Criticial Review of the Book: The Unity Principle

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[Note: Rivkin uses the name of G-d that starts with Y in much of his section on the time period of the prophets. Because I am not comfortable using this name, I opted to type “*Hashem” where I quoted his book where he uses the name of G-d that stats with Y. I also spelled G-d, where as Rivkin spelled out the entire name. The reader should be aware of this.]

From the Introduction: “This is a new kind of book on Jewish history. It is not a storehouse of information, facts, or dates; nor is it a catalog of battles, books and heroic personalities… I am, in one word, attempted to make intelligible the entire range and sweep of Jewish history, and to expose all of its remarkable complexity as the working through of a concept of the unity of all reality, which I call the Unity Principle.”

While Rivkin’s book certainly was not boring, a major frustration of mine was that he (for the most part) failed to cite sources for his assertions. With the exception of a few quotes from the prophets, and a comment from Josephus he just assumed that readers would already know (or accept) the premises of his positions. I would suggest it is a reasonable expectation of the reader to be supplied with some facts and their sources, this could have been achieved without making the book boring. One has to take into account how important it is to show what the basis is for one’s contentions when one is making “revolutionary” claims.

Pg. XXV: “The Oral law was known only to the scholar class, and it was on it that the scholar class based it’s power and authority.”

While the “scholar class” was more aware of the complexities of the Oral law, this does not mean they exclusively knew about the existence of an Oral law. For an example, for the holiday of Succos, there is a commandment to “take for yourselves the fruit of a beautiful tree. (Leviticus 23:40)” But what is that fruit? Only the Oral law (Talmud Sukkah 34b) lets us know it is an esrog (citron). Indeed, is impossible for the nation who relies on the Oral law for the observance of Torah commandments to be completely unaware of its existence!

Pg. XXV: “To my knowledge this concept of the Pharisaic revolution has never been advocated by any other scholar. The idea is at odds with the prevailing scholarly consensus. Yet the sources give firm evidence of its validity.”

Perhaps the reason why the “Pharisaic revolution” has never been advocated by any other scholar is the absence of convincing evidence for such a hypothesis. Being that there are is not a substantial listing of sources of evidence, if one only goes according to the book at least, it is difficult for the reader to appreciate Rivkin’s “firm evidence.”

Pp. 4-5: “But, most brazenly, he challenged prophetic power at its core by giving royal sanction to polytheistic shrines.” … “Either *Hashem or the king was absolute; hence Solomon saw in polytheism his only hope for an absolute monarchy. Solomon’s fathering of polytheism is recounted in the Book of Kings: … [Kings 11:1-8]. Although the writer attributes Solomons defection to his wives it is clear to us that the king himself must shoulder the responsibility. Indeed, the polytheistic shrines were so securely linked to Solomon that this fact is simply taken for granted by the writer of II Kings 23:11-14, when he recounts Josiah’s efforts to destroy them…”

The traditional Jewish view of what happened with King Solomon is leagues different than what is painted by Rivkin. While my position, the position espoused by Chazal (Rabbis of the Talmud) may not be looked upon as objective by some… the assertion of Rivkin, that King Solomon (c”v) brought in polytheism to try and “bump off” G-d in a thirst for absolute power is not based on anything more objective (of course I think is it based on something significantly less). The Talmud (Shabbos 56b) says: “Anyone who claims Solomon sinned [by idolatry] is mistaken. Solomon’s plan was to bring the world close to G-d by marring the princesses (notice verse 3) of the nations, and influencing them to worshiping G-d alone (see Daas Soferim on Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 2:6). Notice it was in his old age (verse 4) that Solomon was reprimanded. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, commented on the significance of this (Behold a People, Pg. 288): “It is not because of interest in his wives, for such interst wanes with the onset of old age. In his younger days when such interest could have been stronger, no criticisms were made; for he was in full control of the entire nation. But here reference is made to weakness of age, just as his father became inordinately weak in his last days. David, however, was able to rally his old vigor when necessary for G-d’s service (as in his vigorous action when Adoniyahu attempted to become king). Solomon could not and therefore the thousand households of his wives and concubines were not as strictly supervised as hitherto; and some secretly instituted idolatrous shrines for their own use. ‘His heart was not as perfect with G-d as the heart of David (Michoel’s addition: see verse 4 of 2 Kings ch. 11)’ for David the lion-hearted (II Samuel 17:10) could overcome even his deathbed weakness for the service of his G-d.” And what of verse 7 which says Solomon built the alters? Chazel said: “Since he did not protest against his wives, it is referred to in his name [Rashi from Sanhedrin 91b].” Moreover, since his wives were the perpetrators of this act, it is recorded as though Solomon had done it, in keeping with the Talmudic maxim that one’s wife is like himself [ K’li Yakar].”

