Author Topic: Yehudi>Medaber>Chai>Tzomeach>Domem?  (Read 16599 times)

Offline Aaaron

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Re: Yehudi>Medaber>Chai>Tzomeach>Domem?
« Reply #375 on: November 12, 2015, 10:50:27 AM »
I think I understand where my disconnect with aaaron is.

According to your alternate reality, at some point, someone would had to have sold the idea that 1 million people experienced yitziyas mitrayim and har sinai.

I refuse to believe that anyone would accept such an account from one or a few people for the simple reason that there would have to be more people who knew about the event.

Is it possible? I guess, but to me that's a much greater leap than actually believing that the event occurred and was passed down for generations.

So who is the bigger maamin...

I understand and respect that.

Have you even read what I wrote and repeated over and over again?

Yes, you're harping on the multiple people thing.  Which I am positing is irrelevant.  You're clearly not understanding what I'm suggesting may have happened; it has nothing to do with the masses being lied to.

I think this book does http://www.amazon.com/Permission-Receive-Lawrence-Kelemen/dp/1568710992/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1447300222&sr=1-2&keywords=permission+to+believe
The 1 star comments though put up some decent arguments

Interesting.  And that leads to a much clearer and comprehensive discussion of the alternative that I'm attempting (quite poorly, seemingly) to put forth.  Warning:  very long.

http://larrytanner.blogspot.com/2010/07/definitively-refuting-kuzari-principle.html
Quote
The Kuzari Principle holds that some events cannot be invented or hoaxed because they have an unforgettable character and have occurred before a massive public. Accordingly, biblical miracles such as "manna from heaven"--a repeated occurrence--and the revelation at Sinai are too exceptional and visible to be anything but true because it would be impossible to fabricate or fake them and get people to believe. If someone tried to introduce a national unforgettable story, people would speak up and say, "that's not true!"

In this third and final installment on Kuzari (a temporary break from blogging on Walt Whitman), I will explain why the Kuzari claim ultimately fails to make a compelling case for the truth of the Torah's miracles: Kuzari addresses a simplistic and weak form of culture and myth formation, and it specially pleads for belief as an indicator of a story's truth. To be clear, I'm not "disproving" or attempting to disprove Judaism here. However, I am disputing (and, I think, refuting) the idea that Kuzari provides a sound basis for accepting the miracle claims of the Torah as true.

Here's the most cogent modern statement of Kuzari, by Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb:
in modern language the principle that the Kuzari uses is as follows. I beg you to look at it, hear it, and pay close attention to all of its details. Let E be a possible event which, had it really occurred, would have left behind enormous, easily available evidence of its occurrence. If the evidence does not exist, people will not believe that E occurred. [Emphasis in original]
Gottlieb also has a supplementary argument related to Kuzari:
Suppose A invents a story about a national unforgettable and tries to convince B that it happened. Suppose further that B and his nation do not remember the event, and A gives no explanation why the event would not be remembered. Then B will not believe the story. [Emphasis in original]
Let's use the revelation at Mount Sinai as our case in point for Kuzari. The following passage, from Chabad rabbi Tzvi Freeman, demonstrates the use of Kuzari to argue that Sinai must be true:
The evidence [for Sinai] is as follows: Universally, there is a single account of how the Jewish people received the Torah. It states that on the sixth day of the third month of the year 2448 from Creation, an entire nation full of dissidents and skeptics gathered at the foot of a mountain in the Sinai Desert and witnessed how G-d spoke with Moses. Rather overwhelmed by the experience, they asked Moses to kindly fetch all the details of what exactly G-d would like from them and report on it. Which he did, over a period of forty years wandering in the desert. Moses also charged the people to keep multiple copies of the written record, which they did, and so we have many copies of that record to this day.

Here is the proposed most likely explanation of the existence of this record: Someone made up the whole story. Someone else later wrote it down. A third individual put it together with other manuscripts, and the entire nation conspired to agree that it had actually happened. They agreed to agree on only one version of how it had happened, eradicating any trace of dissent.

