Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hesech Hadaas

I meant to spark a theological debate. Heaven forbid that I should be one of those debating, but I had hoped to inspire the masses to bickering of a divine nature. My chavrusa at least satisfed this urge, but unfortunately I was the victim of his venting of thoughts. Listen, I love my chavrusa and everything, but I'm trying to study for a test in taaruvos here, not debate the various advantages of a/theism. Because as I told him, I simply don't know the arguments the non-believers use! Even though I tried my bestest to advocate for the devil (though of course the side I was taking doesn't believe in the devil) it was pretty pointless, because I simply didn't know what to say, so he was convinced he'd won. Then I googled a little and left him with some reading material. Because, you know, just like I wouldn't want Shmuley Boteach arguing for G-d's existence I wouldn't want myself arguing against it, because neither of us have a clue. And besides, I hate being involved in arguments of this nature. They're so utterly pointless (why then do I blog...?).

What I did learn today though was all about that mysterious Sefer Torah found in the temple in the times of Josiah. Interestingly enough, there's a machlokes between the Malbim and the Metzudos Dovid regarding the identity of the burner of all the other Sifrei Torah. The malbim says that it was Menashe, grandfather of Josiah, who burned them, while the Metzudos Dovid claims that it was Achaz, great great grandfather of Josiah, who burned them.

Don't worry, the Radak comes and makes sense of it all. Turns out that Achaz burned them all, then his son Hezekiah came around and did what was right in the eyes of the L-rd, which included writing a bunch of new scrolls of the scripture, and then Menashe his son abandoned the ways of his daddy and went after the path of his grandfather (isn't there something about genes skipping a generation?) which included a new destruction of the Torah. Terrible, I know. Some Kohanim got super scared and hid the last remaining Torah, which was written by Moses himself, and it was lost for 67 years. Why didn't Menashe locate it when he did teshuvah near the end of his long reign? The poor guy was old and tired, and he didn't have much time before he passed on.

This is of course the time to repeat one of the Rosh's favorite stories, which I have written here previously, about the Amora (Rabba? Or Rava?) who was giving shiur and said, "Menashe our colleague" and felt really proud of it. That night Menashe came to him in a dream and said, "Don't get so excited dude, if you had lived in my times you would have raised your cloak to run to worship idols!" See, the people of Menashe's times, though they were incredibly idolatrous, didn't lift up their cloaks when they rushed to serve their local getchke, which of course slowed them down (which they appreciated, though they couldn't overpower their evil inclination). Had the amora been there he wouldn't have even been able to control himself that much. Anyway, the next day in shiur he said, "Menashe our teacher".

Back to the story...

So what happens? The high priest Hilkiah (or one of his minions) finds the Sefer Torah (with a 'hey') and everyone gets really paranoid when it's seen that the Torah is rolled to the tochachah. Hulda (of the gates), female prophetess extraordinaire, predicts lots of doom and gloom, but she comforts the people that because they're so righteous they at least won't suffer.

Thence follows a period of national truth and reconciliation which includes some serious idol destruction, and thence follows the best Pesach since Samuel the prophet. Just about 35 years later the temple was destroyed and the Jewboys exiled from their land. Yeah, life stinks, eh?

So the point is that in fact the mesorah was not lost. Sure, no one had a Sefer Torah to base themselves on, but the Kuzari isn't based on the physical Torah. It's based on the mesorah, on the tradition, which was never lost, even if some people forgot about it. Heck, even in the days of Hezekiah, who Hashem wanted to make Moshiach, things weren't all banana smoothies and cheesecake. Not all the Jews jumped on the bible bandwagon.

And as the Rosh ended off many a cursing, um'sayim betov.


e said...

I came out of bed to write this:

The mesorah was never lost? They freaking never made Pesach!! And you think they kept track of such nuances like what precisely happened on that mountain in the desert and chatzi nezek tzroros?

See also the section in Ezra/Nehemiah where it is clear that the Jews did not know about the holidays

e said...


Anarchist Chossid said...


The really good atheists are believers. The really good believers are atheists. Otherwise it’s boring amaratztus. A blind and a deaf talking about a trip to a bathhouse.

Anarchist Chossid said...

He also asked him which challah we make the hamoitzi on.

I think the story can be turned around for us: just because we are not excited about it and, as Chassidim, know we could be better, we are still doing avoida zara.

Anonymous said...

Why do you keep saying tochacha? It does include the tochacha but it appears that the psukim, the non-kofer scholars and even the koferim agree that he lained hakhel as a King should. Some even say it was not a complete scroll but just the hakhel portion of devarim (from eleh hadvarim until ad tumam)

As for the rest, e said it for me.

