Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Unchanging Torah and its Changes

I was at a good friend's son's Bar Mitzvah tonight when another friend of mine told the following joke:

Moses is up on the mountain receiving the Torah. God is dictating the commandments to him and he is faithfully writing them down to disseminate them to the Children of Israel. Then the Lord says:

"THOU SHALT NOT BOIL A KID IN ITS MOTHER'S MILK."

"God," starts Moses, "does that mean that we can't eat milk and meat together?"

'THOU SHALT NOT BOIL A KID IN ITS MOTHER'S MILK," booms the Lord again.

"Lord," asks Moses, "does this mean that we have to have two separate sets of dishes?"

"THOU SHALT NOT BOIL A KID IN ITS MOTHER'S MILK," thunders the Almighty again.

"God," entreats Moses again "does this mean we have to wait six hours after meat before we eat milk again?"

A exasperated voice comes down from the heavens: "DO WHAT YOU WANT!"

Humor aside, I've always wondered what biblical figures would think of Judaism if they could be here in this day and age. Would Moshe think that we were off the wall when we told him that we don't eat corn or legumes on Pesach? Would Shmuel think that his religion has been turned on its head when he hears that there are towns where men and women are required to walk on opposite sides of the streets? Would Yishaya think the world was turned upside down when he's informed that, for many, what one is wearing on his head during davening is more important than what one has in one's heart?

Of course, this isn't a line of thought that's unique to Judaism. You can apply it to other areas as well. One could wonder what the Founding Fathers would think of the federal (and state) governments today and how their words have laid the foundation for a Consitution (and the Supreme Court decisions that interpret the Constitution) that would probably surprise and shock many of them.

But there is a major difference between the United States Consitution and the Torah. There is no place in the Consitution where it makes the claim that it applies to all times. Indeed, the Founding Fathers were well aware that the world changes and that the Constitution may well need amending in the future. You can argue that they may or may not have agreed with those future changes, but they did forsee the need for change.

The Torah, on the other hand, makes the point that its statutes and teachings apply to the Jews for all time. Yes, parts of the Torah may only be functionally operative under certain circumstances, but the teachings contained in the Torah are meant to be forever. And, in truth, one could easily support that by stating that, unlike the United States Consitution, the Torah is not the work of a fallible being. A Divine Being (unlike even the greatest of humans) is capable of creating a document which is relevant at all times -- despite how the world around it changes.

But one has to ask -- if the Torah is so immutable, then where did all this extra "baggage*" come from? If Moshe, Yehoshua, Shmuel, the Tana'aim and Amoraim all ate kitniyos on Pesach, then how on earth did it reach the point where the vast majority of Jews in the world today consider it verbotten? If the Torah is so constant, then from whence springs the entire Chassidic movement? Aside from a very few diehards, no one seriously believes that Moshe was a Lubavitcher, or a Satmar. No one imagines that Mordechai was a Belz or Ger chosid -- or any other sect. I highly doubt that any seriously believes that Shmuel's wife shaved her head after her marriage or that Gideon put on two sets of tefillin every day. If the Torah is so unchanging and eternal, then from whence come many of the practices that Orthodox Jews of all stripes practice and consider binding in our everyday lives?

Of course, the fact of the matter is that the Torah (or, perhaps more correctly, our observance of the Torah) *has* changed over the years. In some ways, it probably changed for the better, but you could probably just as easily make the argument that in some ways it has changed for the worse. Despite what some people will tell you, the Torah is not immutable or sacrosanct - its practice has evolved over the years to the point where -- even allowing for the loss of the sacrificial service -- people who lived in biblical times would be hard pressed to recognize it today.

The Wolf



* I don't mean to use the term "baggage" in a derogatory manner. However, it's the best word that I could come up with at the moment.

39 comments:

z said...

Sounds like you never heard of the concept of Torah shbaal Peh.

zach said...

z - the Torah sheBaal Peh you say? Can you tell me where it says anything about kitniot there, about women shaving their head, about two sets of tefillin? Methinks you missed the point big time.

zach said...