Pg 14: “For them [Michoel’s addition: the prophets] Sinai played no role because Sinai had not yet emerged as the mountain where an immutable law had been given.”

Please take a look at the prophets and writings to see what they had to say about the immutable law of Moses: Joshua 1:7-8, 23:6; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 14:6, 17:13, 17:34, 17:37; Isaiah 5:24; Jeremiah 8:7; Hosea 4:6; Amos 2:4; Malachi 3:22; Daniel 9:11; Ezra 7:10; Nehemiah 8:14, 9:13-15, 10:30-37; 1 Chronicles 16:40, 22:12; 2 Chronicles 30:16, 31:3, 31:21.

Pg. 14: “Neither the books of the Pentateuch nor any other biblical books describe the process by which Moses came to over-tower Samuel, Nathan, and Elijah. Even on the eve of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, Jeremiah puts Samuel on the same level as Moses… [Jeremiah 15:1].”

The Rambam, commenting on the Mishneh in Sanhedrin [10:1] explains what differentiated Moses from the other prophets. I will limit here the points he brings to one example: While the other prophets have G-d converse with them in dreams, Moses did it while he was in a normal state of consciousness (see Numbers 12:6-8). Furthermore, can one deduce from the verse that Moses and Samuel are both mentioned that G-d considers them equals? This is speculative at best, and the best is pretty weak.

Pg. 17: “Prophetic resistance to stable laws and institutions from the eighth to the sixth century B.C.E. was not easily overcome … The Sabbath, the celebration of the New Moon, and the holding of holy convocations were all provisional practices to the prophets. These modes of worshiping *Hashem may have been permitted, but they were not mandatory, and the prophet was ultimately free to reject them.” Rivkin fails to cite even one verse to back up his assertion. Being that he is faced with overwhelming evidence contrary to his position (Joshua 1:7-8, 23:6; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 14:6, 17:13, 17:34, 17:37; Isaiah 5:24; Jeremiah 8:7, Hosea 4:6; Amos 2:4; Malachi 3:22; Daniel 9:11; Ezra 7:10; Nehemiah 8:14, 9:13-15, 10-30-37; 1 Chronicles 16:40, 22:12; 2 Chronicles 30:16, 31:3, 31:21) and an absence of evidence on his part… we must conclude his claim of “prophetic resistance to stable laws and institutions” falls short of accurate scholarship. Not to mention his oversight of verse in the prophet directly referring to the mandatory observance of Sabbath (see Jeremiah 17:19-23).

Pg. 20: “To bring about the coalition, the authors of Deuteronomy created a wilderness experience that bore only superficial resemblance to the traditional picture preserved in the so-called JE account. The laws found in the JE texts do not establish a single cultus, or a specialized hereditary priesthood or monarchy.”

The question to ask here is: How does one (or a group) create a “wilderness experience” that never happened, and say it was a NATIONAL EXPERIANCE? How would they get an entire nation to accept a fabricated history of their ancestors without people asking why they were never told of this amazing history? Such a scenario is not very likely.

Pp. 20-21: “Prophets such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel refused to give up their prophetic freedom. *Hashem and not Moses was the one and only omnipotent G-d. *Hashem had not become bound by immutable laws. *Hashem had not cut off the possibility of making future decisions … They did not even dignify Deuteronomy’s claims with a refutation. They continued to exercise their prophetic prerogative as though Deuteronomy had never been promulgated. Jeremiah preached that the kingdom, the city, and the Temple would be destroyed. He proclaimed this in *Hashem’s name, not Moses’. And Ezekiel echoed him.”

