My Shabbat Remarks

This past shabbat I spoke about how I read the Torah. Here is a summary of my remarks.

Over the centuries the Torah has been viewed as the source of Jewish law, the history of the Jewish people, and the source of religious values. Underlying this is the traditional notion that God wrote or at least dictated the Torah to Moses on Mt. Sinai about 3,300 years ago. We would expect then that everything in the Torah should reflect some aspect of at least one of those ideas.

But how do we respond when we read the story of the talking snake? How do we relate to such a passage that clearly conflicts with the laws of Nature?

I view the Torah as a Humanly recorded document, an accumulation of stories, laws, and values that our ancestors recorded in response to events that occurred on Mt Sinai. I don't believe that God wrote or dictated the Torah. I do believe that something awesome happened at Mt Sinai and as a result the Torah was written. It contains the ancient myths and stories of our people and it contains the laws that our ancestors felt should be followed in order to respond to God's presence in our lives.

Seeing the Torah this way allows us to continually interpret it and allows Judaism to continually evolve while at the same realizing that the text and our tradition are means of responding to God's presence. The story of the talking snake is just a story. It didn't happen. But the lessons we learn from the story serve as a foundation for who we are as Jews today.