Sunday, May 6, 2012

Could The Torah Have Been Written Down By Moses

Could The Torah Have Been Written Down By Moses
Question: The Torah, written before the Jews entered Israel, mentions the city of Dan, which was only settled years later.
Answer -
Additionally, Zeligman dismisses the explanation of many Rishonim (medieval bible commentaries) that the verse was stated in a prophetic sense and was referencing the city that would be eventually called Dan. Their explanation, however, is not

unreasonable, since we believe that the lottery that split up Israel amongst the tribes was done in a prophetic way. See Bava Basra 117B.
Question: Exodus 16:35 states that the Jews ate the Manna until entering the land of Israel. The past tense ate would indicate that the verse was written after the Jews entered Israel after the giving of the Torah and Moses death.
Answer - One can say that Exodus 16:35 was given by Moses to the Jews right before before his death, when they would enter Israel. They understood that when they would enter and the Manna would stop falling as G-d had told them. The verse is written in past tense because that entire section is written in past tense and while the Jews may not have understood it in past tense prior to their entry into Israel, past tense is how the vast majority of Jews would understand it throughout history.
Question: On the position of R’ Shimon in Bava Basra 15 regarding the last 8 verses of the Torah. R’ Yehoshua posits that Joshua wrote them, while R’ Shimon states that Moses wrote them “bidemah,” which is usually translated to mean “in tears.” Vilna Gaon in Divrei Eliyahu explains that the Torah’s letters can be written in the same order but split up into different words. (Nachmanides states the same in his intro to Torah.) The word “bidemah” is similar to the word dimuah which means “in a mixture.” That is, Moses wrote the letters in the same order but formed them into different words. The current format of the words was rearranged by someone else. Zeligman wants to know who that was and what right did he have to rearrange the letters of the Torah that Moses wrote.
Zeligman was lazy here, for had he bothered to look up the Vilna Gaon in Divrei Eliyahu directly, he would see that the Gaon states that the one who rearranged Moses original wording was none other than Joshua. Thus R’ Shimon and R’ Yehoshua in Talmud Bava Batra are not arguing. Rather, they both agree that Joshua was involved in the last 8 Torah verses. (The concept that arguments on homiletics in the Talmud are not necessarily arguments, but rather two aspects of an idea can be found in Michtav M’Eliyahu 2 commentary on Rosh Hashanah. Gittin 6B seems to indicate the same idea.)

Regarding the Ibn Ezra’s position of Joshua’s authorship of certain verses in the Torah.

In Gen 12:6, Ibn Ezra seeks to explain why the Torah states, "And the Canaanites were then in the land." Then as opposed to now. He speaks of a 'sod' - secret, that would explain the verse. In Deut 1:2 Ibn Ezra states: And if you understand the secret of the twelve, also "Moses wrote" (Deuteronomy 31:22), "and the Canaanite[s] were then in the land" (Genesis 12:6), "on God's mountain, he will be seen" (Genesis 22:14), also "Behold, his bed was made of iron" (Deuteronomy 3:11), you will recognize the truth. The Tzafnas Paneach states that this is referring to the last twelve verses of Torah, of which Yehoshua and not Moshe, wrote. This is in contradistinction to the gemara Bava Basra which states that Yeshoshu merely wrote the last 8 verses. According to Tzafnas Paneach, the Ibn Ezra is indicating that certain Torah verses may have been inserted after Moshe. (It should be noted that the Ramban does not understand the Ibn Ezra this way.) This includes the last 12 verses of the Torah. (Also see Chasam Sofer Al Hatorah Deut 34:1) Ibn Ezra (Deut 34:6) states that these last 12 verses may have been inserted by Yehoshua in the end of his days. In Deut 1:2, . Thus, according to Tzafnas Paneach, Ibn Ezra seems to allow for later insertion by Yehoshua of certain verses in the Torah.

