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No longer take comments. Post's 'labels' are unreliable for linking or searching. Use the INDEX OF POSTS instead. A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview and understanding of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family (1950's) and went to Orthodox Yeshiva from kindergarten thru High School plus some Beis Medrash.Became an agnostic in my 20's and an atheist later on. My blog will discuss the arguments for god and Orthodox Judaism and will provide counter arguments. I no longer take comments. My blog uses academic sources, the Torah, Talmud and commentators to justify my assertions. The posts get updated. IF YOU GET A MESSAGE THAT THE POST IS MISSING - LOOK FOR IT IN THE INDEX or search or the date is found in the address.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Rabbi Kelemen Permission To Receive - Unusually Ethical Jews

From RK’s Permission to Receive book 1996. On page 21 RK explains that the book basically assumes a good  G-d exists. The intent of the book is to argue the Torah is from G-d.

The Ethical Argument is the book’s fourth and final argument for the Torah being from G-d,  assuming a good G-d already exists.

I think RK is intending to argue something like this.

The Jewish people are unusually ethical and the reason is because the Torah is divine.  

RK measures of ethics includes:

Rates of marriage, divorce, alcoholism, drug addiction and crime. The importance of education,  involvement in charities,  social activism, prejudice, family and community involvement, altruism and a few others. 

RK provides citations from numerous studies purporting to support the claim that Jews are unusually ethical. 


Measuring ethical behavior of a group of people is very difficult. What ethical system should be chosen ?  What ethics measures should be chosen ?

Consider  environmental ethics and concern for other living things. The Native American Indians probably rank very high on such a  measure. I do not think RK has an environmental ethics measure. This brings up another problem.

How do you rank the importance of the ethics measures ? Maybe environmental ethics is so important as to dwarf any one or several of RK’s  measures. 

Maybe a culture built on shared resources and not private property ownership is more ethical. I think some Native American tribes had shared tools, land etc: Does that mean they were more ethical ?  

Other ethics measures could include:  gender equality and disparate treatment, religious and other forms of tolerance,  child education and rearing practices, child abuse,  patriotism,  government program abuse, tax evasion and avoidance, white collar crime, business ethics, live and let live attitudes,  environmental ethics, and numerous others. How well would the Ultra Orthodox Jews do on those other measures ? What about the Orthodox Jews ? What about the various denominations of Orthodoxy such as Orthodox Sephardic, the many Chassidic denominations, Charedi denominations etc ? I do not know, but it shows the great difficultly with measuring and comparing group ethics. {Side note:  RK argues the Orthodox Jews did not beseech government handouts. Today that is no longer true. The Orthodox Yeshivas and community are feeding at the government trough both in the USA and Israel. I guess the Orthodox eat pork too despite the Torah’s command not to.}

I suspect the following ‘groups’ would do well on many of RK’s measures of ethics, although I have not researched it.

1) Church of Latter Day Saints;  Reformed Church of Latter Day Saints 
2)  Amish
3) Certain Muslim groups or denominations
4) The Chinese
5) The Chinese (and perhaps other) immigrants to the USA or to other countries.
6) Certain other Christian denominations

Lets assume the Jews are unusually ethical. 

Are there natural reasons for the unusual ethical behavior of Jews ?

R1) In some ancient near east cultures it was understood bad behavior could bring punishment from a supernatural being . Such consequences could motivate good behavior for many people. The  Jews could have evolved a culture and a religious system to encourage good ethics for individuals and the tribe as a whole. Thus, the Torah and oral law  may not be divine, yet still produce very good results. 

R2) The Torah has the Jews as the chosen people. As a matter of pride the Jews may want to excel on some ethics measures. For example,  the thought process may be we are the chosen people and it is beneath our dignity to be rolling in the mud drunk like those other people. 

R3) From the various invasions, exiles and migrations the Jews from the school of hard knocks and by use of reason learned not to offend their hosts.  Consider the Jews migrating  into a new country and getting drunk, causing a ruckus, and engaging in other sorts of abuses. They would wear out their welcome in a heart beat. Yet if they are well behaved and contribute to society they stood a better chance of surviving and even thriving in their new setting.  In short, if the Jewish tribe wanted to survive they had to evolve a system that would succeed in a hostile environment. Moreover, charity, especially within group charity could help the Jewish tribe survive in the diaspora. 

R4) Some of RK’s ethical measures reflect the fact that being Jewish requires a community of Jews. For example, if you want to eat kosher meat you need to be near kosher butchers etc:

R5) Some of RK’s ethical measures probably reflect contributions from social-economic factors; generational changes from earlier Jewish immigrants to later generations. especially as those later generations achieve more wealth and influence.

R6) Some of RK’s ethical measures may reflect limited employment opportunities and antisemitism.  For example, the Jews may not be permitted to own land so they could not become farmers. Or antisemitism may have prevented them from being employed in factories etc:   Thus the Jews in order to survive needed to pursue occupations that could be open to them such as physicians or other occupations requiring advanced or specialized education or skills.  In addition, the more wealth they could accumulate perhaps they would be safer in their host country or if they had to escape they could afford to.

