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I am taking the position that perhaps the Torah does contain narratives that are not scientifically correct, such as the creation and early human history narratives found in the first 11 chapters of Bereshit. Something to have in mind before you give your answer is that Rambam’s 13 principles seem to say that we should believe that God gave everything in the Torah to Moses (I suppose that would even include some of the narratives that are not scientifically factual), and that nothing in the Torah changed or will ever change. So now with that in mind: Would believing that some of the narratives in the Torah are not scientifically factual no longer make me Orthodox and brand me as a heretic, or would I still remain Orthodox?

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    Can you define "Orthodox"? There's no official orthodox governing body – Double AA May 15 at 18:03
  • Those communities and members that have a stringent observance of Halacha. I really don't know any other way to define it. – user19166 May 15 at 18:29
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    @Menachem fwiw the Rabbi alluded to is Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon and you rely on his rulings all the time in one way or another. – Double AA May 15 at 19:12
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    There are plenty of very observant Jews who daven at Orthodox shuls, keep kosher, keep Shabbat and believe, for example, the 6 days of creation lasted much longer than the sort of days we are accustombed to,that perhaps there are parts of the world that were not destroyed by the Mabul (Flood), and have many other non-literal interpretations of events in Tanakh, particularly in Bereshit. – Josh K May 15 at 19:29
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    Helpful question with many answers judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/30/bereishit-vs-science – alicht May 15 at 19:36
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The Rambam believed that the Torah is not intended to be history or science, but ethical teachings:

Those passages in the Bible, which, in their literal sense, contain statements that can be refuted by proof, can and must be interpreted otherwise. [Rambam, Guide to the Perplexed, 2:25]

  • That's the best answer - if the Torah seems to contradict science then either we misunderstand scientific facts (or they are incorrect) or we interpret Torah incorrectly – Dan Weisberg Nov 28 at 20:43
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The Torah, the Talmud and Chazal do not use the artificial label "Orthodox" or recognize subcategories of Judaism, it is just one religion. And you remain as Jewish as the rest of us even if you question and doubt. Yes, events described in the Torah are ofttimes inconsistent with laws of nature as we know it, or current scientific knowledge, and could only have occurred miraculously. We believe in miracles, and that things happen beyond the rules of nature, Shelo B'derech Hateva. Don't label or brand yourself if you do not yet see the miracles in every day life.

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אם אין יראה, אין חכמה

If there is no fear, there is no wisdom.

(משנה אבות ג יז)

וְעַתָּה֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל מָ֚ה יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ שֹׁאֵ֖ל מֵעִמָּ֑ךְ כִּ֣י אִם־לְ֠יִרְאָ֠ה אֶת־יְהֹוָ֨ה אֱלֹהֶ֜יךָ לָלֶ֤כֶת בְּכׇל־דְּרָכָיו֙ וּלְאַהֲבָ֣ה אֹת֔וֹ וְלַֽעֲבֹד֙ אֶת־יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ בְּכׇל־לְבָבְךָ֖ וּבְכׇל־נַפְשֶֽׁךָ׃

(דברים י:יב)

All that is demanded of a Jew is that they fear the ultimate consequences of their actions and beliefs. In regards to this example: They must fear the possibility that when they will face the ultimate judgement in front of their Creator, He will reveal to them exactly how all the stories in the Torah were literally and scientifically true and they will immediately feel drenched in shame for having lived a live that dismissed that possibility. Simultaneously, they must fear the possibility that on judgement day, their Creator will reveal that the stories in the Torah were not intended to be taken literally and they will feel ashamed for not having given that possibility proper consideration.

To answer your question: If you are dismissing entirely the possibility that the stories in the Torah are scientifically accurate then you have strayed from the path of what is fundamentally required of a Jew.

However, if you just mean to say that given the context, arguments, and possibilities you have been presented so far, you lean towards the understanding that the stories in the Torah are not meant to be taken literally, yet remain open to the other possibility, and fearful that, indeed, the reverse may be true then you are well within the confines of Orthodox Judaism.

Although as others have pointed out, there exist people who consider themselves Orthodox Jews yet do not demonstrate Yiras Shamayim, and others who do, yet do not identify as Orthodox.

  • Are there areas where you can indeed hold a definitive view [e.g. one of the ikkarei emunah, or some halacha that everyone agrees on, etc.]? Or should you never be sure of anything and always be open to the possibility that anything you know might in fact be wrong, and thus you should be fearful of everything (and thus have no firm convictions on any topic)? – user9806 Nov 27 at 22:24
  • @user9806 That question itself one must treat with trepidation. Unless you have an ironclad reason to dismiss one of those possibilities, one must be afraid that when they face their Creator they will learn that indeed some things are "better off not questioned", or perhaps the opposite is true and Hashem intended for you to ponder, contemplate and question the Ikkarei Emunah. – Silver Nov 29 at 17:03
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Many are the essays and books which have been written on the discrepancies between the scientific account of the mode in which our globe came into being, and the account given in this first chapter of the Bible. (John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible)

The Torah is not a textbook of science. It is a textbook of religion, of the Jewish religion. It has been recognized since the nineteenth century, since the time of Charles Darwin, that the Torah does not agree with the findings of biology (the age of man), geology (the age of the earth), and astronomy (the age of the universe). The Torah does indeed contain narraatives which are not scientifically correct, in particular, the Pentateuchal cosmogony (Beréshit 1:1-2:3). In spite of this, the Torah recounts that God Himself came down on Mount Sinai and gave the Decalogue to the children of Israel. This is an irrefutable fact. The deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt and its continued existence until this very day are also irrefutable facts. To so believe does not make you a heretic.

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One of the Rambam's 13 principles of Jewish faith dictates that the Torah was given by G-d to Moses and is divine.

Now, use your logic - if G-d wrote the Torah would He put false information in it, could He make mistakes?

G-d doesn't make mistakes. Since G-d makes no mistakes, there are no mistakes in the Torah and everything written in the Torah is 100% true.

To say that there are "mistakes" or "inconsistencies" in the Torah implies that's it's not divine. This is already a violation of the Rambam's 13 principles.

Nevertheless, if it seems to us that there are scientific "inconsistencies" in the Torah then either scientific "findings" are incorrect (for instance, carbon dating which is a complete hoax) or we interpret Torah incorrectly.

But never can the Torah and science contradict each other (real objective science, not speculative science like carbon dating which is based on assumptions about the decay rate).

Therefore, an "Orthodox" Jew may not believe that there are scientific inconsistencies in the Torah. Rather, he interprets the Torah incorrectly, or scientists are incorrect.

It's not possible that there are mistakes in the Torah. Anyone who believes so is a kofer because he violates one of the Rambam's 13 principles.

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