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Hashem as the single Source of creation (Ancient Yisraeli / Yehudi Concept)

Ehav4Ever

Well-Known Member
In this thread I will be addressing the issue of whether or not the ancestors of modern day Torath Mosheh and Orthodox Jews at some point changed from following the fundamentals of the Torah as expressed in the Talmud and by the Rishonim. The Torah fundamental I will be addressing is the nature of Hashem and also the prohabition against Avodah Zara. As a part of this I will be addressing the issue of whether or not certain sects of Jews disregarded the the probition of Avodah Zara, developed the probitions later, or if there was also Benei Yisrael / Yehudim (Israelis / Jews) in the past who kept the Torah's prohibitions while there being sects that did not.

In order to be specific, I only considering the ancestry of the following groups of modern days Jews.

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As with the previous thread, this will rely heavily on Hebrew text and linquistic analysis since this is the source of all modern Jewish concepts on this topic.
 

Ehav4Ever

Well-Known Member
To start off, Rabbi Mosheh ben-Maimon also known as the Rambam (1138–1204 CE) wrote in the Mishnah Torah - Hilchoth Yesodei HaTorah (Foundations of the Torah):

The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of wisdom is to know that there is a Primary Being who brought into being all existence. All the beings of the heavens, the earth, and what is between them came into existence only from the truth of His being. If one would imagine that He does not exist, no other being could possibly exist.

If one would imagine that none of the entities aside from Him exist, He alone would continue to exist, and the nullification of their [existence] would not nullify His existence, because all the [other] entities require Him and He, blessed be He, does not require them nor any one of them. Therefore, the truth of His [being] does not resemble the truth of any of their [beings].
This is implied by the prophet's statement [Jeremiah 10:10]: "And Hashem, your Elohim (אלהים) , is true" - i.e., He alone is true and no other entity possesses truth that compares to His truth. This is what [is meant by] the Torah's statement [Deuteronomy 4:35]: "There is nothing else aside from Him" - i.e., aside from Him, there is no true existence like His............
The knowledge of this concept is a positive commandment, as [implied by Exodus 20:2]: "I am Hashem, your Elohim (אלהים)...." Anyone who presumes that there is another power (אלוה אחר) transgresses a negative commandment, as [Exodus 20:3] states: "You shall have no other powers (אלהים אחרים) before Me" and denies a fundamental principle, because this is the great principle upon which all depends.
(Above from Chabad.com translation of the Hebrew with linquistic edits by me)
To understand what the above means, one has to under the actual meaning of words found in the actual Hebrew text of the Torah as well as what words actually mean in Hebrew.

In another thread with a question of this nature, I answered with the following:

El is a generic noun meaning 'God' as far as I know, but some seem to treat it as a proper name for a specific God? - this is actually not correct. The term "El" is from the three letter root (א-י-ל) which denotes power or strenght or ability to do. On its own it does not denote diety like the word god does in English. All titles used in ancient Hebrew as names for the Creator are not really names, the way is used in modern language like English, but instead considered by some commentators to be descriptions of attributes that humans experience in reality. Thus, even the sun or the moon can be called an "El" because both are powerful and strong elements of the reality we exist in but the problem is that something created the sun and the moon. Thus, if one got to the point of finding what created everything and even the concept of creation itself then it is course and "El" above all other "Els" meaning it is more powerful than all forms of powers because it created them.​
In the linqustic sphere all ancient Hebrew terms are derived from 3 letter roots known as a shoresh (a root). This means that all words that derive from a 3 letter root receives its meaning from the three letter root. That being said, the term el (אל) is derived from the following.

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According to the Etymological Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew: Based on the Commentaries of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch Page 9

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Further, even in modern Hebrew this is understood. The following is from a modern Hebrew dictionary used here in Israel. This first one shows how the word (אלהים) can be used to describe the Creator as well as regular human judges, and Torah based human judges.

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Below the same dictionary describes that (אל) denotes power, strength, the ability to do, and also makes a linquistic connection with the term (אלהים).