R7) Some of RK's ethical  measurements may reflect the Jewish experience in the USA. Many Jews came to the USA poor and uneducated. This could motivate a good work ethic and the need to get ahead. Jews would also be empathetic with minorities and oppressed peoples. 

R8) Some of RK’s ethical measurements probably reflect motivations for tribal survival whether in Israel or not. For example, close family units and strong community ties would help with tribal survival. Another example could be high marriage rates and low divorce rates which both help tribal survival.

Several more comments.

A) Did not the Prophets often chastize the Israelites for not being ethical ?  Would that contradict RK’s premise the Jews are unusually ethical ?  

B) The Torah has some laws and commands  that could be considered unethical. See for example Kuzari argument Part 19 plus some Critique Rabbi Kelemen's Book of Permission To Receive. To the extent they are followed the Jews would be acting unethically. However, using Divine Command theory the Jews could claim they are following G-d’s laws and commands and if you have a problem take it up with him. Divine Command theory can be used by other people who claim they too are following their deity’s wishes. 

C) RK seems somewhat  inconsistent. When non orthodox Jews are ‘ethical’ RK suggests it is because  their ethics arise from the religious observance of prior generations - cut flower effect. Yet, when the non-orthodox Jews do not pass muster RK argues it is because they are no longer orthodox. This sort of makes part of his  argument non falsifiable.


1) It is plausible religion can motivate ethical behavior See Proof of God from Morality Part Two.  If the Jews are unusually ethical, the Torah and oral tradition  could  account for some of it. However, that is not a demonstration the Torah system is divine.  I have also provided some natural reasons that could account for the good ethics of Jews. 

2)  RK cherry picks studies and ethic’s measures to make Orthodoxy look rosy, but basically ignores information that would compromise his argument. Let the buyer beware.   

3) RK’s argument involves connecting Jewish behavior with the plausibility of the divine origins of the Torah.  If the Jews were  unethical would RK argue the Torah is not divine ? Why can’t the Torah be of divine origin even if the Jews are unethical ? Similarly, even if the Jews are unusually ethical it does not follow the Torah is of divine origin.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Kuzari Argument Part 21 Rabbi Kelemen Bomb

Updated 4/24/2018

It would be very helpful to at least skim my prior Kuzari argument posts beginning with Kuzari Argument Part 1.  Also, additional documentation and details related directly to this post are found in them. 

RK's bomb begins at 40:40  minutes:seconds in this video.

Recall the Sinai story has G-d communicating with a group of people.

{Terminology for this post - ‘Sinai type story’ means  a story involving a deity communicating with a group of people .}

RK’s bomb relates to the uniqueness of the Sinai story which I have previously addressed. This post will provide additional protection from  RK’s bomb, but there may be some overlap with prior posts. 

{FYI - RK’s bomb is also found in RK’s book Permission to Receive on page 70. “Ultimately one must conclude that something miraculous happened - if not at Sinai, then in the evolution of Jewish  mythology.”}

RK’s bomb is that no other religion or myth involves a group of people claiming a deity spoke to them. Yet, ‘history’ is supposed to repeat itself. The non repetition of a Sinai type story is indicative  that the story itself is unnatural. Unnatural means supernatural.  RK is also using his bomb to discredit any ‘natural’ explanation for the Sinai story.

According to RK, there are two options:

(A) Miracle  number one. A deity communicated with a group of people at Sinai. 

(B) Miracle number two: A violation of ‘history repeat law’  occurred  because only one religion or mythology out of thousands and thousands has a deity communicating with a group of people.  

Given a choice between  the two miracles, RK would like us to reject option (B), leaving option (A) as the only other alternative.

One immediate problem is RK implicitly equates the miraculousness of option (A) and option (B). However, Option (B) is less miraculous than Option (A). Option (A) involves an actual supernatural being, while (B) only involves breaking of a ‘history repeat law’. It seems more  rational to choose the less miraculous scenario, which is option (B). 

Lets explore RK's  argument in more detail. P1 thru P4 seem to be RK’s premises.

P1) Anything that is natural will happen more than once. 

ACJA  response

P1 is a reasonable premise for scientific experiments that are repeated.  

P2) History repeats itself; an extension from natural law to history.

ACJA  response

I am uncomfortable with P2.

History is not like science experiments with all its controls. History also involves different people, different  cultures, different climates, different catastrophes, different needs  etc: which all influence outcomes.  However, RK argues the generic themes of history repeat, but maybe not the details. Unfortunately,  the devil is in the details. The devil is also in the different initial conditions. 

‘History repeats itself ‘ is more a  rule of thumb than a law or natural law. Even the rule of thumb is difficult and problematic in application. When are two different  events considered a repetition and not a repetition ? The two events may be similar in some ways and different in others. The initial conditions prior to the two events may be similar in some way and different in others. 

