TheTorah.com: It Is Most Certainly Not “Orthodox Jews Challenging Commonly Held Beliefs About the Torah”

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75 Responses

  1. Chava Rubin says:

    Very important and well written article that everyone must read in order to stay away from this poisonous websitesand others like it.

  2. Steven Brizel says:

    R Gordimer as usual hits the nail on the head 100% it is tragic that one can look Orthodox be a member of an Orthodox community purport to teach Tanach and yet obviously reject foundational and non negotiable ikarei Emunah . That is the natural consequence of failing to approach Talmud Torah with awareness of its Kedusha and transmission from HAShem to Moshe Eabbeinu and accepting without reservation the binding nature of the Divine Transmission of Torah Shebicsav and TSBP. Such an attitude leads to so called scholars who deny the centrality of the Akeidah theology despite its being the center of RH and many of the Selichos of Aseres Ymir Teshuvah

  3. dr. bill says:

    I have some sympathy for Rav Bigman, Prof. Brettler, etc. and others like Prof. Kugel, whose approach is different. They all write and speak what is traditionally considered heresy, even accepting Prof. Shapiro’s brilliant collection of recognized traditional sources whose pronouncements would strictly speaking fall under Rambam’s definition of heresy.

    In my mind, the challenges that biblical study force a traditional Jew to contemplate are generations away, if ever, from developing a coherent and/or undeniable nature. But I suspect these individuals feel certain they know where that journey will lead. What they contemplate and propose is equally preliminary, seen on the one hand as weak apologetics by many bible scholars and on the hand as clear heresy by traditional Jews. Their audience is not large.

    Why propose such positions, scorned by both groups? My suspicion is that they feel they are the pioneers taking the arrows necessary to begin a process that will lead to greater acceptance of ideas that build constructively on their preliminary thoughts.
    When bible scholars do this kind of writing, I can understand their motivation. But people like Rav Bigman mystify me. Should we thank him as we would a canary in a coal mine or abuse him for trying? For the time being, I would do neither. While their writings contain worthwhile insight at times, it is probably wise for most to avoid exposure completely.

    • Steven Brizel says:

      We should expose their writings as kefirah plain and simple and what happens when one has the fundamentally wrong attitude as to how to learn Torah

      • dr. bill says:

        I am not a bar hochi to pasken about what Rav Bigman wrote, vis a vis kefirah. He is a RY and academic Talmud scholar, not a bible scholar, imho. I believe his article took some logical leaps, a topic where I am a bar hochi. 🙂

    • Weaver says:

      “I have some sympathy for Rav Bigman, Prof. Brettler, etc. and others like Prof. Kugel, whose approach is different. They all write and speak what is traditionally considered heresy, even accepting Prof. Shapiro’s brilliant collection of recognized traditional sources whose pronouncements would strictly speaking fall under Rambam’s definition of heresy.’
      . . . And it should be noted that the Rambam is not the last word on what constitutes “heresy”. Many rishonim considered some of the Rambam’s views heresy!

      • dr. bill says:

        you are completely correct. Raavad’s comment (defanged 🙂 )about many Jews maintaining what Rambam considers heresy should give pause to anyone attacking so assuredly. However, within traditional circles, Rambam’s pronouncement has been accepted in their most literal sense. One can certainly debate the validity of what has occurred given what Rambam maintains/ hints at in MN.

      • Robert Lebovits says:

        But NO rishonim would abide by the positions promoted on this website.

      • dr. bill says:

        Robert Lebovits, You are absolutely correct. all Rishonim of which I am aware believe the Torah is substantially the result of God’s revelation to Moshe with some level of greater error-free transmission than other neviim. what is not as clear is what deviation from that position crosses into their view of kefirah. You ought not to assume that all Rishonim considered it as a binary decision.

        however, any number of sugyot add more complex issues that require serious study, not associated with the blogosphere.

    • Reb Yid says:

      I remember the first time I heard Professor Brettler give one of his brilliant teaching lessons in a seminar. Wasn’t used to hearing a kipah wearing scholar taking material on so frontally.

      Came up to him afterwards: “You mean Rashi’s wrong”?

      Look, we know more than we did 1,000 or more years ago in some ways. We can keep on trying the only (i.e., more primitive methods) available methods and information at the time of the original text to try to solve a problem, but why think that’s the only possible way to go?

      • Steve Brizel says:

        In science and technology we know far more than the ancients. However, in teaching Torah, the Heilige Tanaim, Amoraim, and Rishonim know far more than we can ever be expected to know, Our job is to comprehend their words so that we can get closer to Har Sinai, not more distant RL.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        In medicine and science, whatever the ancients knew is of no value to how we live our lifes today. However, the transmission and learning of Torah works on a fundamentally different set of rules, namely that the Heilige Tanaim, Amoraim , and Rishonim were far closer to Har Sinai than we are that we must never think that we know more than a Tanna, Amora or Rishon and that the best sevara or kashe that we can come up was said by a Tanna, Amora or Rishon . Our job description is to try to understand the words of a Tana, Amora and Rishon as opposed to RL thinking that we know more than a Tanna Amora and Rishon, whether in Parshanut or in learning a Blatt Gemara

      • dr. bill says:

        Steve, we all believe in a Mesorah that shapes our actions and performance of mitzvot. What academics discover is interesting but hardly dispositive wrt to halakha le’maaseh. if a posek is aware of such a finding, he may wish to use it to buttress an extension of the halakha in one direction or another. I have seen this done, unknowingly in many cases, even on rare occasions by Haredi poskim.

        In this respect, the CI’s fears did not materialize. OTOH, we do not lack for iron-clad examples where modern insight, for any number of reasons, can explain something more credibly than Rishonim or Achronm who struggled to come up with an explanation.