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Ehav4Ever

Well-Known Member
Concerning the above, Rabbi Mosheh ben-Maimon also known as the Rambam (1138–1204 CE) wrote in the Mishnah Torah - Hilchoth Avodah Zara and Laws of the Nations Chapter 1:

During the times of Enosh, mankind made a great mistake, and the wise men of that generation gave thoughtless counsel. Enosh himself was one of those who erred.
Their mistake was as follows: They said the Elohim (singular) created stars and spheres with which to control the world. He placed them on high and treated them with honor, making them servants who minister before Him. Accordingly, it is fitting to praise and glorify them and to treat them with honor. [They perceived] this to be the will of The Source of reality (האל), blessed be He, that they magnify and honor those whom He magnified and honored, just as a king desires that the servants who stand before him be honored. Indeed, doing so is an expression of honor to the king.
After conceiving of this notion, they began to construct temples to the stars and offer sacrifices to them. They would praise and glorify them with words, and prostrate themselves before them, because by doing so, they would - according to their false conception - be fulfilling the will of The Creator (הבורא). This was the foundation of Avodah Zara.
Thus, those who did this and knew the foundation; they would not say that there is no other power / source of reality except for this star.
This message was conveyed by Jeremiah, who declared (10:7-8): "Who will not fear You, King of the nations, for to You it is fitting. Among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is none like You. They have one foolish and senseless [notion. They conceive of their] empty teachings as wood;" i.e., all know that You alone are The Source (האל). Their foolish error consists of conceiving the empty / false concepts they created as Your will.
After many years passed, there arose people - false prophets - who told [their nations] that God had commanded them to say: Serve this star - or all the stars - sacrifice to it, offer libations to it, build a temple for it and make an image of it so that all people - including the women, the children, and the common people - could bow to it.........
Subsequently, other deceivers arose and declared that a specific star, sphere, or angel had spoken to them and commanded them: Serve me in this manner. He would then relate a mode of service [telling them:] Do this, do not do this.
Thus, these practices spread throughout the world. People would serve images with strange practices - one more distorted than the other - offer sacrifices to them, and bow down to them. As the years passed, [Hashem's] glorious and awesome name was forgotten by the entire population. [It was no longer part of] their speech or thought, and they no longer knew Him. Thus, all the common people, the women, and the children would know only the image of wood or stone and the temples of stone to which they were trained from their childhood to bow down and serve, and in whose name they swore.

(Above from Chabad.com translation of the Hebrew with linquistic edits by me)

Rabbi Yohhai Maqbili in his version of the Mishnah Torah composes this as the Rambam stating that there were three phases to how Avodah Zara started in human history.

Skipping ahead the Mishnah Torah - Hilchoth Avodah Zara and Laws of the Nations Chapter 1 states the following.

The world continued in this fashion until the pillar of the world - the Patriarch Avraham (Abraham) - was born.
After this mighty man was weaned, he began to explore and think. Though he was a child, he began to think [incessantly] throughout the day and night, wondering: How is it possible for the sphere to continue to revolve without having anyone controlling it? Who is causing it to revolve? Surely, it does not cause itself to revolve.
He had no teacher, nor was there anyone to inform him. Rather, he was mired in Ur Kasdim among the foolish idolaters. His father, mother, and all the people [around him] did Avodah Zara [were idol worshipers], and he would worship [Avodah Zara] with them. [However,] his heart was exploring and [gaining] understanding.
Ultimately, he appreciated the way of truth and understood the path of righteousness through his accurate comprehension. He realized that there was one Eloah / Power / Source / etc. (אלוה אחד) who controlls reality, that He created everything, and that there is no other Eloah / Power / Source / etc. (אלוה אחד) except for Him. He [Avraham] knew that the entire world was making a mistake. What caused them to err was their service of the stars and images, which made them lose awareness of the truth. Avraham was forty years old when he became aware of his Creator.