P3) Religious themes - meaning  revelation  narratives will repeat. RK  extended  P2 to get to P3.

ACJA response

I am even more uncomfortable with P3 than P2. P3 has all the problems of P2 and more. Religion and myth formation depend on the experiences of the cultures, their environments, the various catastrophes they have experienced, wars, food supply, the peoples needs and desires, accidents etc: 

Moreover, the drivers of history may or may not be similar to the drivers of religion and myth formation. 

However, myths have been categorized into various categories, so in that sense it can  be  argued  religions and myths can be organized by type,  which is a sort of repetition. Many scholars consider the Sinai story as belonging to the category of Nation Foundation Myths.  

P4) Only once in 4000 years has a Sinai type story been claimed to have occurred.  RK allows for another story from in India. In that Indian story the people all died after the supernatural event and so could not relay the story. RK counts it as a half.

ACJA response 

The 4000 years is not all that impressive. We have few records from ancient times. Also, the bulk of mythologies are  mostly  found in the distant past. For example, in modern times it would be harder to evolve many types of  mythologies because information is more widespread and available. People have become more skeptical with the advent of the enlightenment. In short, there was a much shorter period in which the bulk of mythologies could form. 

My other Kuzari posts have documented  parallels and points of contact between the Sinai  revelation narrative and miracle  narratives of other peoples. The Sinai story is not as unique as RK  makes it out to be.

Perhaps some nations would like to have a Sinai type story but not as many as implied by RK.  For example,  maybe only one in 100 nations would desire a Sinai type story,  so one out of a hundred is not all that miraculous.  Some religions have no deities. Those practitioners would have no need for a divine revelation mythology. Some polytheistic religions would have a difficult choice selecting which deity to perform the revelation and  because of the competition  none are selected. As the Yahweh alone movement gains traction, there is a need for a claimed revelation from one god.

There was a limited period when nation foundation myths develop. Generally early in the nations history.  So we do not expect to have as many national founding myths as one may think. Also limiting the number of nation founding myths is the limited  number of nations. 

We have limited ancient historical records. If Sinai type stories are rare we would expect to find very few if any in the records.

(The Sinai story is considered by many scholars a Nation Founding myth. How many nations had the need for a nation founding myth just like Sinai ?)

{ETA 4/24/2018 Kuzari proponents often argue why Christianity or Islam do not claim a Sinai Type Story. There are any number of reasons, only some explained in my other Kuzari posts. For example, the Israelite Sinai story could have been used to unite ancient Israel especially after the split between the Northern and Southern kingdom.  Or the Sinai Story also involves a nation foundation mythology not just a religion. The conditions under which many other religions and myths form are substantially different. Rather than compare the Sinai story to all myths and religions which appears to provide a small frequency a better comparison is to nation foundation myths. The Sinai story would still have a low frequency, but it would not be as low as RK figures. Thus, the Sinai story would not be as unnatural as RK would have you believe. } 

RK’s Conclusion #1The Jewish claim is unique and has a very low frequency (P4).  The Jewish type claim if natural  should have been repeated yet has not, thus violating P3. This indicates the Jewish claim is unnatural, which means it is supernatural. 

ACJA response

RK’s premise  P3 is open to severe doubt. P4 is also problematic. We may rationally reject Conclusion #1. 


RK concludes his lecture with the following:

Can you explain  how the Jewish claim came about ?  Let suppose  I suggest explanation XYZ.  RK now asks is XYZ  natural ?  Suppose I respond  yes.

RK asks do natural events happen more than once ? Suppose  I say yes.

RK asks has XYZ ever happen again ? Suppose I say no.

Conclusion #2: RK  claims then XYZ was not a natural event since  natural events should happen more than once.

ACJA response

1) This sort of argument is very similar to my previous discussion, and most of my prior comments still apply.  

2) The point is not that we should expect that XYZ leads to Sinai type stories.  Rather, it is an explanation for one specific and particular peoples story, the Sinai story which involved ancient near east escaped slaves wandering in a desert about 3000 years ago. There is no reason to expect XYZ should lead to other peoples developing a Sinai type story.

Alternatively, XYZ may be an broad explanation -  propaganda, group think, duress, evolution of myths  etc: etc:  to explain many mythologies and religions. The Sinai story is thus just another myth subject to those same sort of explanations. 


Back to RK

RK  offers  a possible loophole to his Conclusion #2. 

The loophole being it  was natural event, but very unlikely and only happens extremely infrequently. So far it happened only once in 4000 years yet it could  happen again. 

RK rejects the rationality of the  loophole: suppose the odds of the Sinai type story  1 out of trillions. Then we should rule out it being natural.  If it is very unlikely that a natural event led to the Jewish belief  that god spoke to the people , then it must be very likely it was not a natural event that led to the belief.  RK supplies the figure that there is a .00001% the Sinai type narrative  was natural, so almost 100% the Sinai is unique and unnatural. Because  the Sinai type story  is so unusual  the very fact that it happened only once is indicative of a break in nature.  Rather than accept  that conclusion  RK believes we should accept the alternative  that the Sinai story is true.