And addressing your post directly, Wolf, the Torah is immutable. But Judaism is not a Torah-based religion, it is a rabbinic-based religion that only uses the Torah as a starting point. The fact that we no longer have any centralized authority resulted in a splintering into many disparate groups (tho' even when there was centralization there were competing factions.) Each group has a unique historical experience that resulted in their own customs and culture, while at the same time being tied to each other group by a core set of practices.

Anonymous said...

"Judaism is not a Torah-based religion, it is a rabbinic-based religion that only uses the Torah as a starting point"

If so, then much of what we learn is open to question. We could also legitimately ask, what's the point of following a rabbinic based religion when it involves so much micromanaging of our daily lives?

Ichabod Chrain

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

Loss of direct prophesy and loss of Sanhedrin has MUCH to do with it.
I try to explain this with an analogy:
When you have a full chessboard with all the major pieces, you play one way. But after you lose your "Queen" (the Shechina, prophecy, the beis Hamikdash) and your "rooks" and "bishops" (the Sanhedrin--lehavdil) you will play your game VERY differently.

All your remaining pieces are now devoted to protecting your King (the Torah) in unique ways under unfavorable circumstances and you are focused on just surviving.

In summary:
The RULES of Chess (Judaism) never change--you are just missing a lot of crucial pieces which forces you to drastically change HOW you play your game.

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

Following the above analogy, I would add that the non-orthodox movements are characterized by the their fateful decision to actually alter the rules of chess. They invent new rules-- like when your pawn reaches the other side of the board, it magically becomes a queen and can move however it wants.
Due to the reality of history (orchestrated by God as a response to our failures) Orthodox Judaism is unfortunately strapped with only pawns and knights which are very limited in how they can move around the board.(The analogy should be obvious.)

No-one should be happy about this state of affairs, but for us, the solution is to merit the Moshiach (restoration of the original authentic lost pieces)-- NOT by changing the rules in the middle of the game and having pawns masquerading as queens.

(sorry for the rant, Wolf, but this topic is very important on a number of different levels and is often grossly misunderstood.)

Pesky Settler said...

Technically, Moshe's first question would be 'what is corn?'

snibril said...

Hi, long-time reader, first-time commenter.

This reminds me of the old story about how 'unique' Judaism is, as opposed to other ancient cultures such as the Greeks, Romans, Babylonians, etc. The version I heard most recently went something like this: Socrates arrives in modern Greece, and asks someone where the local Greek temple is. Initially, he isn't even understood, as ancient Greek is completely different to modern Greek. Even after mutual understanding is reached (somehow), he still can't be directed to the temple, because the whole Greek Gods culture is no longer extant. This repeats for some archetypal Roman, Babylonian, whatever. Finally, Moshe arrives in modern Israel. He is instantly able to communicate with the first person he meets (because, of course, they speak the same language...), and on asking whether the nearest minyan is, is directed to the local shteibl.

This story makes me cringe every time I hear it. (Admittedly, the rabbi I heard it from this time did at least admit that there would have been some changes in the language, 'but there would be enough common ground that they could understand each other'.)

Mike S. said...

FKM,
I take it you are not a chess player.

Wolf,
Ancient t'fillin have been found following the opinions (actually, preceding them) of both Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam, so it may well be that Gideon or at least the Tannaim at least knew of both types.

Anonymous said...

I think the answer is simple. Over the millenia, Judaism has been coopted by rabbinic tyranny.

Anonymous said...

Pesky Settler's comment takes me on a tangent. Reading an OK publication about kitniyos, I found a discourse on the origin of the word corn (basically, korn means grain in the Germanic languages and is used to refer to the primary grain of a region). The article went on to say that maize, the "corn" of the Americas, became categorized as kitniyos partly because of its ubiquity and popularity.