The first flaw with this paragraph is the false insinuation that immutable laws are antithetical to prophecy. Here, Rivkin constructs a straw man argument by claiming immutable laws and prophecy are mutually exclusive. There is no reason why immutable laws would limit prophesy, in fact, the chief role of the prophets was to get the Jewish people to keep the immutable laws (see the vast amount of verses I listed from the prophets above)! Rivkin fails to explain how immutable laws would cut off the possibility of making future decisions.

The second flaw is: Both Ezekiel (20:19) and Jeremiah (8:7) speak of G-d’s laws that must be kept! The third flaw is: On what does Rivkin base his assertion that Jeremiah acted as “Deuteronomy had never been promulgated” and thus “did not even dignify Deuteronomy’s claims with a refutation.”? Interestingly; in his book, “Who wrote the Bible,” Richard Elliot Friedman wrote (pg. 146): “The identity of the Deuteronomist … It is time to name that person. We know of a man who was alive and writing in precisely those years: the prophet Jeremiah. … His book is filled with the language of Deuteronomistic history, the same favorite terms and phrases, the same metaphors, the same point of view on practically every point.” We see here the dramatically different hypotheses of two secular scholars whose intuitions led them to such radically different conclusions based on their so-called “evidence.” One of them has to be wrong, I suggest both are (see my reference to Rabbi Gottlieb’s lecture on Biblical criticism below).

Two final reflections on this paragraph: Rivkin says: “Jeremiah preached that the kingdom, the city, and the Temple would be destroyed. He proclaimed this in *Hashem’s name, not Moses.” The question to ask is, why would Jeremiah proclaim G-d’s message of a future event in Moses’ name? The name of Moses is only mentioned with regard to the law aspect of the message, not the future prophesy aspect. Please keep in mind however, in the some of the many quotes I referred to regarding the law of G-d, the phrase “Torah of G-d” and “Torah of Moses” are used interchangeably (1 Kings 2:3, 2 Kings 14:6 and Daniel 9:11), also see where they are considered the same entity in the same verse (Malachi 3:22, Nehemiah 8:14). We can see clearly this style of writing was commonly used by the prophets. The second reflection is; why did Jeremiah preach that the land would be destroyed? Because we failed to keep Hashem’s Torah (Jeremiah 9:11-12)!

Pg. 35: “The Aaronide success … They therefore designated the Pentateuch to attain this end, arrogating to themselves not only alter rights but also control over the process of expiation from sin. They broke prophetic authority by having Moses invest Aaron and his sons with the priesthood forever.” In “Who wrote the Bible” (pg. 121), Friedman recalls when Baruch Haplern [now world famous archaeologist] presented a paper to the Harvard Near East Department seminar in 1974 on where the law code of Deuteronomy came from: “It was not likely that the author would be found among the Jerusalem Temple priests. True, this group might have liked the idea of centralizing the religion at their Temple; but this group was also Aaronid. They traced their lineage to Aaron, and they distinguished between Aaronids and all other Levites. The law code in Deuteronomy, however, makes no distinction between Levite families, and it never mentions the name of Aaron. It also never refers to the ark, the cherubs, or any other religious implements that were housed in Jerusalem Temple. It also never refers to the office of high priest, and the High Priest of Jerusalem had been Aaronid ever since the day when King Solomon expelled the priest Abiathar and made the Aaronid priest Zadok the sole Hight Priest. The law code of Deuteronomy thus does not represent the point of view of the Aaronide priests of any period.”

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t think Friedman or Rivkin are correct in their assessment of “Who wrote the Bible.” I just wanted to show that even form a perspective of secular Biblical scholarship, Rivkin still comes up short.

Biblical Criticism:

In “Biblical Personalities and Archeology,” Leah Bronner comments (pg. 54)… “The lofty idea of God and strong ethical elements in the Biblical description of Mosaic religion, as well as the notion of the covenant itself, were widely held retrojections of later beliefs. However, as already indicated above, the essential pillars of “higher criticism” have been considerably undermined by the progress of Biblical study. As Kaufmann writes: “Biblical scholars, while admitting that the ground has crumbled away under the documentary hypothesis, nevertheless continued to adhere to its conclusions.” (Kaufmann, Y. Religion of Israel, 1961, P.1.)

