כי לא מחשבותי מחשבותיכם

כִּי לֹא מַחְשְׁבוֹתַי מַחְשְׁבוֹתֵיכֶם, וְלֹא דַרְכֵיכֶם דְּרָכָי

Friday, September 18, 2015

Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi on the Afterlife

The topic of Yosef Mizrachi's video as posted on Facebook is the afterlife in the Torah. Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi, one of the most famous kiruv clowns appears to claim that the afterlife and rewards in the afterlife is something he can prove from the Written Torah. When I was still frum, I was bothered why the Torah never mentions anything about Olam Haba (the afterlife).

Let's first watch the video (it is just under 4 minutes), and then let's address Mizrachi's claims one by one.

First claim: The Torah speaks about the afterlife in Devarim

Quote: להטיב לך ולבניך עד עולם

The pasuk quoted does not seem to exist, but he probably means this verse in Devarim 12:28:

שְׁמֹ֣ר וְשָׁמַעְתָּ֗ אֵ֚ת כָּל־הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֔לֶּה אֲשֶׁ֥ר אָנֹכִ֖י מְצַוֶּ֑ךָּ לְמַעַן֩ יִיטַ֨ב לְךָ֜ וּלְבָנֶ֤יךָ אַחֲרֶ֙יךָ֙ עַד־עוֹלָ֔ם כִּ֤י תַעֲשֶׂה֙ הַטּ֣וֹב וְהַיָּשָׁ֔ר בְּעֵינֵ֖י יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ׃

"Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee for ever, when thou doest that which is good and right in the eyes of the LORD thy God."

The context of the verse is the prohibition of eating blood. This is not directed at one person but to the Jewish people as a whole. The promise is that all will go well with you if you refrain from eating blood.

Ad Olam here translates as "forever", but does not necessarily mean anything outside of the physical world. It definitely can't mean someone's specific afterlife. Rather, it refers to the perpetuity of the Jewish people: thee, and with thy children after thee for ever.

Claim 2: The Torah says there is reward in the afterlife

Quote: כי מנסה ה' אתכם לראות התשמור מצוותי אם לא להטיבך באחריתך

Perhaps he meant Devarim 8:2:

וְזָכַרְתָּ אֶת-כָּל-הַדֶּרֶךְ, אֲשֶׁר הוֹלִיכְךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ זֶה אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה--בַּמִּדְבָּר: לְמַעַן עַנֹּתְךָ לְנַסֹּתְךָ, לָדַעַת אֶת-אֲשֶׁר בִּלְבָבְךָ הֲתִשְׁמֹר מִצְו‍ֹתָו--אִם-לֹא

And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God hath led thee these forty years in the wilderness, that He might afflict thee, to prove thee, to know what was in thy heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments, or no.
It then says 14 (!) verses down:

הַמַּאֲכִלְךָ מָן בַּמִּדְבָּר אֲשֶׁר לֹא יָדְעוּן אֲבֹתֶיךָ לְמַעַן עַנֹּתְךָ וּלְמַעַן נַסֹּתֶךָ לְהֵיטִבְךָ בְּאַחֲרִיתֶךָ׃

...who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that He might afflict thee, and that He might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end

Lehativecha ba'acharitecha means to reward you later on in life, just like it says (Mishlei 19:20):

שְׁמַע עֵצָה וְקַבֵּל מוּסָר לְמַעַן תֶּחְכַּם בְּאַחֲרִיתֶךָ

I assume he agrees that the author of Mishlei did not mean that you become smart after you die. That would be really weird.

Notice that I am not saying here that 'acharitecha' can not possibly mean eternal life. I am only saying that since it can be explained otherwise, you can't bring 'proof' from there.

Claim 3: The Torah says that there is a world where the souls go

Quote: ותצא נפש רחל ותמת רחל

Again, the pasuk is not quoted correctly. I found it in Bereishit 35:18-19:

יח וַיְהִי בְּצֵאת נַפְשָׁהּ, כִּי מֵתָה, וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ, בֶּן-אוֹנִי; וְאָבִיו, קָרָא-לוֹ בִנְיָמִין. יט וַתָּמָת, רָחֵל; וַתִּקָּבֵר בְּדֶרֶךְ אֶפְרָתָה, הִוא בֵּית לָחֶם.

18 And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing--for she died--that she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. 19 And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath--the same is Beth-lehem.

The verses only mention that Rachel's nefesh (life force) went out of her body, it doesn't mention that it is a self-contained entity called soul travels up to another world. Rather, it refers to the life spirit people thought to be in the air (see also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soul_in_the_Bible)

He then proceeds to quote Kohelet which is already after the period of the Babylonians where they learnt the concept of the afterlife from.