        How many Rishonim knew the precise extent of a Tanna’s or Amora’s familiarity with some aspect of science? I can guarantee you that certain Rishonim knew considerably less science than certain Talmudic sages. How many Rishonim were conversant in the Iranian environment where the bavli was written? As is obvious, there are even a few segments of our halakhic literature that lack the amount of commentary found on other parts of halakhic literature.

        Fears about the impact on the Mesorah from modern insights have caused many to reject legitimate understanding that was not passed down from the previous generation. Those fears can often provide a layer of irrationality that does not befit an am navon ve’chacham.

  4. Steve Brizel says:

    Dr Bill you don’t have to be a bar haci-as far as :academic Bible scholars, see https://jerusalemletters.com/open-orthodoxy/ which pretty well establishes that Matan Torah and many other Ikarei Emunah are not part of their vocabulary and that their POV is that of a closed club with no one who subscribes to Matan Torah allowed as a member. R Chaim is quoted by REW that one cannot be a shogeg when it comes to apikorsus. A fair and objective reading of the articles on the above referenced website would lead any reader to believe that the authors thereat are well beyond traditional limits of Parshanut.

  5. Steve Brizel says:

    Elliot Resnick who is now an editor at the Jewish press wrote an article back in 2013 suggesting that the Bible Department at YC was infested with academics whose views on Ikarei Emunah was very problematic. IIIRC there was extensive commenting on R GIl Student’s old blog on this issue. The website at issue is another illustration of such infestation within the MO world

    • dr. bill says:

      the word “infested” is problematic when used in this context.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Any method of teaching Torah which is documented as being based on premises rooted in kefirah which has spread throughout the RZ and MO worlds deserves to be seen as infecting how the Torah HaKedosha is taught and understood with dire consequences in both textual literacy and awareness of Hashkafic fundamentals

      • Steve Brizel says:

        A means of purportedly teaching Tanach that is now well documented as being rooted in kefirah and has spread throughout the RZ and MO worlds with a concomitant loss of textual literacy and awareness of hashkafic fundamentals deserves the term infected especially as to the future consequences of such developments

  6. Barry says:

    Thank you for standing up for Torah at a time when many so called rabbis will do pretty much anything to please their crowd and peddle-a-watered-down-contorted-faintly Torah-based-fiction that will give them some status but is poison for people’s soul.

  7. Shades of Gray says:

    “There is not much more to say. The issue is not complex”

    That there is outright kefirah on TheTorah.com is not complex; the complexity lies in why the website started, and how to respond to the issues it discusses in a direct, rigorous way, matching the scholarship and knowledge of the writers.

    The website’s founder, who was involved in kiruv, felt that the ” current approaches used in some Jewish organizations to strengthen Jewish identity are at best shallow and sometimes even dishonest(“ A Word from the Publisher: Avraham Avinu Is My Father”, 7/13) and that Tanach wasn’t studied adequately in yeshivos (as a counter-point, the Jewish Action published an issue last year highlighting the positive and varied aspects of contemporary Orthodox Tanach study). The fact that Aish Hatorah, Agudath Israel, or at least YU/Bar Ilan do not have counter-websites to the TheTorah.com shows a degree of complexity, if only the cost of research, or the need for “greater discipline, patience and depth” in dealing with questions, mentioned by R. Gordimer.

    R. Adlerstein has written or spoken about this complexity a number of times. For example:

    “So much confusion abounds because for the first time in hundreds of years – perhaps ever? – we do not have Torah luminaries who have devoted themselves to taking on the challenge posed by general culture. (I do not fault them in any manner or form for this… )…The same holds true in other areas, such as archeology and Biblical criticism…People who have studied too much to just ignore these phenomena then often find it more satisfying to go far outside Torah circles for enlightenment…”(“ Why We Are All ID Dummies”, 11/06)

    “However, the commenters who raised this issue do have a point …For the first time in many centuries, I believe, we do not have gedolei Yisrael who throw themselves into the intellectual struggles of the day. Before we [publicize the answers of non-Gedolim], however, we need to draw clear lines between what can be part of an Orthodox community, and what cannot. When a fire breaks out, our first response has to be to put out the fire – not to fire-proof the rest of the village. Rabbi Gordimer’s first piece points unmistakably to both the fire and its source.”(“Is Heresy Horrible?”, 7/13)

    • Steve Brizel says:

      Shades of Gray wrote in part:

      ” The fact that Aish Hatorah, Agudath Israel, or at least YU/Bar Ilan do not have counter-websites to the TheTorah.com shows a degree of complexity, if only the cost of research, or the need for “greater discipline, patience and depth” in dealing with questions, mentioned by R. Gordimer.”

      One could argue just as well Aish, Agudah and YU simply do not view the same as a Cheftzah Shel Torah in any way shape or form

  8. Joshua Berman says:

    My own humble attempt to articulate a response to these issues in the spirit that Rabbi Gordimer outlines is contained in my forthcoming book, Ani Maamin: Biblical Criticism, Historical Truth and the Thirteen Principles of Faith, to be published by Maggid Press, iy”H, just after Chanuka.

  9. Nachum says:

    Can I offer my two cents? I find Biblical Criticism interesting to study; it raises some important questions and who knows, maybe its answers have things within them we can learn from. But that’s neither here nor there: When TheTorah first began I thought of it that way. And then, very quickly, it became clear that it was way beyond the pale for reasons that don’t have to do with heresy.

    A relatively minor example: They proudly reported on a kid whose bar mitzvah drasha was about the various sources of the story of the sale of Yoseph. Now, I agree this is fascinating. But for a thirteen year old? At his bar mitzvah? No, no, no. That’s an agenda, and that’s intentional provocation.