ACJA Response

1) This sort of argument is very similar to my previous discussion, and most of my prior comments still apply

2) I have no Idea where RK’s one in  trillions or his  .00001% comes from, but I accept that of all known  myths very few involve a group of people witnessing something they claim is supernatural and so a very small percentage seems reasonable, as an empirical fact.  The low frequency is not cause to conclude something unnatural has occurred. 

Also, I am not convinced the Sinai story belongs unto a category all itself, since it has much in common with nation founding myths, etiological myths and other mythologies. Viewed that way we may consider the Sinai story just another foundation and or etiological myth.

3) We can apply RK’s type of argument to prove the truth of Islam, Miracle of the Sun and the White Buffalo Calf Women Story (WBCW)  and I am sure there are others such stories to be proven. 

Consider Islam - A unknown uneducated man receives a revelation from the angel Gabriel. The revelation is  recorded in a book. The religion gains extremely fast traction and it’s followers become a world power in a matter of a few years. An amazingly fast rise to power.

When has this ever happened ? It so unique so it must be unnatural.

It can be argued  Islam is not all that unique for one reason or another.  Unique  is very difficult to define operationally making almost a useless criteria. Some Muslims may say the rise of Islam is unique because of X and Y and Z, while some other individual will say it is not unique because of C and D and F.  

RK’s argument can be used to prove the WBCW as follows:

In the WBCW story a supernatural being imparts religious principles and a pipe to a tribe of the Dakota native American Indians.

When has this ever happened ? It so unique so it must be unnatural.

RK’s argument can be used to prove the Miracle of the Sun as follows:

When has such a miracle ever occured ? It is unique, therefore unnatural and therefore miraculous. 

There are some other problems with RK’s argument that need to be mentioned.

A) RK compares the probabilities of various dice outcomes to the outcomes of   national foundation myths, religious formation, and  mythologies. I think he  misusing  probability theory and it will require future posts.

B)  Consider science experiments  where we actually expect 100% repetition of ‘history’.  Suppose an experiment failed  to repeat. Should we conclude something unnatural has occurred ?  Perhaps despite best efforts some parameter or variable had varied from our prior experiments. Or, maybe there was an unnoticed temporary magnetic field power surge that alters the experimental outcome. Thus a single violation of P1 should not lead to the conclusions of miracles. A single violation of P2 should be considered even less miraculous. A single violation of P3 least miraculous of all.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Kuzari Argument Part 20 Rabbi Kelemen Incunabular Argument Permission To Receive

It will probably help to at least skim my prior Kuzari posts, since they provide related information, arguments and details to support this post. 

In this video RK proposes the following false trichotomy for the origin of the Torah.

1) Present Theory - For example: A lying individual [“Moe” ] tells the ancient Israelites you heard G-d speak and here is his Torah. 

2) Past Theory - For example: A lying  individual [“Curly”]  tells the ancient Israelites your ancestors heard G-d speak and here is the Torah. (RK uses the name “Fred” not “Curly”.)

3) Future Theory - for example: The lying individual [“Larry”]  tells the ancient Israelites your descendants will hear G-d speak, but I have an advance copy to present to you. 

Some of my previous Kuzari posts have provided plausible scenarios for Present Theory therefore it should not be dismissed. I have also critiqued the ‘lie launched’ scenarios. Torah origins need not have involved lies being launched.   

RK rules out Past Theory for the Torah’s origin because  RK claims: A) there is no record of the individual  who launched a lie to the ancient Israelites.  B) There is no record of  the ancient Israelites forgetting the national revelation of Sinai. 

However some of my prior posts dispute B). The hypothesis there was a mass  unbroken chain of tradition  of the Sinai revelation is subject to severe doubt. 

Lets focus on RK's A)  there is no record of the individual  who launched a lie to the ancient Israelites. 

Has RK considered the possibility that maybe the scribes/authorities  had reasons not to specify the individual(s) who launched the lie and would not desire record him ?  Has RK considered the possibility that maybe the scribes/authorities did not consider the scribes tales as lies. The idea of 'history' as we now understand the term was not born yet. 

This post will explore who is ‘Curly’ ? If I can provide plausible ‘Curly(s)’  then it will establish Past Theory as a viable option for the origins of the Sinai mythology.

Judaism most likely evolved out of ancient Canaanite religion(s) and probably with the influence or merging with a semitic desert/mountain/fire/smith/volcano god Yahweh and probably with influences from other ancient near east cultures. So there may not be a single individual responsible for the origins of Judaism or the Torah stories and commandments etc:.   Then again there are numerous contributors and founders of Judaism: Abraham, the Forefathers, Moses, Priests, Prophets, Kings, Scribes,....

