to be read and
understood, then issues such as contradictions become important.  Either a slave
is a slave forever or till the jubilee. Either one eats matzah for 6 days on
Pesach or 7; it can't be both.  I am not saying that one can't have special
rules for reading the Torah and resolving some or all of these issues, and this
is in fact what the Torah she-be-al peh and the hermeneutical rules of Rabbi
Yishmael and others try to accomplish.  The problem is that these rules have
been understood in diametrically opposed fashions since the time of the Mishnah
(see for example Jay Harris' Mena hana milli - How do we know this?)
In my book A Journey Through Torah: a critique of the documentary hypothesis
(Urim 2012) I try to find a suitable middle ground, showing that some medieval
authorities did do a bit of Biblical criticism here and there, while showing 
that many tenets of standard Biblical criticism are unfalsifiable and therefore
not scientifically robust.

From: Leah Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 2,2020 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Bible criticism

In response to Martin Stern (MJ 64#65):

I think that it is unlikely that he will find any common ground to discuss
Biblical Criticism with contemporary scholars.

While he posits that it is "poisoning the well" and a "paradigm fallacy" for
Biblical Criticism scholars to assume human authorship of Torah text, surely
those scholars would not accept his basic assumption of divine authorship
(because that is considered unlikely to the point of impossibility in academic

Neither side will convince the other, and so there is little left to discuss as
far as any resulting findings.  Because of this, it's also clear to me that one
who puts stock in contemporary Biblical Criticism would not agree with his
assessment of it, and no one who already rejects the concept of human authorship
of the Torah, would have accepted the academic criticism to begin with.

Leah S. R. Gordon

From: Michael Rogovin <michael@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 3,2020 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Bible criticism

In response to Martin Stern (MJ 64#65): 

The flaw in his reasoning is that it only works if one accepts as a given that
the Torah was written by God word for word, and not through the agency of
people. This is an article of faith and not a statement that can be proven
through any human method of analysis. If one accepts this view (which is not
universal among orthodox thinkers and rabbis but is the popular faith statement
taught), then any approach that is applied to human-authored works is ab initio
irrelevant. Once you say that we don't know exactly what it means that God gave
us the Torah, then analysis is possible. One is a faith based paradigm. The
other is scientific (although it may have internal flaws as well).

Michael Rogovin


From: Keith Bierman <khbkhb@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 2,2020 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Priorities (was Minyanim not in accordance with government rules)

In my posting (MJ 64#65), I appeared to have written:

>  of mishmar [supervision]

My apologies for not proof reading the moderator's insertion more carefully. By
mishmar I did not intend hashgacha, I was referring to the ancient practice of
the Cohanim to take turns in the Temple. 

[Apologies to Keith for misunderstanding his intention but we do rely on members
to spot such errors and inform us at the approval stage though we prefer them to
put in translations themselves before submitting since not every reader will
have sufficient knowledge to understand their terminology - MOD]

If we have a congregation of several hundred (as we do in my neighborhood, where a
typical Shabbat could easily have 300 people) and the government caps public
gatherings at some number (anything larger than 10, and less than our normal
turnout) my thinking was that instead of a 'first come gets admitted' policy
should we establish a rotation?  During weekdays, where folks have taken to
streaming (zoom, etc. but let's not get into a discussion of whether that's
permissible, if so, what are the parameters), such a rotation might be even more
critical (whatever rules we picked for Shabbat, I'm morally certain we'd always
have a minyan. But during the week people are unlikely to keep trying once
they've been turned away once ... and during the week, I'd think we'd need to
ensure that anyone with a chiyuv (an obligation, typically to say kaddish or
daven on behalf of a relative) should be ensured a place in the rota.


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 7,2020 at 04:01 AM
Subject: Some more incongruous choices of words?

I wrote (MJ 64#65):

> Haim Snyder wrote (MJ 64#64):
>> In response to Martin Stern's second observation (MJ 64#63):
>>> 2. In Ps. 136, surely verses 17 and 18 should come after verses 19 and 20.
>>> AFAIK there were no 'kings' defeated, apart from the king of Arad (Num.
>>> 21:1-3), before the defeat of Sichon and Og, let alone any whose lands
>>> became part of the heritage of the Jewish people.
>> I think the answer is given in Ps. 135 which we say immediately before Ps.
>> 136. Verses 10 to 12 are similar in intent, but there, in verse 11, is an
>> addition "and all the kingdoms of Canaan."
> ...
> Haim's observation may solve this by positing an implied "copy and paste
> [gezeirah shavah?]" from the Ps. 135 but that raises a further question. If
> Ps. 135 has this extra phrase, why is there not a similar verse in Ps. 136
> after verse 20 such as "and all the kingdoms of Canaan, for His mercy is
> eternal", which would remove any possible misunderstanding?
> ,,,

I just noticed a slight variation in the choice of words between the two
psalms. Ps. 135:12 refers to "an inheritance for Yisrael His people [AMO]"
whereas Ps. 136:22 changes this to "an inheritance for Yisrael His servant

Is this difference significant and, if so, does it shed any light on why "and
all the kingdoms of Canaan" is not explicitly mentioned in the latter psalm?

Martin Stern


End of Volume 64 Issue 66