Is Bible Outdated?
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim
Reader: Thank you for your publication. I have one question which I would love you to address. A major part of the Babylonian Talmud (Talmud Bavli) deals with cases which are either no longer relevant (because they are bound up with a no longer operative reality, e.g. Nedarim based on the language of long ago) or deal with cases that are extremely far fetched, almost all of which will never occur in anyone’s life. And yet, we expend a lot of time and energy delving into these subjects. Why? I am looking for some rational explanations why we study Torah like we do.
Rabbi: Talmud study is not for practical purpose. It is studied to appreciate the halachic formulations, svarah: “Tachlis shmaitta, svarah; The purpose of learning is definition.” One can see deep precision in any halacha, even inapplicable matters. Rav Chaim Brisker, the Rav, and other great minds have presented Talmud’s depth and marvelous beauty through their keen analysis. This is called learning “lishma,” for the sake of the ideas, not for ulterior motive or practicality. Lishma is the highest level man can attain; he loves the beauty of God’s wisdom over all else in life. Wealth, fame, pleasures, and ego all mean nothing to him. Pirkei Avos concludes with praises for this level of love of wisdom.
This also touches on an important point: Will Torah ever be outdated? This question suggests matters will arise of which God was ignorant, and did not provide for in His Torah. It is the height of absurdity to suggest God is ignorant of His creations. How can one create something while ignorant of his actions? How can the Creator not know His plan?
This means God knows the future. He planned all creations to act as perfectly aligned watch gears, where each creation and system from meteorology, astronomy, geology, topography, botany, and biology all perfectly complement each other. God understands how all creations function harmoniously throughout all time.
Thus, Bible is an eternally applicable guidebook for human happiness. God foresaw all future generations and scripted His Bible around them. He saw no future consideration that Bible should need even a minute alteration. Man does not change, so the methods through which man finds happiness cannot change: “Don’t add to or subtract from the Torah” (Deut. 4:2, 13:1)
So eternally accurate are God’s word, that He knew people would suggest the Bible expires or is wrong, following their own hearts and abandoning Bible’s words: “When hearing the words of these sanctions, they may imagine a special immunity, thinking, “I shall be safe, though I follow my own willful heart” (Deut. 29:18).
God also knew devious new religions would suggest God abandoned His original covenant by twisting this verse: “See, a time is coming—declares the Lord—when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah” (Jer. 31:31).
But our rabbis hold the true tradition of these words:
Behold, days will arrive, a new covenant. “New” meaning that the original Torah will continue, not that the original covenant will be retracted. Torah from Sinai will never be broken. This covenant will not be broken because I will give my doctrine in their hearts, and on their hearts I will write it that they will never forget them. And the whole matter is as explained further. It is not that new covenant will be a “new” one, rather it will be a fulfillment of that Sinai covenant. And Malachi, the last of the prophets said says, “Remember Moses’ Torah my servant whom I commanded in Horeb upon all Israel, Laws and judgments.” Similarly it is as other concluding words, “I send you Elijah the prophet…” You see that there will never be a new Torah, but the one He gave at Mount Sinai will endure forever” (ibid., Radak).
In short, God is not ignorant, that is a human misgiving. “He reckoned the number of the stars; to each He gave its name” (Psalms 147:4). This means God is aware of the distinct nature (name) of each of the multi-billions of stars He created. He lacks no knowledge of the innumerable stars, galaxies, human generations, or man’s future.