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Understanding Why the Bible Was Written in Light of Jewish History

March 11, 2014

Dovbear has joined an online course to learn about the motivation behind the writing of the Bible.

Well, here’s my answer (concerning the true Bible. The Christian version is not of any interest): Hazal said that had the Jews not sinned, they would have sufficed with the Pentateuch and the book of Joshua, which details who got what part of Eretz Yisrael.

That is, the Bible as as we know it serves the purpose of rebuking and setting us straight because we messed up. The theme of all the subsequent books is how to understand our spiritual and moral failings, and how those in turn led to the unfolding of Jewish history in a not so desirable manner. The book of Judges shows how the people failed in settling the land, getting rid of the Canaanites, and uniting to perform the three major mitzvoth. Samuel shows how they recovered from that. Kings shows how they then failed more miserably because of their kings. The later prophets elaborate on said themes.

The k’thuvimn allude to the potential the Jews had at the begining of second temple times to recover from the failures of the first temple ear. As I wrote previously, the message is that the expectations and opportunities of the Second Temple period still persist, and if only we were to do our part, the ultimate redemption would be here.

And that is the Bible: God wanted the Jewish people to create a utopia in Eretz Yisrael. They failed, but He constantly expects them to do so and repeatedly allows them a fresh opportunity.

***

Because God wants us to create a utopia in the Land of Israel, and success in that endeavor would be termed redemption, and because that redemption does not depend on how successfully observant the individual members of society are of the various non-communal commandments, you have the example of the successful founding, by mostly unobservant Jews, or even renegades, of a secular state in the Land of Israel that does more to bring us closer to the Redemption than the formation of completely religiously observant communities in the diaspora. The Talmud declares (K’thuvoth 110b:)

Our Rabbis taught: One should always live in the Land of Israel, even in a town most of whose inhabitants are idolaters, but let no one live outside the Land, even in a town most of whose inhabitants are Israelites; for whoever lives in the Land of Israel may be considered to have a God, but whoever lives outside the Land may be regarded as one who has no God. 

Maimonides codifies this as law.

The most secular Tel Aviv is much greater than the shtarkest, and according to Hazal, godless, Lakewood, in any age merely because it is where it is.

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