Sunday, March 28, 2010

Many words that appear in the Torah are synonyms, or at least approximate synonyms. For example, sakal and ragam or amar and diber. Many people have observed that synonym choices tend to be correlated, so that, for example, in a parsha in which sakal appears one is more likely to find amar, while in a parsha in which ragam appears one is more likely to find diber. In fact, there seem to be certain broad patterns of such correlations, the details of which are not crucial at the moment.

Consider now the following hypothetical reactions to such observations.

A acknowledges such correlations provided that the medrash and/or the classical meforshim already did so for purposes of drush or parshanut.

B acknowledges them and is willing to use them as the basis for new speculative drush and parshanut.

C observes that the overall picture of such correlations suggest different "layers" of texts and speculates about the meaning of such distinct layers, but draws no conclusions from this about authorship.

D notes to himself that careful analysis of the "layers" seems to suggest multiple authorship, but is not disturbed by this because there is no reason that a Divinely authored document could not look like the product of multiple authorship.

E is convinced intellectually that the evidence points to multiple authorship but remains emotionally in the grip of the standard frum perspective he has always held and intends to continue to hold.

F is no longer in the emotional grip of the frum perspective regarding authorship of the Torah but retains enough emotional attachment to the overall frum narrative that he continues to live a frum life and to educate his children accordingly.

G is emotionally detached from the whole frum narrative but continues to live a frum life and to educate his kids accordingly out of respect, allegiance and the conviction that it is a good way to live.

H is emotionally detached from the frum narrative but stays frum in order to be better able to be meisis umadiach by spreading the gospel of higher Biblical criticism among the youth.

There is obviously a bright red line between some consecutive pair of these. Where would you put that line? (If you have a hard time answering a different question -- which letter you are -- the answer is that you are the letter right above the place you put the red line.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see your website is advertising for Drisha!

9:35 PM  
Anonymous Shlomo said...

So Ben Chorin, which letter are you?

12:50 AM  
Blogger aiwac said...

Actually, I am two letters...

But what intrigues me even more is how you deal with this. You seem to take refutations of Divine authorship and even Divine existence in stride in your posts.

Is it really that easy for you, or are you struggling against being one of the lower letters on your list?

4:13 PM  
Anonymous YOELI said...

נישט בחנם מיין איך אז דו ביסט מער דוד הארטמאן ווי לאמיר זאגען הרב וואזנער

12:47 AM  
Blogger Nachum said...

Someone who lives the frum life because he believes it (and not just in an emotional sense) to be correct despite also believing that the frum view of authorship is way off? Is that F? (You limit it to "emotion" in that one.) Is it G? (Then why is it lower than F?)

2:32 PM  
Anonymous Eric said...

I'm surprised there's no mention of J: who has vaguely heard of these ideas on occasion, but has not chosen, or else chosen not, to investigate them in depth.

I'd think that type J is not only the most common type, but for most people in most circumstances, the most justifiable type to aim for.

10:01 PM  
Anonymous Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

Most people who wonder about such things have not read the Malbim's commentary on Vayikra where he lists 100's of grammatical and syntax rules governing where one synonym appears and where the other does, common patterns in the text and the reasons for them etc.
For example, AMAR and DIBUR might be synonyms when translated into English but a good review of the original Hebrew shows they have very specific meanings to distinguish them.

2:18 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Indeed, finding subtle differences between apparent synonyms is a very worthwhile exercise in parshanut. It's necessary, however, to go one step further and to explain why certain word choices strongly correlate with certain others.

2:36 PM  
Anonymous Chutznik said...

>Shlomo said...
> So Ben Chorin, which letter are you?

Any reason this question remains unanswered?

5:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ha ha ha , you ran out of shtissim i see. good hope you close the blog

12:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Ben,

Without any posts in so long, my mind has been wandering to all sorts of illicit subjects.

Perhaps you can help me settle a recent concern. Occasionally, I take a shuttle bus home. The bus (at least as far as I know) waits until it is somewhat full, which can take about ten minutes, before leaving.

Naturally, if one bus is pulling out, I'd rather be the last person on that one than be the first on the next and have to wait for it to fill.

Usually before I get on the bus I don't know how full it is. But when I get close to the stop (and it occurs to me) I'm sometimes inclined to hurry to the bus so that in case one is leaving soon I won't miss it. I assume this is ridiculous? I don't increase the likelihood that I'll get onto a leaving bus by rushing, right?

6:54 AM  

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