When the people would gather around him and ask him about his statements, he would explain [them] to each one of them according to their understanding, until they turned to the path of truth. Ultimately, thousands and myriads gathered around him. These are the men of the house of Avraham.
He planted in their hearts this great fundamental principle, composed texts about it, and taught it to Yitzhhaq (Isaac), his son. Yitzhhaq (Isaac) also taught others and turned [their hearts to Hashem]. He also taught Ya'aqov (Jacob) and appointed him as a teacher.
Ya'aqov (Jacob) taught others and turned [the hearts] of all those who gathered around him [to Hashem]. He also taught all of his children. He selected Levi and appointed him as the leader. He established him [as the head of] the academy to teach them the way of Hashem and observe the mitzvot of Avraham.

Ya'aqov (Jacob) commanded his sons that the leadership should not depart from the descendants of Levi, so that the teachings would not be forgotten. This concept proceeded and gathered strength among the descendants of Ya'aqov (Jacob) and those who collected around them, until there became a nation within the world which knew Hashem.
When the Jews extended their stay in Egypt, however, they learned from the [Egyptians'] deeds and began worshiping the stars [Avodah Zara) as they did, with the exception of the tribe of Levi, who clung to the mitzvot of the patriarchs - the tribe of Levi never served false gods.
Within a short time, the fundamental principle that Avraham had planted would have been uprooted, and the descendants of Jacob would have returned to the errors of the world and their crookedness. Because of Hashem's love for us, and to uphold the oath He made to Avraham, our patriarch, He brought forth Mosheh ben-Amram (Moses), our teacher, the master of all prophets, and sent him. After Mosheh ben-Amram (Moses), our teacher, prophesied, and Hashem chose Yisrael as His inheritance, He crowned them with mitzvot and informed them of the path to serve Him, [teaching them] the judgement prescribed for Avodah Zara and all those who stray after it.

(Above from Chabad.com translation of the Hebrew with linquistic edits by me)
 

Ehav4Ever

Well-Known Member
Further commenting on the above, the claim made by all Torath Mosheh Israelis / Jews and Orthodox Jews of the modern era is that the first of the foundations of the Torah is against Avodah Zara, was established by Avraham ben-Terahh (Abraham) as described in the previous posts and cemented in to the Benei Yirael / Yehudim of the past as being fundamental basis of the Torah.

Thus, even if there were a segment of Benei Yisrael or Yehudi society that held by or established such a concept that there were other powers with Hashem, in place of Hashem, or given power by Hashem to be intermediaries then such Yisraeli or Yehudi would outside of that norm - that norm being that Hashem alone is the Source of reality / creation with no other powers (elohims) along with Him.

This begs the question, "Is there a proven history that the entire body of Benei Yisrael or Yehudim, during any given period, had standardized religious practices that revolved around Avodah Zara as an accepted, standard, and ancient religous norm?" Further to this question, "Is it possible that the vast majority of surviving Yisraeli and Yehudi communities are in fact the survivors who maitained what was actually the religious norm of the Yisraeli / Yehudi people?" In order to determine the best answer for these two questions I suggest that the only way to know what is the case is to review the history of the oldest surviving diaspora Jewish communities that predate the Talmudic period and compare them with information from the location of the Tamudic school of thought in Babylon.

Thus, I will review what concepts were held by some of the most ancient Yehudi communities, outside of the land of Israel, to determine what norms they historically held by in terms of whether the practice of Avodah Zara was universal I will be reviewing information from the following four communities.

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Ehav4Ever

Well-Known Member
In his book, Moreh Nevuchim Rabbi Mosheh ben-Maimon, also known as the Rambam made the following statement.

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Translating the ideas, the Rambam comments on one of the titles that is used in the Tanakh to describe Hashem. The term is (צור) “Tzur” which means very strong / hard stone (אבן קשה) “. The Rambam comments that this particular type of strong / hard stone is the “source” from which other foundation stones are carved (המקור אשר יחצבו ממנו אבני המקורים). Taking this as a basis the Rambam explains that Hashem is the “root” of everything and the start / source of ALL things. He continues that the use of Tzur is to describe that Hashem is the source and the reason of the workings of reality. He then quotes various places in the Tanakh where these ideas are described such as Torah – Devarim (Deut.) 32:4; Torah – Devarim (Deut.) 32:18; Torah – Devarim (Deut.) 3: 30; 1st Shemuel 2:2; Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 26:4.

