Friday, October 2, 2015

Breaks In Tradition, Rabbinic Authority, and The Reasons For the Commandments

In Lawrence Schiffman's "Texts and Traditions: A Source Reader for the Study of Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism." He brings up an idea about biblical interpretation that made me think about the oral tradition and whether it was a truly unbroken chain, given down from teacher to student, from Moses until today. First, let us look at the verses in the Torah that deal with the holiday of Succos (Vayikra 23:40-43):
מ  וּלְקַחְתֶּם לָכֶם בַּיּוֹם הָרִאשׁוֹן, פְּרִי עֵץ הָדָר כַּפֹּת תְּמָרִים, וַעֲנַף עֵץ-עָבֹת, וְעַרְבֵי-נָחַל; וּשְׂמַחְתֶּם, לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם--שִׁבְעַת יָמִים. 40 And you shall take on the first day fruit of the beautiful tree, branches of palm-trees, and leaves of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.
מא  וְחַגֹּתֶם אֹתוֹ חַג לַיהוָה, שִׁבְעַת יָמִים בַּשָּׁנָה:  חֻקַּת עוֹלָם לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם, בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַשְּׁבִיעִי תָּחֹגּוּ אֹתוֹ. 41 And you shall celebrate a celebration unto the LORD seven days of the year; it is a statute forever, for generations; In the seventh month you shall celebrate it.
מב  בַּסֻּכֹּת תֵּשְׁבוּ, שִׁבְעַת יָמִים; כָּל-הָאֶזְרָח, בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל, יֵשְׁבוּ, בַּסֻּכֹּת. 42 You shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are home-born in Israel shall dwell in booths;
מג  לְמַעַן, יֵדְעוּ דֹרֹתֵיכֶם, כִּי בַסֻּכּוֹת הוֹשַׁבְתִּי אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, בְּהוֹצִיאִי אוֹתָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם:  אֲנִי, יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם. 43 In order that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

In the current tradition, we know that verse 40 is referring to the commandment of taking the Lulav
and Esrog. Therefore, we know these verses are teaching us that on Succos we have two main commandments, the taking of the Lulav with the Esrog and dwelling in booths. However, what if the interpretation of the verses was that the booths are to be made from the four species? What if these verses were all referring to only one commandment?

This is in fact what happened in the days of Ezra and Nechemia, at the beginning of the return of the exiles, according to Lawrence Schiffman. As it states in the book of Nechemia (8:14-17):

And they found written in the Torah that the Lord had commanded, by the hand of Moses, that the Children of Israel dwell in booths on the festival in the seventh month.

ידוַיִּמְצְאוּ כָּתוּב בַּתּוֹרָה אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהֹוָה בְּיַד מֹשֶׁה אֲשֶׁר יֵשְׁבוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בַּסֻּכּוֹת בֶּחָג בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַשְּׁבִיעִי:
15And that they should announce and proclaim in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, "Go out to the mountain and bring olive leaves and leaves of oil trees, myrtle leaves, date palm leaves, and leaves of plaited trees, to make booths, as it is written."

טווַאֲשֶׁר יַשְׁמִיעוּ וְיַעֲבִירוּ קוֹל בְּכָל עָרֵיהֶם וּבִירוּשָׁלִַם לֵאמֹר צְאוּ הָהָר וְהָבִיאוּ עֲלֵי זַיִת וַעֲלֵי עֵץ שֶׁמֶן וַעֲלֵי הֲדָס וַעֲלֵי תְמָרִים וַעֲלֵי עֵץ עָבֹת לַעֲשׂת סֻכֹּת כַּכָּתוּב:
16And the people went forth and brought [these items] and made booths for themselves, each one on his roof and in their courts and in the courts of the House of God, and in the square of the Water Gate, and in the square of the Gate of Ephraim.

טזוַיֵּצְאוּ הָעָם וַיָּבִיאוּ וַיַּעֲשׂוּ לָהֶם סֻכּוֹת אִישׁ עַל גַּגּוֹ וּבְחַצְרֹתֵיהֶם וּבְחַצְרוֹת בֵּית הָאֱלֹהִים וּבִרְחוֹב שַׁעַר הַמַּיִם וּבִרְחוֹב שַׁעַר אֶפְרָיִם:
17And all the congregation of the returnees from the captivity made booths and dwelt in the booths, for they had not done so from the days of Joshua the son of Nun until that day, and there was exceedingly great joy.

יזוַיַּעֲשׂוּ 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:

First, in this story there is no mention of the lulav and esrog, which one would expect to find if they are discussing how great the observance of the holiday was. Second, in verse 15 it seems like all the materials they are gathering is only for the building of the Sukkah, not the lulav. Lastly, verse 14 uses the language of "finding," which is used when something new is discovered. Had they possessed a tradition of how to celebrate the Succos holiday, the verse would not have used the language of "finding." Therefore, the Rabbis of the time interpreted the verse as they saw fit, and that is why this holiday was, seemingly, celebrated without the commandment of lulav and esrog.

But, perhaps Lawrence Schiffman is incorrect and his analysis is off base. Nevertheless, there are other examples in the bible that appear to say the traditions of Judaism do not proceed from Moses onward in an unbroken fashion. For example, in Kings II (22:8-14) it says:

8And Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, "I have found the Scroll of the Law in the house of the Lord," and Hilkiah gave the scroll to Shaphan, and he read it.

חוַיֹּאמֶר חִלְקִיָּהוּ הַכֹּהֵן הַגָּדוֹל עַל שָׁפָן הַסֹּפֵר סֵפֶר הַתּוֹרָה מָצָאתִי בְּבֵית יְהֹוָה וַיִּתֵּן חִלְקִיָּה אֶת הַסֵּפֶר אֶל שָׁפָן וַיִּקְרָאֵהוּ:
9And Shaphan the scribe came to the king and brought back word to the king, and said, "Your servants have melted the silver that was found in the Temple, and they have given it into the hands of the foremen of the work who were appointed over the house of the Lord.

