Monday, June 15, 2009

How Is The Torah True?

This is interactive learning. Give this brief article (as well as any of the comments beneath it) a read. Then add your own thought. Let's learn from each other!

In our hearts, we want to believe that God gave Moses the Torah atop Mount Sinai. To believe that, however, we have to suspend our knowledge of science and natural events. For us, this would be unacceptable. And yet, if we no longer accept the Torah as God’s literal voice, what’s left of our Judaism?

It is my assertion that the question, “Is the Torah true?” remains off-limits to us. For without a Torah that every Jew (including Reform Jews) takes seriously, there can be no serious Judaism. Thus, each of us is challenged to answer this question instead: “How is the Torah true?”

If a poet, a scientist and an historian were to convene a panel discussion on this question, each would respond according to his/her world view. For example, viewing a city skyline, the scientist might observe technology acting against the force of gravity, permitting human beings to reside in the upper stratosphere. The historian might suggest that a hundred years earlier, office buildings rarely rose more than 2-3 stories in height and, a hundred years before that, only Native American tents and settlers’ log cabins dotted this same landscape. The poet might comment on the impact humanity has made on the natural world, manipulating air, water, earth and fire, all to satisfy our own selfish ends.

In our temple community, we have poets, scientists and historians aplenty. How is the Torah true for you?

– Rabbi Billy Dreskin


  1. To me, The Torah is a manifestation of God. I believe that there has to be some kind of Super-being. Too many things work too perfectly for this to be left to chance – the perfection of a baby’s perfect fingernail (an example I use too often).

    Aristotle's assertion that something caused the universe, believing in its contingent, the universe could exist or not exist, necessitates that it had a cause. And that cause cannot be another contingent thing, but must be something which exists from necessity, that is, for the purpose that it was intended. In other words, even if the universe has always existed, it still owes its existence to Aristotle's Uncaused Cause. This makes sense to me, but stops at Deism.

    Taking the leap to Judaism focuses the catalyst to be what is represented in and by the Torah.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Stephen. I'd like for you to take it one step further, if you don't mind, and respond to the specific question at hand, "How is the Torah true?" If God is indeed a Super-being, then is the Torah something given to Moses word-for word? And if so, how many of the 613 mitzvot do you feel obliged to observe? If not all of them, how do you reconcile that with your idea of God?


  3. The Torah is true if you look at it as a goal to reach perfection, with the understanding that no one will achieve perfection - lo alecha....

    It provides truths for one to strive towards

  4. It's either true and divine, and all incumbent upon us all without compromise, or it's just a compilation of ancient literature. Sorry, but I see no room for middle ground and "what does it mean for me" here.

  5. I think that's an atiquated view. For many of us, we see (or admittedly, want to see) God's presence in human efforts. So the Torah is capable of containing the Divine within it, because the people responsible for its evolution wanted it to help create a holy community.

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