Monday, September 14, 2009

12x Authentic Judaism

R' Sokol this week (Nitzavim/Vayelech) explored some of the midrashim about the death of Moshe Rabbeinu. One that stood out for me was the idea that Moshe, before he died, wrote 13 sifrei Torah, one to be deposited in the Mishkan as a textual reference of last resort, and 12 to be distributed to the 12 tribes. He reads this as giving two messages.

1) Writing a final reference Torah indicates the closing of the Pentateuchal canon. This is it, this is the Law, there will never be another, it will not be replaced, added to or deleted from. There will be no new Testament of God's Revelation and Will. [Hear that, kabbalists, chasidim and other adherents of Continuous Revelation? -jjb].

On the other hand,

2) Giving each tribe its own Torah acknowledges that each tribe reads the Torah in its own way. There are at least 12 ways to understand the Torah, and to develop an authentic Judaism therefrom.

So we have two almost contradictory positions, but since they are the act of one man, they are connected. There is room for different communities within the Torah world: Ashkenazic and Sephardic and Edot Hamizrach, Modern and Yeshivish and Chareidi, German and Eastern European. They are all Authentic Judaisms. But in the end, there is still the reference Torah in the Mishkan or Temple, the one that sets limits for what constitutes an Authentic Judaism.

I asked R' Sokol if he had been reading the JBlogosphere, since this idea sounds like a direct reaction to the flap that was reflected on Hirhurim and elsewhere, in reaction to a blog reflecting a particularly nasty, derogatory-of-the-Other strain of yeshivish though. He said he hadn't. Still, it's quite timely.

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