Anonymous said...


Wrong. It doesn't say that they never made Pesach; it says that "no such Pesach [on such a grand scale] had been made since the days of the Judges." If it meant what you say, it would simply have said, "no Pesach had been made..." ("lo na'asah Pesach...").

Same thing with the other yamim tovim. Compare Ezra 3:4 ("they celebrated Sukkos as is written") with Nechemiah 8:13ff (where they "rediscovered" the mitzvah of building sukkos, "for they had not done so since the days of Ye[ho]shua bin Nun"). So which is it? The obvious inference is that everyone did know about the mitzvah, but that some people had gotten careless about it (same as with avodah zarah, etc., in the earlier period). With the new national mood of teshuvah they were re-inspired to fulfill this mitzvah, and they did so with an enthusiasm not seen in 900+ years. (Hence the reference to Yehoshua; would it make sense that they hadn't kept this mitzvah at all in the days of Dovid and Shlomo, for example?)

Just like a guy said...

e: of course they made Passover. They just hadn't made one like that in a long time.
Ezra: dude, go learn your history. That was only the Jews I'm jurasalem who didn't know what was going on. The Jews in bavel on the other hand? Ever heard of someone called mordechai or his cousin/adopted daughter/wife Esther?

CA: sounds about right.

Modeh: dude, what was it rolled to when they found it? The tochachah. Who cares what he read to them after?

Alex: yup.

le7 said...

Back to Jew school I need to go.

Anonymous said...

Who says rolled to tochacha? By saying he only read the tochacha you are saying that Yoshiyahu, the best king, certainly since shlomo knowingly abrogated a mitzvah for no good reason.

bonne said...

this is good stuff folks. The more you talk, the more I learn.

Just like a guy said...

le7: possibly.
Modeh: all the commentaries say that dude. Later he read them the hakhel shtuff. I don't see why you have to make this into a whole machlokes.
Sara: we try.

Anonymous said...

Sara: The more we talk the more we learn too. The goal is to talk until we learn so much that we know what we're talking about. Please join.
TRS: cf. Targum Yonasan, l'havdil alfei havdolos ayen sham Britannica "Bible" afra l'pumam. The reason we have to make a machlokes is because my way your pshat stands and yoshiyahu was a shomer mitzvos. Your way your pshat still stands but Yoshiyahu was an antinomian.

e said...

RE: making "such a pesach" and "such a sukkot"

Get bloody real. The rabbis learn pshat like that. This rabbis can change the meaning of any verse that want to. That is not the simple pshat.

We can quibble endlessly what exactly happened.

The main point is that a mesorah can be lost/shaky and later people will be think that the mesorah was always strong. In other words the Kuzari's assertion that you can't tell people something and then tell them that they've always believed it is wrong.We cannot prove with certainity what happened.

Our discussion will prove it. We are discussing a text and searching for clues IN A TEXT to know what happened to our anscetors. The mefarshim/talmudic rabbis don't say, "I know that the story means XYZ because my grandpa told me." Rather they analyze it logically. They deduce the story out of the text, without a complete mesorah of what it meant.

Anarchist Chossid said...

That’s not Kuzari’s assertion. His assertion is specifically about mass revelation of G-d. Everything else can be forgotten/invented.

But there is reason to believe that in case of Judaism it didn’t. I would post some links, but whatever.

Just like a guy said...

Modeh: huh? My pshat doesn't argue with yours. So what if it was found rolled to the tochachah? He read that, and then the hakhel shtuff. What don't you get?
e: go read the text re: pesach.

Anonymous said...


To add to what TRS wrote, don't just read the text in II Kings; read also the parallel account in II Chronicles. It says there (35:18):

"No Pesach like it had been made in Israel since the days of the prophet Shmuel. None of the kings of Israel had made a Pesach like what Yoshiyahu had done..."

But only a couple of chapters earlier in the same book, there's a huge deal about the Pesach that Chizkiyahu sponsored (30:1-22). That was about a century before Yoshiyahu, and some three hundred years after Shmuel.

So what is it? Did the author of Chronicles suffer from a lapse of memory between writing chs. 30 and 35? Or did he mean exactly what he said: that Yoshiyahu's Pesach exceeded in scale all Pesachs of the previous four hundred years - and then we realize that II Kings is saying essentially the same thing, just more succinctly?

Anonymous said...

TRS: Fair enough after the first couple of go rounds I was just being stubborn.

Just like a guy said...

Modeh: am kshei oref hu.