This post will directly answer possible ‘Curly(s)’  that could have instituted the Sinai mythology:  G-d gave commands at Mount Sinai that should be followed by the Israelites.  The motivation for such a mythology could have resulted from the threats that eventually led to the fall of the northern Israelite kingdom in  723 B.C. (Prior posts have cast significant doubt on two of RK’s assumptions 1) There a an unbroken chain of Torah/Revelation back to Sinai 2) That national traditions of national events can not be introduced into a population that knows not of them. )

First Some Israel History

It is interesting that usually, fairly soon after calamities, Yahwism revives. (The dates are B.C. and are ball park approximate and for this post only the relative ordering counts.)  Israelite  history supports the notion that Yahwism sparks and galvanizes after invasions or threats of invasion. See for yourself:

931 B.C. Northern Tribes secede.

926 B.C. Egypt’s Shishak despoils Jerusalem and several cities of Judah and Israel

865 Prophet Elijah emphasizes Yahwehism.

850 Prophet Elisha emphasizes Yahwehism 

850 Moab erects stele commemorate  winning independence from Israel

841 King Jeho of Israel pays tribute to Assyria 

830 Yahwist revival in Israel

723 Assyria -  fall of Samaria  brings end to Northern Israel. Exile of many Israelites

710 King Hezekiah - Yahwist  revival

701 Assyrian siege of Jerusalem

687 King Menassah represses Yahwism. (To  placate Assyria, and maybe because he thought the Hezekiah Yahwist  revival was ineffective. Maybe Yahwism was not so good after all.)

623 “Found Law Scroll” made basis for drastic Yahweh reforms. King Josiah.

586 Babylonian Exile

400 Nehemiah and Ezra  -  finishing touches on the Yahwist alone movement, reforms and the Torah. 

It is almost as if the Israelite prophets/scribes/priests commit post hoc fallacies. We had an invasion, that must be because we did not worship Yahweh alone. Remedy: Spark and Galvanize ‘Yahweh alone’ worship so that we may have the great warrior god Yahweh on our side. To this day there are many Orthodox Jews who engage in this post hoc rationalization.  The holocaust happened and it must be because we did not worship Yahweh enough or properly. Yet, even when Yahweh worship is widespread and calamities occur, excuses are invented. It was because a prior generation did not worship Yahweh  enough or properly. Or the Yahweh worshipers did not reach out enough to the Yahweh non worshipers enough. So Yahweh damned them all. I implore and beseech my brethren to throw off the yoke of our superstitions. There is no Yahweh protecting us. Such  thinking is a remnant of ancient near east cultures and religions that held their nation/tribal god(s) fought on behalf of the tribe/nation. There is no good evidence for any of it and direct evidence against such an assertion. 

A Curly Candidate 

I propose King Josiah and his administration was likely a key ‘Curly’. 

Josiah is introducing a  mythology to a population that is under outside threat. The Northern Kingdom falls creating more panic.  

The Israelites are worshiping many gods, but they will need an especially great warrior god on their side. Perhaps, if the Israelites would eschew all other gods and worship Yahweh alone,  Yahweh will come to the Israelite aid and repel the foreign invaders and threats. It would also unify the nation. The cult can be centralized in Judah  This desperation could galvanize the Yahweh alone movement. Moreover, a preexisting sub population of ‘Yahweh alone’ worshipers could have been extant. The ‘Yahweh alone’ worshipers consisting of Yahweh worshiping Semitic people that have settled in Israel in previous generations.

King Josiah could argue King Menassah and other ‘evil’ priests and rulers were  instrumental in erasing the Sinai story from the holy books,  other ancient traditions and laws. But fortunately Priests  “Found The Law Scroll”. (That scroll could have been a total fabrication, or if not fully an invention could have been modifications of extant older stories and myths to make it more acceptable.)  The  found law scroll which now has the narration of a Sinai revelation and laws introduced  etc:   is used to centralize the cult, unite a country in the hope  Yahweh would respond by helping in the overthrow of Assyria rule.   King Josiah destroys other modes of worship and can put ‘deniers’ and rebels to death. Using time, carrots and sticks, people can eventually accept the ‘found scroll’ even if the'found'  scroll is not exactly the same as the stories and scrolls they had been familiar with from their parents. 

{From  The Jewish Study Bible Berlin and Brettler Editors, 2004 
Page 357 "Deuteronomy is likely not Mosaic in origin. More probably, the core of the book was written sometime during the 7th century BCE by educated scribes associated with Jerusalem's royal court." There are very striking similarities between the distinctive religious and legal requirements of Deuteronomy and the account of the major religious reform (inspired by the 'found scroll') carried out by King Josiah in 622 BCE.  The reforms included:  restrict all sacrificial worship  to Jerusalem;  removed foreign elements from the system of worship; celebration of the first nationally centralized Passover at the Temple in Jerusalem. The reforms closely match 
of Deuteronomy. "Josiah's reform, with some form of Deuteronomy as its catalyst, was much more a revolution than a simple return to older forms of worship." Previously one could sacrifice any place in the land  like Abraham, Jacob, Samuel, and Elijah did.

