1

King David c. 1040–970 BCE, indeed any of the ancient Jewish kings, if presented with a modern Sefer Torah would not have been able to read it. The masoretic text we now have, written between the 7th and 10th centuries CE (see: wikipedia), uses an entirely different alphabet -- with, using round numbers 1,400 years between them.

The accepted answer here (currently approved by 13 people) states "There are various proofs that the Torah we have is essentially identical to the original (with some minor spelling variants)." But there appears to be demonstrable evidence of "change" in the alphabet, which would strongly indicate the probability of (potentially significant) change to the text itself.

Why then, does Orthodoxy hold that the Torah has not changed?

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    The comments here have been moved to chat. @user908094, I edited one of your clarifications into the question; please make further edits, rather than having a whole discussion in the comments. I see several outstanding requests for clarification/sourcing, so I'm putting the question on hold temporarily until you can clarify what it is you want to know. Is this just about fonts and an assumption that there must have been changes? Please edit. Thank you. – Monica Cellio Jun 10 '15 at 16:16
  • There is a machloket among Chazal about the Tzuras hoausiaus of the Torah given at Sinai. One says that it was originally given in Ashuris and then changed to Ivris, another that it was given in the latter, and a third that K'sav Ivris never existed in the writing of Tana"ch (the third seems unlikely). I'f I can find my paper, I'll write in the m'kaumaus. – Noach MiFrankfurt Jun 10 '15 at 20:55
  • Did you only address the script or the whole text when you said "not changed", because I understood it as a whole? – Al Berko Oct 7 '18 at 15:15
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    Because they willfully ignore mountains of evidence showing that the text was compiled over time and that there were many changes in the actual text (rather than the font) even after the text was compiled and canonized. They do this so that they can preserve their faith in a God given Torah. – nbubis Oct 8 '18 at 6:09
3

First of all, the dilemma presented by this question is based on an equivocal use of the word "change". The Orthodox position that the Torah we have today is the same as it was given to Moses refers to the content of the Torah. Our Sifrei Torah display a diversity of styles with regard to the script and are not presumed to be visually identical with the original Torah.

Secondly, while there is traditional support for the academic position that the current script used was adopted at a later period I do not believe the evidence is so conclusive as to rule out the more "conservative" tradition that our script dates back to Sinai. While it would probably be more appropriate from a dispassionate academic standpoint to adopt the former position, I do not see any reason that a private individual should find it strong enough to overwhelm a viewpoint received through tradition.

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    Why is either position more conservative? They are both fully Talmudic – Double AA Jun 11 '15 at 1:26
  • ...because it conserves the status quo. Conservative is not a synonym for Talmudic or even for correct (and note the quotation marks to indicate subjectivity). – Yirmeyahu Jun 11 '15 at 13:23
  • Thank you, all, for your comments. I have actually learned a great deal from having asked this question: I had, for example, no idea that there is an equally halachically correct "Ktav Chabad"... I've accepted your answer on the basis that it gives a great perspective on the view of Orthodoxy. – user908094 Jun 15 '15 at 15:57
  • (although I must add, from a personal perspective, my utter revulsion at the thought that any 'private individual' should ever blindly give precedence to tradition. Ma nishtanah... we're special because we're encouraged to ask) – user908094 Jun 15 '15 at 16:01
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It's a good question, and I think the answer is much more pragmatic than you might think:

It has no practical implications.

  1. The Shu"A Yo"D 256 states that the Talmud is called Bavli as it is a mixture of the 3 constituent parts of the Jewish knowledge: Mikrah, Mishnah, and Talmud. And that's all necessary knowledge one should invest his time in (Rambam wrote similarly in Hi. Talmud Torah).

  2. Ever since, Jews are busy studying the Talmud, practically neglecting the [study of the] Mikrah. This practice is mainstreamed nowadays in all Haredi communities. The kids learn the basic text with the basic Rashi but not much more. And this is on purpose - the Torah is too harsh for the kids (just as for the women) to deal with, they can get it all wrong - all the sins, betrayals, sex crimes etc.

  3. Therefore, the Torah's authenticity is never questioned at the Haredi community as it will change nothing in its study habits.


Here are some afterthoughts on studying the Torah and the Haredi approach. If you noticed, we [mostly] use to refer to the Torah as whole Psukim, but according to some sources the Sages used much smaller chunks to derive the Halochos from - abbreviations, single letters, and even the single Ta'am. We lost those skills and our understanding is limited to what the Sages interpreted in the Talmud. That's why we could not possibly notice if the Torah was altered on the level of letters as long as the general commandments stay the same.

  • Does this explain why Orthodoxy believes that the Torah hasn't changed, or does this just say that Orthodoxy would never be able to tell if the Torah had changed? – Alex Jan 10 at 0:46
  • @Alex Circumstantially yes, I said it does not deal with it - and that's the reason for the belief, once it starts to deal with it it will find the truth, just like all others. – Al Berko Jan 10 at 0:48
  • So according to your answer it is not a fundamental belief. If someone Orthodox is a little ahead of the game and has already discovered that the Torah has in fact changed, he would have no problem believing that? If that is a correct assessment of your answer, you may want to directly state in the post that you are challenging the premise of the question, which assumes that Orthodoxy inherently believes that the Torah has not changed. – Alex Jan 10 at 0:57
  • Isn't it what DoubleA proposed as a comment to judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/98346/…? – Al Berko Jan 10 at 0:58
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    Okay, it's also possible that he doesn't agree with you. – Alex Jan 10 at 1:14

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