Torah Is not “Only” a Human Creation
When discussing the nature of Torah, we had best consider the limitations of human understanding. A two year old cannot understand an adult; the gap between God and human beings is greater than that between a two year old and an adult; yet we make pronouncements about God all the time as if we understand the nature of God.
We pretend that Torah was created in ways we grasp. That it was written by human beings seems clear to me. Modern study has demonstrated that to anyone who is guided by evidence rather than priori faith commitment. Yet I believe, based on history, tradition and my own study, that the divine suffuses this text, breathes through it, speaks to us by way of its rocky and unsettling stories. The infinite capacity of Torah to relate to each generation is not happenstance but a property of its mysterious depth and height.
Resisting the Reductionism of “Only”
I resist the reductionism of “only.” People are not “only” animals, prayer is not “only” poetry, and Torah is not “only” a human creation. Judaism helped teach the world that the greatest reality is that which one cannot see. The Torah cannot be captured in the netting of critical studies alone, and yet in an age of comparative cultural, linguistic and archeological studies, neither can we deny its material origins in this world. It is limited and endless: a cosmic creation that submits to a microscope.
Torah is something better than perfect: it is our problematic tree of life to be struggled with, submitted to, awestruck by. Learning more about its origin does not limit its effect. Torah has transformed human history and retains the power in an instant or over a lifetime, to transform a soul.
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September 7, 2015
May 30, 2020
Rabbi David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California. He received his rabbinical ordination from JTS. Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the author of seven books, including the national bestseller Making Loss Matter: Creating Meaning in Difficult Times. Rabbi Wolpe’s new book is titled, Why Faith Matters.
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