"The historical background of Josiah's reforms was the increasing threat of imperial domination. The Northern Kingdom of Israel had fallen under the Neo-Assyrian invasion a scant century before (722 BCE; 2 Kings ch 17).”}

Despite the efforts of various prophets and some Kings to promote Yahweh alone, there was often Israel backsliding showing the reforms were not always accepted and were not always believed.

A Second Curly Candidate 

A follow up to King Josiah is Ezra the Yahweh alone advocate, another ‘Curly’.

The Babylonian Exile calamity,  is followed by Persian rule and eventually  the return of exiles to Israel.  Around the time of  Ezra ,  redaction puts the final touches on the Yahweh alone movement, reforms  and the Torah. Persia wants nations to establish their own temples. Persia grants Ezra full authority to ENFORCE the law of your God. Persia desired countries within it’s empire to have a centralized cult with an ‘authoritative’ source of laws - something like the Torah. Ezra with the backing of Persia could get ALL the Torah to be accepted, if not immediately then eventually. You want to test the King of Persia or his emissaries ? 

{Per The Jewish Study Bible (ibid) Page 1669 "According to the Bible, Ezra was the one who brought the Torah to the returning exiles, read and interpreted it publicly, and oversaw the people's solemn recommitment to its teachings (Neh. chs 8-10). Thus Ezra is like a second Moses. The Rabbis imply this by stating: 'Ezra was sufficiently worthy that the Torah could have been given through him if Moses had not preceded him" (t. Sanh. 4.4).'  ".

King Josiah is a good candidate for RK’s “Fred”.  The Tenach praises him but has no reason to write the priests and his administration invented any of the Torah, because they probably took preexistent older scrolls, added to them, edited them and could then have attributed it to Moses an ancient hero.

The same more or less applies to Ezra, another important “Fred” candidate.

Thus, we can not rule out RK’s Past Theory for the Origins of the Sinai mythology.

Continued Kuzari Argument Part 21 Rabbi Kelemen Bomb

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Kuzari argument Part 19 plus some Critique Rabbi Kelemen's Book of Permission To Receive

Updated thru 7/28/2018

Continued from Kuzari Argument Part One

Permission to Receive (PTR) 1996 by Rabbi Kelemen  (RK) 

RK seems to explain on page 21 that his book assumes the existence of G-d and builds on that premise. If you need intellectual comforting for that premise, RK  mentions his other book Permission to Believe: Four Rational Approaches To God’s Existence. In other words, he seems to be of the opinion that his version of Kuzari argument does not ‘prove’ the existence G-d. 

If so what is RK arguing for ? The Divine Origin for the Torah, assuming G-d already exists. 

1) RK critiques many other religions because RK claims their credibility rests on one or two founders. For example, per RK “Islam is another religion rooted entirely in the experiences of one man, Muhammad.” Page 54. 

I am going to apply RK’s  reasoning to the origins of the Torah. 

If there was a revelation at Sinai, the Israelites did not hear much of the Torah. Some say they heard the first two of the 10 commandments, others say the first 10, others say they heard no Torah at all just noise. Except for that, Moshe  was the translator/interpreter/messenger between G-d and the people.  It was Moshe that gave the Torah, not G-d.  {ETA April 8, 2018 - If you read my other Kuzari posts I have sourced this paragraph. For example See Chapter Thirty Three in The Guide For the Perplexed by Rambam:  "Furthermore, the words, ' In order that the people hear when I speak with thee' (Exod. xix. 9), show that God spoke to Moses, and the people only heard the mighty sound, not distinct words." ..."It was only Moses that heard the words, and he reported them to the people. This is apparent from Scripture, and from the utterances of our Sages in general. There is, however, an opinion of our Sages frequently expressed in the Midrashim, and found also in the Talmud, to this effect : The Israelites heard the first and
the second commandments from God, i.e., they learnt the truth of the principles contained in these two commandments in the same, manner as Moses, and not through Moses." For more details read the Guide. Also see for example Intro/Forward of Ramban's commentary on the Torah - that Moshe wrote recorded the words of G-d when writing the Torah.  Also see for example Deut 5: 19 "The Lord spoke those words [referring to 10 commandments] -those and no more to your whole congregation at the mountain, with a mighty voice out of the fire and the dense clouds.” }

So how is Judaism any different from other religions ? In other words, Judaism’s Torah credibility rests on a single person, Moshe who translated/copied/transcribed/was messenger of  G-d’s words.  

Thus, using RK own criteria,  RK fails to prove the Torah’s divine origin.  

2) On page 82- RK writes an author that makes up details or mistakenly reports events cannot be relied on. If we detect one or more inaccuracies in a document we have reason to suspect the entire text. 

Lets apply RK’s criteria the Torah.

Here is a short list some very likely Torah inaccuracies.

Genesis and Evolution

Genesis and Big Bang 

World Wide Biblical Proportion Flood

No 600000  plus males/a couple million people in the Exodus See for example Kuzari Argument Part Two and many of my other Kuzari posts for additional documentation. 

