Who Wrote What, When

At Eichler’s bookstore in Flatbush (that’s in Brooklyn, folks), Marc Shapiro‘s new book has been flying off the shelves; at Eichler’s bookstore (unrelated) in Borough Park (Brooklyn, again), it’s been banned. “Due to neighborhood complaints we can’t keep this book on our shelves,” says a store rep.

So close, so far. Eichler’s in Flatbush sells to a general audience, albeit mostly Jewish. Eichler’s in Borough Park does almost exclusively ultra-Orthodox business. So what’s the big difference?Maimonides.

A smart report buried in last week’s Jewish Forward explains. Marc Shapiro’s new book, The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles Reappraised, challenges one of the bedrock articles of faith of Jewish orthodoxy, namely that the 13 principles spelled out by the great 12th century thinker — once derided as heresy — are indisputable.

One of those principles, the eighth, is perhaps the sharpest theological divider betweenConservative and Orthodox Jews. “The entire Torah as we currently have it is that which was delivered to Moses.”

Conservative Jews allow that a little bit of editing may have occurred, and that, reports the Forward’s Steven I. Weiss, makes all the difference.

Weiss’s story is dense stuff, necessarily so, but worthwhile reading. Not just for those interested in the divisions of Judaism, but also for anyone who recognizes that authorship — who wrote what, and when — is one of the fundamental theological questions of our times.

Read more….

The Forward is on a roll. Don’t miss Allan Nadler‘s story on “The Other Preacher from Galilee” — Rabbi Isaac Luria, of course, the 16th-century mystic who uncovered the connections between “male sexual orgasm, the moment of death and messianic redemption.”Duh. As if they weren’t totally obvious.

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