(Kind of reminded me of the Dilbert cartoon that explains that jeans are not allowed on casual Friday because they are comfortable, stylish and you already own several pairs. Corn tastes good and is easy to get, plus its name means grain, therefore it's now kitniyos).

G*3 said...

Freelance Kiruv Maniac, to expand on your analogy:

You compare the queen to the shechina, the king to the torah, and the rooks and bishops to the Sanhedrin. That leaves us with the knights as the rabonim of today and the pawns as gedarim to protect the torah.

What has happened is that to protect the torah with these weaker pieces the rabonim have added pawns until the board is choked with them. And of course, pawns can only move in one direction. Once a pawn is advanced, it can never go back. A chumra once put in place just keeps advancing until it is enshrined in minahg yisroel or even becomes halachah. The knights meanwhile are jumping all over the board and leaving more and more pawns in their wake.

Oh, and by the way, when a pawn reaches the other end of the board it can be traded for a captured piece (“masquerading as queens), but that isn’t really relevant to the analogy.

micha said...

I think the figures of old would accept contemporary Orthodoxy, once we got a sense of cross of how the Sinaitic Covenant legitimately evolved from there to here.

I find the post's question akin to one I asked... What if the tribe of Yissachar, known for its Torah learning, were found on some remote island somewhere? They have an implementation of the covenent that evolved separately from Anshei Kenesses haGdolah, from Chazal... The could in theory have a different answer to every question we asked in Torah law, and to questions we didn't think to ask. They would have a different set of Rabbinic law (except for the really early ones). The gap between their practice and ours would be far far greater than between Batei Hillel and Shammai, between Rambam and the Chassidei Ashkenaz, or anything else we've seen. The culture of the tribes differed, their Hebrew dialects and accents differed, etc... It might appear to be a different religion -- Issacherism rather than Judaism. (A religion where Chassidei Ashkenaz's notion of self-flagellation as part of teshuvah survived would seem un-Jewish to me, and that's far more similar than what we're talking about.)

But it would still be an implementation of the same covenants. It would still be Torah.

-micha

BrooklynWolf said...

Zach,

Your assertion has been made before. In fact, as long as I mentioned the Constitution, you could make the same point regarding Supreme Court decisions which find rights and privileges that are actually nowhere to be found in the text.

I am, however, uncomfortable with the assertion because it seems to imply that we are, in fact, no longer following the Torah, but a "foreign religion" based on the Torah. I'm not saying that that's not (or is) true, mind you... just htat I am uncomfortable with it.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

FKM,

Don't worry. Rants are perfectly acceptable as long as they are on-topic and coherent. :)

You make an analogy comparing Judaism to a chess game. It's an interesting analogy, but one that I think is somewhat flawed.

If "true" Judaism is so dependent on prophecy and the Sanhedrin, then one wonders why HKBH would withdraw them in the first place. It would be akin to my telling you (using your chess analogy) to checkmate your opponent with only a king and a bishop -- a feat which (according to the rules of the game) is impossible. Or, to use another analogy, it would be akin to my telling you to take this flour and water and make matzah out of it -- and then I take away the only oven in town.

I don't think HKBH would set us up in a system that is designed for failure -- indeed, that very point is a major component of Christian theology.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

Technically, Moshe's first question would be 'what is corn?':) -- I didn't think about that!

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

Snibril,

Welcome - thanks for commenting.

Of course, the fact that the tefillos post-date Moshe by centuries is not mentioned. Many reform Jews would be able to follow the davening in a shteibl better than Moshe. :)

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

Mike,

Actually, I knew that. Both types of tefillin have been found at at least one Second Temple archaeological site. However, the logical conclusion is that at one time (right after Mattan Torah) there was one type of tefillin and somewhere between then and the Second Temple a difference of opinion arose. If you feel that Gideon would have had two pairs of tefillin, then feel free to substitute Moshe for Gideon.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

Micha,

Would it? That's kind of the point here.