Again, applying RK’s criteria  we should suspect the Torah is not of divine origin.

3) It may help to read my post Proof of God from Morality now. On page 125 RK writes the Torah seems to be a virtuous document. And beginning on page 36 RK argues the Torah is ethical system. The ten commandments.. . The Torah is an exceptionally ethical document. [RK writes all this is to support the notion that a good G-d would give a moral document of instruction, and the Torah is such a document.] [For more on the 10 commandments and the Torah Laws in general see my addendum.]

It seems RK is NOT using Divine Command Theory. Thus it seems RK is assuming there is some external standard independent of G-d that determines what is ethical or moral. Per RK, the Torah prohibits taking revenge, lying  and manslaughter etc: Per RK the Torah instructs to pay wages on time, and love your neighbor as yourself etc:  RK seems to understand those prohibitions and instructions to be inherently moral and  ethical guidelines.

I suppose RK would argue a document that advocates immoral or unethical behavior would be grounds to deny that a good G-d gave that document.  I will apply such a criteria to the Torah. You decide how ethical and moral the Torah is after reading just some of the Torah:

Cut Off In the Bible

Statute Forever In the Bible 

The Bible, the Brother, and the Widow  

Suspected Adultery and the Bible Remedy  

The Bible, The Priests, The Female and the Disabled 

Wasteful animal sacrifices. (Lets ignore that Yahweh likes the scent of burnt flesh).

Stones Homosexuals

Stones Adulterer

Condones Slavery 

Capital Punishment blasphemy (Lev. 24:16), Witchcraft 

Also see Numbers 31:17 Now, therefore, slay every male among the children, and slay also every woman who has known a man
carnally; 18 But spare every young woman who has not
had carnal relations with a man.

Also see Deut 21:10 When you take the field against your enemies, and the LorD your God delivers them into your power and you
take some of them captive, 11 and you see among the captives
a beautiful woman and you desire her and would
take her to wife...

Some of the Torah’s instructions seem unethical or immoral to me and would not fall within common ethical systems. Recall RK can not now resort to Divine Command Theory and argue for example that stoning of Sabbath breakers or Homosexuals is ethical because G-d says you should. If RK argues that then his argument falls apart.  Meaning the Torah is not really ethical, but we say it is ethical because G-d commands it.

Since the Torah does not seem all that ethical, we may apply RK style criteria and argue the Torah is not from G-d. 


Using RK's criteria to determine if a book is divine, we need not accept the divinity of the Torah. Moreover a good case can be made it is not divine.

One response to my critique is to argue G-d would ensure a accurate transmission of the Torah thru Moshe. But how does the Theologian know this ?  Is not G-d the great mystery ?  That is what I am told when I raise 'questions'.  Theologians can not have it both ways. 

Addendum On The Ten Commandments  

From the book Ancient Texts For The Study of The Hebrew Bible - Kenton Sparks 2005 Page 430 "The form and content of Hebrew laws are similar and sometimes include provisions that are nearly identical to their Near East counterparts."

From the Bible and the Ancient Near East by Gordon and Rendsburg 4th edition page 88 "The Ugaritic tablets confront us with so many striking parallels to the Hebrew Bible that is is universally recognized that  the two literatures are variants of one Canaanite tradition."

Scholars have found the likely influence of other ancient near east cultures on the 10 commandments and the Torah. Maybe those other cultures should get some of the credit and not the Torah.

The Ten Commandments

1) Thou shalt have no other gods before me
2) Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image
3) Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain
4) Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy
5) Honor thy father and thy mother
6) Thou shalt not kill
7) Thou shalt not commit adultery
8) Thou shalt not steal
9) Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor
10)Thou shalt not covet neighbor's house, neighbor's wife, neighbor's servants, animals, or anything else.

#1-#4 Can hardly be considered ethical or moral imperative. Other cultures have their own gods and ways to worship them. Why must they worship Yahweh and why with #2,#3,#4  ?  One may argue #4 is not ethical as it restricts your use of time and what work you may do on the Sabbath.  

#5 Seems reasonable, as long as the parents deserve it. Should you honor abusive parent(s) ? 

#6,#8, #9 seem almost necessary for a society to function. 

#7 - Depends on the culture. In some cultures sharing ones wife with somebody can be seen as an act of friendship. On the other hand if adultery is committed that violates a spouses trust or contract that can be considered unethical.  It is important to note adultery applies to the wife, not the husband as long as the male engages with a non married women. Thus #7 is really a double standard and does not seem ethical. 

#10 Hardly seems like an ethical imperative. Coveting in thought is more or less harmless and almost impossible to control. 

Side Note - Exactly what some the 10 commandments were meant to convey is tricky. #5 may have related to ancestor worship. #3 may have related to using a god’s name while soothsaying and such.

