Debating the Divine Origins of the Torah

In the anthology The Revelation at Sinai: What Does “Torah from Heaven” Mean?, the philosopher Yoram Hazony criticizes the attempts of some Jewish theologians to reconcile traditional notions of revelation with academic theories about the origins and composition of Scripture—including a doctrine sometimes called “unfolding” or “progressive” revelation. Tamar Ross responds to Hazony’s brief engagement with her own ideas of “cumulative revelation,” and explains what makes them distinct:

Although successive hearings of the Torah may appear to contradict the original message of Moses at Sinai, that message is never replaced. It always remains as the rock-bottom cultural-linguistic filter through which new “hearings” are understood. Thus, it is the potential meaning, rather than wording, of the Torah attributed to the original revelation at Sinai that is constantly being unfolded, via the changing cultural contexts to which it is exposed.

Jewish traditionalists following Maimonides and his interest in protecting the supremacy and inviolability of Mosaic law from the upheaval of further claims to prophetic inspiration have never denied the possibility of discovering new meanings in the text. They differ from the cumulativists simply in their preference for attributing recognition of the text’s manifold interpretive possibilities solely to the work of the scholars of every generation, who can and do uncover more of its original meaning without the benefit of divine intervention.

Thus . . . my preference for describing new ideas as “revealed” rather than “uncovered,” no less than earlier manifestations of this trend in the Talmud and in the tradition of the Tosafists and their followers, does not rest on differences of opinion regarding the centrality of Moses and Sinai, but rather on alternative religious sensibilities regarding the manner in which God interacts with the world, which—in ḥasidic writing and the thought of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook—are extended even further to notions regarding the spiritual significance of history and the development of the human spirit.

Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: Judaism, Torah

Hamas Wants a Renewed Ceasefire, but Doesn’t Understand Israel’s Changed Attitude

Yohanan Tzoreff, writing yesterday, believes that Hamas still wishes to return to the truce that it ended Friday morning with renewed rocket attacks on Israel, but hopes it can do so on better terms—raising the price, so to speak, of each hostage released. Examining recent statements from the terrorist group’s leaders, he tries to make sense of what it is thinking:

These [Hamas] senior officials do not reflect any awareness of the changed attitude in Israel toward Hamas following the October 7 massacre carried out by the organization in the western Negev communities. They continue to estimate that as before, Israel will be willing to pay high prices for its people and that time is working in their favor. In their opinion, Israel’s interest in the release of its people, the pressure of the hostages’ families, and the public’s broad support for these families will ultimately be decisive in favor of a deal that will meet the new conditions set by Hamas.

In other words, the culture of summud (steadfastness), still guides Hamas. Its [rhetoric] does not show at all that it has internalized or recognized the change in the attitude of the Israeli public toward it—which makes it clear that Israel still has a lot of work to do.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security