This above foundation of the Torah is common among all ancient Benei Yisrael / Yehudi / Jewish communities that survived into the modern era. That is to say, that Hashem is the source of all reality and that in every generation after Avraham ben-Terahh turned away from Avodah Zara and turned solely to Hashem there were always Benei Yisrael / Yehudim / Jews who never turned to Avodah Zara and never considered there to be any other powers over reality beside / in place of / in conjunction with Hashem.

I would like to take the accounts of two communities who were separated by a great distance and comparing this core principle that was common among them and was not due to the external influence of other Jewish communities in the diaspora.

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In the above book called (חכמי תימן) Hochmei Teiman (Rabbis of Yemen) the ancient origins of the first communities to arrive in the area are also placed prior to the Babylonian exile and the measures that some Jewish communities took to maintain the foundations of the Torah, one of which was that Hashem alone is Elohim and the source of all reality. There were some communities in Yemen who had more contacts than others, such as the Jews of Tzana who were known in various Jewish communities outside of Yemen. Yet, some communities like those of Habban were more isolated, outside of Yemen for centuries, and only with the last 100 years had minimal contact outside of Yemen. What is important to note is that Yemenite Jews have a very strong history of fiercely keeping the foundation of the Torah. There are oral accounts found in certain Jewish communities in Yemen that state:

  • One group of Jews were the product of members of the first unified army of the commonwealth of Yisrael (Israel).
  • Another group were a part of a military / trade agreement between Yisrael and the kingdom of Shaba in Arabia.
  • Other groups were a part of transmission of Jews from other regions of the Middle East and Asia during pre-Islamic times.
Upon arriving to Israel, it was found that the same foundations of the Torah and the Torah that was found in Yemen was also found among the Cave Jews of Libya. This is described on pages 14 – 20 of the above book. This is described on pages 19 – 21 of the above book as well as in other books such as (יהדות תימן) Yahaduth of Yemen pages 30, - 35, 49 - 54.

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In the above book called (חכמי לוב) Hochmei Luv (Rabbis of Libya) – the ancient origins of the first communities to arrive in the area are also placed prior to the Babylonian exile and the measures that some Jewish communities took to maintain the foundations of the Torah, one of which was that Hashem alone is Elohim and the source of all reality. One group of Libyan Jews took up an additional exile to the caves in the mountainous areas of Libya to hide and live by Torah away from other elements of North African society. Many of these communities spent centuries in isolation until immigrating to the state of Israel after Jewish explorers made contact with them. Upon arriving to Israel, it was found that the same foundations of the Torah and the Torah that was found in Yemen was also found among the Cave Jews of Libya. This is described on pages 14 – 20 of the above book.

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Ehav4Ever

Well-Known Member
In relation to what I posted above about Yemenite and Libyan Jewish communities, one thing that must be stated is that the distance between both communities, especially in relation to the Babylonian Jewish community leads credance to how in many ways there were levels of isolation between various communities even in the same country for the last +2,400 years.

Thus, Jews living in the Gharyan Plateau ("Jebel Gharyan") area of the Nafusa Mountains in Libya had no contact with Jews living in Southern Arabian region of the Habban region in eastern Yemen (in modern Shabwah Governorate).

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Yet, upon returning to Israel in the last 100 years both groups, and others with the same level of isolation, had the same foundations of the Torah, mentioned above, and also Torah texts that are 99.99% the same in content, structure, and spelling. Neither group showed in any historical signs of having changed the foundations of how they received the revelation of the Torah at Mount Sinai directly from Hashem, nor did either group have a history of having concepts about Hashem that could be labeled as Avodah Zara. (See description in the above posts)

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Ehav4Ever

Well-Known Member
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In the commentary of the Torah which is based on the teachings of Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezer also known as the Baal Shem Tov (1698 – 1760), the above statement is made which describes that an essential foundation of what all Yisrael (Yehudim) hold by and know is that Hashem is One / Singularity / and distinct. It further states that Hashem has no beginning (is eternal). Hashem is beyond time, and he is the source of reality. This of course is like what the Rambam stated, as I showed above notes that even with the distance between the lifespans of both rabbis and the regions they lived in. I.e. their ancestry of concepts about Hashem are based on the same origin when is claimed to be derived from the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.

