Thursday, December 19, 2013

Abraham and the Torah

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Which Came First: Abraham and the Patriarchs or Moses and the Torah?A Talmudic problem: Abraham lived before the law was given, so how can his actions be used to interpret the law? Excerpt:
This dual founding creates a number of ambiguities in Judaism, one of which came to the fore in this week’s Daf Yomi reading. To the rabbis of the Talmud, the service of God was defined as the study of Torah. As we have seen much earlier in the Daf Yomi cycle, they imagined even a warrior-king like David as a Torah scholar at heart, and they described his feats of military conquest as feats of learning. Naturally, the rabbis want to think about Abraham, the first Jew, in the same way. But Abraham, by any reckoning, lived many generations before Moses received the Torah. What, then, could Abraham have studied, and how did he know how to live?
The book of Jubilees also deal with this problem for the pre-Mosaic patriarchs and invokes the "heavenly tablets" as part of the solution (e.g., 6:17-18).