Something that surprises me is how many Jews still believe the Torah is kosher. Some Jews can debate ad infinitum about various issues in their law, perhaps even to the point of overturning basic principles of faith as is convenient for modern issues. What many are unaware of is the fact that there is no real Torah left on Earth anymore.
Written entirely in Hebrew, a Torah scroll contains 304,805 letters, all of which must be duplicated precisely by a trained scribe, or sofer, an effort which may take as long as approximately one and a half years. An error during transcription may render the Torah scroll pasul (“invalid”).
Here is a list of the requirements, but feel free to skip this beyond the fact that there can be no errors:
- A Torah Scroll is disqualified if even a single letter is added.
- A Torah Scroll is disqualified if even a single letter is deleted.
- The scribe must be a learned, pious Jew, who has undergone special training and certification.
- All materials (parchment, ink, quill) must conform to strict specifications, and be prepared specifically for the purpose of writing a Torah Scroll.
- The scribe may not write even one letter into a Torah Scroll by heart. Rather, he must have a second, kosher scroll opened before him at all times.
- The scribe must pronounce every word out loud before copying it from the correct text.
- Every letter must have sufficient white space surrounding it. If one letter touched another in any spot, it invalidates the entire scroll.
- If a single letter was so marred that it cannot be read at all, or resembles another letter (whether the defect is in the writing, or is due to a hole, tear or smudge), this invalidates the entire scroll. Each letter must be sufficiently legible so that even an ordinary schoolchild could distinguish it from other, similar letters.
- The scribe must put precise space between words, so that one word will not look like two words, or two words look like one word.
- The scribe must not alter the design of the sections, and must conform to particular line-lengths and paragraph configurations.
- A Torah Scroll in which any mistake has been found, cannot be used, and must be fixed within 30 days, or buried.
Every Torah is Invalid (Pasul)
If the Torah contains even one single error, it is invalid. No Torah today is without errors. What we have is far removed from the original, which was lost long ago.
Modern Jews themselves even debate whether or not the Torah is divinely authored:
Even the Torah itself – the first five books of the Bible—nowhere suggests that it is all divinely authored. Only in Exodus, the Bible’s second book, does the ubiquitous formula “The Lord spoke to Moses saying” begin. Absolutely nothing in Genesis suggests that it was originally understood as given from God. The first words of the Bible are, “When God began to create heaven and earth” — not “God said to Moses, ‘When I began to create heaven and earth.’” The final book of the Torah, Deuteronomy, presents itself as Moses’s speech, not God’s.My Jewish Learning
They openly admit that the Torah they have is not divine, as Muslims also have been saying for centuries. What was revealed to the prophet Moses ﷺ was lost and changed.
Modern biblical scholarship even casts doubt on the divine authorship of the sections of the Torah which explicitly claim to have come from God, including those that follow the formula “The Lord spoke to Moses.” The Torah contains too many contradictions to all be seen as divine. Do servants get released after six years, as stated Exodus, or at the Jubilee year (once every fifty years), as noted in Leviticus? Which divine speech is the correct one?
Biblical scholars have shown that the Torah contains too many contradictions and infelicities to be divine, and it instead came into being over a very long period of time, reflecting the understanding of various ancient Israelites, living in different places at different times, of what God wanted of them. (For more on this, see TheTorah.com.) But a text that reflects people’s understanding of God is quite different from a text dictated by God to Moses and preserved without error for three millennia — the view of Maimonides and a position upheld by many Jews within the Orthodox community.
Should this matter? Does scripture need to be perfect in order to retain its scriptural status?
For many Jews, the Bible does not get its power, or even its authority, from being a divine document. When reciting the initial blessings before reading from the Torah, we laud it as Torat emet— a Torah of truth. That need not mean that it is entirely true, but only that it contains profound truths. Sometimes these truths are close to the surface. Other times they are brought out through interpretation — even radical interpretation that fundamentally changes the original meaning of the text.My Jewish Learning
Torah scholars themselves admit that much of what we have today was written long after the prophet Moses and then attributed to him to give their text authority. They can’t just openly admit that they innovated in the religion.
What Do Jews Believe?
At this point, Jews themselves don’t even know what they believe, and debate even the very notion that they have a creed or even a revelation. In response to Maimonides’ creed that the Torah came from God, My Jewish Learning rebuts: “its status as dogma is debated, and is connected to the fraught issue of whether Judaism is just a religion of deeds or also has central creeds like Christianity.”
Considering the fact that whether or not they even have a creed is debated is quite telling of how fragmented and fractured Judaism has become. They don’t even know what they believe anymore, everything is debated, and apparently an atheist can be a Jew somehow (like the founder of Israel, David Ben-Gurion) if it fits the Zionist agenda. Ben-Gurion himself even said: “I don’t know if there’s an afterlife. I think there is.”
There is one true religion on Earth that stands up to criticism. There is one religion that actually gets stronger, better, more beautiful, and more solid the more you study it. Every other religion falls apart. But Allah ﷻ guides whomever He Wills, and the greatest arguments will not convince the one whom He has Willed to be astray.
May Allah ﷻ guide us and protect us, amin.
رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ السَّمِيعُ العَلِيمُ
Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: For Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-knowing [Qur’an 2:127]
رَبَّنَا وَلاَ تَحْمِلْ عَلَيْنَا إِصْرًا كَمَا حَمَلْتَهُ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِنَا
Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden Like that which You laid on those before us [Qur’an 2:286]
رَبَّنَا افْتَحْ بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَ قَوْمِنَا بِالْحَقِّ وَأَنتَ خَيْرُ الْفَاتِحِينَ
Our Lord! Decide Thou between us and our people in truth, for Thou art the best to decide [Qur’an 7:89]
رَبَّنَا إِنَّكَ تَعْلَمُ مَا نُخْفِي وَمَا نُعْلِنُ ۗ وَمَا يَخْفَىٰ عَلَى اللَّهِ مِن شَيْءٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِي السَّمَاءِ [Qur’an 14:38]
Our Lord! You certainly know what we conceal and what we reveal. Nothing on earth or in heaven is hidden from Allah.
The Documentary Hypothesis, and the identity of the Pentateuch’s authors
Scholars seek Hebrew Bible’s original text — but was there one?