In “The Documentary Hypothesis and the composition of the Pentateuch,” By: Umberto Cassuto, he comments (pp. 80-81): “At first blush, it would seem that the documentary hypothesis enables us to explain all the incongruities without the least difficulty: one of the discrepant passages emanates from one source, the other from another source. But in truth the explanation fails to explain anything; for by exculpating the author for responsibility for the contraction and putting the blame on the redactor, we gain nothing. We have merely shifted the problem from one place to another without solving it. An editor who does not work conscientiously is obligated to avoid inconsistencies no less than the author, possibly even more so. Nor is it feasible to maintain that the redactor was aware of the disparity but did not dare to tamper with the sources, for on other occasions we are told repeatedly that he erased or omitted or altered or added exactly as he was minded.” Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb has an excellent lecture on the topic of Biblical Criticism, I highly recommend listen to this lecture: Biblical Criticism Pg. 36: “The Aaronides also buried the claims of the Levites by recounting the rebellion of Korah, the Levite, and his company of Levites against Aaron’s hegemony (Numbers 16-18).”

The rebellion of Korah was not limited to Aaron, it was also against Moses. While Rivkin’s interpretation of events of the confrontation between Korah and Moses/Aaron is very convenient for his theory, in the absence of any solid evidence it remains speculative at best. Also, I thought the assertion of Rivkin was that the Aaronides made up Deuteronomy, not Numbers.

In an e-mail Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb sent me with his comments on “The Shaping of Jewish History, A Radical New Interpretation” [by: Elis Rivkin, Charles Scribner’s and Sons, 1971] he wrote: Here there are a number of factual errors. (1) The process of expiation of sin is not the province of the “Aaronides” alone. Indeed, almost all the personal sacrifices apply to unintentional sins. Deliberate transgressions remain in the realm of the individual’s relationship to G-d, to which the “Aaronides” are irrelevant. (2) The rebellion of Korah included only three Levites, together with 250 non-Levites. (3) Not once in the entire story does the text say that G-d was angry. In the story of the Golden Calf G-d’s anger is mentioned (Ex. 32: 10), and at the end of the story the people suffers a plague [which is not halted by an action at all] (Ex. 32: 35). In the rebellion of the spies, G-d expresses his anger at length (Num. 14: 11-2, 21-3). By contrast, in the story of Korah, G-d’s speeches are calm instructions for the punishment to be administered.”

Pg. 59: “The scholarly class that proclaimed the revolutionary gospel of the twofold Law called themselves Soferim, but they are better known to us as the Pharisees.”

The majority of Jews always sided with the Pharisees, as recorded in Josephus (Antiquities XIII, 10, 6). When was the last time there was a revolution for something already in the majority?

Pg 61: “And it contradicts the Pentateuch, which, far from espousing an Oral law, reiterates that the written laws are to be eternal, and warns against any addition or alteration.”

For the person who is truly familiar with the Pentateuch and the Oral law, the conclusion is that the Written and Oral law are so intertwined one has to accept both together, or reject both of them together. I already gave an example of how we only know “fruit of a beautiful tree” means esrog through the Oral law.

I will now give some other demonstrations:

A.) King David’s great-grandmother Ruth was a Moabite. A Moabite is prohibited to convert (Deuteronomy 23:3) to Judaism, so how could Ruth play a role in building the Jewish nation? The Talmud (Kesubos 7b) explains the prohibition allowing Moabite converts is only referring to men of Moabite descent.

B.) In Deuteronomy 12:20-21 we are told to slaughter the animal, “in the manner that I have commanded you.” Where is the manner G-d commanded us mentioned in Tanach? Obviously G-d had some thing specific in mind with the word “manner.” The answers can only be found the Talmud, the beef (pardon the pun) of laws dealing with shchetia (ritual slaughter) can be found in Chullin.

C.) In Leviticus 16:31 we are told to “afflict your souls” on Yom Kippur. What does that mean? We should walk on hot coals? Where do we know it means fasting (as well as a few other specific practices)? The answer again is: the Oral law!

Pg. 61: “Equally revolutionary was the claim that a scholar class had been vested with authority over this twofold legislation. This, too, was an audacious claim, for no biblical books records a scholar class participating in the process of revelation. Other classes enjoyed participation: prophets spoke with G-d; the Levites, in Deuteronomy, received divine sanction to administrator the Law; the Aaronides were given hegemony; but nowhere do we find a scholar class granted access to the divine will.”

