Wednesday, 28 July 2010

God's Last Message To His Creation: "and Oholibamah bore Jeush"

Imagine you are told you are going to get a message from God. This is it. God is finally going to make everything clear. God is finally going to give us a guide to life and explain to us the deep meaning of the universe. All doubts will be allayed all queries answered. This is going to be the biggest moment in human history! Crowds await in anticipation for the moment when God will reveal all.

And then God appears! And what does he do!?

He starts reading genealogical tables and construction plans for hours!

For a book which is purported to hold God's ultimate message to man and is supposed to be a "handbook" to life, the Torah is awfully prosaic.

For a book which is is supposed to "not be history" the Torah is awfully full of genealogy and minute historical details.

For a book which is supposed to be written by God, the Torah is rather underwhelming.

I asked a Rabbi once "Rabbi, for a book written by God the Torah is pretty ordinary. Shouldn't God be able to write books with more flash and flare?"

The Rabbi told me that the boring parts have deep messages and that a large portion of the Zohar is dedicated to expounding the seemingly useless bits such as the genealogy of Esav's descendants.

Yeah, if Moby Dick was considered holy I'm sure someone would be busy expounding that. Anything can be interpreted as an allegory or an esoteric message.

What should God's book look like? Well maybe it would actually tell us what the Hell is going on around here on Earth. And maybe explain to us some of the deepest questions that have been troubling man for ages. That would be pretty nice.

Instead it explains to us how big a certain tent should be.

But hey God has his reasons so maybe he just likes writing like a pedantic historian.

Maybe.

Or maybe the Torah is what it looks like: a history book with some laws thrown in.

Take your pick.

22 comments:

G*3 said...

> Instead it explains to us how big a certain tent should be.

Not just any tent, God's house on Earth! You object to Him explaining to us how to make Him comfortable?

gamzoo said...

the secret is that it's all about the little stuff, so don't sweat it

MKR said...

I don't think that anyone has any good idea of what a book "written by God" would be like. Any book that we can conceive of, like any book that we can actually produce, would be just another book, i.e., just another human production.

If you think about it, the idea of a book written by God is almost as silly as the idea of a cookie baked by God or a car built by God. But we imagine God to have for some reason a closer relationship to one particular kind of artifact, the book, than to these other kinds of artifact.

david a. said...

Yeh, you’d expect that the Torah would, at the very least, tell us the purpose of our existence.

Also, what has always bothered me is that a major portion of the Talmud’s methodology for sourcing laws from the Torah is based on the belief that nothing is redundant in the Torah. Every word has a purpose. and extra word (or even letters) teach new laws.

To me it seems that if the above axiom is true, how does one explain the overwhelming number of repetitious and redundant verbiage whether it be the duplicate definition of the Mishkan, the census, the inauguration of the Mishkan, etc. etc. stec. it simply makes no sense. There is so much wasted text.

And making a blanket statement, as some do, that it is all very profound “kabbalah” that we just don’t understand is just too lame for me.

gamzoo said...

>Yeh, you’d expect that the Torah would, at the very least, tell us the purpose of our existence.

the implication is that this is an important question that people want to know the answer to. But the apparent lack of answer is telling. Whether you believe in a divine authorship or not the fact that this question is missing seems to tell us that the people of ancient Israel were not interested in this question. They seem to be more practical people concerned with land and laws which would provide structure for their lives. They don't seem to be too concerned with abstract questions. it was only later due to Greek and Roman influences that Israel thought about abstract questions such as purpose to life.

Rabbinic Judaism and later Kabbalah would try to provide answers to these questions once Israel became concerned by them.

Shilton HaSechel said...

@gamzoo

Well I guess the question is what DOES the Torah tell us which is so important that God decided to reveal himself?

Fine laws were perhaps important to the Ancient Hebrews but what's with all the history? Was that an important thing for God to reveal in his most important book? Did the Ancient Hebrews or ANYONE benefit religiously from knowing how many wells Yitzchak dug or how many cows each Nasi brought?

Put it this way besides the laws and certain stories with a message - the Torah is mostly full of details which have no apparent religious significance.

I would think that God's book would ONLY contain things with religious significance.

But I admit this is all pretty speculative (what would God write and so forth) so I don't know...

gamzoo said...

well, it was pretty important to someone otherwise they wouldn't have kept it as part of their holy books for so long. Why was it important? I don't know.

no one said...

One should read the books on their own merit. The Torah and the talmud are great books.

Shilton HaSechel said...

>The Torah and the talmud are great books.

Torah yes though there are definitely better books in the Tanach IMHO and Talmud eh...

Bruce said...

Most answers to big questions simply be written down and conveyed in a single-shot, one-way type of communication. Although the Torah contains some good stuff (don't murder, love your fellow as yourself, etc.), if that is the model, the Torah is largely a failure.

But most answers to big questions involve a process of discovery. Someone makes a claim, someone else refutes it, a third person argues that their whole approach is flawed, someone else tries to get back to the original issue, etc. The process is always ongoing. Under that model, the Torah is a spectacular success. And in fact it is the ambiguities, irrelevancies, and contradictions that help spur the greatest steps forward.

But note that the process is ongoing.

david a. said...

>>>> But note that the process is ongoing.

Not in OJ.. unfortunately, the writing by the Rambam of the MT and then the SA by R'caro pretty much froze that process for the traditionalists or at best made change extremely difficult.

