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I've been reading a document on Sefaria which claims the following:

The transmission of the Torah of Moses until today has worked in a blockchain style format, creating a trustworthy ledger of teachings from Sinai to our Sages and through modern times..

The text then continues to describe how the blockchain works:

Why is the blockchain such a trusted source of stored information? The mechanisms of the blockchain revolve around a global decentralized network of individuals who review and approve a specific transaction that was executed. No one person owns the network and no one person can fake a transaction. Once the network of citizens approves the transaction, that transaction is stored on what is called a block, and once that block is filled with data, another block is formed, creating a chain of blocks of information that the gatekeepers of the blockchain agree has happened. Once the information makes it into a block, it can never be taken off, or deleted, or manipulated by anyone. It is a peer approved decentralized transaction that gets stored in history and can never be altered going back in time. However, going forward, the network functions on consensus of the people. So too has the transmission of Torah unfolded. What was once taught by Moses and then the sages can never be altered, but it is the will of the people to embody those teachings as a way of life.

a) What consensus mechanism is this using? Perhaps once the temple was built and the United Kingdom of Israel was established, Proof of authority (PoA) was used with professional positions, but what about before that (from the Exodus until the establishment of the united monarchy)? I don't quite understand how to translate blockchain-style transmission and connect it to the transmission of the Torah.

b) Do we need external proof that the revelation happened? We know that 1) Mernepta stele indicates that Israelites were a tribal society c. 1208. and that there was a massive abandonment of Avaris by Semitic slaves around 50ish years before that. Between this period, Israelites formed as a group with an identity. However, how can we establish with certainty that they formed due to a revelation because even though the revelation happened to the entire nation of Israel, it included largely people who would become Israelites, and not say external peoples as a collective. How can we be certain that the Torah is then legitimate?

c) How can we ensure that there weren't edits or insertions occurring at a later date, say after the Babylonian exile?

All in all, I'm slightly confused as to how we can apply the blockchain-style transmission to the way the Torah was transmitted.

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  • aish.com/…
    – Shmuel
    Jul 19, 2023 at 20:14
  • @Shmuel Thanks, I'll go read it right now.
    – setszu
    Jul 19, 2023 at 20:15
  • See also what the Raavad writes on Eduyot 1:5 sefaria.org/…
    – Shmuel
    Jul 19, 2023 at 20:15
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    The most famous blockchain coin is "Bitcoin". We use "Bitachon" Bitachon is like Bitcoin except for an additional Aleph, which stands for the Oneness of God. Bitachon is just Bitcoin with God. Jul 19, 2023 at 20:19
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    Just cause some interntet guy decided to latch onto the latest buzzword doesn't mean it has any significance.
    – N.T.
    Jul 19, 2023 at 23:03

2 Answers 2

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Simple explanation:

Any decision by a Rabbi is not only decided by someone accepted by that group, but only gains acceptance or authority if it is accepted by other trusted individuals as well from other groups (ie: cities, tribes, countries etc...). And so the idea is that by using sages from previous generations, we know they were accepted by everyone and have authenticity/authority.

This is the benefit of "decentralization" and no one individual telling you what is right and wrong.

In regard to some other questions you raise:

Jews who follow Torah know it is extremely important and cannot be altered.

However, since Jews were never ALL in one location at ALL times, ie: for much of the history they have been split (either in exile to four corners, or even in Israel under multiple tribes each having its own copy from Moses), this would make the Torah "decentralized".

Then if you compare the Torahs from each group you can see no change (certainly in meaning of text). Thus verifying its unchanged state.

So the Torah and teachings of sages have authenticity to them. As far as them not being altered from the time of writing/decentralization.

Most Rabbis point out that we have a tradition of Rabbi to student (who become famous Rabbis) going back all the way as an unbroken chain. Furthermore often there are more then one chain, for example two famous chains that go back extremely far: Pumbedita and Sura, all Rabbis recorded and have a length of approx 800 years unbroken from around year 200AD-1000AD. But similar chains can be made going all the way back with books devoted to this topic.

Thought experiment:

Imagine post Moses, the tribes did not have one ruler that could make such changes and have everyone agree. In fact the Torah was written into mountains making such a process even harder. Afterward when kings were introduced we quickly had two kingdoms. Even then, where Kings or people followed idolatry it was only short bursts between idolatry and Judaism - no chance for a major change.

In general Torahs were not altered, only burned or names of Hashem removed - this is documented.

We know these Kings are insulted and treated as rebellious Jews, and yet I know of no record where they attempt to change the Torah. Even so... would every person change it, would the other kingdom relent to such a change?

Even after the first Temple when the Jews were exiled, by this time the Torah would have spread and been less under control of one leader. You would have two Jewish localities, Babylonia and Israel - where two sets of Jews not under one ruler would remain.

Eventually the septuagint is written in around 275BCE making future changes nigh impossible since now non-Jews had copies. Here is the one time intentional changes to the Torah for a non-Jewish king were made, it was miraculous because they all made the same changes (even though they were separated by the King to ensure an accurate translation). I believe only 10 minor changes are made - totally superfluous to your question. And those changes were not accepted, and are recorded.

