A New Torah: “Tree of Death”

By Wayne Jackson

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which purportedly represents some 1.5 million “conservative Jews” in the U.S., has just issued a new edition of the “Torah.” The term “Torah” has an elastic meaning in modern Judaism. In its narrowest sense, it alludes to the first five books of the Old Testament; in a broader sense, it connotes “the total content of God’s unending revelation to and through Israel.”

This second viewpoint explains why many Jews today feel that they can alter the teaching of the Old Testament virtually at will — which brings us to the topic of this newly-published Torah.

Titled Etz Hayim (“Tree of Life”), this new Torah, and its accompanying commentary notes, represents “one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine document” (New York Times/Web Site, March 9, 2002)

This “Tree of Life” (which ought to be dubbed “Tree of Death” — due to its poisonous fruit) asserts that the latest archaeological finds indicate that the Flood story is fiction (probably having been borrowed from the Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic), and that Abraham likely never lived. Moses, supposedly, was a myth; the story regarding the fall of Jericho did not happen, and David, if he lived at all, was only a local chieftain, not a national king.

Virtually nothing sacred has escaped the alteration of these rabbinic revisionists who have taken it upon themselves to purge the Old Testament of its alleged historical inaccuracies.

It is now claimed that even the most conservative Hebrew rabbis reject the notion that the Bible is literally true. For example, it is suggested that the exodus narrative surely is not factual, “for no people would have invented for themselves so ‘disgraceful’ a past as that of being slaves in a foreign land.”

The fact is, that narrative is, in itself, a subtle evidence of divine inspiration. A Jewish author, writing to enhance the image of Israel, would not have concocted such a disreputable past. The record thus suggests that a divine influence, overriding human impulse, was behind the production of the account!

But the rabbis involved in this nefarious effort struggled with knowing how to deal with certain “sticky” issues, e.g., homosexuality. The Torah says:

“Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is an abomination (Lev. 18:22).”

The authors of the Torah notes could not agree upon a moral assessment involving this passage — with which all were comfortable. Some felt homosexuality to be a sinful activity; but that view was repugnant to others. So, in order to provide a compromised position, the rabbinic notations merely comment that the Law’s condemnation of homosexual conduct has “engendered considerable debate.”

What’s enlightening about that statement?

Additionally, though, the admonition is proffered that “conservative” synagogues should “welcome gay and lesbian [people] in all congregational activities.”

It is one thing to attempt to help people who have fallen into sinful lifestyles, by teaching them God’s message of repentance and restoration; it is quite another to ignore their aberrant behavior and provide them with a sort of social sanction that leaves them uninstructed relative to their transgressions. Kindness corrects!

The modern Jewish movement bears no relationship whatever either to antique Judaism, as reflected in the original law of God, nor to anything remotely conservative in intellectual orientation!

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.