We have always been taught to question, in Judaism. Jews love pilpul, by definition: love to talk, analyze, discuss, sharply critique. You may have heard the joke about walking down the street and seeing coming towards you three men in Hassidic dress (as opposed to three obvious Muslims in Muslim dress). What would you fear? That they'd physically attack you? Be terrorists? No, you'd be afraid they'd debate you to death. So that's us, the People of the Book (as opposed to the so-called "religion of peace," who are really the 'people of the sword').
Here comes a Jew, educated in England and recently retired from The Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Dr. Norman Solomon, who poses the ultimate, most controversial question: is the Torah really Divine in origin? In his book, Torah from Heaven, he explores the idea that, in light of our more modern knowledge of science and historical critique, can the notion of the Torah being divinely inspired still hold up? This is from an article in Jewish Ideas Daily, by Lawrence Grossman:
I myself have had questions about the origins of Judaism, and the interpretation of the "Great Event" that happened to the Jews in the Sinai desert--the "giving of the Torah," witnessed by at least 600,000 (not including women and children, which would bring the number close to a million) people.Norman Solomon is a distinguished British academician, recently retired from the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, who whimsically claims to belong to the "skeptical Orthodox." His latest book, Torah from Heaven, certainly exudes skepticism. It argues that the central assumption of classical Judaism—the divine origin of Torah—has become so clearly unbelievable in its literal sense that the only way to keep intellectually honest Jews from abandoning Orthodoxy is to reinterpret the doctrine not as fact but as foundational myth. Solomon, tongue firmly in cheek, tries to reassure the faithful by pointing out that myths are not necessarily false. But he clearly thinks this one is.Solomon painstakingly traces the development of the notion of Torah from Heaven as it mushroomed to include not only the divinity of the Five Books of Moses and the somewhat lesser holiness of the rest of the Hebrew Bible, but also a divinely inspired Oral Torah, eventually written down in the Talmud, that explains and elucidates scripture, and rabbinic decrees and interpretations through the generations that are also alleged to embody God's will. Solomon then surveys the ancient and medieval critiques of the doctrine, which either denied the Oral Law (Sadducees and Karaites) or superseded or replaced both it and the Bible with a new revelation (Christians and Muslims).
I still consider myself Orthodox, however, and follow the Orthodox lifestyle, because I believe it is a good one. It places a high value on a positive outlook, that we are responsible for our own actions, that we have a Divine purpose in life. It also values treating others as you would want yourself to be treated. And it makes time Holy, by emphasizing holidays, especially that of Shabbat at the end of each week, as a day devoted to emulating G-d, and involving oneself with spiritual matters rather than the workaday mundane world of the rest of the week. But intellectually, I still have those nagging questions. Maybe the event that happened those thousands of years ago was misinterpreted, owing to the fact that people had only the scientific knowledge of their day? It is food for thought. But meanwhile, I wish everyone a Shabbat Shalom!