Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I'm Convinced 'Torah Proofs' Cause More Harm Than Good

Sometimes I have to wonder if people who peddle "Torah proofs" aren't, in fact, doing more damage than good. They proclaim that they have "scientific proof" that the Torah is divine and then follow it up with arguments that could be called faulty at best and downright loony at worst. Personally, I feel that no proof is better than a bad proof. If I tell you that I believe that God exists and that the Torah is divine, it's not subject to refutation. True, a belief on my part is not as strong as a "proof," but unlike a bad "proof," it won't leave someone feeling "lied to" when they discover the truth of the argument.

I just listened to one such lecture given (downloadable here) by Rabbi Yossi Mizrachi. The title of the lecture is Proof That Torah is Divine Part I. In his lecture, he claims to bring "scientific proofs" that the Torah is of Divine origin. Sad to say, very few of his "proofs" stand up to serious scrutiny. He goes through a lot of material in his presentation, and for me to debunk everything he says would simply take too much time. However, I don't actually have to debunk everything he says. Right at the beginning of the lecture, he presents his cardinal rule for debunking religions -- if a mistake can be found in the "holy book" of a religion, then it is a proof that the book is not Divine and the religion that it supports is bunk. So, the net result is that, according to him, if I can show that any one of his premises regarding the Torah is false, and that the Torah has a flaw, then Judaism itself is bunk. That's a rather high bar to set and, if I apply to Judaism the same conditions that he applies to other religions, then it's easy to show that Judaism is false.

Before I go any further, I want to make one thing very clear: I *do* believe in Judaism. Just because a person shows that a "proof" to Judaism is flawed and invalid doesn't make the religion itself flawed and invalid. I *do* believe that the Torah is of Divine origin and if a real proof to it is discovered one day, I will wholeheartedly embrace it. But I will not embrace flawed proofs, shoddy logic or emotional claptrap.

Biblical Errors And Consistent Standards

As I mentioned earlier, Rabbi Mizrachi begins with his cardinal rule; that if an error can be found in a "Divine book," then that error serves proof that the book is, in fact, not Divine, and that the religion that it supports is false. As an example, he brings up the verse in Acts 7:14 which states that Jacob went down to Egypt with 75 people. Of course, we know from Beraishis (46:27) and Shemos (1:5) that the number of people that went down to Egypt was only seventy. Did God forget how many people went down? Of course not, hence, it is argued that Acts (and, by extension, the rest of the Christian Bible) is a flawed document and not Divine.

On the surface, it's a sound argument. However, one has to wonder if Rabbi Mizrachi actually gave the Christians and honest and sincere hearing on the matter. Assuming that most of the Christian clergy are not total idiots, I'm fairly certain that some of them must have noticed this contradiction. Has he asked any of them for an explanation? Somehow, I doubt it. A simple Google serach turned up two possible answers that Christians can use to reconcile the 70/75 count; and, truth to tell, those answers are entirely plausible -- or at least certainly as plausible as the answer given to explain why the total given in Beraishis 46 is 70 while only 69 names are mentioned.

In other words, I can support the basic premise that Rabbi Mizrachi puts forward -- i.e. that if you find a flaw in a book claiming to be Divine then the book is not Divine. What I do object to, however, is the fallacy of holding Christians accountable for contradictions in the text itself, without giving them a chance to reconcile the contradictions, while allowing Chazal, the Rishonim and Achronim to engage in explanations that, to an outsider, would sound far-fetched and forced. In other words, if you're going to call out Christian books because they contradict themselves (or other established sources), then you have to allow the adherents to explain the contradictions; much as you wold allow yourself to explain the apparent contradictions in Tanach. I'm not saying, of course, that you have to accept the explanations offered, but, in the name of honesty, you have to give them the chance and to accept the possibility of an explainable if it sounds plausible. Somehow, my gut tells me that Rabbi Mizrachi would not accept *any* explanation from a Christian of the 70/75 discrepancy, but would entertain almost any effort to explain an apparent error in the Torah.

Mass Revelation

Rabbi Mizrachi also brings up the argument of mass revelation. In short, the argument is that Judaism is unique because it has, at its origin, a mass revelation. Millions of people (he says between six and fifteen million, but that's quite a stretch, even accepting the 600,000 number as literally true) stood at Mt. Sinai and literally heard God speak. Putting aside, for a moment, the fact that the only proof that this happened is because it says it in the very book you're trying to prove, it's a fair argument. Most religions, begin with a single individual who makes an unverifiable claim (Mohammed receiving the Koran from the angel Gabriel, Joseph Smith receiving the Golden Plates from the angel Moroni, etc.). The fact that Judaism makes a claim of mass revelation is a striking point in its favor. However, Rabbi Mizrachi is not content with that. He says that if *any* religion can claim that they had an origin even involving one other eyewitness, then that proves the Torah is false, since (and I don't know his source for this) he says that Torah says that no other religion will be able to make the claim of a plural origin.

Sadly, his claims do not stand up to scrutiny. The Aztecs, for example, had a mass revelation story. They believed that their god, Huitzilopochtli, led them (in person) to the site of present-day Mexico City. Based on Rabbi Mizrachi's assertion, the very fact that another group even claims a mass revelation shows that the Torah is not true. I suppose it's a good thing that I don't agree with Rabbi Mizrachi's underlying assertion. :)

Textual Variations and Consistent Standards

The next claim he makes is that if a "holy book" has multiple versions, then it cannot be divine. After all, how would you know which version is the correct one? He makes the point that there are over 150,000 textual variations of the New Testament (I don't know if this is correct or not... it's really beside the point) and therefore, it's impossible to determine which is the "correct" version that would have been Divinely given. R. Mizrachi makes the point that no matter where you go in the world, the Torah is the same. Since it's the same everywhere in the world, it must be divine. Well, I don't know if Rabbi Mizrachi has ever been to Yemen, but there are Jews there that have a different Torah than ours. In fact, there are nine differences. But even if we dismiss the Yemenite Torahs, we even have differences here in the United States. There are two different versions of the word "daka" in Devarim 23:2; some Torahs have an aleph as the last letter while some have a heh. So, which Torah is the correct one? The Yemenite? The daka-aleph? The daka-heh? Does this mean that the Torah is not divine? If Rabbi Mizrachi were to apply the same standard that he does to the Christians to the Torah, he'd have to say no, but I don't think he's going to do that.

