December 13, 2007
Does belief in Torah mean every word is true?
(Page 2 - Previous Page)I believe that the Bible is a product of human authorship, and to the extent that all human creativity is driven by God, then I see God's hand in its pages. But that does not make it all true.
On the other hand, I do believe it is all sacred or holy, by which I mean that it has become the foundation of Jewish society, narrative, history, culture and law. The sanctity of the book comes in how it is read by later generations, not by who wrote it.
When we sit around a table on a Shabbat morning and argue about the meaning of a verse of Torah, digging deep to understand how, if at all, it can apply to our contemporary world or trying to understand ourselves by understanding the words of the text, that discussion sanctifies us, our lives and the words.
This notion that the sanctity comes from us, in our use of the text, is an ancient Jewish notion. I believe that few (if any) Jews have ever believed that the entire Tanakh is of supernatural origin and literally true.
Rabbi Joyce Newmark, Conservative Rabbi, Former Congregation Leader in Leonia, NJ, and Lancaster, Pa..
I believe the Torah is true; that it is God's book; that no matter how it came to be, it is the book God wants us to have.
However, I don't believe that the Torah is necessarily factual. I certainly don't believe that the world was created in seven days some 6,000 ago.
I do believe that God created the world and everything in it, and that the specific process He used and the exact time frame aren't really important.
As a student of Torah, I also know that it is not a book that lends itself to literal, simple or superficial understanding.
Jews read the Torah through the eyes of the rabbis. We have been studying the Torah for millennia, and we still continue to find new subtleties and insights.
So yes, the Torah is true, but it is also much greater than what is found on the pages of a single book.
Andrew Silow-Carroll is editor-in-chief of the New Jersey Jewish News.
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