It must be noted that even from a simple reading of Gen 12:6, we need not come to Ibn Ezra's conclusion (according to Tzafnas Paneach). Ibn Ezra seems to use the following idea. The verse states: "And Avraham passed through the land, until the place of Shechem, until the plain of Moreh, and the Canaanites were then in the land." The words "and the Canaanites were then in the land," seems to imply that the Canaanites were then, but not now, in Eretz Yisroel. This would only be true if the verse was written by Yehoshua in the end of his days when the Canaanites had largely been driven from Eretz Yisroel, but not given to Moshe in the desert, since at that time, there still were Canaanites in Eretz Yisroel. However, Rav Yaakov Yosef Reinman, in "One People: Two Worlds," page 88, shows from the Judges 13;21 and from the Ibn Ezra himself in Gen 49:4 that the word "az" does not only mean "then" but also "from then." So the Torah may be stating, "The Canaanites were from then in the land" - indicating that they were still there at the time that the Torah was written. This would seem to negate the need to say that Yehoshua inserted these words and still maintain that they were always a part of Toras Hashem, as given to and written down by Moshe. It seems that this was the first way Ibn Ezra understood the verse when he stated, "It's possible that Canaan took the Land of Canaan from others."

Some have claimed that Ibn Ezra allows for insertion of verses into the Torah even after Yehoshua, but that seems to contradict the very words of Ibn Ezra to Genesis 36:31. Ibn Ezra quotes a Karaite named Yitzchaki who claims that the section of the Torah at the end of Vayishlach was inserted into the Torah text during the time of Jehoshaphat. Ibn Ezra writes:“Yitzchaki [not Rashi] wrote in his book that this passage was written in the time of Jehoshaphat and explained the generations as he wished. This is why his name is Yitzchak because whoever hears this will laugh [yitzachak] at him... G-d forbid, G-d forbid that the matter should be as he said about the time of Jehoshaphat. His book should be burned.” Regarding the alleged opinion of Rabbeinu Yehuda Hachasid about post Mosaic authorship of certain portions of Torah, see

An explanation of Ibn Ezra’s opinion would seem to be in order since we normally understand that Moshe was the only one who wrote the Torah from G-d. 

Chida (Shem Ha-Gedolim, part 1, alef 89), asserts that the "Secret of the 12" concept of the Ibn Ezra was actually inserted by his students.

I once asked an eminent Talmud Chacham how he understands Ibn Ezra's position (according to Tzafnas Paneach) regarding the "Secret of the 12" and he replied, "Yehoshua is unique: he was the bridge between Moshe and the rest of Torah.” His response is unclear but I believe that he was referring to Bava Basra 75 which states “the face of Moshe resembled the sun (in its radiance), while the face of Yehoshua (only) resembled the moon.” That is, Yehoshua was an extension of Moshe and could be directed by G-d to insert certain small things into the Torah text.

Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb added that Meshech Chochmah in his introduction to Shmos shows that Yehoshua's prophecy was on a higher level than other prophets and was, in some way, similar to that of Moshe. According to Rabbi Gottlieb, it is reasonable to say that the Ibn Ezra held that Moshe (prophetically) instructed Yehoshua to insert these verses at the time that they would occur.

Another explanation of Ibn Ezra's opinion is that of Rav Shlomo Luria, (one of the greatest authorities of the 16th century) in his introduction to Yam Shel Shlomo to Bava Kamma. He mentions a tradition that Ibn Ezra would often publicly state that his interpretations of the Bible were often done without consideration for Rabbinic tradition. In other words, Ibn Ezra was interpreting the simple meaning of the verse as he saw it.  

In summation, Ibn Ezra's understanding of a later insertion of some phrases into the Torah is unclear at most. To assert that Ibn Ezra allows for anyone other than Yehoshua to insert verses into the Torah would seem to contradict Ibn Ezra's own position.
For those that wish to compare Ibn Ezra's position to that allegedly held by R' Yehuda Hachasid, see 

The Scripture's prophecies -- proof of Divine supervision?