Faulty "Scientific" Proofs And Dubious Claims

In his lecture, Rabbi Mizrachi attempts to give "scientific proof" to the divinity of the Torah, but all that happens is that he comes off sounding incredibly uneducated about science. He trots out various "proofs," however, very often the underlying assumption of the proof is simply wrong.

For example, he tries to prove that the Jews knew, through the Torah (specifically, a verse in Isaiah), that the world was round before anyone else. He mentions that before Columbus, no one knew that the world was round. The spherical nature of the earth was discovered when Columbus sailed off to the west and returned from the east. Of course, that's not true. In order to do that, you have to go around the world, something that Columbus never did. It was not until Magellan's voyage, in 1521, that anyone actually went around the world. However, even that's not important, because people *did* know that the world is round many years before Columbus. The ancient Greeks knew the world was round because they observed that the earth casts a circular shadow on the moon during a lunar eclipse.

He also tries to show that the Zohar, written in the days of the Tanaim (itself a very dubious claim) revealed many secrets of the world, that could not have been known before the advent of modern science. However, for two of the proofs that he brings, it's very clear that the Zohar was *not* written by a Divine Being. A Divine Being would not have peddled such incorrect information.

One proof from the Zohar that he mentions is a passage that descibes that there is one place in the world where it is always light and only dark for one hour a day -- the North Pole. However, that statement is simply not true. The North Pole is not always bathed in light except for one hour. The fact is that the sun is above the horizon at the North Pole for six months in the summer and below the horizon for six months in the winter. In other words, it is daytime for six months straight and night (to various degrees) for six months. In other words, the Zohar is completely wrong in the way it describes the North Pole.

Another "proof" from the Zohar is the fact that different people in the world look differently. According to the Zohar (at least according to Rabbi Mizrachi -- I haven't actually checked the source material), the climate affects the appearance of people. Or, to put it in Rabbi Mizrachi's words: "In Africa, everyone is black, almost the same face. Same hair, same face, same shape in the face. You go to China -- copy machine. Two billion copies." Rabbi Mizrachi clearly doesn't know what he's talking about here -- Africa is the most genetically diverse place on Earth. To say that everyone in Africa has the "same hair, same face, same shape in the face," simply shows that Rabbi Mizrachi hasn't done a great deal of reading about genetics or geography. In any event, to get to the point, the fact that different people in different regions look different is hardly a surprising discovery, even in the days when the Zohar is said to have been written. Anyone who had traveled would have known that.

As another proof to the idea that only God could have written the Torah, he mentions the Gemara in Megillah which purports to give the exact number of stars. Rabbi Mizrachi states that the number given is 1019 , although the true number mentioned in the Gemara is approximately 1018. However, we can forgive him the math error. What's harder to overlook is the simple logical mistake of using the Gemara's figure to prove the actual number of stars. In other words, the Gemara gives a really number, so it *must* be right. The fact is that the only way to prove that it's right is to compare it to another counting. The current estimate to the number of stars is actually 7x1022.

There are other "proofs" that he brings in his speech, which are equally easy to discredit (the four animals proof, the fins/scales proof and the calendar proof stand out most prominently), but this post has already gone on for quite a while.

Where R. Mizrachi Completely Disproves His Own Point

There is, however, a deeper, more fundamental problem with Rabbi Mizrachi's argument. He attempts to prove that the Torah (and by extension, the Oral Torah) is Divine because it's an error-free document and contains information that only a Divine Being could have possessed. However, by allowing supporting proof from the Gemara and the Zohar, he also leaves them open to refutation. In other words, if you're going to claim that the Pentateuch is divine, then you can only find fault with items in the Pentateuch. But by stating that the Gemara and Zohar are also divine, Rabbi Mizrachi is asserting that they, too, are error-proof. He's also asserting that they, too, must be free of textual variations (since a divine document must have only one version). The fact of the matter is that there is no one today who will say that the Gemara doesn't have textual variations. So, according to Rabbi Mizrachi's definition, the Gemara is not Divine; and if the Gemara is not divine, then the religion it supports, Judaism, must be false.

Far More Harm Than Help

At the beginning of his speech, Rabbi Mizrachi states that over 100,000 people are religious today because of this lecture (whether delivered by him or someone else). All I can say is that I find that *extremely* hard to believe. I'm not the smartest guy in the world, and yet, I was able to pick apart most of his arguments pretty easily. If this is the "proof" of Judaism, I'm left to wonder if his lectures don't do far more harm to the kiruv movement than help.

The Wolf

58 comments:

ProfK said...

Military tactical commanders state that there are two objectives that both must be addressed when making battle plans. The first is what can be done to advance so that you can meet your objective. The second is what can be done so that the enemy does not meet his objective. Like you I don't see how Rabbi Mizrachi's speech advances his kiruv objective and I don't see how it blows any holes in the competition. It would seem that he is handing someone a lot of ammunition to blow his own position up.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

is it just me, or are the people who try to use "scientific proofs" to "prove" Judaism frequently the same people who don't even accept the validity of scientific claims in the first place?

BrooklynWolf said...

Nope, it's not just you, Steg. I addressed that type of reasoning here. In short, the attitude is "I'll use science when it supports me and say it's fake when it doesn't."

The Wolf

Larry Lennhoff said...

I made the same argument with respect to the book Genesis and the Big Bang. Proving that we can extract the same numbers from Genesis as science provides is a bad idea, because what happens when the science changes? That is already the case - when the book was written the best estimate for the age of the universe was 14 to 16 billion years. The current best estimate is more like 10 to 12 billion. Oops.

Larry Lennhoff said...

