Mt. Sinai by Shar's Photos, taken on September 20, 2007
[An additional paragraph was added on 10/3/07, just after the 6th paragraph.]
At the end of my last post I asked the question,
How can a community maintain reverence for Jewish traditions and Jewish law while seeming to dispute the authority that stands at the core of those laws and traditions?
Jewish tradition, it would seem, makes a claim, that the "Oral Law," which forms the basis of Jewish Law, was authored by God and received by Moses at Sinai. (See the entry for Oral Law in the Jewish Encyclopedia from 1906 for an explanation of the Oral Law in line with an Orthodox approach.)
The meaning of a claim for divine authorship of a sacred text depends upon the cultural context from which it emerges. That claim cannot be imported into another cultural context without first attempting to translate it. When the rabbis say "The Written and Oral Torahs were authored by God and delivered by Moses" it means something different in our cultural context than it did in theirs.