[b-hebrew] Academic Debate"

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Thu Nov 1 02:34:48 EDT 2007

On 10/30/07, Dave Washburn wrote:

> > > On 30 Oct 2007 at 8:22, Yigal Levin wrote in part:
> > >
> > >>Since none of us have yet recieved direct prophecy from God, we
> > >> cannot "take on faith" that the authors of the Bible did either.

> > No, it's not. I didn not say that "it doesn't happen", only that since I
> > have no empirical evidence of it happening, I can not figure it in as a
> > factor.
> Okay, briefly, what sort of "empirical evidence" would be required?

I think, especially in light of the ensuing discussion, that perhaps we should
be aware of different theological backgrounds.  Foremost, is the concept in
Judaism that prophecy ended in the Second Temple period.  Afterwards,
God stopped using prophecy as a method of communicating his will.  But
more interesting and relevant, is a small discussion in the Talmud about an
oven.  The Mishnah makes a ruling about an oven and a dissenting opinion
from the Rabbis is brought in the name of R' Eliezer.  The Talmud purports
to tell us how the discussion took place.  R' Eliezer explained his ruling but
that didn't convince.  So, R' Eliezer said "If I'm correct, the tree should
prove me right," and appropriately enough the tree was displaced so many
feet at that moment.  R' Eliezer continued, and waters in the aqueduct
changed their course, the walls of the building were ready to fall, and finally
when R' Eliezer called upon the heavens to prove him right, a voice from
Heaven rang out and said "R' Eliezer is always right!"  To this the rabbis
responded by quoting Deuteronomy: "[The Torah] is not in heaven."  The
Torah was given at Mt Sinai, along with explicit instructions as to how to
rule in disagreements, among them "majority opinion."  Because the
majority opinion in this issue disagreed with R' Eliezer, this is the way God
wanted it.  This is not to say that there aren't other places where a voice
from heaven is instrumental in deciding Halakha, Jewish rulings, but it is
significant in that it illustrates a concept in Judaism that the interpretation
of Torah is to be guided by rational thought, not supernatural phenomena.
Now, my interpretation of Gen 1/2 and Yigal's refusal to take on faith
apparent direct prophecy from God in the Bible is obviously not what the
Rabbis intended in the above, but the above does illustrate the
background from which we come -- one where rationalistic thought is
more powerful than supernatural phenomena.

Yitzhak Sapir

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