    And time and again, it becomes clear that they have nothing *but* Biblical criticism. Even for relatively simply questions, they immediately fall into the “That’s J and that’s E” answer. Again, that’s telling.

    But all of that pales with what I saw- what, I’ll be honest, I by that point expected to see- when Acharei-Kedoshim rolled around one year and they posted a long piece about how homosexuality is a “P” thing and thus not real Torah. (Incidentally, the whole concept of “P is not real Torah” was founded in anti-semitism, plain and simple.) The second you see that you know what’s up. To be frank, academic discussions are fine with me, but the second you try to use them to change practical halakha is when you lose me- and especially when you try to use it to fit the latest fashionable iteration of the whole LGBTQWERTY thing. Telling, as I said.

    One quibble:

    “(but who rejected the Sinaitic quality of Torah She-b’al Peh, the Oral Law)”

    This is somewhat unfair. Early Conservatism/Historical School, the Frankel-Schechter types, believed in Torah She Be-al Peh Min HaShamayim as well. Many still do. Obviously it was the little differences that ended up making a big difference.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      Read the Ferziger article. Many of the founders of what became the Gush derech were educated in JTS and their RZ disciples definitely do not subscribe to Torah Min HaShamayim.

      • dr. bill says:

        might i suggest that RAL ztl was alive when the so-called gush derech began to thrive. i don’t know who was educated at JTS and played a key role.

        i happen not to be a fan of many modern approaches to the Bible; I prefer the bible as it was.

  10. Steve Brizel says:

    DrBill Please provide a reference to whatever comment of CI you alluded to . CI did write that his main opposition to RZ was that it glorified religious mediocrity . I can think of no better example in our time of religious mediocrity than a website that is a repository for kefirah and apikorsus Bible Crit masked as Parshanut with a RZ hechsher and explicit rejection of the fact that Heilige Tanaim Rishonim knew more than we will ever know

    • dr. bill says:

      The CI even opposed reading seforim by rishonim recently discovered attributing their absence to Divine will. His cousin did not agree :).

      • nt says:

        Part of the CI’s argument is historical. The sefarim that survived were the ones deemed most necessary and useful through the ages. Manuscripts with variant texts discovered in a genizah were probably placed there for a reason.

      • dr. bill says:

        NT, whoever mentioned a genizah where that possibility has to be considered. many things in genizot like unused prayers or old contracts or ketubot, etc. some were just manuscripts in bad condition. some things were found in various places. on rare occasion a sefer of a rishon was thought to have been written by a non-jew. most often, they were just found.

  11. Steven Brizel says:

    One should never confuse CIs essay on Mayan Torah with anything other than classical Parshanut as to why certain mitzvos were given at Sinai Ohel Moed and Arvod Moab notwithstanding that Moshe Rabbeinu received all at Sinai

  12. Steve Brizel says:

    For those interested see the annexed links. https://thinkjudaism.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/is-modern-biblical-scholarship-a-danger-to-traditional-belief-part-1/ One wonders why such a symposium was arranged between two speakers of vastly different views on the subject , especially when the views of one speaker ( Kugel) clearly are beyond the boundaries of classical Parshanut..

  13. Steve Brizel says:

    OTOH, take a look at the statements in this link as to what Bible scholars term “Mosaic authorship”and how Kugel and one of the prominent proponents of the Gush derech approaches the same. AFAIK, the linked discussions were not taped and the three parts of links represent notes on what transpired therein. It is worth pointing out that RYBS refused to allow YU and/or RCA participation in the publication of a Tanach printed by JPS IIRC because there was no common theological grounds on such issues. The aforementioned website and links IMO represent what happens when such advice is ignored. It bears repeating that Chazal stated that Emes Yesh Lo Raglayim and Sheker Ain lo Raglayim and that the CC was once quoted that for someone with Sfekos in Emunah there were no Teirutzim and for someone with Emunah there were no Kashas, That observation IMO is as trenchant today as it was when the CC stated it.

    • nt says:

      Can you source that statement of the Chofetz Chayim? It sounds odd to me, and also completely at odds with my experience. Emunah does not magically make questions disappear, it should motivate you to find satisfactory answers. It should not need to be said, but throwing out an unbroken tradition to devise your own “system” which will probably just change as often as needed to prevent it from being falsifiable is not intellectually satisfying or rigorous, but cheap hubris

  14. lacosta says:

    “There is not much more to say. The issue is not complex” If the issues that Bible Critics bring up are not complex, there would be a] no one tempted or bothered by these questions and b] a vast mesorah-consistent literature shattering their thesis, and multiple experts one could point to who are mesorahdig masters of such hasbara.

    It is fair to say that b] doesn’t exist [yet] , and that any counter-Criticism hasbara/kiruv websites one could point to would be laughable to anyone in the field . Steve Brizel’s contentions , {which at times sound like the dogmatic Frederick March on the witness stand in Inherit the Wind ] , will play perfectly well for haredi audiences who have [neither secular exposure nor internet access and ] absolute belief in yeridas hadoros , but I don’t think they are the answer for Modern jews , who need hard logical answers rather than fundamentalist dogma.
    Unfortunately , this isn’t and can’t be a haredi endeavor. the material the typical yeshiva bochur thru litvishe godol has no exposure to any of these issues [appropriately ] , and there would need to develop a whole specialty area — Haredi Bible Scholarship –from scratch . Who can even imagine such an entity existing?