Basically, a conspiracy theory. This time, involving huge numbers of people over a very long period of time.
Let's be clear about what Freeman calls the evidence: it's the Torah report (see below). So we essentially have only one account of the Sinai story. Most everything else in Freeman's argument comes from his traditional reading of that one account, from the quarrelsome nature of the people to the charge for multiple copies. So, our evidence for Sinai is this and only this: a single surviving report of an event that purportedly occurred over 4450 years ago in a desert wilderness before one people.

Freeman uses rhetorical spin to make this evidence seem more credible and stronger than it really is. Freeman also uses spin to downplay and, in my opinion, misrepresent the alternative explanation. Gottlieb's second syllogism is a version of this same misrepresentation. If I may summarize, both Freeman and Gottlieb claim that "The proposed most likely explanation of the existence of this record" is a sudden fabrication of an incredible story; that is, the Torah records a story that a person made up at some definite point in time, a story that was taken to be true then and there. But this is not the alternative position. Someone did not make up the Sinai story complete and unalterable at one time, for this is a modern sense of how stories are made and circulated. It was more like many people communally developing and interpreting back-stories for already existing rituals and practices. Gottlieb's A and B scenario above is simply inaccurate and irrelevant. The Sinai story was not a conspiracy but the ongoing evolution of culture. And it was not just the evolution of culture but the evolution of cultural texts.

This evolution is described by the Documentary Hypothesis, the modern form of which emerges from seven types of evidence: (1) the Hebrew language of different periods in the Torah, (2) the use and quantity of terms in the different sources, (3) consistent content (such as the revelation of God's name, (4) the narrative flow of each source, (5) the connection between parts of the Torah and other parts of the Bible, (6) the relationships of the sources to each other and to history, and (7) the convergence of the different lines of evidence. According to the Documentary Hypothesis, the Torah as we have it today develops from early oral and written sources that coagulated into four main sources--J, E, P, and D. Between 922 BCE and 400 BCE, the four sources were compiled and woven together to produce the Torah.

As to the Sinai story itself, well, the claim of its exceptional nature starts to diminish upon scrutiny. National revelation is not unique to the Torah or to Jews. The Aztecs have a national revelation story. Some Christians claim that the revelation of Jesus happened before the nation of Israel and thus qualifies as a national revelation just as much as Sinai. It is also untrue to say "there is a single account of how the Jewish people received the Torah." There is, after all, the Samaritan Torah, the Septuagint, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Torah's unbroken chain of transmission is dubious also, as evidenced by the missing and superfluous letters in the Torah portion Vayigash (Gen. 44:18-47:27). Plus, the Bible itself tells of missing links in the chain of transmission, as in the days of King Josiah (2 Kings 22-23) and again in the days of Ezra.

Although we have no information available to help us corroborate and understand the driving reality of the specific events of the Torah account, we know that religions can emerge gradually and do not necessarily need individual founders or foundational events. This point is made by looking at Hinduism. Shintoism, Asatru, Druidism, and the ancient religions of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece. We actually do have, therefore, some knowledge of surrounding cultures in the same approximate time periods. Furthermore, we have some knowledge about how the Bible was assembled. Whether one agrees with the Documentary Hypothesis or not, one must acknowledge that is provides an empirically-based explanation for the history and relationship of different elements in the Bible. The person who prefers Kuzari thus chooses a weak and indirect logical argument over an argument developed using empirical data. We also have scientific knowledge of the real workings of the natural and social world – and this knowledge leads us to see the truth as being ever less likely as portrayed in ancient religions.

What about the logical proofs offered by Gottlieb to explain Kuzari? These also wither under scrutiny. Let's look at Gottlieb's main syllogism:

(1) Let E be a possible event: Why are we assuming that an event--any event--actually happened? Whether the event really happened is what we are trying to figure out! We also need to clarify the parameters of "possible," as I don't grant automatically that a god appearing to the multitude is itself a possible event. Finally, notice how we begin here with an event, something empirical, but then move in #2 to something that could be empirical or subjective, and end up in #3 with a purely subjective belief. With every step, the reasoning takes us away from the empirical.