To talk about the other side, I'm always weirded out when people who accept the age of the universe try to show that chazal or other gedolim already knew about it. Why should I care what the Tiferet Yisrael (an acharon) thought about the age of the universe? He was a great Torah scholar, but the necessary science wasn't in existence yet.

Anonymous said...

"A simple Google serach turned up two possible answers that Christians can use to reconcile the 70/75 count;"

The real answer is that the Christian author of Acts knew his chumash from the Septuagint (or a related text, such as the one the Septuagint was translated from), which in fact have the count in the posuk as 75. It's a well-known example of a different girsa.

Anonymous said...

"The next claim he makes is that if a "holy book" has multiple versions, then it cannot be divine.""

Someone give that man a BHS:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblia_Hebraica_Stuttgartensia

There are THOUSANDS of textual variants for the chumash. The text has become more fixed over time, not less. See Fixing God's Torah and Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible.

TheAnswer said...

Excellent post. It so upsets me when some Chachamim are too ignorant of science and logical through to recognize these simple issues you point out. On the other hand, with simple fold it does work, and so many people today don't think logically. So does the ends justify the means?

BrooklynWolf said...

To talk about the other side, I'm always weirded out when people who accept the age of the universe try to show that chazal or other gedolim already knew about it. Why should I care what the Tiferet Yisrael (an acharon) thought about the age of the universe? He was a great Torah scholar, but the necessary science wasn't in existence yet.

I agree. But some people seem to have the need to say that a gadol has to be infallible, and therefore, needs to know all of science too. Darned if I know why.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

The real answer is that the Christian author of Acts knew his chumash from the Septuagint (or a related text, such as the one the Septuagint was translated from), which in fact have the count in the posuk as 75. It's a well-known example of a different girsa.

I knew that. :)

The point, however, was that if he's going to allow his religion the luxury of apologetics, then he's got to allow others the same luxury if he's going to use that as the basis of why his religion is superior. Therefore, I brought two Christian apologetic answers.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

There are THOUSANDS of textual variants for the chumash. The text has become more fixed over time, not less.

Yep. Heck, even the Gemara concedes that there must be multiple versions when it comments that we are not experts in missing/extra letters.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

On the other hand, with simple fold it does work, and so many people today don't think logically. So does the ends justify the means?

I addressed this point back in Oct 2006. My answer then, was no. Here's what I said then:


There have been those who have been of the opinion that it's OK to "lie" to prospective "converts" to encourage them to keep the mitzvos. Whether it be telling them about "rock-solid proofs" to the Torah (Kuzari, Four animals, etc.), the sociological aspects of shmiras hamitzvos,("Jewish men don't beat their wives") or anything else, I've always felt that lying does far more harm than good. Eventually, your lie will be found out, and when it does get found out, you'll have taken a person that had a neutral (and positive-leaning) attitude toward Shmiras haMitzvos and turned it into a negative - in the end causing more harm than good - a classic case of "yatza scharo b'hefseido."


My answer is still no.

The Wolf

Asterix said...

Who is this guy? Sephardi? Syrian?

Anonymous said...

"I knew that. :)"

I still thinks it's hilarious that his argument against the NT--that it contains an error--is actually proof against his next argument that the Torah has no variant texts!

Mike S. said...

I am an orthodox physicist, so you might think I would be interested in scientific proof of the Torah. But i am not. Such a proof (or disproof) is by definition, impossible, since science deals with natural law, and an Omnipotent God, is not subject to scientific analysis.

When I see such a proof (or disproof) I can be quite certain that the person offering it either does not understand science, or doesn't understand religion. In my experience, the person presenting the argument usually understands neither.

DAG said...

I don't think the Kiruv people believe it is ok to lie. I think they truly believe in the truth of what they are saying.

To most Kiruv people I know, challenging one of their "proofs" is the same as challenging the divinity of the Torah. They have gone beyond believing the Torah is true. I think they also believe every argument they offer in support of the Torah HAS TO BE true as well.

Not surprising. To me, that is the logical extension of the concept of Daas Torah.

Michael Koplow said...

A few months ago I heard some Christian religious scholar being interviewed on the radio. He's in good standing with his denomination, and he emphasized that he believes Jesus is the savior or the Son of God or somesuch. Point is, he wasn't claiming anything more than that. It made sense to me (not Christianity, but his approach to it).

"The next claim he makes is that if a 'holy book' has multiple versions, then it cannot be divine....R. Mizrachi makes the point that no matter where you go in the world, the Torah is the same." I'm assuming that R' Mizrachi is saying that this proves that the Torah is divine. If so, it's completely illogical. Even if it's true that a supposed holy book with more than one version is non-divine, it doesn't follow from this that such a book with only one version is divine.

"The fact that Judaism makes a claim of mass revelation is a striking point in its favor." Are you sure about this, Wolf? Religions make all kinds of claims about themselves.

"To say that everyone in Africa has the 'same hair, same face, same shape in the face,' simply shows that Rabbi Mizrachi hasn't done a great deal of reading about genetics or geography." It also shows that he doesn't read newspapers (at least not treif ones). Supposedly the Belgians created the Hutu and Tutsi identities based on such things as height and facial features.

Finally, you're so right about people applying different standards to their own religion than they do to the religions of others. I often hear that real Muslims do this and real Christians do that. We know this because they're told to in the Qur'an or the New Testament. Using this reasoning, Jews have their rebellious children killed. What? You mean we don't do that because we hold by an interpretive tradition that came along later? But how do we know that the Muslims and Christians don't as well?

Frum Heretic said...

Excellent, well-argued post.

Frum Heretic said...

There are THOUSANDS of textual variants for the chumash. The text has become more fixed over time, not less.

This is a very misleading statement. Almost every variant in the Torah is one of chasair/yotair. You simply do not find extra words - much less whole pesukim - unless you look at non-Masoretic texts, such as the Septaguint. Even the Dead Sea Scrolls are extremely close to the Masoretic version that we have today. This is largely due to a professional scribal class that copied texts very accurately, a situation that was quite different from how the NT was transmitted and which resulted in thousands of significant variants, intentional alterations, and major scribal mistakes (just read Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus).

