POST-MOSAIC ADDITIONS TO THE TORAH?

Marc B. Shapiro blog:

* One of the biggest theological changes in Orthodoxy in the last decades—perhaps the sources collected in Limits were significant in this regard—is the acknowledgment that asserting limited post-Mosaic additions to the Torah is not to be regarded as heretical.[6] In Limits and subsequent blog posts I have recorded around thirty-five rishonim and aharonim who claim that Ibn Ezra believed in post-Mosaic additions. When you throw in R. Judah he-Hasid, R. Avigdor Katz, R. Menahem Tziyoni, and other sources I referred to in Limits, it is hard to convince people this is a heretical position, despite what Maimonides’ Eighth Principle states. It is also hard to convince them that this matter has been “decided” in accordance with Maimonides’ view. R. Mordechai Breuer states flatly that the legitimacy of Ibn Ezra’s opinion cannot be denied.

* Yet fifty years ago, speaking about these opinions would have been regarded as incredibly controversial, if not heretical in many eyes. Today, it seems like it is no big deal, and I have in mind not just Modern Orthodox circles but in the intellectual haredi world as well. It is significant that it its affirmation of Torah mi-Sinai, the Rabbinical Council of America did not deny the existence of views that speak of small additions to the Torah, but instead noted the great difference between these views and modern critical approaches. Here is the relevant paragraph (the entire statement can be seen here).

“When critical approaches to the Torah’s authorship first arose, every Orthodox rabbinic figure recognized that they strike at the heart of the classical Jewish faith. 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 above mentioned figures would have regarded such a position as falling within the framework of authentic Judaism.”

Without getting into the content of this statement which I believe is generally correct,[8] what is important for our purposes is that I do not believe such a statement would have been issued even fifty years ago, as it acknowledges the existence of “remarks by medieval figures” that are at odds with Maimonides’ Eighth Principle.[9]

What are we to make of the approach to Torah mi-Sinai in R. Judah he-Hasid’s “school”? Weitman suggests a few possibilities, one of which is that they believed in the existence of a “continuing revelation,” namely, that the Torah continued to be revealed even after the initial revelation to Moses. This would be an extension of the talmudic view that the last eight verses of the Torah were written by Joshua. While some might find this approach quite provocative, I think it is actually the meaning not just of R. Judah’s “school” but of Ibn Ezra and pretty much everyone who believed in intentional post-Mosaic additions. That is, they believed that these were added by prophets, as they would have regarded as completely unacceptable, indeed heretical, the notion that the Torah contains non-prophetic verses.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
This entry was posted in Marc B. Shapiro, Orthodoxy. Bookmark the permalink.