A while back, I had a discussion with a fellow regarding the text of the as we have it today. I maintained that the text that we have is not necessarily the exact same as the text that Moshe presented to us at the end of his life. There are far too much evidence (IMHO) that the
*possibility* of textual variance exists to assert with 100% certainty that the we have today is the same letter-for-letter with the that Moshe gave the Jews before they entered . (Note: I'm not ruling out the possibility that the text is identical either.)
My disputant maintained that despite any evidence, one is *required* to believe that the we have today is identical to the one that Moshe gave us. As proof, he pointed me to a source that I had known about for years -- the eighth Ani Ma'amin. An English translation of this
reads as follows:
I believe with complete faith that the whole which we now possess was given to Moses, our teacher, peace unto him
It seems pretty open and shut -- the we have now is the same as the that was given to the Jews by Moshe about 3300 years ago. So, despite whatever evidence you may find, you have to believe that our and Moshe's are letter-for-letter the same. It seemed that I was defeated... I could bring up as much evidence as I could muster, but nothing trumps an Article of Faith.
Imagine my surprise, when I found out that the Ani Ma'amin was a particularly bad misstatement of what the Rambam said when he wrote about the Article of Faith. (To be honest, I wasn't even aware that the Ani Ma'amin wasn't written by the Rambam.) Here is what the Rambam actually states regarding the eighth Article of Faith (translation by Eliezer C. Abrahamson):
The Eighth Foundation is that the Torah is from Heaven. This means that we must believe that this entire Torah, which was given to us from Moshe Our Teacher, may he rest in peace, is entirely from the mouth of the Almighty. In other words, that it all was conveyed to him from God, blessed Be He, in the manner which is called, for lack of a better term, "dibur" - "speech". [Since God does not actually "speak" in a literal sense. - Lazer] It is not known how it was conveyed to him, except to Moshe, may he rest in peace, to whom it was given, and he was like a scribe writing from dictation, and he wrote all the incidents, the stories, and the commandments. Therefore [Moshe] is called "mechokek" - "scribe" (BaMidbar [Numbers] 21:18).
There is no difference between [verses such as] "And the children of Cham were Kush and Mitzrayim" (B'Reishis [Genesis] 10:6), "And the name of his wife was Meheitaveil" (ibid. 36:39), and "And Simnah was a concubine" (ibid. 36:12) and [verses such as] "I am HaShem your God" (Shemos [Exodus] 20:2) and "Hear O Israel" (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 6:4), for all of the Torah is from the mouth of the Almighty and it is all the Teaching of God (Toras HaShem), perfect, pure, holy, and true.
One who says that verses and stories like these [in the first group] were written by Moshe out of his own mind, behold! He is considered by our Sages and Prophets as a heretic and a perverter of the Torah more than all other heretics, for he believes that the Torah has a "heart" and a "shell" [i.e. an meaningful part and a meaningless part] and that these historical accounts and stories have no benefit and are from Moshe our Teacher, may he rest in peace. This is the meaning of [the category of heretic who believes that] "The Torah is not from Heaven" [which is listed in the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 10:1) as one who has no share in the World to Come]. Our Sages, may their memory be a blessing, explain that this is [even] someone who says that the entire Torah is from the
Almighty except for a particular verse which was written by Moses alone. And on this [person, the Torah writes], "For he has scorned the word of God... [his soul shall be absolutely cut off, his sin is upon him]" (BaMidbar [Numbers] 15:31). May God, blessed be He, forgive the statements of the heretics.
In truth, however, every word of the Torah has within it wisdom and wonders for one who can understand them, and the full depth of their wisdom can never be attained. "Its measure is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea" (Iyov [Job] 11:9). A man has option but to follow in the footsteps of King David, the anointed of the god of Yakov (Jacob), who prayed, "Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things in your Torah" (Tehillim [Psalms] 119:18).
All this is also true for the explanation of the Torah, which was also received from the mouth of the Almighty [the Oral Torah]. The manner in which we today make the Sukkah, Lulav, Shofar, Tzitzis, Tefillin, and other items is precisely the manner that God, blessed be He, instructed Moshe, who then instructed us and Moshe was reliable in relating [God's word].
The verse which teaches this foundation is "And Moshe said, 'Through this you shall know that God has sent me to do all these things, for they are not from my heart." (BaMidbar [Numbers] 16:28)
- That the Torah that Moshe gave to the Jews came directly from God. Moshe did not create any portion of the Torah by himself.
- All parts of the Torah are holy, pure and originated from God -- whether those verses be the Sh'ma, the Ten Commandments or any of the various long and sometimes tedious "begat" portions.
- This principle also applies to the Torah SheB'Al Peh (Oral torah).
You'll note that no where in this statement does the Rambam assert that the Torah (written or oral) was transmitted perfectly from one generation to the next. Nowhere does he state that it is imperative to believe that the Torah that Moshe gave the Jews 3300 years ago is letter-for-letter the same as the one we have today. Yet, somehow, whoever composed the Ani Ma'amins felt the need to misstate what the Rambam said and add in the words "that we now possess." I don't know if my disputant was aware of this and was purposely deceiving me, or if he was as ignorant of the situation as I was.
To be honest, what shocked me most about this whole episode is not the fact that the Rambam's position on the Torah isn't what I thought it was -- rather it's the fact that I was *completely ignorant* of something as important as the fact that the Ani Ma'amins were not written by the Rambam and that this particular one (I haven't researched the others, but you'd better believe that I am going to do so now) is a very bad misstatement of what the ikkar emunah (article of faith) actually is. This is something that I never learned in Yeshiva -- whether at the elementary school, high school or beis midrash level. I'm *very* curious if this is something that I just missed (i.e. "I was out that day") or if it is commonly believed that the Ani Ma'amins accurately represent what the Rambam actually stated.