The question that some might ask though is, “Was this always the case for the Benei Yisrael / Yehudim? Were our ancestors always under this type of concept or did this begin only with the influence of the Babylonian exile – specifically from contact with the Zoroastrians?”

I have addressed this in part by showing two Jewish communities who were outside of Israel prior to the Babylonian exile and who isolation gave no ability for the Babylonian Jewish to force a complete change in such a fundamental element of the Torah of previous generations. It must be remembered that not all Jews, even in the land of Israel, were exiled when the Babylonians conquered the Kingdom of Yehudah. According Jewish and Babylonian accounts the Yehudi (Judean) leadership was taken while the average population was left behind. It is also known that during the time that the Yehudi government was exiled the had no control over the remaining Yehudi settlements that remained in the region of Yehudah (Judah).

So, now I want to explore what written material exists before the exile of both the Kingdoms of Yehudah (in the southern region) and Yisrael (in the northern region) to determine if it is a historical fact that Benei Yisrael, post Avraham ben-Terahh, were ALL involved in Avodah Zara. Using modern terms, one way of expressing this is by saying were Benei Yisrael, as a whole, Monotheistic or Polytheistic only becoming Monotheistic after the Babylonian exile.

Of course, before addressing this, one would have to has the following questions:
  1. How does one identify a writing, pre-exile, from an ancestor of the modern Yemenite Jews, Babylonian Jews, Libyan Jews, or any other Torath Mosheh Jewish community?
  2. Given that the Hebrew Tanakh gives numerous historical instances where “certain” Benei Yisrael did Avodah against the statutes of the Torah – how does one differentiate between a culture norm that was standard among Torah based Benei Yisrael vs. a norm of Benei Yisrael who had taken up the concepts of Avodah Zara.
Concerning #1, given that one of the scripts for writing used by the Benei Yisrael in ancient times is similar to scripts used by Canaanite, Assyrians, and in some cases Akkadians it is important to note that the content of such writings will most likely be a useful method of assessing if a writing is either a) a Benei Yisrael or b) a writing of non-Benei Yisrael groups (such as Canaanites, Assyrians, etc.

Concering #2, because I am starting with a known population (Torath Mosheh Israelis / Jews from around the Diaspora) that exists today and whose culture is attested to in various sources for more than 2,500 years I will need to address this by using the cultural norms of the most ancient communities as the baseline. I.e. just because something is written in what is often termed Paleo-Hebrew doesn’t mean it was written by the ancestors of modern day Yemenite Jews, Orthodox Jews, Hasidic Jews, Sephardic Jews, Mizrahi Jews, Ethiopian Jews, etc. Given that these groups have the commonality of certain foundations it will be important to determine at what point it is clear that a text is Yisraeli / Yehudi by assessing areas of its content that are similar to Torath Mosheh norms.

Please be aware that most fragments of written texts found in this part of the Middle East are debated and debatable in terms of a) their pronunciation, b) their cultural authorship, and c) what the state of the authorship was. Thus, I am aware that some of what I show is contested and some is not.
 

Ehav4Ever

Well-Known Member
The first step in what I mentioned above are the following finds, which though not conclusively known to be from the Benei Yisrael, there are considered to be some similarity stylings in the terms and how they are used. In this in particular (אל) and (יה) are used in ways similar to the way that Torah based Jews have historically written and no mention in these particular writings that point to a clear form of Avodah Zara.

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For the next carvings which come from Har Karkom, it must be noted that there are those who speculate that based on findings at the site this may have been the location of Mount Sinai.

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