Category Archives: Torah

Noah Ark and the Flood

Noah Ark and the Flood in my mind is the ideal case study for all complications in the Bible, in regards to science, theology, history, authorship and morality. Below are some sources that discuss the issue.

Secular/Christian Responses:
-Life-sized’ Noah’s Ark which is being built in Kentucky
Evidence Suggests Noah’s Ark Flood Existed, Says Robert Ballard, Archaeologist Who Found Titanic
Bill Nye vs Ken Ham Debate
National Centre of Science Education: The impossible voyage of Noahs Ark
-Flood Stories from around the world

Torah Responses:
Dealing with the Deluge by Rabbi Slifkin
Did the great Flood really happen and where? by Rabbi Efram Goldberg
– Science in the Flood by Prof Moshe Kave

Torah Musings Blog
The Flood Narrative
The Flood Narrative II
-Bereishit and Allegory
Was there a Noach
Was there a Noach II
-Fossil and Faith

Torah Misinai

One the most discussed and complicated theological topics in contemporary Orthodoxy is the question of Torah MiSinai. Below is a list of sources that I have found online that cover this topic in depth, more to be added soon.  If there is anything I have left out, please provide a link in the comments section.

The Torah.Com
Avraham Avinu is My Father
The Dogma of Torah Mi-Sinai My Personal Struggle with Unreasonable Belief
Torah Min HaShamayim: Conflicts Between Religious Belief and Scientific Thinking
The Significance of Ibn Ezra’s Position that Verses were Added to the Torah
Seven Torah Passages of Non-Mosaic Origin According to Ibn Ezra and R. Joseph Bonfils
Authorship of the Torah: The Position of the Ibn Ezra and Rav Yehuda Hachasid
Must We Have Heretics?
Orthodoxy and the Challenge of Biblical Criticism:
Torah MiSinai and Biblical Criticism: Rising to the Full Challenge: Rabbi Dr. Jeremy Rosen

The Torah,, and the Recent Tumult in Context – by Rabbi Zev Farber
Torah Min Hashamayim: Some Brief Reflections on Classical and Contemporary Models – Guest Post – Rabbi Nati Helfgot
Guest Post by Rav Yitzchak Blau: The Documentary Hypothesis and Orthodox Judaism
Living by the Word of God: By Rabbi Dr Ben Elton

Think Judaism Series: Modern Biblical Scholarship – A Danger to Traditional Belief
Modern Biblical Scholarship – A Danger to Traditional Belief Part 1/
Modern Biblical Scholarship – A Danger to Traditional Belief Part 2
Modern Biblical Scholarship – A Danger to Traditional Belief Part 3
Modern Biblical Scholarship – A Danger to Traditional Belief Part 4
Modern Biblical Scholarship – A Danger to Traditional Belief Part 5

Torah Musings/Rabbi Gil Student
Open Orthodoxy?
Q&A with R. Prof. Joshua Berman
Torah From Heaven
Moshe Is True And His Torah Is True
On the Authorship of the Torah
On the Text of the Torah
On Bible Criticism and Its Counterarguments

Current Jewish Questions, Biblical Criticism and Orthodox Judaism

James Kugel:
Conversation with James Kugel About Revelation Part 1
Conversation with James Kugel About Revelation Part 2
Conversation with James Kugel About Revelation Part 3
Beacon Magazine Interview with James Kugel
Moment Mag – Professor of Disbelief

Ten Questions with the Orthodox Blogger DovBear on Academic Biblical Scholarship
Interview with David M. Carr- Current state of Bible Scholarship
Interview with Benjamin Sommer on Revelation and Authority: Sinai in Jewish –Scripture and Tradition
Interview with Prof. Jacob Wright of Emory University

Tablet Magazine
Reconciling Modern Biblical Scholarship with Traditional Orthodox Belief

Cross Currents
From Openness to Heresy
Torah Min-Hashamayim: A Reply to Rabbi Nati Helfgot

Seforim Blog
Torah mi-Sinai and More by Marc B. Shapiro

Shulem Deen:
-This is how I lost my faith

Mosaic Magazine:
Can Modern Bible Scholarship Be Reconciled with Faith?
Torah from Heaven
Ezra’s Torah
Orthodoxy’s Golden Calf
Ark of the Covenant
Kingdom of Priests
Constructive Criticism
The Law of Moses?
A Reply to My Respondents, and My Friends
The People Saw the Thunder
The Decalogue and the Identity of God
Grammar from Heaven
Rethinking Revelation
What Does the God of Israel Demand?
The Ten Commandments

Hakira Blog:
Hershey Zelcer: Review Essay by Modern Scholarship in the Study of Torah: Contributions and Limitations

