- Torah and Jewish Thought
- General Questions
Dear Rabbi: This is a loaded question! When it comes to.. personal issues .. whether:..Spiritual,.. Morals, .. Principles & Values to governs one’s numerous aspects of life: would the Torah/Tanach .. be considered as ..The Final Authority (the True .. End-all ..&.. Be-all, …biblical word as valid) ...to structure one’s life around as their foundation of beliefs & follow-thru? And would they see the outcomes as indicated within the scriptures? Since the Tanach does Not ..defy the laws of the land .. but the Tanach is superior as guidance to adhere to, especially for the practicing Jew, .. would it be safe to say .. that if one chooses to firmly plant their beliefs within the principles of the Tanach, ... can they truly count on God’s Written Word of instructions .. as TRUTH ...and take those Words.. to Heart via ..digest & make it a part of their being .. in reality, ..both, physically, & spiritually? Is the Tanach looked upon as .. Antiquated ?even in the 21st Century?!? Or, do the Rabbis & leaders pick-n-choose ..what’s relevant for today .. and dismiss the rest?
Judaism believes in the centrality of free will and man’s responsibility for his actions, and not in pre-determinism or randomly thumbing around to look for “indications within the scriptures”, like it was some kind of magic book, or as some excuse to run away from decision-making, or picking and choosing to justify one’s personal agenda. Contrarily, the Torah is G-d’s practical (!) guide to living through the wisdom (!) of His commandments whether they are easy or difficult. By definition, the Eternal Tanach will never be antiquated, and certainly not open to picking and choosing. Nevertheless, in order to be relevant not only today but also 3,300 years ago, the Torah doesn’t explicitly refer to smart-phones and micro-waves, but gives us the eternal guidelines, which are interpreted and applied to each generation and its questions by its current leading rabbis. Many of the situations (!) of 3,300 years ago, won’t be found today (slavery, death penalty, sacrifices, etc.), but were those situations to theoretically occur, yes, the rabbis would tell us how to apply them. In short: yes and no! The complete Torah (Written + Oral) is The Final Authority (yes, even defying the law of the land), but the Written Bible itself is not the “final word” to be “digested” according to the subjective agenda or superficial “indications” of any individual, nor used as magic. But it is the objective Word of G-d which is suitably taught and practiced with the help of the Oral Tradition and your local orthodox rabbi who has studied Torah 15-17 hours a day for many years with his rabbis (or you yourself can study rigorously with your rabbis!) thus receiving the Oral Tradition and helping you apply it to your life. The Torah herself directs us that this is the way to study her, “with the judge that will be in your days… and you shall do everything as they instruct you… the Torah that they shall teach you… you shall not swerve from it…” (Dvarim 17). Feel free to ask your rabbi anything you want, and free to suggest your own interpretations (checking with him that it doesn’t contradict some other verse or the Oral Tradition), but in the end, in the words of Rav Soloveichik, “surrender yourself to the absolute truths of the Torah” (which may actually be what you meant to suggest…).