    • Avrohom Gordimer says:

      When I wrote, “There is not much more to say. The issue is not complex”, I was referring to the “kashrus” of TheTorah.com, which is simply not Orthodox/”kosher” – I was not referring not to the issues that require examination and thought.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      Ramban at the end of Acharei Mos states that Aristotle succeeded in injecting into the Jewish world the notion that a person should only accept what appears to be logical and rational. The need for “hard logical answers” unfortunately stems from that notion and the inability to realize at times that there are no such answers. Frederick March was a good actor in Inherit the Wind, but I always Gary Cooper in High Noon as a sheriff staving off a hoodlum and then resigningin contempt of the masses, Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca and The Caine Mutiny John Wayne in any film directed by John Ford and anything starring or directed by Clint Eastwood or staring Tom Hanks were more my speed

  15. Steve Brizel says:

    I once heard RHS emphasize at a Kinus tesbhuvah back in the mid 1980s that success in Limud HaTorah requires a would be lamdan, Ben Torah and Talmid Chacham to park any of his assumptions about secular disciplines and having the most up to date knowledge literally at the door of the Beis Medrash and work within the world of Chazal Rishonim and Acharonim if he was going to have any success in Limud HaTorah. RHS quoted from a hesped for R Velvel ZL who once in response to a kashe in a shiur, thought that the kashe was so good it had to have been mentioned somewhere by an Acharon or Rishon-it turned out that the kashe was so good it was mentioned by a Tanna in a Tosefta! When you attend a shiur or are part of a chaburah and ask such a question, there is simply no better feeling because your little Chidush was said years ago and and helped the audience get closer to Har Sinai. New editions of sefarim are important but thinking that you know more than a Tanna Amora or Rishon is gaavah and wrong.

    • emet le'amito says:

      Steve Brizel, your comment reminds of the Kotzker rebbe ZYA’s response to a Hasid who visited him in the Succah. Seeing a Ushpizan poster in the Rebbe’s sukkah, the Hasid remarked that he does not need a poster – he can just look up and recognize the visiting guest. To which the rebbe replied, at times belief is more critical than even observation. (if the story is fiction, it is very good fiction 😊 .)

      But what might govern (even God-inspired) myth, does not govern Limmud ha-Torah, where observation and our God-given rational ability to think is required. Let me suggest 3 seforim/books at decreasing levels of complexity that might be useful in helping you think through the assertions you make (repeatedly.) The first is Toseftah Ke-peshuta which you should use (at least once) as you learn any complete perek be-iyun. The second is “the Talmud: A Biography” by Prof. Barry Wimpheimer which is not an easy read; his treatment of the sugyah of esho mi-shum … is instructive. The third and easiest is “Reconstructing the Talmud.” The chapters on afikomen, prosbul and Aveilut on YT are classics. If you are not informed by the contents of such volumes, your assertions are based on belief, not evidence.

      I have great respect for RHS, and I doubt he would tell anyone to check any knowledge at the door of the BM. Next, I expect you might tell me the dearth of commentary on Kiddush Ha-chodesh results from various commenters on MT following what you report as RHS’s POV. IIRC, Raavad’s revealing and only comment in the chapters covering Kiddush al pi Heshbon explicitly contradicts your version of what RHS says.

  16. Dovid says:

    [Editors’ comments embedded in brackets]

    Just here to point out that this entire article is just a 16-paragraph ‘True Scottsman’ fallacy.

    [Not sure what relevance the True Scotsman fallacy has to the content of the essay. Maybe we should stick to substance.]

    Shouldn’t need to remind you that the Rambam’s ikarei imuna took several hundreds of years to become mainstream and faced tons of criticism at the time.

    [And therefore? The only question about the Rambam’s ikarim worth asking is whether they have achieved the status of an accepted and authoritative guide to Torah belief. That was not the point of the essay. There are many, many halachos in Shulchan Aruch that call for a determination about a person’s beliefs. “Apikorus,” “kofer,” “min” – all have halachic significance. It is not only legitimate to define them, it is halachically necessary.

    But now that you mention it, the resistance to the Rambam was primarily about seemingly pointing to some aspects of Torah as more important or fundamental than others. It was not so much resistance to the veracity of what he wrote. Review Prof. Marc Shapiro’s book. While he meticulously catalogues the dissenting voices, when you step back and look at them, you see that while they disagreed, they were pretty close in their own formulations. Even on the issue of hagshama, Dr Shapiro offers the actual words of R Moshe Taku – the supposed most extreme champion of hagshama – who adds that of course when we speak about G-d having a guf we don’t mean one made of the same coarse substance we see around us, but some sort of ethereal substance.]

    Nor should I need to remind you that mesechet soferim perek vav talks about them finding 3 sifrei torei and discarding one of them that didn’t fit their mesorah. Or that the gemara itself allows for the idea that the Torah had different authors (even if they limit it to the last 8 pesukim. Or that older, non-masoretic versions of the torah exist. Or that parts of what Moshe wrote were lost (Ritva on Baba Batra 14bet, and the Shela about Medrash Tanchuma Matot Daled) And considering 2 of 3 opinions in the gemara think the entire text was switched from ktav ivri to ktav ashuri – clearly believing that our version of the Torah is not entirely as hashem intended is both a logical possibility *and* has its place in Jewish thought.

    [How would you know what G-d “intended?” Soferim shows that the halachic system was prepared to pasken on variant texts the same way it paskens on other weighty issues: using rov. The Rambam’s ikar about the Mosaic source of the text, taught R. Yaakov Weinberg zt”l was that no human hand deliberately tampered with it. By given us a text subject to the exigencies of history, perhaps we see that He “intended” for us to do our best safeguarding it, and was OK with a few maleis and chasers creeping in.]