What happens when the hypothetical Issacherites establish a point of dogma that is contradictory to one established by another group? At that point, can you truly state that they are both Torah? (Yes, I know that you're going to quote Eilu V'eilu..., but still, there has to come a point where you cannot logically state that both are true.)

The Wolf

micha said...

Wolf,

If you believe in TSBP, then you believe that there are halakhos about how to craft halakhos. I would expect two disjoint communities to apply those rules differently, even if they were pushed to solve the same problems. Two communities with distinct histories, e.g. Ashkenaz and Sepharad, all the more so.

Issacherism (and admittedly calling it a "distinct religion" is a conceit; I hedged it by saying "would seem like") all the more so because it's 2-1/2 millenia of diversity (and during bayis rishon, I'm sure Yehudah and Yissachar had their differences as well).

As for the archeological tefillin, I would not assume it proves that only one was originally given. There was only one 70 year window in which there weren't numerous tefillin one could open and check! And even then -- do you think no one in Bavel had grandpa's tefillin around? Rather, both layouts for the parshiyos were originally valid. It was only in the days of Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam that argument arose over which was superior, and thus a push to standardize the pesaq arose.

This gets to the question of what Eilu vaEilu means. As in my two posts here and here.

Last, nisuch hayayin is an interesting case. The end of Zevachim 61b says that in the opening days of bayis sheini, Anshei Kenesses haGedolah changed the mizbeiach because of a new ruling on how to perform nisuch hayayin. The halakhah differed between the two batei miqdash! Was either wrong? A court "greater in wisdom and number" simply has the power to overrule precedent. What was given in Sinai was a range of possibility, with rules for how to choose among them. (The case in question also shows that they used a derashah that their predecessor courts did not.)

The system is supposed to evolve. It has to describe how to ascend the Har Hashem regardless of the starting point our surroundings and history put us at.

-micha

Bah said...

"Technically, Moshe's first question would be 'what is corn?'"Realistically, Moshe's first question would be, "What's all this about some books I supposedly wrote?"

Shalmo said...

Wolf the simple answer to your question is not that the changes in rituals/culture/ceremonies have occurred but that the Torah itself is corrupted beyond repair

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.

Few jews get to see this stuff, which rabbis do well to hide from the majority of Jewry. Suffice to say Judaism and any preservation of its scripture is a gone cause, and if that is the case, then why hold on to something that is false. Find yourself a better religion, as this one is doomed to extinction

Baal Habos said...

Wolf, nice post. However, I'd need to agree with the believers in that nothing you said is earthshaking or novel in any way. For example, a very obvious question is Muktsah, being that no one observed it in early times. And the same is true for every Drabonon. So what would Moshe have said of Muktsah, Monogamy, Yichud, Shachris, etc? The answer is simple, all these future changes were prebuilt into the Torah in the form of TSHB"P with the Rabbonon given CarteBlanch in instituting Hashem's wishes. Or something like that. Sure it's apologetics, but it's Aleph Beis.

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

Mike S. said...
FKM,
I take it you are not a chess player.
G*3 said:
Oh, and by the way, when a pawn reaches the other end of the board it can be traded for a captured piece (“masquerading as queens), but that isn’t really relevant to the analogy.Oops! I am a chess player, but I always thought this was a made-up rule as a crutch to give the apparent loser some hope of regaining pieces.

I'm afraid this point really *WAS* relevant to the analogy, so if nobody minds, I will rework it as follows:

The Orthodox are waiting for the coming of Moshiach (reaching the end of the board) to resurrect the dead (pieces) and re-establish its lost connection of prophecy and powers of Sanhedrin (queen rooks and bishops) to removes all the handicaps in the halachic system accumulated over history.

The non-Orthodox by contrast, can't be bothered to wait patiently for the end of history and remain loyal to the rules till the end. They exchange the chess pieces artificially in the middle of the board as they see fit.