Question - Why it is that we don't see a bumper crop in the 6th year, even for farmers keeping shmittah - the sabbatical year, as the Torah promises in Leviticus 25:21? Even in Sanhedrin 26 Rav Yannai allowed farmers to plant on shmittah in order to pay the Roman tax?
I have heard an answer that today Shmittah is A Rabbinic commandment and the Torah’s 6th year bumper crop guarantee is only when shmittah is kept from a Torah based requirement (d’ oraysah) but there are opinions (e.g. Kesef Mishna Perek 9 Hil Shmitin V'yovlos) who maintain that shmittah is d'oraysah today?
See the Chazon Ish Laws of Shmittah 18:4 which states that 6th year bumper crop guarantee is only for when the majority is keeping shmittah properly. However, if the majority of Jews in Israel are not keeping it properly, then even the individual who is keeping it might be badly affected economically because of his neighbor's sins. As Rabbi Yosef Reinman put it “The triple bounty would not be the result of some magical manifestation but rather of an especially good harvest year with plentiful rainfall and everything else being just right. Therefore, the blessing would only manifest itself if all the people kept Shemmitah. Otherwise, you would have to have triple rainfall on one person’s field and normal rainfall on another person’s field. Hashem avoids such overt miracles. (E.g. Exodus 14:21 An east wind blew all night before the sea split.) The blessing was, therefore, promised to the collective of Klal Yisrael rather than to individual farmers. This seems reasonable, since the Shmittah commandment is one which was communal in nature. Indeed Leviticus 26: 34 - 35 (see Rashi there) makes it clear that the Jews will end up being punished for 70 years in exile for the shmittah’s that they were lax in. Of the 890 years the Jews spent in the land of Israel before the Babylonian exile, they were lax in shmittah in almost half of those years.
For a more in depth treatment of this subject, see Hebrew University Professor Benny Brown’s “Hachazon Ish,” Hebrew University Magnes Press 2011, Pages 123 - 125.
Also see the following
The truth is that even today we still do see some of the shmittah miracle. Below are some eyewitness accounts of miracles occurring to those scrupulously observing shmittah:

Issue - The Euphrates and the conquest of Israel. "Every place where your feet tread will be yours, from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river -- the river of Euphrates -- even unto the uttermost sea your border will be. Nobody will stand before you; the Lord your G-d will impose the fear of you and the dread of you upon all the land where you tread, as He had spoke to you" (Deuteronomy 11:24-25) Zeligman asks that the Jews never conquered  all of Israel (see the book of Judges) and they never conquered the banks of the Euphrates. Furthermore, it took the Jews a full 7 years to conquer the Canaanite kings.
Answer - Zeligman really shows his lack of knowledge of the bible on this one.

  • That the Jews never conquered all of Israel was something given over to their own free will. They were supposed to do so but didn’t and were punished for it as is evident from the first two chapters in Judges. The verses in Deut. 11 24 - 25 were said in the context of the Jews own effort in conquering the land.
  • Euphrates: See Samuel II 8:3 and Chronicles I 18:3 where it is evident that King David did indeed conquer the land near the Euphrates. Furthermore, it is evident from the books of Samuel and Kings that David and Solomon were the dominant kingdom in the civilised world at the time and it is not unreasonable to say that since the kings of the time were subservient to them, that is akin to conquering those lands.
  • 7 years to conquer Israel. It is no surprise that it took so long because G-d stated this explicitly in Deut 7:22 “And the Lord, your God, will drive out those nations from before you, little by little. You will not be able to destroy them quickly, lest the beasts of the field outnumber you.”

