Posts tagged " literal translation "

Surely you can’t take this verse seriously

January 10th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 13 comments

You teach the importance of taking the laws as a whole.  But verses  like Deuteronomy 22:21pronounce you must stone a woman to death in the door of her father’s house. 

If you cannot pick and choose what to follow, and you cannot say that it isn’t to be taken literally, what must I say about this contradiction?

This is perhaps why people pick and choose…

Meta

Dear Meta,

We have a feeling you are asking a question that many share. We certainly do think the Bible becomes meaningless if we only follow verses with which we agree or understand. You are mistaken, however, in believing that we, or other Bible-believing Jews, follow the Bible’s English translation literally.

In 2007, The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to follow the Bible as Literally as Possible was published. While it was a clever marketing idea, the author did things that no observant Jew, from Abraham until today, ever did such as throwing pebbles at an adulterer. He also neglected to do things that are and have always been part of Judaism such as praying while wearing phylacteries every morning.  Unlike his year-long adventure foolishly wearing a white robe and sandals, we follow the vast body of ancient Jewish wisdom that explains the details, unpacks the mysteries, and makes sense of the written one.

While certain minor details vary among serious Jews according to their various traditions, there are many more that are shared. In our age of international communication we can see that Jews in Yemen and Poland, for example, separated for centuries and surrounded by completely different cultures, all followed the same general outline for kosher food. That outline is not detailed in the written Bible but is part of the oral transmission. It’s similar  for all our observances. One group might light oil lamps to welcome in the Sabbath while another might use candles, but both will mark the entrance of the Sabbath with natural flames.

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