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

Wolf said:
If "true" Judaism is so dependent on prophecy and the Sanhedrin, then one wonders why HKBH would withdraw them in the first place. It would be akin to my telling you (using your chess analogy) to checkmate your opponent with only a king and a bishop -- a feat which (according to the rules of the game) is impossible...
...I don't think HKBH would set us up in a system that is designed for failure -
You overreached. I never implied today's Judaism cannot "win the game" despite its massive handicaps. HKBH obviously only withdrew up to a point but was very careful to keep the mesorah sufficiently intact (yes, not completely, but sufficiently) to allow us to reach the Moshiach without making compromises to Judaism and changing the rules.

We still have a claim to "true Judaism" because we are still playing by the very same set of original rules. (Some --or maybe even most-- of the previously applied rules can't be applied anymore and some never-applied-before rules will only apply now)

Jewish Atheist said...

The religion of the Torah and the religion of the Talmud are for all intents and purposes two separate religions. Post-holocaust Orthodox Judaism might represent a third, but it's probably too soon to tell.

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

Couldn't agree more with JA above.
The only people I heard of who strictly practiced the religion of the Written Torah were Saducees and Karaites. Indeed, it was a separate religion.
BTW, this list does NOT include the Israelites of the Biblical period--strange as that may sound. I have no good reason to suspect the tradition which claims they observed the Oral Law given to them on Mt. Sinai.
(I know people have invented some ad hoc reasons. But none of them are good.)

Shalmo said...

"The religion of the Torah and the religion of the Talmud are for all intents and purposes two separate religions. Post-holocaust Orthodox Judaism might represent a third, but it's probably too soon to tell."

Could you or anyone here please elaborate on this statement

Jewish Atheist said...

Shalmo:

When the Jews had the Temple, the religion was all about (literal, animal) sacrifices. There were of course other observances, but that was the focus. Three times a year, all the Jews who could went to the Temple and offered sacrifices.

After the destruction, the rabbis had to reinvent the religion. They substituted prayers for sacrifices, and they constructed enormous systems of Jewish law about what you could and could not do that are so far removed from what the Torah actually says that it's ridiculous. (E.g. don't boil a kid in it's mother's milk --> you must wait 6 hours after eating chicken before you can eat cheese.)

Of course, the rabbis claimed (and the Orthodox still claim) that all this stuff was given to Moses by God at Sinai and he just didn't happen to write it down. I believe that as much as I believe an angel really showed Joseph Smith some golden plates describing Jesus visiting the Native Americans.

Jewish Atheist said...

...or that Muhammed received a revelation from God.

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

JA's comparison to other religions would include the claim of the source of the written Torah as well as the Oral.

The rishonim already gave very solid proofs that the written Torah is non-executable without oral clarifications and qualifications.
Case in point: How exactly should those "Temple Jews" slaughter all those sacrifices?
Moshe writes: "Like I told you (orally)!"

Jewish Atheist said...

JA's comparison to other religions would include the claim of the source of the written Torah as well as the Oral.Correct.

The rishonim already gave very solid proofs that the written Torah is non-executable without oral clarifications and qualifications.You appear to be assuming the Torah was written before they had come up with the rules of sacrificing, etc. Non-Orthodox scholars date the P and D sources from after the Temple was already up and running (and, in some cases, destroyed.)

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

So for you, both the written and Oral Toras are complete hoaxes. If that's the case, why make a comment here about how different they are from each other? If neither is authentic to you, what's so interesting about their differences?
Seems like you are just trolling.

Jewish Atheist said...

So for you, both the written and Oral Toras are complete hoaxes.Not sure what you mean by "hoaxes." The written Torah never claims to be written by God or Moses. (Moses gets the Ten Commandments, not the chumash, at Sinai.) As far as I can tell, the rabbis made that up.

I also think Sinai and the Exodus and the slavery in Egypt are mythological, as in they probably didn't actually happen, but you probably -- or at least a lot of Orthodox people probably -- see things like the Flood and the Tower of Babel and the Garden of Eden as mythological, too, and you probably wouldn't call them "hoaxes."

