Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Mythology in the Torah II

Some people objected that the Myth/Moshol peshat is 'not Judaism'. I guess Chief Rabbi Hertz and Rabbi Gedalyah Nadel were not Jewish then. In BeToraso Shel Rav Gedalyah, p.99, Rav Nadel says:

The description of the formation of man from the dust is by way of allegory and parable. The Holy One did not take a spoonful of dirt and knead it with water, as children do in kindergarten. The "dust" here is raw material, from which animals were also formed.

In other words, Evolution. Also noteworthy is the fact the he uses the word 'allegory' and 'parable', in other words 'Mythology'.

And I'm pretty sure that Rav Nadel was practicing Judaism, since he even got a glowing hesped in the Yated, and they don't do that if you aren't Jewish. Strangely, the hesped doesn't mention anything about Rav Nadel's somewhat unorthodox views regarding Evolution and the Age of the Universe.

Chakira had three posts on Rav Nadel:

1. Allegory
2. Age of the Universe
3. Flood

Another choice quotes from Nadel:

Maimonides said “don’t be perplexed! Read the verses in a way of figurative language, the way of language and melitzah…and this is the correct interpretation, the truth of Torah. There is no doubt that the verses didn’t mean anything contradicted by the sekhel. Thus we say “there are many varied demonstrations, with exactitude that can be tested by experiment…that show that millions of years have passed. There are radioactive tests, fragments of rocks that have been found and there are geological tests…It is a mistake to believe that all of this is false. In the realm of saving lives, the most serious part of the Torah, we rely on scientific knowledge. When a doctor applies medicine made with scientific knowledge…you rely on him. You have no suspicion that he might be lying. Also with regard to the age of the world, there is no reason to say that the scientists are lying…If the sekhel needs it and the language can accommodate it, you are required to allegorize.

Again, notice what he says and does not say. He does NOT say, 'If the sekhel needs it then twist the language to mean something it doesn't.' He DOES say 'and the language can accommodate it, you are required to allegorize'.

So my objectors will no doubt kvetch and say its okay to allegorize certain phrases and words, but not whole chapters. Why not? Maybe 'Adam' is an allegory for 'Mankind', makes sense. And 'Gan Eden' is just an allegory for 'The Fertile Crescent (or wherever)'. The bottom line is that the sekhel requires that we allegorize almost all of Breishis 1-11, so we do. Maybe those people who don't allegorize just don't have the sekhel to require it.

Here are some scanned excerpts from Rav Nadel's sefer.

Here is a copy of Rabbi Hertz's essay.