Anonymous said...

". . . if a "holy book" has multiple versions, then it cannot be divine. After all, how would you know which version is the correct one?"

Michael Koplow makes a good point. I mean let's say we have one version of The Atheist's Manifesto. Does that mean it's divine?

But the problem with the rabbi's logic goes beyond that.

The Christians don't claim that God authored the NT, so the Rabbi is using "divine" improperly in connection with the NT, or at least he's using it differently from the way he's using it in connection with the Torah.

Also, there can be different versions of a book, yet it can be divine even if you don't know which version is right. If the book appears to be divine but has different versions with insignificant differences, you can conclude that the differences are really just a transcriber's error. If on the other hand the differences are significant, you still can't rule out the possibility that one version is divine, even if you can't be sure which one it is.

Ichabod Chrain

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

If this speaker can make such arguments in 2008, it really goes to show that after 4 years of unrelenting criticism, the kiruv world is essentially oblivious to the J-blogosphere.
No-one out there in the field seems to be listening, guys.

BrooklynWolf said...

FKM,

You may be right and you may be wrong - but it doesn't matter. Eventually, the information will get out there, by hook or by crook. And when it does, kiruv will be done the proper way -- not by presenting proof that are fallacious at their core.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

Michael Koplow makes a good point. I mean let's say we have one version of The Atheist's Manifesto. Does that mean it's divine?

To be fair, I don't think that's what R. Mizrachi was saying. After all, there is also only one version of The Cat In The Hat.

What he was saying is that if there are multiple versions, the book can't be divine. That doesn't mean that a book with only one version is divine.

The Wolf

Anonymous said...

FKM, How are you working to fix that?

Anonymous said...

Wolf 11:00

Not so fast. The statement in the post was:

"R. Mizrachi makes the point that no matter where you go in the world, the Torah is the same. Since it's the same everywhere in the world, it must be divine."

On the other hand he might have meant that if there was only one version and it has all the other traits he mentioned, then it is more likely to be divine than not divine. But you have to ignore part of the post to reach that conclusion.

Another problem with his one version argument is what about the Gemorra? Let's say we have one version today. The problem as I understand it at least is that we don't know much about the redaction process. There could have been other versions until a final version was set out.

FKM,

YOur logic doesn't follow. Just because the arguments haven't registered with one person doesn't mean that no one is listening.

Anyone with even a passing familiarity with the J blogs knows that many are listening and that the arguments are registering with a portion of the population. If some people care not to listen or if they get something out of Orthodoxy despite the arguments in the J blogs, then that's their prerogative.

Ichabod Chrain

Kylopod said...

"He says that if *any* religion can claim that they had an origin even involving one other eyewitness, then that proves the Torah is false, since (and I don't know his source for this) he says that Torah says that no other religion will be able to make the claim of a plural origin."

I suspect he got that argument from the Kuzari. However, I believe it is a misreading of the Kuzari. While I've only read sections of that book, from what I can remember it compared the central claims of Judaism specifically against those of Christianity and Islam. It never said that Judaism is the only religion in existence to claim mass revelation, but rather that Judaism is the only one of those three religions to do so.

Anonymous said...

There are also other problems with the mass revelation theory. As I understand it, the fundamentalist Christians also believe in Torah from Sinai. They just believe that it was superseded by subsequent events that according to them happened in front of many witnesses.
Then the question is just what was revealed as part of the mass revelation. The Gemorrah and much of the Chumash weren't by the accounts I'm familiar with.

So as between Judaism and Christianity the mass revelation theory doesn't give you any more reason to be Jewish than it does to be Christian.

Ichabod Chrain

Shalmo said...

What you will find, prior to the Dead Sea Scrolls is that the oldest manuscripts of the Torah dated from well into the Christian era (around the ninth century CE I think) matching up to the Masoretic text you use today. In addition to this there was Samaritan Torah, and the Greek Septuagint, both of which are fairly close to the Masoretic overall, but do have a number of clear differences (more than simple vowel changes). However, since then, there has been the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. This dates the manuscript evidence back to around the second century BCE.

So, how do they match up? Like the other two I mentioned, close, but certainly not identical. In fact, in some cases the Dead Sea Scrolls versions confirm the alternate version as opposed to the Masoretic edition, or they differ from all of them. This indicates a fluidity to the text, though it's substantial form had it's shape by them. Again, some of the changes are minor, some aren't.

Before this time period archeology doesn't have much to say one way or the other. I did read tonight about the discovery about the discovery of some silver scrolls used as amulets containing the Priestly blessing from Numbers that may go back to around 600 BCE, so that is interesting, but not a complete manuscript as such.

Anyhow, the rabbis themselves in history have recognized that the current Torah has undergone alteration at the hands of the scribes. This is called tikkun Soferim. What they did is that in certain places they felt the text needed "correction" to avoid what they considered to be theological problems, so they'd substitute different words/expressions of their choosing.

Shalmo said...

But what do we do if there are discrepancies between all the Torah scrolls.

Here is rabbinical insight on the subject:

Maimonides (Rambam), Hilkhot Sefer Torah 8, 4:
Since I have seen great confusion in all the scrolls [of the Law] in these matters, and also the Masoretes who wrote [special works] to make known [which sections are] "open" and "closed" contradict each other, according to the books on which they based themselves, I took it upon myself to set down here all the sections of the Law, and the forms of the Songs [i.e. Ex.15, Deut.32], so as to correct the scrolls accordingly. The copy on which we based ourselves in these matters is the one known in Egypt, which contains the whole Bible, which was formerly in Jerusalem [serving to correct copies according to it]. Everybody accepted it as authoritative, for Ben Asher corrected it many times. And I used it as the basis for the copy of the Torah Scroll which I wrote according to the Halakha.