    It’s also pretty problematic to argue on one hand that discrepancies that exist in current masoretic versions should be handled with apologeticism, and on the other that the majority of these discrepancies are ‘minor’;

    [“Problematic” is a weasel word. Tell us exactly what your objection is. The rest of us have bitachon that HKBH knew what He was doing when He turned Torah over to us. His hashgacha extended to the text the same way it extended to us as a people. From behind the scenes, He ensured that the ravages of our history would still leave us with a text that serve His purposes. Halachos derived from the text depended upon whatever texts were in the hands of Chazal when they made those derashos (See the hakdamah of the Dor Revii to Chulin)]

    considering the amount of exegesis that is dedicated to every single letter in the torah, only for an acharon to retort that theyre working from a different gersa, makes it strikingly clear that the difference between a ‘minor’ and a ‘major’ change is pretty darn subjective.

    [That’s why we have what is called in the literature “baalei mesorah” – the Torah voices of sufficient depth and yiras Shomayim that they are entrusted with the task of making those subjective decisions.]

    All this to say that perhaps instead of cherry-picking the parts of rambam to draw lines in the sand about whether a belief is ‘jewish’ enough, it’d be more productive to actually address the issues raised – no matter how uncomfortable.

    [The two are not mutually exclusive. The issues should be addressed. But diagnosis precedes prescription. The first thing that needs to be stated is that these ideas are apikursus, and it is an issur gamur for yirei Shomayim to read them.]

    If Aish’s kiruv retention rates have taught us anything, it’s that long-term more Jews go OTD when we ignore hard questions with tautologies and other logical fallacies.

    [I am only aware of one study that looked at the dropout rate among children of baalei teshuva. Dr Pelcovitz presented the conclusions at an AJOP convention year ago. It showed non-elevated rates of dropouts, EXCEPT in families with certain risk factors. Those factors did not include a rejectionist attitude towards kefirah. (And it had nothing to do with Aish.)]

    • Steve Brizel says:

      Let me respond as best as possible to some of the issues raised:

      1)The 13 Ikarim regardless of their historical development and opposition thereto, are now considered mainstream, Show me where Rambam in the Yad disagrees with them. Moreover, if you want to see a fundamental statement of Hashkafa 101 look at the Musaf for RH

      2)The Machlokes re the last 8 Psukim is only over whether a minyan is required-many hesberim are offered for that machlokes. Then ask yourself is there a Nafka Minah LHalacha if there is a major Psul in the Ksiva of the same and whether we Pasken Lchumra or Lkula. It is well known that RYBS quoted RCS as saying that the last Psukim were definitely written by Moshe Rabbeinu but only acquired a Chalos Shel Torah after the Petirah of Moshe Rabbeinu

      3) Perhaps the inquiry in Menachos about the switch in Ksav has something to do with the unique madregah of R Akiva and the means of transmitting TSBP Vayen sham
      3)

    • nt says:

      I looked up the Ritva in Bava Basra. He explains the line in the gemara that “Moshe wrote his sefer and sefer Bilam” that the sefer Bilam was not the parsha of Balak in the Chumash but a separate account. It never was and was never meant to be part of the Chumash.

  17. Steve Brizel says:

    Listen to the Kinus Teshuvah See the previous critiques of the sefarim you have mentioned and which you tend to cite in discussions of this nature I do not regard the study of Tanach RL as that of God inspired myth

  18. Steve Brizel says:

    Isho Mshum Kitzo has many consequences in Halacha both in Shabbos and Nezikin Prozbul represents the power of Chazal in Dinei Mamonos and Afikomen either refers to desert the litmus
    Of acilas marzvah or that one should not eat anything other than matzah so as to retain its taste in Leil Seder you do not need new fangled Academic Talmud works to understand these Sugyos nor Aveulus on YT where Simcha of Rabim dictates cancellation of Aveilus

    • dr.bill says:

      if you continue to speak without having read to know what you are criticizing, there is no point in responding. I was taught that arguing about the tie that the invisible man in the tan suit in the doorway was wearing, is not that productive.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        When you read both the Ferziger and Shapiro articles as opposed to playing rope a dope around their contents then you can discuss the origins and bases of the Gush derech. It is indeed tragic that you, despite RYBS’s views to the contrary about such works, view Academic Talmud as an aid to learning any sugya in iyun.

      • dr. bill says:

        i have read both; one is a good friend.

        may i remind you that the Rav ztl’s son attended his father shiur at YU in the morning and then spent the afternoon at JTS in order to ask questions of the Grash. dr. grach said his father is aware of everything written in the world of academic Talmud; he does not feel it appropriate to be taught in the YESHIVA. In his day, the Rav had nothing but respect for Dr. Weiss at Revel, where hethought academic Talmud belonged. One of the Rav’s best students (in the opinion of RAL ztl) is an academic of note.

  19. Steve Brizel says:

    The bottom line is whether you want and desire that your children and grandchildren be textually proficient and literate in Tanach and especially Chumash with the Gdolei Mefarshim where the fundamentals of Hashkafa and Emunah as understood by Chazal are explicated and debated or do you want them to learn “Pshat only” with no respect for textual literacy and no understanding of the fundamentals of hashkafa and emunah because a Pshat only perspective views all of the same as mere drush or worse because those who founded and continue to propound such a derech are doing so with the full knowledge that the same is rooted in kefirah ?

  20. Steve Brizel says:

    When you read both the Ferziger and Shapiro articles then you can discuss the etilogy roots and views of the proponents of the Pshat only derech,. Discussing Academic Talmud which you do and which has been critiqued here does not IMO amount to a responsiveanswer

  21. rkz says:

    Yishar Koach to RAG’ for the courage to fight for our mesora, and for exposing the fraud of “orthodox” kefira.
    We must remember are talking about kefira, plain and simple and plain, and no whitewashing can change that.
    No tanna, amora, Rishon or Acharon accepted Bible crit. (The issue of the 8 pesukim is irrelevant, and so is sod heshneim asar. All of those are quant. and qual. different that BC, which rejects the very concept of Kedushat HaTorah)
    (BTW, Bigman and his group are not considered to be part of the RZ Torah world.)

