Drawing on the work of the 15th-century Portuguese rabbi, philosopher, and statesman Isaac Abarbanel, Avi Weiss explains how traditional understandings of the divine authorship of the Pentateuch account for some of the objections raised by academic scholars, and, moreover, how reading the Torah as an organic whole rather than a pastiche of various texts allows for a deeper appreciation of its richness:
Instead of envisioning a 40-day marathon on Mount Sinai of writing down the Torah from beginning to end, Abarbanel sees God as communicating with Moses periodically, including after his long address on the plains of Moab [that constitutes the first part of Deuteronomy], and telling Moses what exactly to include [in the Torah’s final text].
Following Abarbanel’s observation, when it comes to narrative, the Torah’s language, style, and tone may differ [from one segment to another] because much of it reflects the speech of different human personalities, who themselves have different ways of communicating. These verses comingle in the Torah because God sanctioned the inclusion of these words and deemed them part of the Torah.
But how can we explain that often it is not original human speech in the Torah but God’s own demands and statements which take on different literary styles and perspectives? Mordecai Breuer has argued that God, as an infinite being, can speak from different vantage points and perspectives. I would take this a step further and note that it is not only God Who can speak in different tones and ways, but we all speak with different voices.
In the spirit of imitatio dei (imitation of God), this capacity gives us a tiny, tiny glimpse of God, Who speaks with many styles: interpersonal and ritual law are spoken one way; narrative, wherein God speaks to or about biblical personalities in another; instructions on how to build the sanctuary [or] prepare priestly clothes in still another; the recall of things past inspiring us to forge a better future in yet another. While Bible critics see different styles and emphases as evidence of a multiplicity of authors, traditionalists—of which I am one—see the Torah as authored by the One God, speaking in multiple ways. In part, it is this totality that makes God—the One God.