If you think Maimonides' testimony was grim, wait 'til you read the rest:

RaMaH (R. Meir Ben Todros HaLevi) in his introduction to Masoret Seyag LaTorah:
...All the more so now that due to our sins, the following verse has been fulfilled amongst us, "Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people, Even a marvelous work and a wonder; And the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, And the prudence of their prudent men shall be hid"(Is. 29:14). If we seek to rely on the proofread scrolls in our possession, they are also in great disaccord. Were it not for the Masorah which serves as a fence around the Torah, almost no one would find his way in the controversies between the scrolls. Even the Masorah is not free from dispute, and there are several instances disputed [among the Masorah manuscripts], but not as many as among the scrolls. If a man wishes to write a halakhically "kosher" scroll, he will stumble on the plene and defective spellings and grope like a blind man through a fog of controversy; he will not succeed. Even if he seeks the aid of someone knowledgeable, he will not find such a one. When I, R. Meir HaLevi Ben Todros of Spain, saw what had befallen the scrolls, the Masorah lists, and the plene and defective spelling traditions, due to the ravages of time, I felt the need to search after the most precise and proofread codices and the most reliable Masoretic traditions, to resolve the conflicts. The newly-produced scrolls should be abandoned in favor of older, more faithful ones and among these the majority of texts should be followed as commanded in the Torah to decide any controversy, as it is written: "After the multitude to do..."(Ex. 23:2).

It gets darker:

R. Yom Tov Lippman Milhausen, in his work Tikkun Sefer Torah:
Because of our many sins, the Torah has been forgotten and we can not find a kosher Torah scroll; the scribes are ignoramuses and the scholars pay no attention in this matter. Therefore I have toiled to find a Torah scroll with the proper letters, open and closed passages, but I have found none, not to mention a scroll which is accurate as to the plene and defective spellings, a subject completely lost to our entire generation. In all these matters we have no choice [i.e. we are halakhically considered anusim]; but how to write the correct forms of the letters we do know and their laws are like that of tefillin. Thus if we allow the ignorant scribes to continue to follow their usual practices [in shaping the letters], here we sin on purpose [mezidin].

Don't really think so. Who knows what Maimonides and the two other Rabbis didn't disclose to the general public. Maimonides, in fact, when writing to the Jews of Yemen, lied to them by saying that there exist no discrepancies at all between all the Torah scrolls of the world, not even in vowelization. Obviously, this was to keep their faith up. Disclosing what he knew to them could've really shaken their faith. Do you know why he said that there existed no differences even in vowelization? It is because the Yemenite Jews were exposed to the polemics of the Muslims regarding the Torah's authencity.

Shalmo said...

Since the earliest complete manuscript of the Masoretic edition of the Torah is very, very late (around the 9th century CE), there's no way at this point that it could be "proven" to be the authentic one. One might ask that were the extreme care and precision you mention that Jewish scribe have practiced in regards to writing the Torah in fact true, why the need them for the Masoretes to have come up with their own edition in the first place? And that as late as the post-Christian time period?

Anyhow, as I mentioned before, what we do mainly have from prior to the very late Masoretic texts are the LXX in Greek, the Dead Sea Scrolls material and the Samaritan Pentateuch. In comparing these to the current Masoretic, while substantially much of it is the same, there are notable differences. And if it can be shown that the earlier texts agree on something, that that agreement disagrees with the Masoretic, but that this alternate version makes more contextual sense, then it is a pretty good argument for demonstrating that in that instance the Masoretic is the one that has been changed. Now, does this "prove" the genuineness of the alternate sources? No, of course not. All it proves is that the alternate is what was common amongst Jews around the second century BCE. In terms of the actual Mosaic text itself, or a Torah version from before this late time period, other than possible short fragments you don't have any.

So, some comparisons then. Taken from here:

http://www.bibleandscience.com/archaeology/dss.htm

MT = Masoretic Text
DSS = Dead Sea Scrolls (4Q referring to the fourth cave at Qumran)
LXX = Septuagint
SP = Samaritan Pentateuch


QUOTE
1&2 Samuel

For the past two centuries textual critics have recognized that the Masoretic Text (MT) of 1&2 Samuel has much textual corruption. The Samuel MT is shorter than the LXX and 4QSama. The Samuel MT has improper word division, metathesis, and other orthographic problems. Certain phrases and clauses go against the Hebrew grammar rules. Parallel passages vary from each other (See Charlesworth, 2000, pp.227-8).

In 1952 Roland De Vaux and Lankester Harding found manuscripts of Samuel under three feet of debris in Qumran Cave 4. 4QSama shows that the Old Greek Bible (LXX) was based on a Vorlage similar to 4QSama. Josephus agrees with 4QSama in 6 places against the MT and LXX. Josephus, 4QSama, and LXX share about three dozen readings against the MT (See Charlesworth, 2000, pp.229).

Where the book of Chronicles parallels 1 Samuel, the readings of Chronicles follow 4QSama rather than the MT 42 times. Only one time does Chronicles agree with the MT. Over 100 times 4QSama does not agree with any ancient reading (See Charlesworth, 2000, pp.230-31).

The Book of Samuel varies widely and frequently from the Masoretic Text. 4QSama preserves a number of superior readings that help correct errors in the Masoretic Text (DSS Bible, 213). Let's look at some of these.

One dramatic example is in I Samuel 11 where the MT and KJV left out the first paragraph. The Longer reading in the DSS explains what happens in this chapter. It says:

"Nahash king of the Ammonites oppressed the Gadites and the Reubenites viciously. He put out the right eye of all of them and brought fear and trembling on Israel. Not one of the Israelites in the region beyond the Jordan remained whose right eye Nahash king of the Ammonites did not put out, except seven thousand men who escaped from the Ammonites and went to Jabesh-gilead" (The Dead Sea Scroll Bible translated by Abegg, Flint, and Ulrich page 225). Then verse one of I Samuel 11 starts.

1 Samuel 14:30

There is a mis-division of words here in the MT. The 4QSama divides it differently which makes better sense. The MT has hkm htbr rather than hkmh hbr in the 4QSama.

1 Samuel 14:47

There is a singular instead of a plural noun in 4QSama. 4QSama is the better reading.