    • Steve Brizel says:

      Rambam in Shemoneh Prakim writes that one must treat Cholei HaHanefesh in same way as Cholei HaGuf by attacking causes and symptoms as opposed to merely providing the equivalent of pain relief and palliative care. The issues that R Gordimer has raised go the very essence of fundamental Yesodei HaEmunah and if this means kefira and apikorsus be exposed for what they are today, then more , and not less, serious discussion as to how such kefira and apikorsus has infiltrated sections of RZ and MO is warranted. I hope that this thread enables everyone in the Torah observant community to understand the boundaries of proper Parshanut and what is clearly beyond the same and should be recognized as such

  22. Steve Brizel says:

    Dr Bill wrote in re;levant part:

    ” dr. grach said his father is aware of everything written in the world of academic Talmud; he does not feel it appropriate to be taught in the YESHIVA”
    RYBS’s own words were far stronger . Anyone interested should. see and listen to the 1975 shiur on Gerus and see RHS’s discussion of RYBS’s understanding of the nature of the Halach LMoshe MiSinai of Lavud

    • dr. bill says:

      i give up. your binary POV is not worth my time, particularly when you reference the Rav ztl, the person most given to micro-level differentiation, something I learned (at my much-reduced level) from him and in class with one of Godel’s greatest students.

      comment on. best of luck.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Then don’ engage in a discussion , quote a secondary source when the primary source is clearly on record on the issue.

  23. Steve Brizel says:

    Dr Bill-since you have read the Shapiro and Ferziger articles, do you agree or disagree with the factual findings and conclusions therein as to the views quoted therein with respect to Torah Min HaShamayim and Torah MiSinai of the founders and proponents of the s called “Pshat only” and /or “Gush derech” that the same incorporate not just literary analysis but rank Kefira and apikorsus repackaged as Pshat only with a RZ hechsher and the reasons therefor? That is far more important and relevant to this discussion at this point in time than telling us the names of the leading proponents in Academic Talmud.

  24. Shades of Gray says:

    “the CC was once quoted that for someone with Sfekos in Emunah there were no Teirutzim and for someone with Emunah there were no Kashas”

    One needs to know the context of this statement; for example, if the Chofetz Chaim was talking about tzadik v’rah lo, that’s a separate category of question than a question from a text. Even emunah peshutah isn’t so pashut(excuse the pun), as there is concern over פתי יאמין לכל דבר .

    This is from Rav Shimshon Pincus (Nefesh Shimshon, Sha’arei Emunah, pg 92, and in Tiferes Shimshon on Bereishis):

    “There are those who think that the idea of emunah p’shutah is to believe exactly what was told to them, without any investigation. To my mind, this is a mistake! Someone who believes just because he was told, is a fool as the verse states, ‘The simple person believes everything’. Emunah p’shutah is to believe in a straightforward manner what we actually see. This means that if a person sees a roof, he could doubt: Maybe I am dreaming. Maybe there is no roof here at all. Maybe, maybe, etc. This is stupidity. We need to believe that what we see is actually so”

    The above translation is from R. Jonathan Ostroff’s “Review of The Heart of Emunah” in Dialogue Magazine, available online. His article includes similar sources from the Alter of Kelm, R. Yechezkel Levenstein and Rav Avigdor Miller emphasizing the importance of human intellect to establish emunah(for a dissent from the approach in R. Ostroff’s article, see R. Yosef Chaim Danziger’s “To Instill or to Instruct: The Case Against “Emunah Education”, available with haskamos on the Ner LeElef website; part of that debate is limited to classroom education).

    There are also two related Cross Currents posts from 2005 by R. Adlerstein: “A Torah Rationalist’s Manifesto”, based on the Alter of Kelm and “Emunah Peshutah: Response to a Reader” discussing the benefits of emunah peshutah.

    • rkz says:

      The CC ztl was referring to the famous kashya about the Madid Meisharim promise to the Beit Yosef that he will die on Kiddush Hashem

  25. Shades of Gray says:

    “But NO rishonim would abide by the positions promoted on this website”

    As R. Yitzchak Blau wrote in his review of Dr. Marc Shapiro’s book (“Flexibility With a Firm Foundation: On Maintaining Jewish Dogma”, available online), also quoted in R. Adlerstein’s review(“ Outside the Pale – Responding to Readers”, CC, 12/07):

    As Dr. Johnson remarked, the fact that there is a twilight does not minimize the distinction between day and night. We can exclude Ibn Ezra’ s view from the charge of heresy, remain unsure about how much more latitude to give for an expansion of Ibn Ezra, and still confidently assert that J, P, E and D are beyond the pale.

    The RCA opined similarly(“RCA Statement on Torah Min HaShamayim”) when TheTorah.com began publishing in 2013:

    Whatever weight one assigns to a small number of remarks by medieval figures regarding the later addition of a few scattered phrases, there is a chasm between them and the position that large swaths of the Torah were written later– all the more so when that position asserts that virtually the entire Torah was written by several authors who, in their ignorance, regularly provided erroneous information and generated genuine, irreconcilable contradictions. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, none of the abovementioned figures would have regarded such a position as falling within the framework of authentic Judaism.