(2) had it really occurred, would have left behind enormous, easily available evidence of its occurrence: What is meant by evidence? If I tell you something and you tell your brother, is your tale considered "evidence"? What's meant by "enormous" and "easily available"? I am not engaging in sophistry by asking that the vital terms of an important argument be made with the utmost clarity and specificity. I have little problem with the phrasing of the principle on its own, but when we apply the principle to Sinai, we need to have the key terms mapped unambiguously to details of the story. When we're talking about Sinai, the fact is that we don't have good evidence and we don't have enormous and easily available evidence. We basically now have only the Torah. If the only evidence is testimony and/or social memory, then the evidence is poor: it doesn't bring us to the truth of what the event might actually have been.

(3) If the evidence does not exist, people will not believe that E occurred: This is ultimately the money statement of Kuzari, the assertion that people won't believe just anything. Some claims are so extraordinary that people will demand to see the evidence, the assertion says. In this way, Jewish belief is supposed to be proof of Jewish belief--hence, we go around in a circle. But the big flaw in much Kuzari-based reasoning on Sinai is the assumption that the story appears suddenly, as if the story itself were specially created by a god and placed in a culture that also was largely static. Claims evolve and societies evolve--both are dynamic.

The evolutionary nature of both stories and societies thus undermines Kuzari's premises. This evolutionary development is extremely plausible and very well attested. I am not here proposing that a band of actual pre-Jews were stupefied before a real volcano (for instance), and that this event was the true and singular origin of the Torah's revelation story. Indeed, if Kuzari were right, then the Torah would the one and only instance in human history of a cultural text emerging fully formed and never, ever changing across the centuries. I am instead proposing that the existence of the Torah report and that the traditional Jewish interpretation are not and never were necessarily credible as evidence. And, crucially, I am proposing that that people don't necessarily need evidence--good or otherwise--to believe the truth (factual or literary) of a story. See, for example, a recent article on how facts can backfire:
Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.
The final sentences of the above quote speak eloquently to why people champion Kuzari despite its mismatch with reality and history. For many, accepting Kuzari's limitations would admit doubts in their personal beliefs. Accepting Kuzari's shortcomings would upset the ordered and imposed world of Jewish theology. They defend Kuzari because it's intuitively understandable, rather like "great man" thinking applied to miraculous events. Kuzari supports an illusion people can afford to have and often feel like they cannot afford to live without.

Finally, to close Sinai and Kuzari together, we should examine the relevant Torah passage, where the direct interaction of God occurs unambiguously only with Moses, and perhaps also with Aaron:
Chapter 19: 17-25
17. Moses brought the people out toward God from the camp, and they stood at the bottom of the mountain. 18. And the entire Mount Sinai smoked because the Lord had descended upon it in fire, and its smoke ascended like the smoke of the kiln, and the entire mountain quaked violently. 19. The sound of the shofar grew increasingly stronger; Moses would speak and God would answer him with a voice. 20. The Lord descended upon Mount Sinai, to the peak of the mountain, and the Lord summoned Moses to the peak of the mountain, and Moses ascended. 21. The Lord said to Moses, "Go down, warn the people lest they break [their formation to go nearer] to the Lord, and many of them will fall. 22. And also, the priests who go near to the Lord shall prepare themselves, lest the Lord wreak destruction upon them." 23. And Moses said to the Lord, "The people cannot ascend to Mount Sinai, for You warned us saying, Set boundaries for the mountain and sanctify it." 24. But the Lord said to him, "Go, descend, and [then] you shall ascend, and Aaron with you, but the priests and the populace shall not break [their formation] to ascend to the Lord, lest He wreak destruction upon them." 25. So Moses went down to the people and said [this] to them.