1 Samuel 15:27

There is an omission of the subject in the MT. According to 4QSama Saul is the subject who grabbed the garment, not Samuel.

1 Samuel 17:4

How tall was Goliath? The MT says, "six cubits and a span" while 4QSama says, "four cubits and a span." People don't usually grow to be over 9 foot tall, so the "four cubits"(7 feet) seems the most reasonable height of Goliath.

1 Samuel 26:22

The MT preserves two variant readings by combining them while the 4QSama just records the one correct word. The MT has an ungrammatical reading.
Biblical Texts that need to be changed as a result of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Genesis 1:9

4QGenk has added "and dry land appeared" indicating that the longer reading of the LXX is from an ancient Hebrew text that the MT lost by haplography. The LXX addition says, "and the waters below heaven gathered into their gathering place and dry land appeared" (See Charlesworth, 2000, p.200).

Genesis 4:8

Genesis 4:8 leaves us with the unanswered question about What did Cain say to Abel? The Samaritan Pentateuch and the LXX have what Cain said. The LXX says, "Let us go out into the field." 4QGenb does not have this reading, but scholars think the sentence dropped out because of scribal error (Ibid., 15).

Exodus 1:3

4QExodb in Exodus 1:3 has "Joseph and Benjamin" while the MT, SP, and LXX have only "Benjamin." Frank Cross thinks 4QExodb reading should be preferred (Ibid., 201-203).

Deuteronomy 32:8

4QDeutj and the LXX say, "according to the number of the sons of God" while the MT and SP say, "according to the number of the sons of Israel." "Sons of Israel" does not make sense here. This is probably a theological change. The 4QDeutj and the LXX seem to preserve the older reading that implies a god, or guardian angel for each nation.

Joshua 8:34-35

4QJosha locates the paragraph about Joshua's construction of an altar (Joshua 8:30-35, MT) at the beginning of Joshua 5. The LXX locates this paragraph at Joshua 9:7-8. Josephus follows the 4QJosha tradition which is probably the earliest or original order of Joshua.

Judges 6:6-11

4QJudga is different from the MT and the LXX in that it lacks Judges 6:7-10. These missing verses are said to be a literary insertion added by an editor. Here is clear evidence of scribal expansion of the MT.
Psalms

There are a number of additional Psalms in the DSS than in our Bible. Psalms 1-89 are basically the same as ours in the DSS (Psalm 32, and 70 are absent). From Psalm 91 on there are radical differences in arrangement, and/or in different Psalms that have never been seen before (Psalm 90 is not preserved). There are a total of 15 different Psalms which are not included in our present Bible, nine of which were completely unknown. None of the Psalm scrolls found has our present day arrangement of the Book of Psalms.

Psalm 22

Psalm 22:17 in the MT "like a lion are my hands and feet" which does not make sense. The LXX and 5/6HevPs read "They have pierced my hands and feet."

Psalm 145 is an alphabetical psalm. Each verse begins with the next letter in the alphabet, but "N" verse is missing in the MT and KJV. In the DSS it is there, so somehow a scribe left this verse out.

Ezekiel

The oldest known texts of Ezekiel are from the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scroll Bible states, Small fragments from six manuscripts of Ezekiel were found at Qumran and another atop Masada. All of them and the traditional Masoretic Text fairly uniformly attest the same textual tradition. Only seven minor variants are clearly preserved, though reconstruction according to spatial requirements indicates that in two places (5:13 and 23:16) the scrolls may have had a shorter text than the Masoretic Text" (page 407).


Now regarding the earlier mentioned tikuune soferim:


QUOTE
Tikkune Soferim

Early rabbinic sources, from around 200 CE, mention several passages of Scripture in which the conclusion is inevitable that the ancient reading must have differed from that of the present text. The explanation of this phenomenon is given in the expression ("Scripture has used euphemistic language," i.e. to avoid anthropomorphism and anthropopathy).

Rabbi Simon ben Pazzi (third century) calls these readings "emendations of the Scribes" (tikkune Soferim; Midrash Genesis Rabbah xlix. 7), assuming that the Scribes actually made the changes. This view was adopted by the later Midrash and by the majority of Masoretes. In Masoretic works these changes are ascribed to Ezra; to Ezra and Nehemiah; to Ezra and the Soferim; or to Ezra, Nehemiah, Zechariah, Haggai, and Baruch. All these ascriptions mean one and the same thing: that the changes were assumed to have been made by the Men of the Great Synagogue.

The term tikkun Soferim has been understood by different scholars in various ways. Some regard it as a correction of Biblical language authorized by the Soferim for homiletical purposes. Others take it to mean a mental change made by the original writers or redactors of Scripture; i.e. the latter shrank from putting in writing a thought which some of the readers might expect them to express.

The assumed emendations are of four general types:

* Removal of unseemly expressions used in reference to God; e.g., the substitution of ("to bless") for ("to curse") in certain passages.

* Safeguarding of the Tetragrammaton; e.g. substitution of "Elohim" for "YHVH" in some passages.

* Removal of application of the names of false gods to YHVH; e.g. the change of the name "Ishbaal" to "Ishbosheth."

* Safeguarding the unity of divine worship at Jerusalem.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masoretic#Tikkune_Soferim

Shalmo said...

I also found this list, which gives substantially more cases of agreement between the LXX and the DSS in distinction to the Masoretic: http://www.geocities.com/r_grant_jones/Rick/Septuagint/spappendix.htm

:::::: (there's around 200 or so instances listed on there where the LXX and the Masoretic disagree in the Torah, yet the DSS supports the LXX version). Your argument sounds like "The Torah tells us not to change the scripture, therefore, we never would have done it", even though the documentary evidence clearly shows that's exactly what happened, and your own past scholars have admitted as much ("Rabbi Simon ben Pazzi (third century) calls these readings "emendations of the Scribes" (tikkune Soferim; Midrash Genesis Rabbah xlix. 7), assuming that the Scribes actually made the changes. This view was adopted by the later Midrash and by the majority of Masoretes. In Masoretic works these changes are ascribed to Ezra; to Ezra and Nehemiah; to Ezra and the Soferim; or to Ezra, Nehemiah, Zechariah, Haggai, and Baruch. All these ascriptions mean one and the same thing: that the changes were assumed to have been made by the Men of the Great Synagogue..)