  26. Shades of Gray says:

    The 2013 “RCA Statement on Torah Min HaShamayim” was also noteworthy in that it validated individual struggle concerning the issue of biblical criticism:

    “While we recognize and respect the theological struggles that are a feature of many a modern person’s inner religious life, the position in question is unequivocally contrary to the faith requirements of historic Judaism.”

  27. azka says:

    Dear Rabbi Gordimer,

    Please could you direct the questioning Jew who deeply wants to maintain his beliefs but finds them shaken by a lot of the Biblical Scholarship that is out there. Is there any high level apologetics that engage with the issues raised by TABS and remain true to our Mesorah. It is easy to say, “don’t go there, it’s forbidden because it’s kefirah”. It is much more meaningful to engage with the issues and provide responses for young, frum Jews like me who are thoroughly confused. I wish there was a website that dealt with the claims made by Biblical Scholars and provided reasoned responses from within our Mesorah that also actually make sense.

    I believe that unless this happens soon, we will haemorrhage young, frum, questioning Jews.

    I look forward to your response and direction.

    • lacosta says:

      this is ultimately the problem. where as there are e g authentic reliable sites that can contradict xtian approaches to tanach as proofs of their religion –which means torah true jews who have mastered the xtian testaments and persuation techniques ,and have successfully authentically countered them , it’s not clear that anyone has the mastery of all the BC technique to be able to counteract them on a non-novice level, that would leave BC scholars laughing….

  28. Shades of Gray says:

    “I believe that unless this happens soon, we will haemorrhage young, frum, questioning Jews.”

    Some people are interested in the topic, others are not.

    In a 2017 Torah in Motion symposium (“State of the Community: Rabbinic Reflections on Modern Orthodoxy”, Minute 30, available online after registration), R. Daniel Korobkin spoke in Toronto about TheTorah.com in the context of the 2017 Nishma Research Profile of American Modern Orthodox Jews. R. Korobokin mentioned that some of his colleagues in the RCA basically said to him that most people are not such “groisse talmidei chachamim”, and in a sense, halevai, would that our biggest problem be that our youth and adults are concerned with such theological issues!

    Of course, others are interested in the subject (Prof. Chaim Waxman wrote a sociological analysis on TheTorah.com about the website’s audience). The RCA itself recognized such interest in the 2013 “Torah Min HaShamayim” statement I quoted. On Tradition Online(RCA blog), there was an October, 2019 review of the Hebrew “Gishat HaTemurot”, by David Curwin in which he briefly summarizes approaches of contemporary Orthodox thinkers on bible criticism.

  29. Shades of Gray says:

    “I wish there was a website that dealt with the claims made by Biblical Scholars”

    While ideally there should be a counter-website, below are discussions of both the intellectual and the important secondary aspect of validating questions:

    R. Joshua Berman mentioned his upcoming book, above. There is a Tikvah podcast “Joshua Berman on Whether the Exodus Really Happened” and his Mosaic essays (one of which Prof. Brettler replied to). This is from “Q&A with R. Prof. Joshua Berman”(Torah Musing, 3/15):

    “I always smile when a student in a gap year program says to me, “Oh, I’m not bothered by biblical criticism; my rebbe talked to us about that in high school.” I’m certain that that “rebbe” did not raise the entire gamut of challenging issues that are out there. “ He continues that there is still value in being first introduced to Torah and the ancient Near East by a beloved and trusted rebbe, and that “ 90% of the battle is already won”… “We get into trouble precisely when our young men …realize that they went through their entire day school career with the wool pulled over their eyes.”

    R. Adlerstein mentioned that he has permission from a Ra’m in the Gush to republish(and tweak) his response to bible criticism (“AJOP 2017: Cynics, Skeptics, Bloggers and the Intellectually Curious – How to Present Genuine Torah Values in a Challanging World”, 26:30, available online); he also spoke about validating questions, a minute or so earlier in the symposium. R. Adlerstein wrote similarly in the 2015 Klal Perspectives technology issue.

    R. Zvi Grumet of the Lookstein Center, who discussed Orthodox belief in his recent survey of HS graduates, wrote earlier in 2013( “Ten Questions with Rabbi Zvi Grumet” on TheTorah.com) about validating questions, the importance of seeing Orthodox role models “ who understand or even struggle with the same questions that they do, but nonetheless remain fundamentally unshaken in both their belief and practice as halakhically committed Jews”, and his approach to “first to investigate the real nature and depth of their question, and only then begin to suggest to them some reading material that we can later discuss”

  30. Iz says:

    How do to understand mainstream MO rabbis/educators on such an horrible site??
    ie. R. Yoel Bin Nun (!!!!), Dr. Lawrence Schiffman (!!))R Bloch, R. Marc Angel, Erica Brow, R. Cherlow, M. First, Menachem Kellner. Aviva Zornberg(!!).
    Have they been duped? just careless? or dont care about such associations?
    Whats a layman to think when he sees this?
    Where is the leadership in addressing these issues? Thanks to R. Gordimer but his efforts can only be seen as a first step

    • rkz says:

      WADR, YBN is not “mainstream” by any stretch of the imagination, adraba he teaches kefira rh”l for many years). RYS is much better, but he is certainly LWMO and not “mainstream”.
      Kellner is very very LW, if not worse.

    • dr. bill says:

      As noted by rkz, the people you mention are quite different, though all fall well within what I view as the orthodox tent.
      I cannot speak for them and my views on such subjects are hardly well enough developed to be useful to others. but I suspect that all do not treat the questions raised dismissively. to the extent that they have relevant things to say to that audience, where else might they go to publish and reach so knowledgeable an audience? Most scholars do not inspect the tzitzit of the places they choose to publish. In a weakly similar manner, the Rav ztl’s first point of call to publically lecture on The Lonely Man of Faith was not a BM.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        I would challenge the assertion that the views advances as listed previously should be considered as part of the RZ/Mo world but rather in many instances Apikorsus and Kefirah with a RZ and LW MO hechsher. Where RYBS spike is irrelevant to the discussion

    • Shades of Gray says:

      “Have they been duped? just careless? or dont care about such associations?”

