Volume 64 Number 68 
      Produced: Sun, 21 Jun 20 11:21:01 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Bible criticism (4)
    [Martin Stern  Martin Stern  David Tzohar  Martin Stern]
Illogic on Mail-Jewish (was Biblical Criticism) 
    [Yaakov Shachter]
Just walk away? 
    [Joel Rich]
Yehareig velo ya'avor? 
    [Joel Rich]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 14,2020 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Bible criticism

Chaim Casper wrote (MJ 64#67):

> ... I agree with Leah Gordon (MJ 64#66): "Neither side will agree with the
> other". The traditionalists will always disagree with the Biblical critics
> (and vice versa) so why bother starting the discussion?

While Chaim and Leah are quite correct of its futility, my whole point was not
aimed at convincing Biblical critics, or those firmly convinced by their
arguments, of the truth of Torah min Hashamayim. As I pointed out (MJ 64#67):

> Assuming the Torah (in this case in the limited sense of the Pentateuch) was
> composed by a human (or humans) is as much an article of faith as assuming it
> was composed by HKBH. The former only seems more reasonable because we cannot
> really understand the nature of HKBH, an infinite and limitless entity, nor
> how He can communicate with us finite mortals bound by the constraints of
> space and time. Just as in geometry, one has to make one's choice of axiom /
> article of faith - but that does not mean one can claim those
> who make a different choice are being unscientific.

My main purpose was to demonstrate their underlying assumptions so that the
Perplexed of our generation would not feel obliged to accept their conclusions
because of their apparently persuasive logic.

Perhaps this is analogous to the explanation given for the reply to the wicked
son in the Haggadah "This is because of what HKBH did for me: for ME but not for
HIM, had HE been there HE would not have been saved". If one were speaking to
the wicked son, one should have should have addressed him in the second person
YOU not HIM/HE. Clearly one is addressing the other children present and warning
them not to be led astray by him.

Martin Stern

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 14,2020 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Bible criticism

Mechy Frankel wrote (MJ 64#67):

> ... Martin Stern's note  (MJ 64#65) caught my eye.   Without commenting the
> fallaciousness (or not) of his notion, he asks:
>> 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 Hashamayim 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.
>> ... 
>> 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?
> Well, since he asks - as I am unfamiliar with his book and thus I am confident
> the three-line precis he provides is not really sufficient to make an adequate
> assessment, however it strikes me in crude outline as not dissimilar to the
> much more elaborated thesis of the late Rabbi Mordechai Breuer (whose life
> work on Mesorah continues to enrich us, yzb).
> Rabbi Breuer had a serious and distinguished academic background and this
> suggestion of his merited a vigorous negative reaction cum dialogue by a large
> and varied panoply of academics and rabbonim, including the late Jacob Katz,
> Sid Leiman, Uriel Simon, Moshe Lichtenstein...  In fact I couldn't find anyone
> supporting him. For those interested in the dispute, both his and their papers
> are contained in:
> Shittas Habb'chinos shel Harav Mordechai Breuer:  Qovetz Maamorim V'sguvos
> Ed. Yosef Ofer, Pub: T'vunos, Alon Sh'vus.

I must thank Mechy for his valuable reference. As yet I have been unable to
obtain the book he recommends but I did find an article by the late Rabbi
Mordechai Breuer entitled "The Study of Bible and the Fear of Heaven", in
which he outlines his position regarding Bible criticism, published in
"Modern Scholarship in the Study of Torah", the fourth volume of the
Orthodox Forum Series, edited by R. Shalom Carmy (Jason Aronson, 1996) which
also carried a rebuttal by Shnayer (presumably identical with Sid) Leiman.

In it he writes (pp. 170 - 171):

"In addition, the scholars assert that the Torah is a human composition, similar
to other literary works. This view, as we have noted, presupposes itself. A
human author is limited by his specific time and place, unable to grasp the
conflicting aspects in one idea, unable to employ strategies of authorial
multiplicity, unable to dispense with generations of development. If the Torah
is a human document, the conclusion is inescapable that it was composed
piecemeal in the manner the critics imagine. Thus, the religious believer can
reject the assumptions about the source of the text without denying the literary
analysis the scholars have proposed.

"This is the position we have staked out. God, who is beyond the limitations of
time and space, prepared the Torah, declaring in one utterance what man can
comprehend only as a combination of differing sources...

"... The scholars believe they have indisputably proven that Moses did not write
the Torah, oblivious to the fact this entire argument depends on their heretical
assumptions [that the Torah is a human composition]. The believers, on the other
hand ... attack the scientific arguments of their interlocutors, instead of
opposing their heretical presuppositions."

I think Mechy is correct that R. Breuer's stance is more or less the same as
what I wrote originally (MJ 64#65). Baruch shekavanti leshitato.

Martin Stern

From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 16,2020 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Bible criticism

In my misspent youth 40 years ago I studied Bible, archaeology, Assyriology and
ancient Jewish history at the Hebrew University. After much cheshbon nefesh
[soul searching], I came to the conclusion that all modern biblical criticism
based on the principles of literary criticism, archaeology or comparison with
other ancient texts is simply put - ALMA D'SHiKRa i.e. false and illegitimate.

