This week's portion: finite language, infinite truth
August 04, 2006
This week's Torah portion, parashat Va-etchanan, begins with an injunction to the Israelites neither to add to, nor to subtract from, the Torah of God's commandments. It's a fascinatingly problematic passage, inasmuch as the book of D'varim is already a retelling that reframes some of what's come before (for instance, the aseret ha-dibrot, those famous ten utterances, reappear in this week's portion in a slightly different form from the last time we read them.) Besides, post-Biblical Jewish tradition is built on the foundation of augmenting the words of Torah with more words, and more words on top of those! So what can we make of this passage?
That's the question that fascinates me this week, so it became the basis for my d'var at Radical Torah.
Maybe the injunction against modifying God's commandments is a kind of koan. The text tells us not to augment or modify the word of God -- and yet it's arguable that in trying to concretize God's speech, we can't help changing the nature of that speech, if only into something we can fully express and understand....
Read the whole thing here: Finite language, infinite truth.