טוַיָּבֹא שָׁפָן הַסֹּפֵר אֶל הַמֶּלֶךְ וַיָּשֶׁב אֶת הַמֶּלֶךְ דָּבָר וַיֹּאמֶר הִתִּיכוּ עֲבָדֶיךָ אֶת הַכֶּסֶף הַנִּמְצָא בַבַּיִת וַיִּתְּנֻהוּ עַל יַד עֹשֵֹי הַמְּלָאכָה הַמֻּפְקָדִים בֵּית יְהֹוָה:
10And Shaphan the scribe told the king, saying, "Hilkiah the priest gave me a scroll," And Shaphan read it before the king.

יוַיַּגֵּד שָׁפָן הַסֹּפֵר לַמֶּלֶךְ לֵאמֹר סֵפֶר נָתַן לִי חִלְקִיָּה הַכֹּהֵן וַיִּקְרָאֵהוּ שָׁפָן לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ:
11And it was when the king heard the words of the scroll of the Law, that he rent his garments.

יאוַיְהִי כִּשְׁמֹעַ הַמֶּלֶךְ אֶת דִּבְרֵי סֵפֶר הַתּוֹרָה ויִּקְרַע אֶת בְּגָדָיו:
Here again we have the language of "finding" which implies that some new information was presented. However, with this source we do not need to rely upon our own interpretation. The Radak explains what happened. Radak (verse 8):
ספר התורה מצאתי בבית ה׳. דרשו כי אחז שרף את התור׳ והטמינו מפניו ספר תורה אחת והטמינוהו תחת הנדבך ועכשיו מצא חלק׳ ספר התורה הזח ורחוק הוא זה שחזקיהו שבא אחריו שרבצ תורה בישראל איך לא הוציאו וכמה ספרי תורה הניח חזקיהו במיתו אלא מנשה מלך זמן רב שהרי מלך נ״ה שנה ועשה הרע בעיני ה׳ כתועבות הגוים ובנה מזבחות לע״ג בבית ה׳ ודוא השכיח התור׳ מישראל ואין פונה אליה כי כלם היו פונים אל האלהים אחרים ואל תקית הגוים ובנ״ה שנה נשתכחה התור׳
I found a Torah scroll in the house of G-D. The [background] explanation is that Achaz burnt the Torah and one torah scroll was hidden from him, out of sight. It was hidden under stone wall (or idolatrous temple area) and now Chilkiah found this torah scroll. This incident is difficult to understand, because Chizkiyahu, who came after [Achaz] disseminated Torah throughout Israel, so how could they not find this Torah. Also, how many Torahs did Chizkiyahu leave [in the midst of Israel] when he died? Rather, Menashe ruled for a long time, he was king for 55 years, and he did such evil in the eyes of G-D, like the wicked deeds of the nations, and built alters for idol worship. He caused Israel to abandoned the Torah and they did not turn to G-D, because all of them were turning to idols and to the ways of the nations. So, after 55 years, the Torah was forgotten. 
Here, we can see the Radak claiming that the tradition from Moses had been lost. Clearly, any oral tradition or explanation of the plain meaning of the written text was not found in these days. Thus, showing a broken link in the chain of a tradition from Moses.

This break in the link of tradition is not unique to biblical sources. In the Gemara, while speaking of the tradition of which plant is the Aravos (willow-branch) it states (Sukkah 44a):
 א׳׳ל ר׳ זירא לר׳ אבהו מי א״ר יוחנן הכי והא״ר יוחנן משום ר׳ נחוניא איש בקעת בית חורתן עשר נטיעות ערבה וניסוך המים הלכה למשה מסיני אשתומם כשעה חדא ואמר שכחום וחזרו ויסדום
R. Zera to R. Abbahu, Did R. Johanan really say this? Did R. Johanan not say in the name of R. Nehunya of the Plain of Beth Hawartan that ‘the law of the ten plants, the willow-branch and the water libation were given to Moses on Mount Sinai’? [The other] was appalled for a moment and then he answered, They were forgotten and then they were re-instituted.
Rashi here states:
  שכחום. בגלות בבל שכחו את התורה והמצות במקצת וזו נשכחה לגמרי.
They were forgotten: During the exile in Babylonia they forgot part of the Torah and the commandments and this [teaching of what the Aravos were] was completely forgot.
This idea is stated in other places in the Gemara as well. The following example is a discussion of when to use the closed form vs the open form of a letter (like a mem sofit vs a regular mem) (Shabbos 104a):
לא הוה ידעין הי באמצע תיבה הי בסוף תיבה ואתו צופים תקנינהו ואכתי אלה המצות שאין הנביא רשאי לחדש דבר מעתה אלא שכחום וחזרו ויסדום
People did not know which form came in the middle of a word and which one at the end, and the Watchmen came and ordained that the open forms should be in the middle of a word and the closed forms at the end. Still, [the text states] ‘these are the commandments’, which implies that no prophet is permitted to introduce an innovation hereafter? Rather, [we must say] this law [was in fact from heaven, but] was forgotten and the Watchmen established them again.
The point of this is to show that there is no unbroken chain from Moses to us with regards to the oral Torah. In fact, there are very few laws that were given over to Moses from Sinai. That is why the Gemara only has certain laws that we say they were a Halacha L'Moshe Mi'Sinai (A law given to Moses at Sinai from G-D). The rest of the laws are derived from logical discourse of the Rabbis.

There is no better illustration of this than the story of the Oven of Aknai (Babba Metzeia 59b) where there was a dispute between Rabbi Eliezer and the Rabbis:
וזה הוא תנור של עכנאי מאי עכנאי אמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל שהקיפו דברים כעכנא זו וטמאוהו תנא באותו היום השיב רבי אליעזר כל תשובות שבעולם ולא קיבלו הימנו אמר להם אם הלכה כמותי חרוב זה יוכיח נעקר חרוב ממקומו מאה אמה ואמרי לה ארבע מאות אמה אמרו לו אין מביאין ראיה מן החרוב חזר ואמר להם אם הלכה כמותי אמת המים יוכיחו חזרו אמת המים לאחוריהם אמרו לו אין מביאין ראיה מאמת המים חזר ואמר להם אם הלכה כמותי כותלי בית המדרש יוכיחו הטו כותלי בית המדרש ליפול גער בהם רבי יהושע אמר להם אם תלמידי חכמים מנצחים זה את זה בהלכה אתם מה טיבכם לא נפלו מפני כבודו של רבי יהושע ולא זקפו מפני כבודו של ר״א ועדיין מטין ועומדין חזר ואמר להם אם הלכה כמותי מן השמים יוכיחו יצאתה בת קול ואמרה מה לכם אצל ר״א שהלכה כמותו בכ״מ עמד רבי יהושע על רגליו ואמר לא בשמים היא מאי לא בשמים היא אמר רבי ירמיה שכבר נתנה תורה מהר סיני אין אנו משגיחין בבת קול שכבר כתבת בהר סיני בתורה אחרי רבים להטות
This was the oven of 'Aknai.  Why Aknai? Rav Yehuda said in Samuel's name: [It means] that they encompassed it with arguments as a snake, and proved it unclean. It has been taught: On that day R. Eliezer brought forward every imaginable argument, but they did not accept them. He said to them: 'If the halachah agrees with me, let this carob tree prove it!' Thereupon the carob tree was torn a hundred cubits out of its place. Others say, four hundred cubits. 'No proof can be brought from a carob tree,' they retorted. Again he said to them: 'If the halachah agrees with me, let the stream of water prove it!' Whereupon the stream of water flowed backwards. 'No proof can be brought from a stream of water,' they rejoined argued. Again he urged: 'If the halachah agrees with me, let the walls of the schoolhouse prove it,' whereupon the walls inclined to fall. But R. Joshua rebuked them, saying: 'When scholars are engaged in a halachic dispute, how can you interfere?' So they did not fall, in honor of R. Joshua, nor did they resume the upright, in honour of R. Eliezer; and they are still standing this way. Again he said to them: 'If the halachah agrees with me, let it be proved from Heaven!' Whereupon a Heavenly Voice cried out: 'Why do you dispute R. Eliezer, seeing that in all matters the halachah agrees with him?!' But R. Joshua arose and exclaimed: 'It is not in heaven.' What did he mean by this? R. Jeremiah said: The Torah had already been given at Mount Sinai; we pay no attention to a Heavenly Voice, because you have already written in the Torah at Mount Sinai, After the majority must one incline.
This story teaches us something incredible, that it doesn't matter what G-D originally intended for the Halacha to be, rather it only matters how the Rabbis interpret the Torah. The tradition that we have is not an unbroken chain of what G-D said to Moses, but of the leadership of the Rabbis telling us what they think the law should be based on the written word using their logic.

This idea is not new, in fact, it is stated straight out in the bible itself (Devarim 17:9-11):

And you shall come to the Levitic kohanim and to the judge who will be in those days, and you shall inquire, and they will tell you the words of judgment.

טוּבָאתָ אֶל הַכֹּהֲנִים הַלְוִיִּם וְאֶל הַשֹּׁפֵט אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם וְדָרַשְׁתָּ וְהִגִּידוּ לְךָ אֵת דְּבַר הַמִּשְׁפָּט:
10And you shall do according to the word they tell you, from the place the Lord will choose, and you shall observe to do according to all they instruct you.

יוְעָשִׂיתָ עַל פִּי הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר יַגִּידוּ לְךָ מִן הַמָּקוֹם הַהוּא אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר יְהֹוָה וְשָׁמַרְתָּ לַעֲשׂוֹת כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר יוֹרוּךָ:
11According to the law they instruct you and according to the judgment they say to you, you shall do; you shall not divert from the word they tell you, either right or left.

יאעַל פִּי הַתּוֹרָה אֲשֶׁר יוֹרוּךָ וְעַל הַמִּשְׁפָּט אֲשֶׁר יֹאמְרוּ לְךָ תַּעֲשֶׂה לֹא תָסוּר מִן הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר יַגִּידוּ לְךָ יָמִין וּשְׂמֹאל:
Rashi on verse 11 here even tells us (from
either right or left,: Even if this judge tells you that right is left, and that left is right. How much more so, if he tells you that right is right, and left is left!- [Sifrei]ימין ושמאל: אפילו אומר לך על ימין שהוא שמאל ועל שמאל שהוא ימין, וכל שכן שאומר לך על ימין ימין ועל שמאל שמאל:

To further drive home this point, I will bring in the Rambam in the Sefer HaMitzvos (312th negative commandment):
The 312th prohibition is that we are forbidden from disagreeing with the Sages who pass down the Oral Tradition (may they rest in peace), or from deviating from any of their instructions in Torah matters. The source of this prohibition is G‑d's statement (exalted be He), "Do not stray from the word that they declare to you."
And the 174th positive commandment:
The 174th mitzvah is that we are commanded to obey the Beis Din HaGadol and act in accordance with all their instructions regarding what is prohibited and what is permitted. There is no difference whether it is something they received by Oral Tradition; derived using one of the principle of Torah extrapolation; decreed in order to correct some laxity or in response to some other situation where they found it appropriate and that it would strengthen Torah observance. We are required to obey all such directives and to act in accordance with their words, not to transgress them.The source of this commandment is G‑d's statement (exalted be He), "You must keep the Torah as they interpret it for you [and follow the laws that they legislate for you]."

The Rambam is telling us that the Rabbis are the keepers of the tradition and that, although there is no unbroken chain for all the laws, there is an unbroken tradition of following the great Rabbis of the generation. Those are our leaders and they are the ones we must follow.

Still, why would G-D set up our religion in this manner? Are we not looking for the truth? Don't we want to know what G-D actually said to Moses? This setup seems to be telling us that G-D's original intention when giving the commandments to Moses is irrelevant. So then, what is the purpose of giving the Jewish people the commandments?

There is an argument in Babba Metzeia (115a) that is based on whether the commandents have reasons behind them (like to make us better people) or if they are just for us to perform because G-D told us to perform them:
 אלמנה בין שהיא ענייה בין שהיא עשירה אין ממשכנין אותה שנאמר לא תחבול  בגד אלמנה: גמ' ת״ר אלמנה בין שהיא ענייה בין שהיא עשירה אין ממשכנין אותה דברי ר׳ יהודה ר״ש אומר עשירה ממשכנין אותה ענייה אין ממשכנין אותה שאתה חייב להחזיר לה ואתה משיאה שם רע בשכנותיה למימרא דר׳ יהודה לא דריש טעמא דקרא ור״ש דריש טעמא דקרא והא איפכא שמעינן להו דתניא ולא ירבה לו נשים ר׳ יהודה אומר מרבה הוא ובלבד שלא יהו מסירות את לבו ר״ש אומר אפילו אחת והיא מסירה את לבו ה״ז לא ישאנה א״כ מה ת״ל ולא ירבה לו נשים אפילו כאביגיל לעולם ר׳ יהודה לא דריש טעמא דקרא ושאני הכא דמפרש קרא ולא ירבה לו נשים ולא יסור מאי טעמא לא ירבה לו נשים משום דלא יסור ור״ש מכדי בעלמא דרשינן טעמא דקרא לכתוב רחמנא לא ירבה ולא בעינן לא יסור ואנא ידענא מאי טעמא לא ירבה משום דלא יסור לא יסור דכתב רחמנא למה לי אפילו אחת ומסירה את לבו הרי זה לא ישאנה:
MISHNAH. A MAN MAY NOT TAKE A PLEDGE FROM A WIDOW, WHETHER SHE BE RICH OR POOR, FOR IT IS WRITTEN, THOU SHALT NOT TAKE A WIDOW'S RAIMENT TO PLEDGE. GEMARA. Our Rabbis taught: Whether a widow is rich or poor, no pledge may be taken from her: this is R. Judah's opinion. R. Simeon said: A wealthy widow we take pledges from, but not a poor one, for you are bound to return [the pledge] to her, and you bring her into disrepute among her neighbors. Now, shall we say that R. Judah does not interpret the reason of the Writ (reason for the commandments), while R. Simeon does? But we know their opinions to be the reverse. For we learned: Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, [that his heart turn not away]; R. Judah said: He may multiply [wives], providing that they do not turn his heart away. R. Simeon said: He may not take to wife even a single one who is likely to turn his heart away; what then is taught by the verse, Neither shall he multiply wives to himself? Even such as Abigail! In truth, R. Judah does not Interpret the reason of Scripture; but here it is different, because Scripture itself states the reason: Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, and his heart shall not turn away. Thus, why ‘shall he not multiply wives to himself’? So ‘that his heart turn not away.’ And R. Simeon [argues thus]: Let us consider. As a general rule, we interpret the Scriptural reason: then Scripture should have written, ‘Neither shall he multiply [etc.].’ but ‘and his heart shall not turn away’ is superfluous, for I would know myself that the reason why he must not multiply is that his heart may not turn away. Why then is ‘shall not turn away’ [explicitly] stated? To teach that he must not marry even a single one who may turn his heart.
Here, the Gemara is introducing us to a fundamental argument, do the commandments have underlying LOGICAL reasons? Rebbe Shimon believes they do and Rebbe Yehuda does not. This leads to a statement made by Rambam (The Guide for The Perplexed in Part 3 Chapter 48):
When in the Talmud (Ber. p. 33b) those are blamed who use in their prayer the phrase, "Thy mercy extendeth to young birds," it is the expression of the one of the two opinions mentioned by us, namely, that the precepts of the Law have no other reason but the Divine will. We follow the other opinion [that the Laws have reasons].
The Rambam is telling us that, as a general rule, we follow the commandments and interpret them with the idea that they have underlying reasons, not just that G-D told us to do them. This is further elucidated by the Rambam (Guide for the perplexed Part 3 Chapter 31 Friedlander translation):
 There are persons who find it difficult to give a reason for any of the commandments, and consider it right to assume that the commandments and prohibitions have no rational basis whatever...  On the contrary, the sole object of the Law is to benefit us. Thus we explained the Scriptural passage, "for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day" (Deut. vi. 24). Again, "which shall hear all those statutes (uḳḳim), and say, surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people" (ibid. iv. 6). He thus says that even every one of these "statutes" convinces all nations of the wisdom and understanding it includes. But if no reason could be found for these statutes, if they produced no advantage and removed no evil, why then should he who believes in them and follows them be wise, reasonable, and so excellent as to raise the admiration of all nations? But the truth is undoubtedly as we have said, that every one of the six hundred and thirteen precepts serves to inculcate some truth, to remove some erroneous opinion, to establish proper relations in society, to diminish evil, to train in good manners or to warn against bad habits. All this depends on three things: opinions, morals, and social conduct. We do not count words, because precepts, whether positive or negative, if they relate to speech, belong to those precepts which regulate our social conduct, or to those which spread truth, or to those which teach morals. Thus these three principles suffice for assigning a reason for every one of the Divine commandments.
 The commandments are there to make us morally, socially and emotionally better people. This is why the Rabbis are given such great power over the law, because they are supposed to guide us as to how best to understand the laws in a way that will improve us and update our morals and social constructs with an evolving society. The best example of the Rabbis doing this can be found in the Gemara in Babba Kamma (83b):
אמאי?  עין תחת עין אמר רחמנא אימא עין ממש לא סלקא דעתך דתניא יכול סימא את עינו מסמא את עינו קטע את ידו מקטע את ידו שיבר את רגלו משבר את רגלו ת״ל מכה אדם ומכה בהמה מה מכה בהמה לתשלומין אף מכה אדם לתשלומין ואם נפשך לומר הרי הוא אומר לא תקחו כופר לנפש רוצח אשר הוא רשע למות לנפש רוצח אי אתה לוקח כופר אבל אתה לוקח כופר לראשי אברים שאין חוזרין
Why [pay compensation]? Does the Divine Law not say ‘Eye for eye’? Why not take this literally to mean [putting out] the eye [of the offender]? — Let not this enter your mind, since it has been taught: You might think that where he put out his eye, the offender's eye should be put out, or where he cut off his arm, the offender's arm should be cut off, or again where he broke his leg, the offender's leg should be broken. [Not so; for the Torah] comes to teach , ‘He that smiteth any man. . .’ ‘And he that smiteth a beast . . .’ just as in the case of smiting a beast compensation is to be paid, so also in the case of smiting a man compensation is to be paid. And should this [reason] not satisfy you, note that it is stated, ‘Moreover you shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer, that is guilty of death’, implying that it is only for the life of a murderer that you may not take ‘satisfaction’, whereas you may take ‘satisfaction’ [even] for the principal limbs, though these cannot be restored.’
Here we see the Rabbis using one of the logical principles for biblical exegesis to teach that a barbaric act, taking an eye for an eye, should not be followed. They instead reinterpret the verse in a non-literal way in order to morally improve this law. This could only be done if we believe that there are reasons for the commandments, because then man can use his logic to try and figure out the reason. With the goal being moral, social and emotional improvement, that Rambam tells us, the Rabbis can then interpret the law following these guidelines.  (Also, other laws that point out this idea are multiple wives and slavery that are no longer acceptable in Judaism)

Lastly, I want to share the words of the Meiri in his Sefer Hamidos: 
Fulfilling the Mitzvos (Commandments) with the intent that they are being performed to serve the creator is sufficient for the masses and the nation. However, it is proper for individuals to try and understand all that is possible, according to their capabilities, [with regard to what are the reason for the Mitzvos]. As it says in Psalms (119:66), "Teach me good reason and knowledge; for I have believed in Your Mitzvos (commandments)." What [Psalms] means is that even though I believe in Your Mitzvos and I fulfill all of the Torah, I request to know the reason and wisdom [behind] them. This is not in order to doubt the witnesses that have testified that these Mitzvos are true, because I already believe in them. Also, my belief (emunah) does not rely on the study of these things to the extent that if I found a good connection I would believe or if I found something I considered a lie I would deny them, because this is Kefira (Heresy) and a removal of the religion completely.
The Meiri points out that the most learned of the people (aka the Rabbis) should try and understand the reasons behind the commandments. The reason for this is clear now, the Rabbis need to understand the reasons for the commandments in order for them to interpret the law appropriately. The oral tradition is based on the guiding principle that the Rabbis will lead us to a morally, socially and emotionally improved law. There is no unbroken tradition that teaches us what G-D actually said at Sinai, because it doesn't matter. Lo bashamayim hi, it is not in heaven. The Rabbis are here to guide us in the principles of Judaism through the laws that they interpret in a manner that is forever being tweaked based on our improved understanding of the reasons for the commandments. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Why Does the Story of Yehuda and Tamar Interrupt the Narrative on Yosef

(Translations from
In this week's parsha we have the sale of Yosef, the incident of Yehuda with Tamar and then the situation of Yosef with Potifar's wife. A question to ask is why does the story of Yosef's sale get interrupted by Yehuda's shameful story (that seems to have nothing to do with the overall narrative) and then immediately following Yehuda's story we continue the narrative of Yosef by the incident with potifar's wife? Do all three stories really have a lot more to do with one another than it looks like or are they unrelated?

First, we must understand the relationship between Yehuda and Yosef. Yehuda led the brothers to sell Yosef into slavery because, at this point, HE was the leader of the brothers. This can clearly be seen (Genesis 37:26-27),
26And Judah said to his brothers, "What is the gain if we slay our brother and cover up his blood?
כו. וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוּדָה אֶל אֶחָיו מַה בֶּצַע כִּי נַהֲרֹג אֶת אָחִינוּ וְכִסִּינוּ אֶת דָּמוֹ:

27Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, but our hand shall not be upon him, for he is our brother, our flesh." And his brothers hearkened.

כז. לְכוּ וְנִמְכְּרֶנּוּ לַיִּשְׁמְעֵאלִים וְיָדֵנוּ אַל תְּהִי בוֹ כִּי אָחִינוּ בְשָׂרֵנוּ הוּא וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶחָיו:
Therefore, in essence, he was responsible for whatever happened to Yosef. In light of this, we can say that Yehuda was blamed for Yosef's sale (or death) by his father and his brothers. Yehuda came up with the sale AND the lie, as it says (Genesis 37:32),
32And they sent the fine woolen coat, and they brought [it] to their father, and they said, "We have found this; now recognize whether it is your son's coat or not."לב. וַיְשַׁלְּחוּ אֶת כְּתֹנֶת הַפַּסִּים וַיָּבִיאוּ אֶל אֲבִיהֶם וַיֹּאמְרוּ זֹאת מָצָאנוּ הַכֶּר נָא הַכְּתֹנֶת בִּנְךָ הִוא אִם לֹא:
The brothers state, later on by their trip to Egypt, how much they regret what they did to Yosef (Genesis 42:21), 
21And they said to one another, "Indeed, we are guilty for our brother, that we witnessed the distress of his soul when he begged us, and we did not listen. That is why this trouble has come upon us."כא. וַיֹּאמְרוּ אִישׁ אֶל אָחִיו אֲבָל אֲשֵׁמִים | אֲנַחְנוּ עַל אָחִינוּ אֲשֶׁר רָאִינוּ צָרַת נַפְשׁוֹ בְּהִתְחַנְנוֹ אֵלֵינוּ וְלֹא שָׁמָעְנוּ עַל כֵּן בָּאָה אֵלֵינוּ הַצָּרָה הַזֹּאת:
This allows us to understand what happened to Yehuda. After the sale, the Torah tells us (Genesis 28:1),
1Now it came about at that time that Judah was demoted by his brothers, and he turned away until [he came] to an Adullamite man, named Hirah.א. וַיְהִי בָּעֵת הַהִוא וַיֵּרֶד יְהוּדָה מֵאֵת אֶחָיו וַיֵּט עַד אִישׁ עֲדֻלָּמִי וּשְׁמוֹ חִירָה:
The brothers held Yehuda responsible for what they did and they were so distraught that they, essentially, banished him. 

Summing up what happened in the first "ACT" of this week's parsha we can see two main things. First, Yehuda was a leader that used his power to commit a grave sin. Secondly, instead of admitting to the sin, he created this elaborate lie to tell his father and had all of his brothers go along with it. So, the first part of this week's parsha focuses on Yehuda's failure to admit to a sin and this, as far as everyone knew, resulted in Yosef's death. As previously stated, this is why Yehuda was "outside of the camp" after the sale of Yosef.

The next "ACT" in this week's parsha is Yehuda's incident with Tamar, that he slept with her and gave her his signet ring and staff. This story does not, as some people think, come to embarrass Yehuda, but rather to exonerate him. 

In this occurrence we see Yehuda sin and have relations with a prostitute, as far as he knows (Genesis 38:15-16), 
15When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, because she covered her face.
טו. וַיִּרְאֶהָ יְהוּדָה וַיַּחְשְׁבֶהָ לְזוֹנָה כִּי כִסְּתָה פָּנֶיהָ:

16So he turned aside toward her to the road, and he said, "Get ready now, I will come to you," for he did not know that she was his daughter in law, and she said, "What will you give me that you should come to me?"
טז. וַיֵּט אֵלֶיהָ אֶל הַדֶּרֶךְ וַיֹּאמֶר הָבָה נָּא אָבוֹא אֵלַיִךְ כִּי לֹא יָדַע כִּי כַלָּתוֹ הִוא וַתֹּאמֶר מַה תִּתֶּן לִי כִּי תָבוֹא אֵלָי:
However, we see that when Tamar is suspected of sinning in a similar way, becoming pregnant with no husband, Yehuda is ready to condemn her to death (Genesis 38:24),
24Now it came about after nearly three months, that it was told to Judah, saying, "Your daughter in law Tamar has played the harlot, and behold, she is pregnant from harlotry." So Judah said, "Bring her out, and let her be burned."כד. וַיְהִי | כְּמִשְׁלשׁ חֳדָשִׁים וַיֻּגַּד לִיהוּדָה לֵאמֹר זָנְתָה תָּמָר כַּלָּתֶךָ וְגַם הִנֵּה הָרָה לִזְנוּנִים וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוּדָה הוֹצִיאוּהָ וְתִשָּׂרֵף:
It seems a little strange that someone who sinned in a similar manner would be so fast to condemn another in a similar situation. But, this is just human nature. If someone sins in private then they are usually more likely to condemn that sin publicly than someone who is not even involved with that sin.

In any case, when Tamar sends Yehuda his signet ring and staff he immediately confesses to his sin and to Tamar's righteousness, the exact opposite of how he dealt with Yosef's sale (Genesis 38:25-26),
25She was taken out, and she sent to her father in law, saying, "From the man to whom these belong I am pregnant," and she said, "Please recognize whose signet ring, cloak, and staff are these?"
כה. הִוא מוּצֵאת וְהִיא שָׁלְחָה אֶל חָמִיהָ לֵאמֹר לְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר אֵלֶּה לּוֹ אָנֹכִי הָרָה וַתֹּאמֶר הַכֶּר נָא לְמִי הַחֹתֶמֶת וְהַפְּתִילִים וְהַמַּטֶּה הָאֵלֶּה:

26Then Judah recognized [them], and he said, "She is right, [it is] from me, because I did not give her to my son Shelah." But he no longer continued to be intimate with her.
כו. וַיַּכֵּר יְהוּדָה וַיֹּאמֶר צָדְקָה מִמֶּנִּי כִּי עַל כֵּן לֹא נְתַתִּיהָ לְשֵׁלָה בְנִי וְלֹא יָסַף עוֹד לְדַעְתָּהּ:
In fact, this occurrence proves that Yehuda had done teshuva on his previous actions. By Yosef, Yehuda lied to his father by the sin, but by Tamar, even though it was the most embarrassing thing he could have done, he admitted to his misdeed. Yehuda showed that he had changed his ways and therefore was reaccepted by the brothers and, to this day, the leader of the Jewish people is supposed to come from Yehuda. Thus, the Yehuda type of leader is a leader that makes mistakes, but can admit to them and correct themselves when in error.

Yosef had a very different problem from the one Yehuda had, he was being pursued by his master's wife. However, Yosef never gave in to temptation and was sent to jail because of his integrity. It seems a little backwards here, Yehuda sinned by sleeping with a harlot and admitted to it and was thereby forgiven, but Yosef never gave in to a married woman and was punished for his celibacy? How does that work? 

The way I want to explain this is based on Rashi. Rashi says that Yosef, even in the house of Yaakov, would always make himself look nice and beautiful (Rashi Genesis 37:2),
and he was a lad: He behaved childishly, fixing his hair and touching up his eyes so that he would appear handsome. [From Gen. Rabbah 84:7]והוא נער: שהיה עושה מעשה נערות, מתקן בשערו ממשמש בעיניו, כדי שיהיה נראה יפה:
Basically, Yosef was a little vain, according to Rashi. This might have also been the source as to why Yosef told the brothers his dreams, because he was a little vain.

Later, we see that Yosef was in a household where the master's wife would always try to seduce him. Perhaps Yosef should not have been making himself look nice all the time and thereby Potifar's wife would have stopped pursuing him (Rashi Genesis 39:6),

and Joseph had handsome features: As soon as Joseph found himself [in the position of] ruler, he began eating and drinking and curling his hair. Said the Holy One, blessed be He: “Your father is mourning and you curl your hair! I will incite the bear against you.” Immediately afterwards“his master’s wife lifted up her eyes.” [from Tanchuma Vayeshev 8]ויהי יוסף יפה תואר: כיון שראה עצמו מושל, התחיל אוכל ושותה ומסלסל בשערו, אמר הקב"ה אביך מתאבל ואתה מסלסל בשערך, אני מגרה בך את הדוב מיד:

We see from here that, at this point, Yosef had not changed his ways, he was the same. Being sold into slavery never evoked a character change in Yosef. Yehuda, on the other hand, was able to realize his faults and do teshuva. This could be a possible explanation as to why all of these three stories are together and why Yosef was punished, but Yehuda was exonerated. These three stories teach us the power and importance of Teshuva. Yosef did not become humble and change his ways until after he was imprisoned, but Yehuda was able to change his ways once he realized his own hypocrisy.

This difference is seen in two different leaders later on in Tanach as well, King Saul and King David. King Saul had sinned by the war with Amalek by not listening to G-D and then denying his sin. As it says (Samuel 1 15:14-26),
14And Samuel said, "What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears? And the lowing of the oxen which I hear?"
יד. וַיֹּאמֶר שְׁמוּאֵל וּמֶה קוֹל הַצֹּאן הַזֶּה בְּאָזְנָי וְקוֹל הַבָּקָר אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי שֹׁמֵעַ:

15And Saul said, "They brought them from the Amalekites, for the people had pity on the best of the sheep, and the oxen, in order to sacrifice to the Lord your God: and the rest we have utterly destroyed."
טו. וַיֹּאמֶר שָׁאוּל מֵעֲמָלֵקִי הֱבִיאוּם אֲשֶׁר חָמַל הָעָם עַל מֵיטַב הַצֹּאן וְהַבָּקָר לְמַעַן זְבֹחַ לַיהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וְאֶת הַיּוֹתֵר הֶחֱרַמְנוּ:

16And Samuel said to Saul, "Desist, and I shall tell you what the Lord spoke to me last night." And he said to him, "Speak."
טז. וַיֹּאמֶר שְׁמוּאֵל אֶל שָׁאוּל הֶרֶף וְאַגִּידָה לְּךָ אֵת אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְהֹוָה אֵלַי הַלָּיְלָה וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ דַּבֵּר:

17And Samuel said, "Even if you are small in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? And the Lord anointed you as king over Israel.
יז. וַיֹּאמֶר שְׁמוּאֵל הֲלוֹא אִם קָטֹן אַתָּה בְּעֵינֶיךָ רֹאשׁ שִׁבְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אָתָּה וַיִּמְשָׁחֲךָ יְהֹוָה לְמֶלֶךְ עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל:

18And the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, 'Go, and you shall utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and you shall wage war against them until they destroy them.'
יח. וַיִּשְׁלָחֲךָ יְהֹוָה בְּדָרֶךְ וַיֹּאמֶר לֵךְ וְהַחֲרַמְתָּה אֶת הַחַטָּאִים אֶת עֲמָלֵק וְנִלְחַמְתָּ בוֹ עַד כַּלּוֹתָם אֹתָם:

19Now, why did you not hearken to the voice of the Lord, but you flew upon the spoil, and you did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord?"
יט. וְלָמָּה לֹא שָׁמַעְתָּ בְּקוֹל יְהֹוָה וַתַּעַט אֶל הַשָּׁלָל וַתַּעַשׂ הָרַע בְּעֵינֵי יְהֹוָה:

20And Saul said to Samuel, "Yes, I did hearken to the voice of the Lord. I did go on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and I brought Agag, the king of Amalek alive, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.
כ. וַיֹּאמֶר שָׁאוּל אֶל שְׁמוּאֵל אֲשֶׁר שָׁמַעְתִּי בְּקוֹל יְהֹוָה וָאֵלֵךְ בַּדֶּרֶךְ אֲשֶׁר שְׁלָחַנִי יְהֹוָה וָאָבִיא אֶת אֲגַג מֶלֶךְ עֲמָלֵק וְאֶת עֲמָלֵק הֶחֱרַמְתִּי:

21And the people took from the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the ban, to sacrifice to your God in Gilgal."
כא. וַיִּקַּח הָעָם מֵהַשָּׁלָל צֹאן וּבָקָר רֵאשִׁית הַחֵרֶם לִזְבֹּחַ לַיהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בַּגִּלְגָּל:

22And Samuel said, "Has the Lord (as much) desire in burnt offerings and peace-offerings, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than a peace-offering; to hearken (is better) than the fat of rams.
כב. וַיֹּאמֶר שְׁמוּאֵל הַחֵפֶץ לַיהֹוָה בְּעֹלוֹת וּזְבָחִים כִּשְׁמֹעַ בְּקוֹל יְהֹוָה הִנֵּה שְׁמֹעַ מִזֶּבַח טוֹב לְהַקְשִׁיב מֵחֵלֶב אֵילִים:

23For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and stubbornness is as idolatry and teraphim. Since you rejected the word of the Lord, He has rejected you from being a king."
כג. כִּי חַטַּאת קֶסֶם מֶרִי וְאָוֶן וּתְרָפִים הַפְצַר יַעַן מָאַסְתָּ אֶת דְּבַר יְהֹוָה וַיִּמְאָסְךָ מִמֶּלֶךְ:

24And Saul said to Samuel, "I have sinned, for I transgressed the Lord's command, and your words, for I feared the people, and I hearkened to their voice.
כד. וַיֹּאמֶר שָׁאוּל אֶל שְׁמוּאֵל חָטָאתִי כִּי עָבַרְתִּי אֶת פִּי יְהֹוָה וְאֶת דְּבָרֶיךָ כִּי יָרֵאתִי אֶת הָעָם וָאֶשְׁמַע בְּקוֹלָם:

25And now, forgive now my sin, and return with me, and I shall prostrate myself to the Lord."
כה. וְעַתָּה שָֹא נָא אֶת חַטָּאתִי וְשׁוּב עִמִּי וְאֶשְׁתַּחֲוֶה לַיהֹוָה:

26And Samuel said to Saul, "I shall not return with you, for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being a king over Israel."
כו. וַיֹּאמֶר שְׁמוּאֵל אֶל שָׁאוּל לֹא אָשׁוּב עִמָּךְ כִּי מָאַסְתָּה אֶת דְּבַר יְהֹוָה וַיִּמְאָסְךָ יְהֹוָה מִהְיוֹת מֶלֶךְ עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל:
This is similar to Yosef. Saul was a humble person and because of his inability to control his humbleness he allowed himself to sin. Not only did he sin, but he denied the fact that he was doing the wrong thing. Yosef, too, could not even realize that beautifying himself was the wrong thing to do.

However, the story of Dovid shows someone who sinned, a terrible sin as is explained elsewhere on this blog (, was able to immediately repent when his errors are pointed out to him. He did not deny the sin, but immediately accepted the rebuke and changed because of it.

This is the lesson we must take away, Saul and Yosef were great people, but they could not understand where they were lacking. This is why Yosef not only was sold into slavery, but was then thrown into jail, and why Saul lost his kingship. However, Yehuda and Dovid committed even greater sins than Yosef or Saul, but because they were horrified and disappointed with themselves because of their sins they repented and kept or regained their leadership roles. This just shows how great the act of repentance is.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Rambam- Yesodei HaTorah- Chapter 9 Halacha 1: No Prophet Can Alter The Torah and G-D's Knowledge of the Future

 דבר ברור ומפורש בתורה שהיא מצוה עומדת לעולם ולעולמי עולמים אין לה לא שינוי ולא גרעון ולא תוספת שנאמר את כל הדבר אשר אנכי מצוה אתכם אותו תשמרון לעשות לא תוסף עליו ולא תגרע ממנו. ונאמר והנגלות לנו ולבנינו עד עולם לעשות את כל דברי התורה הזאת. הא למדת שכל דברי תורה מצווין אנו לעשותן עד עולם. וכן הוא אומר חוקת עולם לדורותיכם. ונאמר לא בשמים היא. הא למדת שאין נביא רשאי לחדש דבר מעתה. לפיכך אם יעמוד איש בין מן האומות בין מישראל ויעשה אות ומופת ויאמר שה' שלחו להוסיף מצוה או לגרוע מצוה או לפרש במצוה מן המצות פירוש שלא שמענו ממשה. או שאמר שאותן המצות שנצטוו בהן ישראל אינן לעולם ולדורי דורות אלא מצות לפי זמן היו. הרי זה נביא שקר שהרי בא להכחיש נבואתו של משה. ומיתתו בחנק על שהזיד לדבר בשם ה' אשר לא צוהו. שהוא ברוך שמו צוה למשה שהמצוה הזאת לנו ולבנינו עד עולם ולא איש אל ויכזב: 

It is a clear [idea] in the Torah that it (the Torah) is a [conglomeration] of commandment[s] that were established to last forever. It is not [meant] to have any changes, deletions, or additions, as it says (Devarim 13:1), "Everything I command you, be careful to do it. You shall neither add to it, nor subtract from it." It also says (Devarim 29:28), " But the revealed things are for us and our children forever: that we must fulfill all the words of this Torah." This is to teach us that all of the words of the Torah are commands for us to perform, forever. It also says (Vayikra 23:14), "An eternal statute throughout your generations." 
It also says (Devarim 30:12), "It is not in heaven." This teaches us that the prophet does not have permission to [reveal a] new [law that was not revealed previously.] Therefore, if a prophet arises from among the men of Israel or from among the nations and performs signs and wonders and then says that G-D sent him to add a commandment, to delete a commandment, to explain one of the existing commandments in a way that was not heard from Moshe, or he says the commandments that Israel were commanded to follow were not meant for the generations, but only for a specific time, this [person] is a false prophet because he is coming to contradict the prophecy of Moshe! His death penalty is strangulation because he [falsely claimed] to be speaking in the name of G-D, but he was not really commanded [by G-D.] For, [G-D] commanded Moshe that this testament (the Torah) was for us and our children for eternity and [G-D] is not like a man, who lies.    

The Rambam here is introducing us to the idea that once the Torah was given to Moshe, that is the final draft of the Torah. G-D was working on the Torah and was "tweaking it" until he finally gave it to Moshe and the Jews at Mount Sinai. However, once G-D gave the Torah, that was it. There was no more alterations, G-D wanted the Torah that was handed over to be the final draft. Any further alterations were unnecessary. Therefore, if a prophet comes and says, "G-D wanted to tweak the Torah a little more," we call him or her a liar. The reason is because the Torah was given and it is "no longer in heaven!" Man was given the perfect code.

How do we know this code was perfect and no future alterations are necessary? For starters, it was given to us by G-D. If G-D is perfect and omniscient then the code he gave us must apply for all time.  

This brings me to an interesting and very important discussion, does G-D know the future and if he does, how can there be free will?

This has been a personal struggle for me and I believe I have a decent explanation. However, first let me state the dilemma clearly. The problem is this: If G-D knows what a person will do, then how does that person have free will to perform that action? Is the person not forced into performing that action because G-D already knows it will occur?

There are three main sources to discuss if you are interested in the rationalist approach to G-D's foreknowledge. The statements made by Rabbi Akiva, the Rambam and the Ralbag. Let's start with Rabbi Akiva. 

It states in the name of Rabbi Akiva in Pirkei Avos (Ethics of our fathers, 3:15), "All is foreseen, and freedom of choice is granted." This does not help us understand anything. It is a simple statement that allows us to say that we have freedom of choice, but G-D knows everything. It seems like a contradiction, but it isn't and we must take Rabbi Akiva's word for it. This is a very unsatisfying answer. 

The Rambam gives us a little more, but not much. He bases his opinion on his approach to divine attributes (found in The Guide section 1 chapters 51-68). Basically, the Rambam says G-D's foreknowledge does not remove our freedom from our choices (See The Guide section 3 chapter 20). The reason for this is because we don't understand the idea of G-D Knowing something. G-D does not have features that are knowable. We do not have the ability to understand any attributes of G-D, therefore, we can not understand why His knowledge of events does not contradict our free will, but it does not. This answer is more detailed than Rabbi Akiva's, but it is still very unsatisfying.

The Ralbag's answer is intriguing, because he has such a unique approach to G-D's foreknowledge. He explains (In section 3 of The Wars of The Lord) that G-D does not know the future, because the future has not yet occurred, but G-D knows all of the possible outcomes based on different decisions that a person can make.

All three of these answers are difficult to take. Rabbi Akiva does not give any explanations as to why or how his statement is believable. The Rambam gives an explanation that would disallow any type of logic in Judaism, because if we can't really understand anything about G-D how can we truly understand what he said or passed down to us? Finally, the Ralbags approach would take away too much power from G-D. For, if G-D does not know the future, how can His Torah be relevant for all generations and unchangeable, like the Rambam says it is (Granted the Ralbag goes on to explain this difficulty, but the answers are still unsatisfying)?

I think the following approach makes the most sense. All of these previous approaches either lacked a way of explaining something or were the best effort for the thinking of their time. However, if we understand that space and time are finite and G-D exists outside of the finite universe, then we can understand that G-D knows everything that has occurred and everything that will occur. It is similar to watching a movie for the second time, just because I know what is going to happen in the movie, does that make the choices of the person in the movie any less of a choice? Also, it must be that G-D knows all future events in order for the Rambam's approach to be valid, because, as I stated earlier, if G-D did not know the future how could the Torah be unalterable? Obviously, the Torah would need to adjust as reality changed. However, with our approach, using a superficial understanding of space and time, we can somewhat understand how G-D's knowledge of the future works.