Either you believe in Torah MISiNaI, the absolute divine source of the Torah or
you don't. If you do, you read the TaNaCH through the prism of traditional
interpretation beginning with Tanaitic midrash and Talmudic aggada through
Rishonim such as RaSHi and RaMBaN through ACHaRoNim such as Sforno and MaLBiM up
to MeFaRSHiM of our day and I would include both the students of Rav Tzvi
Yehudah Kook and students of Nechama Leibovitch both ZTZ"L. The underlying
principle is that the spiritual source is ToRaH MiSiNAi. Is this true for the
interpretations  of Rav Breuer and his followers? LaSHeM HaPiTRoNot.

David Tzohar

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 16,2020 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Bible criticism

In his weekly discussion of Halachic topics sent out with the Pninim sheet
for Korach, Rabbi Doniel Neustadt wrote:

> (Korach - Bamidbar 16:1) Korach asked... A house full of sefarim, does it
> require a mezuzah? (Midrash Rabbah 18:3)
> By pointing out the absurdity of affixing a mezuzah to the door of a house
> filled with holy sefarim, Korach hoped to discredit the legitimacy of Moshe as
> the agent through whom Hashem transmitted His will to the Jewish people.
> Korach claimed that laws that did not make sense to him were not of Divine
> origin but formulated by Moshe. When the earth swallowed Korach and his
> followers, their blasphemous claim was demolished by Hashem Himself with utter
> finality: All mitzvos were given by Hashem to Moshe at Har Sinai, complete in
> all their aspects and transmitted exactly as they were received; we submit to
> all Divine commandments regardless of how sensible they seem to our limited
> and imperfect understanding.

It struck me that those who espouse the views of the Bible critics may be doing
so for much the same reason as Korach - to discredit the legitimacy of the Torah
and, consequently, the obligatory nature of the mitzvot contained in it.

Martin Stern


From: Yaakov Shachter <jay@...>
Date: Fri, Jun 19,2020 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Illogic on Mail-Jewish (was Biblical Criticism)

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 64#67):

> .... Given their [Biblical Criticism scholars - MOD] assumptions, their
> scholarly edifice might seem entirely reasonable but one must remember the
> basic logical rule "from a false premise one can prove anything" and not feel
> compelled by their logic to accept their conclusions as proven.

(Normally, I cite people anonymously when I am about to criticize them harshly
-- as I am about to do now -- in order not to embarrass them publicly, and
thereby forfeit my share in the World to Come.  In this case, however, Martin
Stern insisted that I attribute the quote to its author, in order to provide
proper context.  I am therefore quoting him with attribution, not only with his
permission, but also, at his insistence.  The reader should not think that one
may embarrass people publicly without their permission, hence the need for this

Martin Stern does not know what he is talking about, and, moreover, has never
thought about it for more than thirty minutes.  You cannot prove "anything" from
a false premise.

It is true that from a false premise, you can sometimes prove both true and
untrue things.

Consider, for example:

  All fish are mortal.
  Socrates is a fish.
  Therefore, Socrates is mortal.


  All fish have a two-chambered heart.
  Socrates is a fish.
  Therefore, Socrates has a two-chambered heart.

We see that from a false premise ("Socrates is a fish") you can prove both true
and untrue things.  But you cannot prove, from "Socrates is a fish", that
Bertrand Russell is the Pope.

What Martin Stern was thinking of -- and got wrong, because he tried to repeat
something he did not understand -- is "a false statement implies anything". 
Thus, "if Socrates is a fish, then Bertrand Russell is the Pope" is a true
implication (as is, "if he comes back with a minyan, then I am a donkey").  But
we recognize this to be a true implication, only because we recognize that
Socrates is not a fish.  If we did not know that Socrates is not a fish, we
would not know that it is a true implication; moreover, neither we, nor anyone
else, could prove, from our false premise, that Bertrand Russell is the Pope.

Jay F. ("Yaakov") Shachter
6424 North Whipple Street
Chicago IL  60645-4111
(1-773)7613784   landline
(1-410)9964737   GoogleVoice

"Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum videtur"


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Mon, Jun 15,2020 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Just walk away?

A Jew is being forced to violate a mitzvah by an idol worshiper, not for the
sake of his own pleasure.   There are 10 Jews there and so it would be bfarhesia
(public in nature) and thus would require the Jew to give up his life. Is there
an obligation or a praiseworthy action for one of them to walk away to allow him
not to give up his life?

Joel Rich


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Thu, Jun 18,2020 at 01:01 AM
Subject: Yehareig velo ya'avor?

If a Ben Noach [Noahide, i.e. non-Jew] is being forced to abrogate one of his 7
mitzvot, does he have a requirement to give up his life rather than comply? 
Presumably he is not directly covered by vechay bahem [you shall live in them].
If, in general, he doesn't have to give up his life for them, is murder, whose
exception for Jews is based on a logical inference, an exception for him.

Joel Rich


End of Volume 64 Issue 68