Shalmo said...

MY LAST FOUR POSTS SHOULD PRETTY MUCH DEBUNK ANY CLAIMS OF DIVINITY OF THE TORAH, AS I HAVE SHOWN THAT THE EVIDENCE IN FAVOR OF IT BEING CHANGED ARE MONUMENTAL, WITH ADMITTANCE FROM RABBINICAL AUTHORITIES.

Oh and Wolf Islam has FAR more proof for it than simply a guy claiming to have received revelation from Gabriel. I believe you owe it to yourself to research the religion a bit more before dismissing it. Google "islamic-awareness" to get yourself started

Anonymous said...

After 120 years, you will go to Heaven and you will be judged for every single word of heresy that you have written in your blog. You will be judged for every single person that you have influenced with your heretical ideas and you will also be judged for every single Rabbi you have disgraced with your words. I surely do not envy your punishment because you will be burning in Gehinnnom for a very long time. But you probably don't believe in this stuff anyway so you should just continue what your doing. One day, sooner or later, you will have to pay for this.....

BrooklynWolf said...

Anon,

Pointing out a bad argument is heresy?

The Wolf

Anonymous said...

Dont try to cover yourself up. I read every single word including..

"I'm not the smartest guy in the world, and yet, I was able to pick apart most of his arguments pretty easily. If this is the "proof" of Judaism, I'm left to wonder if his lectures don't do far more harm to the kiruv movement than help."

I hope you know that YOU are causing much more "harm" with this post to the kiruv movement than he is and if you dont see it that way I feel very very sorry for you.

Anonymous said...

If you have questions about his proofs, why don't you call him up and ask him your questions BEFORE posting your opinions online for all to see???? Are you REALLY searching for answers or are you looking to prove someone wrong????

BrooklynWolf said...

Anon,

I'm not asking questions, because the proofs presented are bad proofs. If someone were to say that Judaism is true because 2 and 2 are 5, then all I can say to that is that his proof is flawed. The same applies here. He presents proofs and they are flawed - and I am pointing out that they are flawed.

Mind you, pointing out that the proof is flawed says nothing about the underlying thesis. Just because I don't believe his proof on the divinity of the Torah doesn't mean that I don't believe the Torah is divine. On the contrary, I do believe the Torah is divine... but not because of a flawed proof.

If you've read my blog for any length of time, you'd find that I have stated repeatedly that an increase in the observance of the mitzvos is a good thing. I believe in kiruv -- but not through lies and shoddy arguments, such as the ones presented here.

The Wolf

Anonymous said...

"I'm left to wonder if his lectures don't do far more harm to the kiruv movement than help."

This line really angers me. I personally know Rabbi Mizrachi and can attest to the fact that he has brought hundreds (if not thousands) of people closer to Hashem with his lectures and proofs (and continues to do so on a daily basis). He sacrifices everything he has to bring people closer to Hashem and succeeds in doing so.

Just because YOU think his proofs are "flawed" doesn't mean #1 that they are and #2 that you have the right to say that they cause "HARM". As I said before, YOU cause a lot more HARM by posting things like this. I can assure you that the kiruv movement BENEFITS GREATLY from Rabbi Mizrachi.

You have a right to disagree with his proofs but to say that they cause HARM is taking it way too far...

BrooklynWolf said...

Anon,

If you think my reasoning on the proofs is wrong, then please show me where. I'm not closed off to the possibility that I am wrong. If you can show me where I have made a mistake in pointing out the flaws in R. Mizrachi's "proofs," I will be more than happy to put up a brand new post with an apology.

That being said, I still maintain that the proofs he brings *are* flawed, and I have demonstrated how they are flawed in my post. I think that bringing people to the observance of the mitzvos via flawed "proofs" is dangerous because then you risk losing them when they find out that the arguments that attracted them are no longer valid.

I much prefer to show people the beauty of yiddishkeit. I much prefer being open and honest. My approach is that while there may be no *absolute proof* I believe that that the Torah is true and it seems logical to me. Is it proof?! No, it's not. And I'm not going to present it as such.

Ultimately, I think that people want honesty. They don't want psuedo-scientific hooey given to them as "proof" of a religion.

The Wolf

Anonymous said...

Again, you have a right to believe that the proofs are flawed and im not here to argue with you.

I just don't think its right for you to say that he causes harm to the kiruv movement because I find that to be an offensive statement.

Instead of using the word "harm" you could have just written what you just posted "I think that bringing people to the observance of the mitzvos via flawed "proofs" is dangerous because then you risk losing them when they find out that the arguments that attracted them are no longer valid."

That statement would have been fine with me.

Anonymous said...

Wolf,

I've been reading your post and gave it quite a bit of thought. My conclusion is that your arguments don't truly hold up and that challenging such a torah scholar (who has done an immense amount of good) is actually a chillul hashem (given that non-jews read your blog). A chillul hashem is actually the worst thing that a jew can do but i'm sure you knew that..

Anyhow, i disagree with your post and many of your arguments are flawed ie: Aztecs, acient greeks....aztecs had many g-ds, their origin is not fully known, and they have seized to exist...the anciet greeks...lol...torah was given way before them - and that include the zohar...

anyhow, i'd like to know a bit about you if you wouldn't mind - ie: education background, do you believe in g-d?, is Judiasm the only true religion from your point of view???

As well, i'd like to hear what you have to say on the four animal proof and the fins/scales proof...

thanks,

champ

BrooklynWolf said...

Anon,

I believe your last post deserves a post of it's own. I will address some of your comments there - although, due to some personal family commitments, it probably won't go up until Monday or Tuesday.

As for my background, those I'll answer here:

Education: Right wing Yeshiva High school, learned in Bais Midrash for 2.5 years after graduation. College educated -- I have a Bachelors and am currently in graduate school.