Continued Kuzari Argument Part 20 Rabbi Kelemen Incunabular Argument Permission To Receive

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Kuzari Part 18 Unbroken Chain ?, Hints For Rabbi Kelemen

This is a continuation of my posts on the Kuzari Argument begun Kuzari Part One. I think this post can probably stand alone. 

The Kuzari argument claims a national tradition of a national event can not be introduced into a population that knows not of it. In several posts I  have argued the claim is not valid.  For specific examples from Israelite history see my post. For that reason the Kuzari argument fails. 

Now I am going to make a different argument. Kuzari proponents claim there is a continuous chain of a national tradition of the Sinai Revelation. For example in Rabbi Kelemen’s book Permission to Receive 1996 on page 74 “Every generation of extant Jewish literature records the same history - God spoke to the Jews at Sinai- and nowhere do we find even the slightest  hint that this fact was once lost and then later recovered.” 

Are their hints of a broken chain ?  There are hints and more ! 

This post is somewhat similar to Kefirahoftheweek Kuzari post.

When faced with making a decision between two choices many people write a list of pros and cons. Likewise when faced with competing hypothesis we can make up a list of facts that support the hypothesis and a list that is against the hypotheses.

What type of facts would support the notion of a continuous national tradition of Mt Sinai going back to a Sinai revelation ? I am not saying those facts prove a Sinai event, only that those facts buttress the hypothesis of a continuous chain of transmission of the Sinai revelation. 

1) Continuous mention throughout history of the Sinai Revelation.

2) Continuous worship of Yahweh throughout history. This is the first of the 10 commandments and a key takeaway from the Sinai revelation. Also, the more the worship is to Yahweh alone, the better the support for a chain back to Sinai.

3) Continuous  large population. For example if the population is extremely small it would hardly count as a nation. 

4) Limited foreign invasions or control. During invasions traditions can get lost, jumbled, modified and invented.

5) Others ? 

What type of facts would count against the notion of a continuous national tradition of Mt Sinai going back to a Sinai revelation. ? That is easy. The opposite of the above. I am not saying such facts disprove a Sinai event, only that such facts would buttress the hypothesis of gaps in the transmission of the Sinai revelation. 

1) Huge gaps in mentioning the Sinai event

2) Non continuous worship of Yahweh. Also, the less the worship is to Yahweh alone, the better the support for a broken chain.

3) Large fluctuation in population

4) Significant foreign invasions or control.

5) Others ?

Lets examine each type of fact in turn and see which hypothesis fares better.

1) Are there huge gaps in mentioning the Sinai event ? The Pentateuch does mention the Sinai revelation,  however as Kefirah points out it is not mentioned by the prophets - see above kefirahofweek post. 

Also Psalms mentions the promise to Abraham and the Exodus but not the giving of the 10 commandments or the Torah at Sinai.

The data supports a non continuous mention of Sinai revelation tradition.

2) There are many periods of widespread Idolatry in Israelite history and Yahweh ‘reform’ periods.  Here are some examples:

See Judges 2:8.

Ramban Numbers 15:22 9 - In the days of the wicked Kings such as Jeroboam MOST PEOPLE forgot the TORAH and COMMANDMENTS COMPLETELY.

Talmud Sukkah 20a - For in ancient times when the Torah was forgotten from Israel, [397 B.C.] Ezra came up from Babylon and established it.

Judges 3:7 The Israelites did what was offensive to the Lord; they ignored the Lord their God and worshiped the Baalim and the

Judges10:6 The Israelites again did what was offensive to the
Lord. They served the Baalim and the Ashtaroth, and the
gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the
gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines;
they forsook the Lord and did not serve Him.

710 B.C. King Hezekiah encourages Yahwism

Idolatry occurs often see II Kings, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. For example Jeremiah 36 The Lord said to me in the days of King Josiah: Have you seen what Rebel Israel did, going to every high mountain and under every leafy tree, and whoring there? 7 I thought: After she has done all these things, she will come back to Me. But she did not come back;

For example II Kings 24 Idolatry after Josiah’s death. 

697 B.C. During reign of King Manasseh: II Kings 21:8 And I
will not again cause the feet of Israel to wander from the
land that I gave to their fathers, if they will but faithfully
observe all that I have commanded them-all the Teachings
with which My servant Moses charged them." 9 But
they did not obey, and Manasseh led them astray to do
greater evil than the nations that the Lord  had destroyed
before the Israelites.

623 B.C. King Josiah - law scroll ‘found’ becomes basis for drastic Yahwest reforms.(II Kings 22-23 )

The data supports 'noncontinuous'  Yahweh worship. The data supports significant periods of non Yahweh alone worship.

3) Large fluctuation in population ? Probably, considering various civil wars, invasions and exiles.

4) Significant ancient Israel foreign invasion or control.


Philistines, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia.


I argue a valid case can be made for likely significant gaps in the so called chain of the Sinai revelation and thus the Kuzari argument fails. 

Continued Kuzari argument Part 19 plus some Critique Rabbi Kelemen's Book of Permission To Receive