After my rebuttal of an editorial slandering Moses in the St. Louis Jewish Light, the slew of letters denouncing me as uncivil and judgmental prompted me to ask why so many members of the community considered it perfectly acceptable for a congregational rabbi to denigrate Judaism’s greatest leader but unacceptable for me to call him out for character assassination and trampling on Jewish tradition.
I’m still waiting for an answer. However, one individual who frequently comments on my site (whose comments are less frequently fit to print), responded as I was certain he would:
While you may beleive that Moses was a real person many Jews believe he is a mythical character created by the Priesthood in the 7th to 9th Century before the common era.
In my comments, I replied that this is precisely the point. If you don’t believe in Jewish tradition, then anything goes. There is no reality, no morality, and no accountability.
Is this what we want to hear from our spiritual leaders?
In 2001, David Wolpe, a Los Angeles rabbinical clergyman, posed the question in his Passover sermon, “Why do we continue to commemorate the exodus from Egypt if it didn’t really happen?”
The question, of course, is self-contradictory: We celebrate the exodus for no reason other than because it did happen; and if we don’t believe it happened, we have no reason to celebrate.
If the Torah is nothing more than a book of fables or inspired literature, then certainly any Bible critic is entitled to his own interpretations, as any critic of literature is entitled his own interpretation of Shakespeare or Milton. (Then again, one requires credentials as a literary scholar before his criticism will be respected by his peers.) However, if that is what we believe, then the foundations of Judaism have already disintegrated and we have no hope of restoring them.
Conversely, there is ample evidence supporting the truth of Torah and its historical record for anyone who wants to seek out historical truth. The overwhelming majority of those who dismiss the Torah as myth have made no sincere effort to discover otherwise. It’s difficult to take seriously the opinion of anyone who hasn’t bothered to understand the opposing point of view.
Historical revisionism has become possibly the greatest enemy of the Jewish people. The historical imperative of the exodus and revelation at Sinai is at the core of who we are as a people, as well as defining the essence of the Passover celebration. For more on the dangers of revisionist history, see my article from last week, Orwell, Santayana, and Me.
For past Pesach articles, click here.
May the Almighty grant us all a joyous and kosher Passover, and a true redemption from the slavery of our biases and misconceptions.