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עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

Parshat Matot – Must tribes practice tribalism?

Posted by rabbiart on July 22, 2008

We start our study by listening to the words of Rabbi Arik Ascherman. He lives in Jerusalem. He is the executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel, dedicated to teaching and implementing the Jewish tradition of human rights and honoring God’s Image in every human being.  RHR works tirelessly to protect the rights of the powerless in Israel, even the powerless who seek, or affected by those who seek, to destroy us. Regarding the parshah he begins with this observation

“Each section is problematic for me: The first section treats women as property, the second describes a merciless war in which the Israelites slaughter men, women and children, while the third establishes the basis for some Jewish groups not only to want to hold on to the West Bank as part of the Land of Israel, but to aspire to ‘Both banks of the Jordan.'”

After observing that the oral law at times modifies or even negates the written law, he continues…

“This is difficult for me because I believe the Torah to be closer to God’s revelation to Moses than Torah sh’ba’al peh (the oral tradition that became the basis for rabbinic law), although I believe that the Torah was also passed by word of mouth for generations. This leaves open the right of interpretation and even the possibility of human additions and errors. However, what tools do we have for making such determinations and how can one do so with any measure of intellectual honesty? Are we at least being honest with ourselves? To what degree are we dedicated to discovering God’s Will for us? To what degree are we dedicated to continuing the tradition passed down to us? To what degree are we consciously or unconsciously bringing our ideologies, presuppositions and world views to the text?”

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