Claim 4: The Torah believes there is a separation between body and a soul

Quote (Bereishit 2:7):

וַיִּיצֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֶת הָאָדָם עָפָר מִן הָאֲדָמָה וַיִּפַּח בְּאַפָּיו נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים וַיְהִי הָאָדָם לְנֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה

"Then the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."
Same thing. The concept of the breath of the living spirit is a belief that people had that the life force was in the air (proof: you choke someone and he dies), so this life force entered the body and it came to life.

Notice here that it didn't say that man embodied the soul, but he became a living creature. It just says that the body came to life. This does not equal the concept of an immortal soul.

In summary:

- We have no proof that the Torah mentions anything about an afterlife
- And nothing either about a reward in that afterlife
- Mizrachi is wrong. Again.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tradition, Interrupted

One of the main claims asserted by the Jewish outreach industry is that the chain of tradition was never broken. This is the prerequisite for the Kuzari Principle, the idea that the revelation at Sinai is likely to have happened because there has been an uninterrupted chain from father to son that it happened. And if it weren't true, this claim would have been rebutted by their children.

Note that Gottlieb never claims that his principle is proof for the revelation at Sinai but, in his words, "There is enough evidence in favor of the revelation to make it reasonable to accept."

For a clearer understanding of the Kuzari Principle, see Rabbi Gottlieb's The Kuzari Principle.

I find this 'principle' a lot of hogwash.

One reason is that the reason that Jewish people believe in the revelation at Sinai has more to do with indoctrination than a tradition from father to son. In fact, most people I know were just taught that the revelation of Sinai was true without a personal testimony of their fathers saying that they have a tradition that their great-great-great-(...)-grandfathers received the Torah at Sinai.

The other reason for doubt comes from nothing less than...Tenach!

Short history lesson: Nehemia was the governor of Persian Judaa during the Second Temple period. The Persian king Artaxerxes allowed Nehemia to rebuild the walls and the city of Jerusalem. He served in Judea for 12 years in total.

During the rededication of the Temple, on the first day, they read from the 'Book of Law'. On the second day, they continue to read in this book:

יד  וַיִּמְצְאוּ, כָּתוּב בַּתּוֹרָה:  אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה בְּיַד-מֹשֶׁה, אֲשֶׁר יֵשְׁבוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל בַּסֻּכּוֹת בֶּחָג בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַשְּׁבִיעִי.14 And they found written in the Law, how that the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month;
טו  וַאֲשֶׁר יַשְׁמִיעוּ, וְיַעֲבִירוּ קוֹל בְּכָל-עָרֵיהֶם וּבִירוּשָׁלִַם לֵאמֹר--צְאוּ הָהָר וְהָבִיאוּ עֲלֵי-זַיִת וַעֲלֵי-עֵץ שֶׁמֶן, וַעֲלֵי הֲדַס וַעֲלֵי תְמָרִים וַעֲלֵי עֵץ עָבֹת:  לַעֲשֹׂת סֻכֹּת, כַּכָּתוּב.  {פ}15 and that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying: 'Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and branches of wild olive, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.' {P}
טז  וַיֵּצְאוּ הָעָם, וַיָּבִיאוּ, וַיַּעֲשׂוּ לָהֶם סֻכּוֹת אִישׁ עַל-גַּגּוֹ וּבְחַצְרֹתֵיהֶם, וּבְחַצְרוֹת בֵּית הָאֱלֹהִים--וּבִרְחוֹב שַׁעַר הַמַּיִם, וּבִרְחוֹב שַׁעַר אֶפְרָיִם.16 So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the broad place of the water gate, and in the broad place of the gate of Ephraim.
יז  וַיַּעֲשׂוּ כָל-הַקָּהָל הַשָּׁבִים מִן-הַשְּׁבִי סֻכּוֹת, וַיֵּשְׁבוּ בַסֻּכּוֹת--כִּי לֹא-עָשׂוּ מִימֵי יֵשׁוּעַ בִּן-נוּן כֵּן בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, עַד הַיּוֹם הַהוּא; וַתְּהִי שִׂמְחָה, גְּדוֹלָה מְאֹד.17 And all the congregation of them that were come back out of the captivity made booths, and dwelt in the booths; for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness.

Now, there are two interesting points here:
  1. In verse 15, it appears that olive branches and branches of wild olive need to be used to make sukot (booths), and then writes 'as it is written'. I did not know of any references made or any commentators that explain it satisfactorily. It appears that these verses were lost in tradition.
  2. From the fact that it says in verse 14 that they 'found' it written in the Torah that the Children of Israel should sit in booths, it seems that they were unaware of this fact. A fact that, nowadays, any school child knows. Furthermore, it appears that they did not dwell in booths since the days of Joshua: "for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so."
Both points, the 'lost' verses about the olive branches and the 'forgotten' tradition of dwelling in booths clearly demonstrate that tradition was, in fact, interrupted.

Click here for more articles on the weakness of the Kuzari Principle.

Thanks to Yoni Rachok for this quotation.