Ezekiel’s prophecies of destruction of Tyre and Egypt. Chapters 26 and 29
Zeligman asks the famous question on Ezekiel 26’s prophecy of destruction of the city of Tyre. He alleges that Tyre was never destroyed and it remains a city till today. Secondly, Ezekiel 29:18 seems to indicate that Ezekiel himself states that Nebuchadnezzar's army never despoiled Tyre thus indicating that Ezekiel 26 was a failed prophecy. He pooh poohs Rashi’s explanation of this verse which states that Nebuchadnezzar’s army destroyed Tyre and then the sea flooded away all of the spoils. Zeligman then posits that Ezekiel's prophecy of Egypt’s destruction by Nebuchadnezzar’s army 29: 19 - 21, also never came true.
Answer: See Malbim Ezekiel 26:14 which explains that which the prophet states “You [Tyre] will be built no more,” to mean that it will not be built in the same spot. Interestingly, the following well researched article shows that there were two Tyre’s originally (one on the mainland and one was an island about ⅓ of a mile offshore, which was joined together by Alexander the Great’s engineers) and the mainland one was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. The island one was not. According to HJ Katzenstein 1997 The History of Tyre, second ed. Beersheba: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, mainland Tyre eventually disappeared. This seems to confirm the Malbim’s explanation. As for Rashi’s explanation of 29:18 (that Tyre was flooded from the sea and washed away Nebuchadnezzar’s spoils), had Zeligman bothered to examine the text closely he would have seen that Rashi was merely explaining that verse as the fulfilment of Ezekiel 26:19 which states “when [I] bring up the deep upon you, and the abundant waters cover you.” This is not a far fetched way to “save” the prophecy, but rather a proper textual analysis.
As for Zeligman’s assertion that Nebuchadnezzar never conquered Egypt; As stated in the archaeology section, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” So unless Zeligman knows that there was no conquest, we can compare it to William the Conqueror’s 1066 conquest of England and the Persian conquest of Babylon in 539 BCE, both of which left no physical evidence and are only known about through literary sources. 

Prophecies which do not Materialize
Zeligman asks, “in the Tosfot's (Yevamos 50A Teda) opinion, a factor rather external to a prophecy is able to make the prophecy fail -- and this, of course, makes the Torah's words about checking whether a prophet is true or not entirely meaningless. If a prophet's prediction fails, the failure can always be attributed to some external factor -- that somebody sinned so his days were shortened and therefore he did not manage to sire the person needed for the prophecy's fulfillment, or anything of that kind. And so prophecy, one of the main issues of our faith, turns into a product subject to a host of external spiritual factors. Hence, it would seem beyond any objective verification and not capable of proving anything.”
Answer - Indeed there are numerous places where prophecies may go unfulfilled. Jonah prophecy about the destruction of Ninveh is one example. Even when G-d promises Abraham that he will have a son who will inherit him, Abraham is fearful that he may sin and G-d’s guarantee will be nullified. See Ramban Genesis 15:6, 15:7 and the same regarding Jacob in Ramban Gen 28:20 and in other places. A similar ides is found in Midrash Bereishis Rabbah 76:2. Ramban Genesis 12:6 states that we don’t assume a prophecy will be guaranteed to be fulfilled unless the prophet does an action to express the prophecy’s actualization.
So how do we really know who is a true prophet? This is explained by Maimonides Laws of Torah Foundations 7:6 - “Not everyone who performs signs or wonders should be accepted as a prophet: only a person who is known to be fit for prophecy beforehand; i.e., his wisdom and his [good] deeds surpass those of all his contemporaries. If he follows the paths of prophecy in holiness, separating himself from worldly matters, and afterwards performs a sign or wonder and states that he was sent by God, it is a mitzvah to listen to him, as [Deuteronomy 18:15] states: "Listen to him." It is possible that a person will perform a sign or wonder even though he is not a prophet - rather, the wonder will have [another cause] behind it. It is, nevertheless, a mitzvah to listen to him. Since he is a wise man of stature and fit for prophecy, we accept [his prophecy as true], for so have we been command. [To give an example of a parallel:] We are commanded to render a [legal] judgment based on the testimony of two witnesses. Even though they may testify falsely, since we know them to be acceptable [as witnesses], we presume that they [are telling the truth]. Considering these matters and the like, [Deuteronomy 29:28] states: "The hidden matters are for God, our Lord, but what is revealed is for us and our children," and [I Samuel 16:7] states: "Man sees what is revealed to the eyes, but God sees into the heart."
The truth is that the entire issue is discussed in the Talmud Sanhedrin 89b which states that any prophecy which one prophet receives is also heard by other prophets, so the prophecies can be cross checked. See here for further explanation: