Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Eternity of the Torah III

Proofs (cont'd from I & II)

3. Utmost Perfection

The Abarbanel (Rosh Amanah ch. 13) argues that since the Torah is in a state of utmost perfection and, therefore, is not dependent on time or place but is rather above those considerations. It follows that the Torah must never change because if it did, it would not have been entirely perfect. However, the Abarbanel responds to his own argument that only God is in a state of utmost perfection. Everything else is only relatively perfect. For example, humans are the most perfect of animals and Moshe was the most perfect of people but neither humans nor Moshe are immortal. Similarly, the Torah is the most perfect of laws but this does not remove it from the limitations of legal and religious codes. Therefore, there is no proof that the Torah cannot change or be nullified just like Moshe eventually died.

4. Perfect Giver

The Maharal (Tiferes Yisrael, ch. 51) modifies this argument slightly and states that since God gave us the Torah and God is perfect, He would not have given us a Torah that is less than perfect in any way. The Torah is thus a reflection of God's unchanging perfection. If God cannot change, then the Torah cannot either.

5. Human Nature

The Abarbanel offers another argument for the eternity of the Torah. God created man and gave him physical and spiritual sustenance. The physical sustenance is food and the spiritual is the Torah, both of which were designed specifically for human nature as it was created. Therefore, since human nature does not change, both the methods of physical and spiritual sustenance still apply equally regardless of time and place. The Torah, which is the spiritual sustenance, must remain unchanged as long as man's innate nature remains the same.

However, one can ask how we know that God established that Torah is the only spiritual sustenance for man. Maybe there are other ways for a person to be spiritually nourished? The Abarbanel himself recognizes that this question defeats his argument.

6. Greater Prophet

R. Yosef Albo, in his Sefer Ha-Ikkarim (part 3), asks many questions on this principle but in the end concludes that it is correct. His final argument (ibid., ch. 19) is that since Moshe gave us the Torah, any other prophet must be greater than Moshe in order to override his prophecy. Since it is impossible for another prophet to be greater than Moshe (Deut. 34:10), no one can ever nullify Moshe's Torah. The Abarbanel (ibid.) concludes similarly.

However, this proof (not statement of but proof) for the principle leaves open a loophole. God Himself can change or nullify the Torah. According to R. Yosef Albo's and the Abarbanel's final argument to prove this principle, the logic proving it leaves open the possibility that God can change the Torah if He wants to.

(B"n to be continued)

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