Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Where it all goes wrong

At around this time in the yearly parsha cycle, the torah begins to get very messy. All through Berishis everything flows in a somewhat choronological order, with the story centering on Avraham and his decendents and culminating with Yetzias Mitzrayim.

When we get to parshas Yisro, Mishpatim, everything goes a bit hairy. Now I have learned chumash for many years with mifarshim and somehow I accepted that אין מוקדם או מאוחר בתורה and of course the various intricate pshatim. While I am not a big Documentary Hypothesis person, (see Little Foxling's blog http://littlefoxling.blogspot.com/ for an extensive study of DH) probably because I do Gemara, not tanach, but the big picture issues are very much a problem. Last shabbas, for example at the end of mishpatim, all of sudden the commandments are given again. And how or when were the laws of mishpatim given? Were the Jews already having Jewish slaves so soon after slavery? I get alot of these bigger picture questions every time I look at the parsha from a macro perspective, and avoid the rashi/textual analysis. I am well aware that a good parsha shiur can link everything together in beautiful tapestry interweaving different themes and p'sukim. And I can appreciate and enjoy that. But it is not sufficient. It is just human artistry.

My real question is one posed by XGH more eloquently (could not find it in archives) about why didnt God give us a user manual to ourselves and the world around us. Why is the torah missing explanations for the universe, olam habaa, suffering, etc. Many big theological topics are totally left out of the torah, while extensive detail is given to others. For the next few weeks we will read in exhaustive detail the bits and pieces of the mishkan. I am sorry but most of this is totally useless information for the Jewish people, it is not timeless. One might argue that by focusing on irrelevant knowledge it might have given us the ability to think theoretically and prepared us for the knowledge economy. Or perhaps this helped us fight persecutions and assimilation. If you believe that the torah is the be all and end all, so why is it missing so many important topics and lacking in editorial control?