The “judge” mentioned in Deuteronomy 17:9 is referring to the judges of the Sanhedrin. Also see Exodus 18:15-26 for an idea of leaders being chosen from “all of Israel” to judge.

Pg. 69: “Among the most dramatic innovations of the Pharisees to bring the individual into direct communion with G-d was making prayer mandatory. … when they required each individual to utter benedictions before meals, after meals …” In Birkas HaMazon, the prayer after meals, we are told “As it is written: ‘And you shall eat and you should be satisfied and you shall bless Hashem, your G-d …’ This is found in Deuteronomy 8:10.

Pg. 70: “The scope of the Pharisaic revolution was total. It left little of Aaronism unaltered. The Pharisees established an institution called the Beth Din ha-Gadol, the Great Legislature, which had no biblical prototype as its model, for legislation in the past had come directly from G-d alone.” We see such an institution alluded to in Deuteronomy 17 and Exodus 18:15-26.

Pg. 79: “But when it came down to what law was to be obeyed, the Pharisees insisted that this be the twofold Law; the Aaronides, the written Law only.” While some of the priests (cohanim) were Sadducces, this does not mean all of them allied themselves with the Sadducces.

Pg. 80: “The Pharisees also shaped Hellenistic materials to build their novel form of Judaism. Impressed with the law-making process exemplified in the Greek cities’ boule, or legislative body, they created the Beth Din ha-Gadol (Great Legislature) as the lawmaking, law transmitting, and law-confirming body of the scholar class- an institution with no biblical prototype, but one that does not resemble the boule. Indeed, the Greek translation of Beth Din was “boule.”

The idea that the Pharisees were influenced by Hellenistic legislature is difficult to accept on a couple of different fronts. First, if they were so impressed with the Greek law making process that they set up their courts to mimic it (being there was no “biblical prototype” to learn from), why is it not mentioned once in Jewish literature? Second, prophets sat on the Sanhedrin before there was any Greek influence to be had.

Pg. 103: “Nevertheless, sacrifice has lost its original power. Christianity’s rejection of animal sacrifices, a rejection stemming from the Pharisaic stress on internalization, is most significant; for it reveals how nonessential sacrifices had really become. The Christians retained the concept, but sublimated it. Sacrifice became an internal experience, with Christ as the paschal lamb. The destruction of the Temple gave the Pharisees the opportunity to develop fully the anti-sacrificial implications of their revolution. Though there was morning for the destruction of the Temple, mourning was not overindulged. Indeed, the Pharisaic teachers prohibited morbid grief over the destruction of the Temple. Henceforth the cult was to be preserved and venerated as a memento of an earlier age and not as a necessary institution.”

Sacrifice had not lost any power, what happened was the Jewish people as a whole lost the appreciation on how to internalize the message of the sacrifices. The stress was on internalization long before the Pharisees, see where the prophets emphasized that G-d wants people to keep the commandments more than offer sacrifices: I Samuel 15:22, Micah 6:6-8, Jeremiah 7:3-7 and 21-23.

As far as Christianity goes, blood sacrifice remained a very external thing. In fact, the foundation of the religion is that only belief in Jesus as a sacrifice brings atonement for sins (Hebrews chapters 9-10). What is the main symbol of Christianity? The cross! What does the cross represent? Jesus (sp) being the ultimate blood sacrifice. The sacrifice is a very external reality for Christendom.

Regarding the Temple: Chazal teach us the Temple will be rebuilt, and sacrifices resumed (Vayikra Rabbah 9:7). If they were “anti-sacrificial” why do they have this teaching? Also if they were “anti-sacrificial” why did they insert the “Korbonos” (offerings) section into the siddur (prayer book)? The source for not mourning excessively for the Temple is in the Talmud (Bava Basra 60b), the back ground is after the destruction many Jews became ascetics and refrained from eating meat and drinking wine. Rav Yehoshua asked them why they did so. They responded because meat and wine were used in the service of the Temple. Rav Yehoshua went step by step and showed them

almost all food and liquids were used on the service, and it would be impossible to survive with out them. The ascetics fell silent. Rav Yehoshua said, “Not to mourn is impossible, but to mourn excessively is impossible… because it is forbidden to make a decree that the majority can not keep.” But what if they could keep it? It seems from here, we would!!!

