Wednesday, November 09, 2005

On David Weiss Halivni

Occasionally Prof. Halivni comes up in the j-blogosphere, particularly with regards to his theory of "chateu Yisrael" (his Talmudic work seems to come up less). It seems like a lot of inquiring, questioning, perplexed people are glad to have his theory. Briefly, and if I understand it correctly, his theory explains how to account for Torah mi-sinai as well as the numerous discrepancies between the traditional, talmudic understanding of the halakhah and the written text. According to him, "Israel sinned" and quite literally forgot the Torah, the true revelation of God, for which they proved unworthy custodians. The great Ezra, whom the rabbis equated in some sense with Moshe, restored as best he possibly could, the Torah to its original glory. Utilizing numerous pieces of evidence scattered in Tanakh about non-observance, and later rabbinic literature about the role of Ezra, tikkunei soferim, the meaning of things like "kimmu ve-kiblu", Prof. Halivni concludes that the Torah we have contains the imprint of human hands, but its also the best possible record of the real deal, Torah mi-sinai.

The trouble is that its a very ad-hoc hypothesis. Ultimately Halivni wants to say that God's Torah said "mammon tahas ayin", ("money for an eye") and not "'ayin tahas 'ayin", ("an eye for an eye"). I don't recall if he words it this way explicitly, but it is the thrust of his argument. That is a big, big leap of imagination.

In my opinion, Prof. Halivini's collecting of the sources is impressive and nicely done. His description of the problems are also laudable. His grand solution, however, is lacking.

(Here is an article by him which sums up his view of "Chate'u Yisrael" and "Revelation Restored".)

IY"H I will post about his Talmudic work at a later date.

1 comment:

  1. "Halivni wants to say that God's Torah said "mammon tahas ayin", ("money for an eye") and not "'ayin tahas 'ayin", ("an eye for an eye"). That is a big, big leap of imagination."

    Except that the text does NOT say "an eye for an eye", but "eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life". This has been understood to mean monetary compensation (based on the value of the eye or limb etc.) to the victim.

    The Talmud goes all over this in great detail. "What if the perp only has one working eye", etc. The same dudes who did away with capital punishment.

    You should read the Torah more carefully. And then read the Talmud more carefully.

    Monetary compensation has been the way Jewish justice has ALWAYS operated ... for at least the last 3000 years.

    And you cannot find one instance of judicial eye gouging in all of Jewish history.

    Unlike the justice of the Christians.



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