James Kugel: How to Read the Bible then and Now
James Kugel: The Kingly Sanctuary
Norman Solomon: Torah from Heaven the Reconstruction of Faith
Louis Jacobs: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
Tamar Ross: Expanding the Palace of Torah: Orthodoxy and Feminism
Mark Zvi Brettler: The Bible and the Believer: How to read the Bible Critically and Religiously
Benjamin D. Sommer: Revelation and Authority: Sinai in Jewish Scripture and Tradition
Shulem Deen: All who go do not return
Orthodox Forum: Modern Scholarship in the Study of Torah
– The Documentary Hypothesis: Umberto Cassutto
Solomon Schimmel: The Tenacity of Unreasonable Beliefs: Fundamentalism and the Fear of Truth

Biblical Criticism: First Thoughts by Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner
-Usefulness and Limitations of Biblical Criticism by Rabbi Yonah Gross

How Not To Deal With Allegations of Impropriety

by Shaya Karlinsky

We have been witness to an increasing number of depressing revelations about Rabbis acting inappropriately towards women they have been counseling or educating. I have no intention of discussing any specific case. I would like to discuss a pattern that is all too common in these cases.

In response to accusations of improper behavior by Rabbis with female students or congregants, lots of well-meaning people come to the defense of the accused. These people will vouch for his tremendous integrity, meticulous observance of all appropriate boundaries in every interaction they ever experienced or witnessed, and the life-changing advice and counseling they or their friends received from the accused. Since, if and when breaches of ethical and Halachic behavior happen, they happen “behind closed doors,” the only way to verify the accusations is for victims to provide detailed testimony of what they claim happened. Frequently, the victims themselves are troubled individuals, or were having some specific emotional crisis which can make them vulnerable to advances from the predator, while compromising their credibility as plaintiffs or witnesses. People can become easily swayed and confused when weighing claims of somewhat unreliable plaintiffs/witnesses against the claims and testimony of obviously well adjusted success stories of said Rabbi’s activities.

I believe the approach is completely mistaken, and a section in the Kli Yakar will give us the correct approach to take in such situations.

At the end of Parshas Ki Teitzei (Devarim 25:13-16) the Torah prohibits holding in one’s possession dishonest weights and measures. The Kli Yakar is bothered by the seeming redundancies and inconsistencies exhibited by the text. The Torah begins by prohibiting holding “large” and “small” weights and measures. It then commands that one have “full and righteous” weights and measures. And the section concludes with the verdict that “It is an abomination before G-d, all who do these, all who act corruptly.”

The simple understanding of “small and large” weights is that the “small” weight is dishonest, used to shortchange customers, as opposed to a “large” one, which would be the honest weight. The problem this raises is that there should only be a prohibition against the “small” dishonest weight! Additionally, the command to have “full” and “righteous” seems redundant. “Full” implies that it is an honest weight, so what is added by the demand that it be “righteous?” Finally, “all who do these” refers to the dishonest use of weights and measures, an obviously criminal activity. So what has the Torah added with “all who act corruptly.”

The Kli Yakar begins his explanation by agreeing that the “large” one refers to an honest weight, and the command of “full and righteous” is the demand that one not only be honest – with a “full” honest weight, not shortchanging his customers – but to be righteous, going “beyond the letter of the law,” providing “a little extra.”

He then references a similar verse in Mishlei (20:10) which has similar textual difficulties that we encounter in our text. “A weight and a weight, a measure and a measure (implying having different sized weights) – an abomination before G-d are also both of them.” If they are both dishonest, why use the language “also?” They are simply both dishonest! Rather, the verse refers to two different weights or measures, one which is honest and one which is dishonest, We are being taught that the honest one is ALSO an abomination, for it is the facilitator that enables the person to get away with cheating customers with the dishonest one. If a storekeeper had a weight with which he was shortchanging a customer, this customer would come home, discover he had received less than what he had paid for, and he would bring the storekeeper to court. The storekeeper might defend himself with the claim that some of the produce must have fallen out of the bag after the customer left the store, or was lost after he got home. But if the court would receive a number of similar complaints it would become apparent that this storekeeper was shortchanging his customers.

What is the “solution?” The storekeeper also maintains an honest set of weights, and many customers are served honestly with them. When a customer who was cheated comes to court to complain, the storekeeper can now defend himself with the claim that the shortage happened after she left the store. And to verify that claim, he offers to bring all the satisfied customers who always received the full amount due them. If the court will send an investigator to check the weight, the storekeeper will show the honest weight, proving that the he does not cheat anyone.

In conclusion, says the Kli Yakar, the honest weight is just as much an abomination as the dishonest weight, for it is the honest weight that enables the criminal to get away with his dishonest dealings.

When a Rabbi or educator is accused of improper behavior of a sexual or abusive nature, character witnesses are irrelevant to verifying whether the accusations are true. All the many people who have been helped in the past in no way undermine the credibility of the accusers. What is important is the specific accusations, whether there is a pattern to those accusations, and whether the accused can properly refute those accusations. If the defendant is being falsely accused by vindictive or unstable women, either the cross examination of the accusers will verify that, or direct testimony to contradict the claims can be provided. If the accusations are credible, if a pattern of improper behavior is verified, if the accused is guilty, then all the people who were helped should have no impact of the conclusions one needs to draw. In fact, his help is revealed to be part of his abominations, empowering him to continue preying on vulnerable and innocent victims. Those he helped are his “honest” measure, enabling him destroy the lives of those he was cheating.