Chapter 20: 1-18
1. God spoke all these words, to respond: 2. "I am the Lord, your God, Who took you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3. You shall not have the gods of others in My presence. 4. You shall not make for yourself a graven image or any likeness which is in the heavens above, which is on the earth below, or which is in the water beneath the earth. 5. You shall neither prostrate yourself before them nor worship them, for I, the Lord, your God, am a zealous God, Who visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the sons, upon the third and the fourth generation of those who hate Me, 6. and perform loving kindness to thousands [of generations], to those who love Me and to those who keep My commandments. 7. You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain, for the Lord will not hold blameless anyone who takes His name in vain. 8. Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it. 9. Six days may you work and perform all your labor, 10. but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord, your God; you shall perform no labor, neither you, your son, your daughter, your manservant, your maidservant, your beast, nor your stranger who is in your cities. 11. For [in] six days the Lord made the heaven and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and sanctified it. 12. Honor your father and your mother, in order that your days be lengthened on the land that the Lord, your God, is giving you. 13. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 14. You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, his manservant, his maidservant, his ox, his donkey, or whatever belongs to your neighbor." 15. And all the people saw the voices and the torches, the sound of the shofar, and the smoking mountain, and the people saw and trembled; so they stood from afar. 16. They said to Moses, "You speak with us, and we will hear, but let God not speak with us lest we die." 17. But Moses said to the people, "Fear not, for God has come in order to exalt you, and in order that His awe shall be upon your faces, so that you shall not sin." 18. The people remained far off, but Moses drew near to the opaque darkness, where God was.
When we look at the biblical passage above, and we must remember that we read it in translation, we see that the nature of the interaction between God and Israel is hardly so remarkable as Kuzari might otherwise lead us to believe. With Moses and then Aaron seemingly as the sole exceptions, all Israel keeps its distance from Sinai and remains “far off.” The people see smoke and feel shaking, as if they are before a volcano. What did Israel hear? Certainly, they heard the shofar. What of God did they hear? Only sound. Moses later reminds Israel that when they encountered God at Sinai, “You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice” (Deuteronomy 4:12).

While Jewish tradition has maintained that God spoke the first two commandments directly to Israel (but see Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, II.33), this seems to be an interpretation that is not explicit in the text itself. In abject fear and standing from afar, Israel pleads to Moses, "You speak with us, and we will hear, but let God not speak with us lest we die." We might suppose that the Israelites actually hear nothing directly from God, if we accept the speaking Moses as being literal:
The Lord spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire, while I stood between the Lord and you at that time to declare to you the word of the Lord; for you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up into the mountain. He said, "I am the Lord your God . . ." (Deuteronomy 5:4-6; emphasis added)
In this regard, the biblical claim of God's direct interaction with Israel is like later miracle accounts, such as the risen Jesus appearing to a few followers. The singularity of Sinai, in other words, may be highly exaggerated.

The Sinai event also has analogues and precursors in the theme of establishing a social and ethical contract between ruler and ruled. In the ancient Near East, we have the law codes of Ur-Namma of Ur (ruled 2112 to 2095 BCE), Lipit-Ishtar (1930 BCE), Eshnunna (1770 BCE), Hammurabi (1750 BCE), and other kings. Of course, the biblical claim appears unique in having God authorize the laws, but in practical terms Moses actually is the one who issues the laws. God is identified as their source and authority, but Moses is the vehicle for their presentation to Israel. And their presentation is that of a suzerain treaty (or vassal treaty), whose form pre-dates the Decalogue:

(a) Self-identification of the speaker.

(b) Historical prologue.

(c) Treaty stipulations.

(d) Provisions for making the provisions of the treaty public.

(e) Mention of the gods.

(f) Blessings and curses.

Thus, neither the Sinai event nor the laws purported to have been given at that time seem to represent anything of radical uniqueness or difference. This is, of course, assuming there was some such event. I remain unconvinced that there was. As a modern and skeptical reader, I hear in the Exodus passages above a rhetorical ploy to justify the need for rabbis and priests. The passages appear to me as a politicized re-telling of a pre-existing story or stories. I realize that this hypothesis leaves open the questions of what earlier versions of the story might have been and what real events may possibly have been captured in any of the story’s versions. Nevertheless, the Kuzari claim of the Sinai legend’s unique, uniform, and unified voice--this claim is shattered.