Bruce said...

That's right, but I think it is a mistake. The process SHOULD be ongoing, and it is in some more heterodox circles.

Anonymous said...

>>>>>> But note that the process is ongoing.

>>>> Not in OJ.. unfortunately, the writing by the Rambam of the MT and then the SA by R'caro pretty much froze that process for the traditionalists or at best made change extremely difficult.

Only in the direction of permitting the forbidden. Forbidding the permitted is an ongoing process.

no one said...

Talmud and Bible.
What do you mean there are better books? I know of a small handful of great books in human history. Some by Plato and some of eastern origin. But from where do you get the idea there are better books than the Bible? Do you have another example of some book some other great civilization has been built on? Some other book that speaks to the heights and depths of a human being?

Shilton HaSechel said...

I was actually saying there are better books IN the Bible. In other words there are better books in the BIBLE than the PENTATEUCH.

But now that you bring it up:
>But from where do you get the idea there are better books than the Bible?

Um... this is a matter of personal opinion I assume so I could GET THE IDEA from my own head and from what I like.

If we were to speak of the MOST INFLUENTIAL books in history the Bible would obviously be at (or near) the top.

MKR said...

No One: What do you mean there are better books? [. . .] Do you have another example of some book some other great civilization has been built on? Some other book that speaks to the heights and depths of a human being?

Shilton: If we were to speak of the MOST INFLUENTIAL books in history the Bible would obviously be at (or near) the top.

Exactly. No One (awkward name to use!) conflates influence with excellence. Granted, a text must have some richness in the first place to serve the sort of role that the Torah has served in the history of civilization. But a text may be rich in many ways while also abounding in faults (inconsistencies, redundancies, obscurities, irrelevancies, etc.). Once a text has been accorded the status of sacred scripture, then it becomes a matter of dogma that it is perfect. Its expositors will go to any length necessary to explain away its faults, and any counterarguments will be disparaged as showing only the blindness (or worse) of the fault-finders. It is not surprising that after centuries and even millennia of this sort of treatment, many people come to believe that there is no text so excellent.

no one said...

There are some books that are influential because they are deep not the other way around. Freud is influential/ but is he deep or shallow?
Nietzsche is deep. Plato is deep. The Bible is deep. Rebbi Nachman is deep. Once you get on that level of greatness then I am out of my depth. But the Bible is deep, not just influential.

no one said...

By the way it is hard to find a writer as shallow as Marx and yet have the world is still based on his doctrines. The left just to get somebody on their side had to go to Freud and others to put some artificial flavor into the capital--the most influential mist shallow book ever written. Hey he could just have said in one that he likes Hegel and advices everyone to learn Hegel minus the depth and rigor and God.

Shilton HaSechel said...

I think "deep and shallow" are somewhat undefined and are ultimately value judgments.

What do YOU mean by "deep and shallow"

no one said...

Yes it is just my feeling that there are certain great books that have the quality of speaking to the depths and heights of a human being. Basically I mean by deep some dimension that deals with some of the hidden dimensions of man in a first hand way.
Also I did not mean to put Freud into the shallow place but into a middle region. But after all he was borrowing from Nietzsche and William James anyway. He just dressed it in a respectable scientific way.

Shalmo said...

I am always amazed by the final sermon of Moses to the Jewish people

"Take this Book of the Law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God. There it will remain as a witness against you. 27 For I know how rebellious and stiff-necked you are. If you have been rebellious against the LORD while I am still alive and with you, how much more will you rebel after I die! 28 Assemble before me all the elders of your tribes and all your officials, so that I can speak these words in their hearing and call heaven and earth to testify against them. 29 For I know that after my death you are sure to become utterly corrupt and to turn from the way I have commanded you. In days to come, disaster will fall upon you because you will do evil in the sight of the LORD and provoke him to anger by what your hands have made."

from Devarim/Deuteronomy 31

If we were destined to be failures from the start why bother giving us the Torah? And if we are a failure then why bother still following this religion?

Shalmo said...

One of the first reasons I started questioning Judaism was on the afterlife. The Tanakh has almost nothing to say about it, while it true certain books such as Daniel or Nehemiah seem to speak on it, other books such as the book of Job and Ecclesiastes explicitly deny any afterlife.

The Torah is said to be the central revelation of God to the Jewish people. You may note that there is absolutely nothing in it that is ethereal, there is no mention of a soul, or a heaven, or even any sort of afterlife.

For following or disobeying YHWH always we are given immediate, concrete physical rewards and punishments. See Lev. 26:3-9, Deut. 11:3-5 or the entire detailed list of rewards and punishments in Deut. 28. It is striking that in all this meticulously detailed list, absolutely nothing is said on a heaven or hell.

In fact Deut. 28 is what sealed the deal for me on this issue. Remember its not what people tell you, rather its what they don't tell you that really matters! No where in the Torah is anything on an after life mentioned, and yet Deut. 28 provides an extremely detailed set of ordinances of rewards and punishments. Why? Duh, because there was no afterlife here. This is why the rewards and punishments are so detailed. If there was an afterlife, then they could have just mentioned heaven and hell as deterants to follow YHWH's will. Instead the only deterrants to follow YHWH's will are physical rewards and punishments. Hope I am making sense!

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