For decades, accusations such as these were not taken as seriously as they needed to be. Many people were damaged by ongoing abusive behavior that was not recognized. It is to the credit of those in the forefront of the fight against this abuse that the trend is being reversed. While no innocent person should be brought down by false accusations of vindictive or troubled women, no guilty person should escape because he kept “honest weights and measures” in his house.

Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky is the Dean and Rosh Yeshiva of Shapell’s/Darche Noam Institutions: Yeshivat Darche Noam/ Shapell’s and the Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya College of Jewish Studies for Women. A native of Los Angeles, California, Rabbi Karlinsky has been in Israel since 1968, where he studied at Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh and the Mirrer Yeshiva in Jerusalem.

A Yom Kippur Message with Rabbi Benji Levy

Lack of Unity is a Chillul Hashem

“Thus the phrase “Israel, is through you that I am proud,” means in the eyes of the other nations. But as the Gemera implies, it is only through their fulfillment of the mitzvos bein adam la’chaveiro (between man and his fellow) that Jews can be boatsful before the gentiles. The gentiles do not scrutinize us to see if we buy high quality tefillin or a beautiful estrog, but rather whether we are truthful in our business dealings. Hence, when the gentiles are immoral and corrupt, it may not require much on our part to be boastful by comparison. However, if the gentiles are themselves ethical and decent people, we must raise our own standards if we are to continue being held up as a paragon of virtue by all the nations of the world. Therefore, it is important that we take notice of any desirable qualities or conduct amongst the gentiles, and take them to heart, since this will likely inspire us to improve our own conduct.

In view of all this, it is incumbent upon us to contemplate and draw the appropriate lessons from a truly troubling phenomenon that we face today. Consider the following: A large city like New York, whose population includes members of almost every nationality on earth – people of different faiths, different views, and even different appearances – has nevertheless managed through its own wisdom to institute order and unity among all its inhabitants, with equal rights for each and every individual, a single school system for all its children, and a single court system that is accepted by all.

Yet we Jews, who have a single Torah that guides us all, are incapable of setting up one Bais Din (religious court) for the entire community and one cheder all the children, are as divided as if we were a nation of seventy nationalities. Even if this were our only sin, there would be no greater chilul Hashem. Therefore, blessed be the lot of the Jew who can help bring about a change for the better in this matter.

“Eyes to See” – Pg 253 to 254 – Rabbi Yom Tov Schwarz

Tour of the Belzer Synagogue

Animals and Universal Ethics

How Do You Treat Animals?

By Aron Moss

I have been researching the Seven Noahide Laws. I understand these are the biblical commands to all humanity—the children of Noah—and they provide the basis for ethical living. But looking at the list, there seems to be one that does not fit with the others:

Do not worship idols—agreed, we have to believe in G‑d.
Do not curse G‑d—have respect for Him. I can dig that.
Do not murder—obvious.
Do not steal—okay.
Do not commit adultery—fine.
Set up courts of justice—needed to ensure the other laws are kept.
Do not eat the limb of a living animal.
I am bewildered as to why you would include the seventh law, “Do not eat the limb of a living animal.” While I have no intention of tearing off any animal limbs, I can’t see how that would be in the top seven most important things for all of humanity to observe.

Thank you for any help in enlightening this Noahide!

What is the true test of a moral person? How do you know that someone is truly a good person, and not just preaching?

One test is to observe the way they treat subordinates. Someone who can show concern for those who are lower and more helpless than themselves is a person who is truly good.

And so, in formulating laws for all mankind, the Torah gives seven commandments that are considered seven categories of ethical behavior. The prohibition to steal includes all dishonest and unethical business practices. The outlawing of adultery encompasses all inappropriate relationships. And the ban on eating the limb of a live animal is a general law which commands us to be kind to animals. In fact, Jewish law prohibits inflicting unnecessary pain on animals.

These are not arbitrary categories of law. They cover the full gamut of moral obligation toward our fellow beings: respect for G‑d who is above us, respect for human beings who are equal to us, and respect for the animal kingdom beneath us.

There is a clear hierarchy here. We are not equal with G‑d, and animals are not equal to humans. The myth of equality is necessary only to protect the weak in a world devoid of morality. But moral beings with a clear code of ethics can recognize the innate inequality of nature without exploiting it. Being higher means being more responsible. Nature is here to serve us, but we are here to serve G‑d, and that means treating all His creatures, equal or not, with respect.

Please see more on the Seven Noahide Laws on The Judaism Website.



Rosh Hashanah Message with Rabbi Benji Levy

Talmud Study in the New Age

Rabbi Chaim Rapoport on Sefer Torat ha-Melekh

Part two: (Audio Download)

Hat tip: Menachem Mendel blog