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soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Torah and Halachic Authority (3/12)
Section - Question 3.4: Who wrote the Torah?

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Top Document: soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Torah and Halachic Authority (3/12)
Previous Document: Question 3.3: Why, in the Tanakh, does G-d have so many Names?
Next Document: Question 3.5: What is the Oral Law?
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                                  Answer:
   
   Ah, yet another easy question. :-)
   
   The traditional view is that G-d gave the Jewish people the entire
   Torah; hence the Torah is the word of G-d. As described above, the
   Torah consists of a written and an oral portion (although much of the
   oral portion is now written down). Of the written portion:
     * The first five books (Pentateuch, Chumash) were dictated by G-d to
       Moses, while Moses was in a conscious and aware state.
     * N'viim (the Prophetic writings) were transmitted by G-d to the
       prophets by various means (such as by a dream or vision) and
       transcribed by the prophet in his (or her) own style and wording.
       G-d communicated with all prophets (except Moses) through dreams
       or visions. These writings are considered a level "below" that of
       Moses. Specific laws are not derived from the Prophets, except
       through examples of how a mitzvah was actually performed. There
       were many more prophets in the history of Israel than are recorded
       in the Neviim. See Section 12.11 [5]"Who were the prophets?"
     * K'Tuvim (Sacred Writings) were the result of "Ruach HaKodesh"
       (roughly: "Divine Inspiration"), which is one level below
       "prophecy". Visions from the writings are more mystical and may be
       complete allegory. Unlike prophecy, they do not have to come true.
       The Rambam defines a number of different "levels" of prophecy
       (based on the method through which the prophet received the
       message and the clarity with which he/she received it) and points
       out that they do not have to function on the same level at all
       times. For example, many people include Daniel among the prophets
       while his book is in K'Tuvim. Other examples are King David and
       Tehillim or Jeremiah and Eichah (Lamentations).
       
   The Liberal movements hold less with the notion of the Torah being the
   actual word of G-d, and more with the notion of the Torah being of
   divine inspiration, written in the language and context of its time:
     * Conservative. The Conservative movement teaches that the Torah is
       not one long quote from G-d, but rather is a human document that
       was written in response G-d's revelation of himself to us at Mount
       Sinai. Within the Conservative movement are basically two schools
       of thought with regards to the content of Revelation:
          + Rabbi Solomon Schechter is a good example of the
            traditionalists, who explicitly taught that G-d not only
            revealed his existence, but G-d also presented Israel with
            specific ideas and commandments, although the form in which
            these were given is something beyond what language can
            describe. Whether or not 'words' were used to convey ideas is
            irrelevant: What is relevant is that meaning was conveyed.
            Thus, the text of our Torah is a record of a human response
            to the Divine commandments.
          + Rabbi Elliot Dorf is a good example of the modernists, who
            explicitly teach that G-d did not reveal specific ideas or
            commandments in any propositional form. Rather, G-d revealed
            his existence, but did not impart any propositional content
            to Moses or the later Prophets. Instead, the Torah is a
            literary document that was produced as a result of Israel's
            encounter with the Divine. Thus, any laws contained within it
            can only be considered as semi-Divine in origin, as they do
            not express G-d's will, but rather express our best attempt
            at understanding what G-d wants of us.
     * Reform. Reform Judaism uses the idea of progressive relevation.
       The Torah may be the product of divine inspiration, but it was
       written in the language and context of its time, and must be
       continually reinterpreted into today's language and context.
     * Reconstructionist. Reconstructionist Jews believe that the Torah
       was not inspired by G-d in any way and is more the folklore of the
       Jewish people, albeit a folklore that is of the greatest
       importance. However, they do claim that the traditional mitzvot in
       the Oral and Written law are more or less binding, but for reasons
       of cultural significance only. It should be noted that some of
       today's new Reconstructionist rabbis are publicly questioning this
       theology, and our adopting a more traditional stance, although
       this trend has not yet made any real inroads among its laity.

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Top Document: soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Torah and Halachic Authority (3/12)
Previous Document: Question 3.3: Why, in the Tanakh, does G-d have so many Names?
Next Document: Question 3.5: What is the Oral Law?

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