Sunday, August 31, 2008

Punctuation - why doesn't a Sefer Torah have? / Radvaz

Radvaz(3:643 #1065): Question: Why doesn’t the Sefer Torah have punctuation which would prevent misreading it - since Moshe was also taught the correct way of reading it at Sinai? The answer to this question is found in the confrontation between the angels and Moshe at Sinai (Shabbos 88b). When the angels tried to prevent Moshe from receiving the Torah, he asked them why they needed it since they didn’t murder or commit adultery. They agreed with him and let him have the Torah. The obvious problem is why weren’t the angels fully aware that the Torah wasn’t relevant for them? It would seem therefore that the angels have a different reading of the Torah which is relevant to the spiritual world. In other worlds the punctuation they had was according to the names of G-d as our sages have said that the entire Torah is comprised of names of G-d. Therefore the angels had to be informed that there was an alternative reading which was in accord with a physical world. Once you know this fact you can understand the answer to the original question. G-d commanded that the Torah be written without punctuation so that it could be read either in agreement with the spiritual or the physical…. The correct punctuation was transmitted as part of commentary of the Oral Torah to the Written Torah. Without the punctuation the Torah has many possible meanings. However the punctuation was only written in chumashim as an emergency response so that this knowledge shouldn’t be forgotten – as was the rest of the Oral Torah. This principle that the Torah has many possible meanings and readings explains why the Oral Torah wasn’t written and why there are stories in the Torah which seem unnecessary… We are required to believe that there is not even a single letter in the Torah which doesn’t have profound secrets and combinations of letters which are beyond our comprehension… We must constantly be aware of this principle…

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