[b-hebrew] Common Sense

Harold Holmyard hholmyard at ont.com
Mon Oct 23 10:59:14 EDT 2006

Shoshanna Walker wrote:
> No, chukim does not refer to the plural form of statutes, ordinances AND 
> decrees.

HH: Yes, it does refer to that word, and your 
definition below is only a later understanding of 
the import of the word. You can't prove that the 
meaning of these biblical details has not been 
lost. This entire point of view is arbitrary.

> The Torah distinguishes between three types of Mitzvot (Deut. 4:45) - 1. 
> Edot = testimonies, they are the mitzvot that testify to G-d's miracles, 
> such as Shabbat, which testifies to Creation, or Matzah, which testifies 
> to the Exodus.  2.  Mishpatim = ordinances, most of the mitzvot fall 
> into this category.  They are laws that make sense, human intelligence 
> even can know how necessary they are for the benefit of society; they 
> represent laws that are valid even had they not been written in the 
> Torah, such as the prohibitions against robbery, murder, and incest. 
> Mishpatim are generally accepted laws which are found in the legal 
> systems of most human cultures and civilizations.  3. Chukim = decrees, 
> they are the mitzvot which cannot be understood by ordinary human 
> intellect, such as not mixing milk and meat, not wearing wool and linen 
> together, they are decrees of G-d, and it is not for anyone to question 
> it, and they set Israel apart from the rest of the nations.

HH: The written law of Moses does not make this 
distinction, and it is simply arbitrary to assign 
such a meaning to the word. Many times the 
"chukim" can be understood.

> The Red Heifer "purified the impure and made impure the pure." How does 
> something that has the ability to purify one person cause impurity in 
> another - this is not subject to human understanding.

HH: This is no more mysterious than animal 
sacrifice itself. God condescends to credit people 
with an atonement for sin that their actions can 
in no way really earn. The blood of goats cannot 
take away human sin. It was merely God's grace to 
grant forgiveness on this basis.

> And no, we did not "forget" anything - thanks to the Oral Torah, and the 
> mesorah which was accurately transmitted through people, all the names 
> of whom we know, through the generations.  We "even" know that Parah 
> Adumah is in response to the sin of the golden calf.

HH: This is more arbitrariness, the assumption 
that you have not forgotten anything. The Jewish 
people have doubtless forgotten plenty of things.

> This whole conversation is a result of someone saying that Judaism, or 
> Torah, is simply a way of life that makes sense.  That is not at all 
> true, that is just trivializing it, robbing it of its depth and 
> complexities, and relationship with G-d.

HH: Are you complaining that someone says the way 
of life in the Bible makes sense? Or are you 
complaining because someone says it doesn't make 
sense? And which are you? You seem to be the one 
saying that it doesn't make sense. I don't see how 
that gives more glory to God than saying it does 
make sense but we have lost the details of some of 
the meaning. And this assertion in no way removes 
the mystery from the Bible or assumes that all 
things are understandable without a divine 

Harold Holmyard

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