In the end, Kuzari fails to prove Sinai, Torah, and Judaism because it misunderstands reality and history. It is a projection of itself onto the human cultural landscape. It specially pleads that IT succeeds where every other miracle claim fails, just as every apologist today claims that HER or HIS RELIGION is not the like the religion criticized by the New Atheists.

Offline aygart

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Re: Yehudi>Medaber>Chai>Tzomeach>Domem?
« Reply #376 on: November 12, 2015, 10:51:29 AM »
Nu answers to the comment? You brought it up. I gave some possible answers in bold. Don't have tome right now to do more. If anyone wants to add...

I can think of some but others are pretty good questions:

1. The Torah itself states that the Israelites did NOT witness the revelation. They only saw the "thunderings and the lightnings and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking" but were too afraid to witness the actual revelation, and thus "they stood afar off and said to Moses, 'You speak to us, and we will hear; but let not God speak to us, lest we die'" and this is what in fact happened according to Exodus 20. The Jews did not witness God speaking to Moses. Moses spoke with God alone, and then passed on His word to the people. This is repeated in Deuteronomy 5: "I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to declare unto you the word of the Lord; for you were afraid because of the fire, and went not up into the mount".

A. They did hear the first 2, and there are other stories like the exodus story that they did all witness.

2. If it is true that the entire Jewish nation witnessed God giving the Torah, why have the Jews, according to the Biblical story (Exodus 32), turned to worship the Golden Calf the moment they thought Moses was dead? Is it conceivable that a nation that just witnessed God Himself, would turn to worship idols a moment later?

A. If Adam was just created how can he sin in the world? It is a silly question quationing the nature of men and their reasons.
Besides all this, many rishonim write that early avoda zara was the philosophy that an intermediary was needed to relate to Hashem and this may have been the case with the egel as well.
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Offline aygart

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Re: Yehudi>Medaber>Chai>Tzomeach>Domem?
« Reply #377 on: November 12, 2015, 10:54:54 AM »
Yes, you're harping on the multiple people thing.  Which I am positing is irrelevant.  You're clearly not understanding what I'm suggesting may have happened; it has nothing to do with the masses being lied to.
I think I am understanding what you are saying better than you yourself are. The only way the masses were not lied to is if their ancestors were there and trasmitted that to their children. If not then there is both the big and small lie. The small lie that the story happened at all and the big lie that it was transmitted down generation after generation that our ancestors were there.
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Offline aygart

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Re: Yehudi>Medaber>Chai>Tzomeach>Domem?
« Reply #378 on: November 12, 2015, 10:59:58 AM »
3. No extant Jew can provide us with any details about this event not already found in the textbooks. If it's true that 2-3 million people witnessed this event and passed the information on to the following generations, why can't anyone add any additional details to the event? Surely millions of people who witnessed such a momentous event would have their own versions of their testimonies - but none are found. The only existing account is the account found in the Torah, and that is the one passed on. Sure seems like all those who tell that tale, took it from the Torah itself, and have no independent, eye-witness information to relay.

A. The oral tradition was admittedly lost so that makes sense. Just like we don't have oral stories of many things from that time period yet we believe stone carvings from the era, just because there is no oral tradition doesn't discredit a written one.

4. There are countless questions regarding the Exodus and the event on Mount Sinai. For example: Where is Mount Sinai? Which path did the Israelite take from Egypt to Israel (there are two or possibly three distinct versions within the text)? When was the Torah given (there are several possibilities, all of which are full of questions and contradictions)? If millions of people witnessed these events, and faithfully past on the information generation after generation, how come there isn't a single Jew today that can shed light on those questions?

Furthermore, the Talmudic Sages themselves were split on many issues regarding the Giving of the Torah. For instance: which day of the month was the Torah given? Which Hebrew scrip did God use to write the Torah? In what language was the Torah given? How were the tablets written - 5 Commandments on each, 10 Commandments on each, 20 Commandments on each, or 40 Commandments on each. And more. In the Talmud and Medrash, we learn that the Sages tried to settle those questions by interpreting Torah passages. If it is true that there's a faithful eye-witness account of those events, why didn't the Sages simply survey the Jews of their time for their accounts? Surely, if millions of Jews witnessed the event, and passed the information on, some of their descendants would know the answers to those questions. But, of course, the Rabbis didn't do that, because there really ISN'T any such eye-witness account.