If that's the case, why make a comment here about how different they are from each other? If neither is authentic to you, what's so interesting about their differences?The original post was about how the Torah and the observance thereof has changed over the years. I was pointing out that there was an enormous, revolutionary change between the early Torah Judaism and the later Rabbinic/Talmudic Judaism. I think that's a crucial point if you're interested in ancient Jewish history, which is what this post was about, right?

I don't see how that's "trolling," except perhaps if you think any non-Orthodox explanations of the Torah or history are "trolling."

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

The original post was about how the Torah and the observance thereof has changed over the years.Very cleverly selective. The entire post (including the awful joke at the very beginning) is explicit in taking for granted that the Written Torah is authentically Divine and eternal, You have no business in this discussion.

Jewish Atheist said...

You:

The entire post (including the awful joke at the very beginning) is explicit in taking for granted that the Written Torah is authentically Divine and eternal, You have no business in this discussion.



Brooklyn Wolf:

Despite what some people will tell you, the Torah is not immutable or sacrosanct - its practice has evolved over the years to the point where -- even allowing for the loss of the sacrificial service -- people who lived in biblical times would be hard pressed to recognize it today.



And since when is one not allowed to disagree with the premise of an argument, anyway? If I wrote a post taking for granted that "Orthodox Jews are stupid" (which I don't believe) would it be "trolling" for you to disagree with that premise?? Of course not.

You just don't like seeing non-Orthodox views expressed where Orthodox people might see them and realize that they've been sheltered from dissenting opinions their whole lives.

Muslim Dude said...

Jewish Atheist:

"...or that Muhammed received a revelation from God."

heh

you know many people claim many things

Mohammed is the only one who actually proved to be quite a prophet. His action, not his words are what define him.

Moses slaughtered entire nations per the Torah's description, ordered dashing of infants against rocks, etc etc.....not very prophet-like behaviour

but Mohammed did otherwise

here is what a notable secular historian, and most well-known non-believer expert on Islam has to say:

KAREN ARMSTRONG: "There is far more violence in the Bible than in the Qur’an; the idea that Islam imposed itself by the sword is a Western fiction, fabricated during the time of the Crusades when, in fact, it was Western Christians who were fighting brutal holy wars against Islam. The Qur’an forbids aggressive warfare and permits war only in self-defence; the moment the enemy sues for peace, the Qur’an insists that Muslims must lay down their arms and accept whatever terms are offered, even if they are disadvantageous. Later, Muslim law forbade Muslims to attack a country where Muslims were permitted to practice their faith freely; the killing of civilians was prohibited, as were the destruction of property and the use of fire in warfare."

and this other cool quote from her:

“The Prophet Muhammad was not a warrior, but he found himself, like many of the Axial Age sages, in a violent society and he eventually brought peace to the region by practicing a daring policy of non-violence. He stopped the violence and went into Mecca unarmed and forced the Meccan to negotiate with him accepting terms that his followers thought were disgraceful,”

There is more than enough contemporary evidence of his existence, and we have more details on him than any other figure in all of human history.

BrooklynWolf said...

There is more than enough contemporary evidence of his existence, and we have more details on him than any other figure in all of human history.I really don't want to begin discussing Islam in this post. Suffice it to say, I'm not aware of anyone who doubts that Mohammed existed.

However, I will venture to say that it's a safe bet that we know a far greater number of details about Barack Obama, George W. Bush and any number of modern-day celebrities than we do about Mohammed.

The Wolf

Jon said...

I'm amazed that no one (especially Freelance Kiruv Maniac, who claims to be an educated Jew) brought up the aggada about Moshe seeing R. Akiva's shiur and not knowing what's flying. Or "lo bashamayim hee." Or any of the various aggadot that illustrate that Chazal were VERY aware of this.