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I am an italian gentile believer in HaShem, who observes the precepts of Noah as taught by the Creator in the Holy Torah.

I ask for your response on the following question:

If I understand correctly,according to Jewish tradition the Prophetic Books and the Agiographers of the Tanakh were inspired by HaShem but were written by men and in their own words, while the Pentateuch was drafted by Moses under the dictation word by word of the Creator; therefore, according to the teaching of the Masters of Israel, the author of the Pentateuch is HaShem himself, while Moses has, as it were, verbalized.

Now, in some forums edited in Italy by some orthodox Jews I read that, according to the Talmud, the original written text of the Pentateuch was lost during the destruction of the first Temple by the Babylonians, and that the Five Books were rewritten by Ezra HaSofer on the basis of the oral transmission of the text, perfectly preserved by the great memory capacity of the Israelites of the time, common to many peoples of antiquity. The current text of the Pentateuch is therefore considered perfectly consistent with the original verbalization of the words of Hashem, as it was drafted by Moses.

This narration regarding the rewriting of the Pentateuch by Ezra HaSofer seems to me completely unknown outside the Jewish world; I have never personally found any trace in the numerous books written by Western scholars and read by me.

I ask to you the courtesy of confirming if this narrative is actually in conformity with the Jewish sources, and if possible, the courtesy of providing me with the relative passages of the Talmud, or at least the extremes of the same so that I can search for them.

I know this passage of the Talmud: “Reish Lakish said, ‘at first the Torah was forgotten by Israel; Ezra came from Babylon and established it'” (Sukkah 20a). Does it have any relevance?

Shalom

  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya, righteous Amos74. :) – ezra Dec 15 '17 at 15:00
  • Thank you very much Ezra! Sorry if I did not thank you before, I was not very polite! – Amos74 Dec 16 '17 at 13:12
  • You're welcome, and I was not offended at all. If you were wondering, I called you "righteous" because you're a Ben Noach, and you're the righteous of the Nations. I hope to see you around more on Mi Yodeya. – ezra Dec 17 '17 at 6:08
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I do not have the original source, but from memory, Ezrah used the best copies of the Torah available and wrote (from them) an authoritative copy to be used by all future sofrim (scribes). He did not do this from memory though. He checked to make sure that the minutia of the writings were correct so as to have a single source available. It was not that the written Torah was lost, but that he needed to ensure that a letter perfect copy was available to be used as a source to copy.

A sofer may only copy from an existing Torah scroll and not write from memory.

I should add that the citation of Succah 20a is not relevant as it refers to the study of Torah, not the written Torah itself. As explained in ArtScroll Succha 20a3 note 29.

Writing the Torah

An excerpt from Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's Handbook of Jewish Thought.

During the Babylonian exile (423-353 BCE), there was a decline in knowledge of the Torah. Intermarriage made headway, and many people forgot the Torah and its commandments. When Ezra and Nehemiah returned to the Holy Land, they restored the Torah to its original place. Ezra also wrote a letter perfect Torah scroll to be used as a standard.

...

During the time of the first Temple, it was the practice of the Sanhedrin to correct the king's Torah from the Torah written by Moses which was kept in the Temple. After the death of the king, these highly accurate Torah scrolls were kept by the Sanhedrin.

A Torah was likewise kept in the Second Temple which was read at the great assembly on Yom Kippur and at the Public Reading every seven years. This Torah was also used as a standard to correct all other Torah scrolls. Some say that this was the Torah written by Ezra.

...

Since every Torah must be letter perfect, it must be carefully copied from another scroll. It is forbidden to write a single letter without copying it from another Torah.

Moreover, the scribe must repeat every word out loud before writing it down, so as to insure accuracy in copying. This was the custom among the prophets, as we find, "He pronounced all these words for me with his mouth, and I wrote them with ink in the book" (Jeremiah 36:18).

...

Originally, the Torah and other scripture were so carefully preserved that every letter, word, and sentence was counted. Traditions still exist based on this knowledge.

However, after the Babylonian exile, it became impossible to find precise Torah scrolls, and several questions arose regarding the exact reading of the Torah and other scripture. Therefore, when the Great Assembly fixed the Bible canon under the leadership of Ezra, they also restored the exact readings of the scriptures…

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    "A sofer may only copy from an existing Torah scroll and not write from memory." Is this a Deorayta rule? If not then how do you know it applied back then? – Double AA Dec 15 '17 at 16:43
  • @Doubleaa IIRC there was an article on which sifrei torah each main sofer used at various times but I can't find it now. I will look after shabbos – sabbahillel Dec 15 '17 at 17:10
  • sabbahillel, thank you very much for your answer – Amos74 Dec 15 '17 at 22:59
  • sefaria.org/… – Loewian Dec 17 '17 at 1:14
  • @sabbahillel ,a curiosity: the Jewish tradition reports a narrative on what happened to the original manuscript of the Pentateuch drawn up by a fist by Moses on the dictation of HaShem? – Amos74 Dec 18 '17 at 23:31

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