A. Again the oral tradition was admittedly lost hence they had to write down many traditions, and in the mishna they argue about those traditions which is why they wrote it down, but no one claims the written tradition was lost. So having questions about the oral tradition does not negate the written one. Also these are people that got lost for 40 years in a relatively small desert and your asking how they don't know where one mountain is? Seriously?
The talmud and midrash are full of what were at one point oral traditions regarding matan torah. The question is why do we not have additional untranscribed oral traditions? Is this question to be taken seriously? The same with there being different opinions within the oral traditions transcribed. Those were oral traditions transcribed 1000 years later. Is it really a question that there were differences in details?
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Offline aygart

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Re: Yehudi>Medaber>Chai>Tzomeach>Domem?
« Reply #379 on: November 12, 2015, 11:18:49 AM »
5. There are TWO versions of the Ten Commandments. Which version did God give? No one knows the answer, even though millions allegedly witnessed that and have faithfully passed on the information.

6. If there ever was such a testimonial chain, it must have been broken. We find much evidence to that even within the Jewish texts. First, in 2 Kings 22-23 we learn that Hilkiah, the high priest, found a Torah scroll in the temple, it was brought to King Josiah, and based on it he enacted various reforms. Among the reforms was keeping Passover, "as it is written in this book of the covenant. For there was not kept such a passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah." This proves that the Bible itself acknowledges that there was a break in the chain of tradition. Likewise, we find in Nehemiah 8, that Ezra read to the people the Torah and they learned how to celebrate Sukkot. They rejoiced as they have not observed the holiday since the days of Joshua.
This is again a case of confusion between the basic story and the details.Just because there were details lost and some groups may not have had the written law without gaps does not mean that there was a break in the oral traditions about the basics. We do see from his own sources that it was more a purge of distortions and omissions than anything else.
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Offline aygart

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Re: Yehudi>Medaber>Chai>Tzomeach>Domem?
« Reply #380 on: November 12, 2015, 11:22:02 AM »
7. Even in modern times we find reports of huge crowds allegedly witnessing impossible things, and there isn't the slightest indication to think these are true accounts. For example, on October 1, 1917 in Portugal, a crowd of 30,000 to 100,000 allegedly witnessed the sun careening towards the earth in a zigzag pattern. The event was attributed by believers to an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to three young shepherd children in 1917. Another event occurred in 1968, in the Zeitoun district of Cairo, Egypt. According to witnesses, the Virgin Mary appeared in different forms over the Church of Saint Mary at Zeitoun for a period of 2-3 years. This was allegedly witnessed by many thousands of people. If such foolishness can be reported in the 20th century, without the slightest shred of evidence, why can't it be reported thousands of years ago, particularly that 3000 years ago people weren't as scientific in their thinking processes and prone to attributing supernatural causes to natural events?
This is answered by the below as I had mentioned previously.
A. They did hear the first 2, and there are other stories like the exodus story that they did all witness.
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Offline aygart

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Re: Yehudi>Medaber>Chai>Tzomeach>Domem?
« Reply #381 on: November 12, 2015, 11:24:13 AM »
8. The premise of this argument is wrong. One can easily conceive a plausible scenario as to how this myth was born and perpetuated into Jewish folklore, just as ALL myths are incorporated into all people's folklore. We need not assume that every parent told the identical story to their children, and thus, if it did not happen, it would have immediately raised a question. Instead, we can imagine a scattered, illiterate people, who formed collective, oral myths, some of which were eventually written down. At some point in history (possibly under Ezra) those myths and laws were codified into one book. This book was passed on, and as the population learned how to read, more and more people told the story that they've read in the book. At some point reading the book became a requirement during the Sabbath services, and thus all participants in the prayers would have heard those stories, and passed them on. Nothing suggests that merely because something is written, and then told on, it must be true.
This does not answer the tradition that everyone was there and heard it which is common to all jews in all disparate locations in the world.
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