      It’s not the same, but compare with R. Gil Student’s discussion of reading vs. writing for 929( “Is 929 Kosher?”) :

      “As you will see, some are important Orthodox thinkers, presumably who did not want to turn down an opportunity to teach Torah, particularly aimed at non-Orthodox readers whom they might be able to influence. You will also find people from a wide variety of backgrounds, including a Muslim cleric and Reform and Conservative rabbis.

      I would like to discuss here reading 929, not writing for it; the latter is about giving and the former about taking. “

  31. Shades of Gray says:

    Looking quickly on the site R. Gordimer linked, which looks like its affiliated with Arachim, I found an article that appears well-researched titled ה קדמות המשנה. It in turn contains links to online copies of the seforim “HaMishnah HaRishonah” of R. Dovid Tzvi Hoffman and “Yesod Hamishna Va’arichatah” of R. Reuvein Margolies(Mosad Harav Kook).

    An English translation of R. Hoffman’s work from the original German is also available on Hebrew Books(the first page is stamped from the library of Yeshiva Shaarei Torah of Rockland, R. Berel Wein’s former yeshiva).

    These are the links to the Hebrew Arachim article and the English translation of “Die Erste Mischna” :

    https://rationalbelief.org.il/%d7%94-%d7%a7%d7%93%d7%9e%d7%95%d7%aa-%d7%94%d7%9e%d7%a9%d7%a0%d7%94/

    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=59508&st=&pgnum=1&hilite=

  32. Anna says:

    I hope all you boys are enjoying yourselves. I write as a woman (am I the only one here?) based in Europe. I’m shomer shabbat, keep kashrut, etc and I would not allow anyone anyone else, let alone a rabbi, to say that I’m not an Orthodox Jew. I also read articles from TheTorah.com. In doing so, I don’t have to agree with everything they say, but they are certainly intellectually stimulating, something that I find is largely missing in the classes I go to and sermons I hear. It is also the reason I will be going to the LImmud festival in the UK next month, where there are good Orthodox teachers from universities around the world and Orthodox rabbis. It would be good if Rabbi Grodimer would have the courage to attend and make his case. If you are going to answer the questions and points that the writers on TheTorah.com make, you have to do so in their academic terms and sadly I find most communal orthodox rabbis are not capable of doing so. The result is a flight into a ghetto mentality, where it seems certain ideas can not be considered, or discussed . It is an old cheap trick to attack the messenger, when you can’t find answers to the message, but it is also an evasion and a sign of impotence on the part of those who use it.

    • Avrohom Gordimer says:

      There are two issues here:

      1. Regardless of the problem/query, Halacha prohibits entertaining heretical ideas. If something bothers us, we should search for an answer, but Halacha dictates the contours of our efforts. TheTorah.com goes way past that which Halacha permits.

      2. The community needs to do more to address these issues, and people are literally right now working on it in a “kosher’ way. The greatest sefarim written in response to the heresies of previous eras did not come out until decades later, but they more that adequately addressed the issues and became classics. There are people available now to address the issues, although a formal and comprehensive effort, being worked on now, will take a bit of time to publicly surface.

      • Daniel Goldman says:

        Rabbi Gordimer,
        Can I assume that it is your position that Rav Bigman, Rav Yoel Bin Nun, Rav Sherlow and the others mentioned in this thread as having contributed to Torah.com as being beyond the pale. Should we abstain from sending our kids to their Yeshivot (all three lead Orthodox Yeshivot in 🇮🇱 as I’m sure you know). I am קטן when it comes to Bible in general and Bible criticism particularly but these Rabbis (all of whom are known to me personally) are יראי שמים and תלמידי חכמים גדולים. They should be placed beyond the pale (and with them I guess their multitude of students and alumni). Whilst many young religious people in israel are not especially bothered about possible contradictions between scientific thought about the Bible and the Traditional view, many are. Shutting doors to them by quoting the Rambam (himself a target of heresy accusations) will not improve the situation.

  33. Michael Lipkin says:

    Thanks to Rabbi Adlerstein’s post regarding this article I had a chance to revisit it. And I have a couple of thoughts. For starters R. Gordimer states “To be precise, clergy from these groups contribute articles to TheTorah.com, including articles that deny the Revelation and the Torah’s historicity.” The bolded line explains so much about what is concerning about this entire post. The Torah’s “historicity” has been examined and debated for millennia. It is certainly no longer considered heretical to believe that Adom and Chava were not the first humans or that the world wasn’t created in 6 days as just two examples of so much in Bereishit that could certainly be allegorical. This thus tips R. Gordimer’s hand in taking a very literal, simplified approach to understanding the Torah. It greatly weakens his crusade against such luminaries and Talmidei Chachomim as R. Bigman.

    That brings me to the next point. This issue, in general, seems much more of a “concern” to the RWMO establishment in the US than to Israelis. Many of the scholars who contribute to thetorah.com are well respected Roshei Yeshiva and teachers. Their contributions to the discussion of biblical scholarship is well known and nobody is seeking to defrock them in the McCharthyesque way R. Gordimer is trying to do here. There’s much that can be said about the psychology of the reactions in the RWMO world and the fear it exposes, but that would be a whole separate post.

    Having read both of these posts I’ll just say that they are essentially are preaching to the choir. And for those not in the choir they are acting a marketing boon to the site for anyone who’s curious about these issues. Quite the opposite of the intended effect.

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