Do I believe in God? I refer you to this section of my post:

Before I go any further, I want to make one thing very clear: I *do* believe in Judaism. Just because a person shows that a "proof" to Judaism is flawed and invalid doesn't make the religion itself flawed and invalid. I *do* believe that the Torah is of Divine origin and if a real proof to it is discovered one day, I will wholeheartedly embrace it. But I will not embrace flawed proofs, shoddy logic or emotional claptrap.

Do I believe that Judaism is the "one true religion?" Again, the answer is yes. But I have to come across something that would qualify as a proof of that fact.

If I could ask you a favor: Please pick a moniker. All the "Anonymous" commentators often cause confusion. It doesn't have to be your real name -- it could be anything you want -- just not "Anonymous."

Thanks,

The Wolf

Champ said...

Wolf,

I'd like to know why you "believe" in Judaism and not some other religion? Also, what proofs do you go by that convince you that the torah is divine? ...or do you just believe it is???

When it comes to religion and living a religious lifestyle for a purpose - believing is just not good enough...and for me, i need to KNOW...not just believe....

regards,

Champ

Larry Lennhoff said...

Champ

How do you respond to those people who say that the question of Hashem's existence and the truth of Judaism must be left open in order to allow people free choice?

Champ said...

Larry,

good question and i'll have to give it a bit more though (i'll post again on monday). However, the first thing that comes to mind is the following: In this world, ppl have free choice to believe what they want - however, facts are facts. Hashem's existence and the truth of Judiasm doesn't take long to prove but ppl have the free choice to really know the truth or live a false life...

Kylopod said...

Champ,

What would you do if you became convinced that the truth of Judaism is not provable? Would you reject Judaism?

Are you unable to believe in something that cannot be proven?

Champ said...

lol...wow....great questions back to back - i must say that this is the first time i've joined a blog and i'm really enjoying it!

Kylopod, I wasn't raised in a religious home but a traditional one - so i had tons of questions (and no answers) for why we do things....I think that based on how i was raised, if i didn't get solid proof that Judiasm was true, i'd have an incredibly hard time living such a restrictive lifestyle - i can't live on what ppl think, theories, and maybes... i need solid proof.....you?

BrooklynWolf said...

Champ,

I addressed one of your points here. I'll get to your comments regarding the proofs themselves a bit later in the week.

The Wolf

Kylopod said...

I was raised in Orthodox Judaism, but I've known numerous baalei teshuva (including my parents) and my impression is that the vast majority of them embraced Orthodoxy based on conviction, not proof. I certainly wouldn't want to turn you away from Yiddishkeit, but I hope you recognize that observance provides its own rewards beyond simply "It's a proven fact that I have to do it."

d said...

Although I would agree that "proofs" of this sort might cause more harm than good to an audience that is intellectually discerning, that does not demonstrate that, in fact, these lectures cause any harm at all.

The reason?

Most people are not intellectually discerning. (That is why, there is no contradicion between the claims that thousands or hundreds of thousand have been convinced due to this lecture and your demonstrations that it does not hold up to intelligent scrutiny.)

To prove that this lecture is harmful, you would first need to prove that intellectually discerning individuals have been exposed to it.

Levy said...

Shalom, I think you should see valid proof of the torah at http://torahforever.net

B"H, probably three specific pages will help you http://torahforever.net/intorduction-torah-prophets-neviim-ketuvim-writings-mishnah-gemara.html which is short and to the point Torah intro.

about Moses page http://torahforever.net/moses-moshe.html

and Judaism beliefs page http://torahforever.net/judaism.html

for someone like you the reading should take longer than 5 to 10 minutes. they are short with valid proof.

in summary: the basics are the truth

BrooklynWolf said...

Rabbi Levy,

I've looked over the links you provided and while they were quite informational, they do not provide any formal proofs.

Please explain how this is a valid proof.

The Wolf

Anonymous said...

http://www.torah-code.org/controversy/THE_ACCURACY_OF_OUR_WRITTEN_TORAH.pdf

BrooklynWolf said...

Anon,

Thanks for the link. I started to read the PDF you provided, but stopped after about a page or so.

The reason is because it does not address the question at hand. The question at hand is not the accuracy of the Torah's text, but rather proof that it is true. Those are two completely different topics. After all, Frankenstein's text is the same as the original from almost two hundred years ago... but that does not constitute proof that the events described therein are true, nor that it was given by a Divine author. *That's* what Rabbi Mizrachi is trying to prove. So, even if I grant the accuracy of the Torah's text, it still doesn't address the point.

The Wolf

Anonymous said...

I think your 7x10 to the 22nd power is questionable as you claim R.Mizrachi numbers are. The sources I've looked at are nowhere close to your number and I don't necessarily accept them either.
But unless you have solid evidence, perhaps you should withhold your criticisms until you are sure. As for R.Mizrachi, his audience has access to other sources, the same as you and I. There is no excuse in this day and age to be 'in the dark'.
If you cannot provide solid proof, with all due respect, you're doing exactly what you claim he is doing.

Yitzchak Yehudah Rudy Haywood said...

I am glad you mentioned that you are not the smartest guy in the world.

Hence it is easy for you to misunderstand the words of a chacham. Further because you've already made up your mind against what the chacham said you'll do everything to support your wickedness.

Why write behind the chacham's back. If you believe your proofs are more valid than that of the chacham why don't you organise a debate with the chacham and post the outcome for everyone to see?

It is better for one to keep silent, perhaps we'll think he has wisdom, rather then him opening his mouth and proofing to everyone he is a fool.

Professor Trek said...

hello wolf

there is no such thing as water tight "proof" since the world is based on free will and for free will to exist there has to be rationalize whatever they want to believe. but there are quite a few indications as this page compiles http://dafyomireview.com/430
you may not agree with much of what he says there but there is quite a large volume of evidence

Yitzchak said...

The source generally cited that Torah is the only national revelation is Deuteronomy 4:32. Perhaps since the Aztecs aren't around anymore, the last word "vayechi" is lacking, so doesn't disprove this one.