One can postulate "what ifs" and they are hard to absolutely refute because there are few facts. I think it is more intriguing if you could provide a more factual based question like "at the time of ___ what stops the alteration of a Torah" etc... the more facts to the argument the more interesting it becomes. Also to properly treat the general question a book of information is needed, and yes they have been written, but I have gone on for long enough I think.

Specifically when analyzing King Saul, King David and King Solomon (1070 BCE (monarchy established) and 930 BCE (Kingdom of Judah established) there is also the distributive aspect.

In fact I actually think that Judaism has a form of government similar but different to America's President/Court/Congress. Judaism has King/Prophet/Court. Neither has complete control of the over though it is clear they can try.

So for Saul he had a clear counterbalance of Shmuel who in fact caused the throne to move to David, and Saul was powerless. He did not and could not rewrite the Torah to his advantage, and even he had a whole city of Kohanim killed, but that would certainly be beyond his reach. And perhaps not in his interest as he followed the Torah in general.

In regard to David he was rebuked for taking BatSheva by Nathan. David did not respond with an ammendment of the Torah. In fact we have recorded that many times David was told he was wrong for example mephibosheth is said to have disagreed and proven David wrong in Torah Berachot 4a. The Tanach speaks of David's sins, had he been able to (ie: desired) he apparently could not even change what the prophets wrote let alone the Torah. So either he could not, or he tried to keep the authenticity. Also famously Gad was also a prophet in the times of David.

In regard to Solomon he had Nathan the prophet and Gad as well in his times. Similarly in Melachim it mentions he had too many wives that affected his relationship with Hashem. We are not told that he undid or changed the Torah, in fact religious observance under him increased.

And also there are the Priests who also have a vested interest in the Torah not changing (they get Maaser, like a tax) and yet the tax payed to them would likely be a first concern for many to change if they could.

There are a number of entities who are a bulwark against each other from changing any laws or story as that would adversely affect them. And these constituents are either large or powerful.

Also there were hidden Torahs like the one kept with the Kohanim and two for the King, one carried at all times (at least sefer Devarim) and one in his vault.

The Assyrians had no affect on the Kingdom of Judah as far as I could find, but the above would apply to them as well since propehts existed then too.

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  • "Jews who follow Torah know it is extremely important and cannot be altered." Sure, but Israelites didn't always follow the Torah, as we see both in the Torah itself and in the archaeological evidence which indicates that idolatry occurred there. How can we ensure that the Torah hasn't been edited after the fact? The earliest fragment of the Torah is from the Book of Numbers that comes from 7th century BCE. That's still a rather large timespan between the actions. And this is before the Rabbinical period.
    – setszu
    Jul 20, 2023 at 4:30
  • Even though each tribe had their own copy, the Temple was still there as was the monarchy, which could've enforced changes through force potentially and with others not being able to write down anything, only a version would remain.
    – setszu
    Jul 20, 2023 at 4:32
  • @setszu I hear your question, I have added to my response hopefully it will help a bit, but I am guessing a more thorough treatment might be necessary
    – msj121
    Jul 20, 2023 at 20:47
  • Thx for ur reply. 1 more question-how can we a) ensure that no changes occurred between 1070 BCE (monarchy established) and 930 BCE (Kingdom of Judah established) b) ensure that Assyrians didn't try to impose dominance and change the texts? Also the stuff about "what ifs" being hard to refute isn't as such as they're simply an absence of evidence/argment from ignorance-type fallacy ("some X could've happened, therefore Y" - that statement doesnt rly say anything in this context and is meaningless). Otherwise, I like ur additions. If u can answer the question above, Ill mark ur answer
    – setszu
    Jul 21, 2023 at 0:58
  • I'm asking that about the span between monarchy and Kingdom of Judah because that seems like the only remaining period where decentralization maybe didn't happen. If it did, then perhaps we can make the blockchain-style transmission argument.
    – setszu
    Jul 21, 2023 at 0:59
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I disagree with the analogy.

With the religion, some blocks are more indelible than others.

Famous ones like the Torah, Gemara, Shulchan Aruch are easily comparable but the discussions that lead to these codifications are mostly lost.

We also have forgeries (Like the Zohar) and novel additions, such as Chassidus, that have entered the religion despite widespread opposition.

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    The Zohar isn't a forgery
    – Dude
    Jul 20, 2023 at 3:23
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    Are you confusing the debate about the authorship of the Zohar with it being a forgery? Also you need to realize the Mishne Torah or Shulchan Aruch were seen as novel additions when they were published, and generated significant opposition
    – mbloch
    Jul 20, 2023 at 3:31
  • @Dude some consider the Zohar a forgery by Moses de Leon, see the plethora of questions and disagreements on that on MY.
    – bondonk
    Jul 20, 2023 at 8:52
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    @bondonk I asked a question about that. The worst I've seen on this site is calling it a pseudepigrapha, not a forgery. Happy to be proven wrong, if you spot a sourced well received answer here that claims that, please share
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jul 20, 2023 at 9:07
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    @RabbiKaii thanks for clarification. there are many questions on it here and address it as a forgery. My guess is that "pseudepigrapha" being an uncommon word, people use it interchangeably with "forgery". If it is a pseudepigrapha, and he used it for personal gain then maybe its 'upgraded' to forgery. Probably not the place to have this conversation though.
    – bondonk
    Jul 20, 2023 at 9:24

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