Pg. 148: “For him (Michoel adding: Rambam), the literal meaning of the Pentateuch was absurd, fit only for untutored. Indeed, the meaning of all sacred literature, be it Bible, Mishneh, or Talmud, was an affront to his philosophical mind.”

 While the Rambam may have be very philosophical in his commentary on different parts of the Tanach and Talmud, the assertion that he refused to understand it on a literal level is false. He was only opposed to a literal understanding if that understanding conflicted with rationality (see Moreh Nevukim 2:25).

Pg. 153: “The intellectual elite of Provence and Spain could not take the sacred literature literally; for them, Judaism could be meaningful only if grounded in a universal metaphysic.”

As I mentioned above, this was not true of the Rambam. What Rivkin has done is make a gross oversimplification of the philosophical Jewish minds of Spain. While in general, they were more philosophically inclined, this did not mean they were opposed to literal understanding of the Tanach or Talmud. To list a few of the many counter examples: The Ramban (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman) was very deep philosophically and came from Spain, but his commentary on Chumash is full of comments taking verses literally. Also see Yehudah HaLevi’s “Kuzari” … a philosophical masterpiece in Jewish literature, he is no stranger to literal interpretation. Last but not least the Saadya Gaon in his masterpiece “Emunos v’Dayos,” which is laden with philosophy declares that one has to have a reason not to take scripture literally (seventh treatise, ch. 2).

Pg. 309: “What, then, is the critical cause for the renaissance of ultra-orthodoxy, the phenomenon of militant Hasidim, the rightward drift of Reform Judaism? We can go suggest that all of these have been a response to the radical shift in the spirit of the age that followed in the wake of the raise of militant Islamic fundamentalism and Ayatollah Khomeini’s successful revolution in 1979 against the Shah and westernizing Iran. For what Khomeini demonstrated was that militant fundamentalism could be used effectively to bring modernization and westernization to a halt, even though the Shah had the full support of the United States. Khomeini could do this because fundamentalist Muslims do not look to this world for their reward or punishment, but, like orthodox Jews, look to the world to come. Rationalism, modernization, westernization, even nationalism proved no match for such an intrepid belief.”

The argument put forth here is ridiculous. To claim that belief in the world-to-come excludes rationalism, modernization, and westernization is not true. Certain elements of the above listed where rejected because they are antithetical to a Torah value system. For example, as far as rationalism is concerned many philosophical Jewish books have been written within that frame of thinking. At the same time however, Orthodox Judaism does not indulge in rationalism to the extent we drop what ever part of our tradition that we do not understand or is not “rational.” When it comes to being modern and western, that also depends on what one means. Orthodox Jews have made use of technology in many ways, for example: Orthodox Jews use Mp3 players to listen to Torah lectures. Do we reject certain parts of modernity? Certainly! Given the rampant immorality being shown in different “popular culture” television shows should it be a surprise many Orthodox Jews don’t own a television set?

I would suggest the “renaissance of ultra-orthodoxy” is due to two main components. The first one is the “baal teshuva movement” … these are people who grew up with an Americanized form of Judaism and found it to be lacking. After achieving “the American Dream” thousands of men and women still felt a spiritual void in their life, they found that fulfillment in a Torah based Judaism, rather than an American based Judaism. The renaissance in the Orthodox world that already existed came due to the fact it took the “Orthodox establishment” a few generations to recover from the adjustment of living in a country that was not like the Europe that they had experienced maintaining Judaism in for hundreds of years in a pre-enlightenment times. Now that ulrta-Orthodoxy has figured how to flourish in such an environment people are now seeing the fruits of the selfless work of others who preceded them.

Pg. 316: “In essence, adaptability and absorption have always been the genius of Jewish peoplehood. Judaism has ever sought to adapt itself and its G-d to the vicissitudes of time, tide, and circumstance.” I would say the opposite. The genius of the Jewish people has been to adapt to the times while keeping an objective position of the Torah and the eternal G-d. We have seen historically that any attempts to adapt Judaism to “the times” resulted in failure because that form of “Judaism” went out with the times it attempted to adapt itself to. When Jews tried to be “Hellenistic Jews” they did not have longevity because they faded out with Hellenism. We see the same thing with the Jews who attempted to adapt their ideology to communism, when communism weakened – they disappeared. And today? Let us internalize the words of Jack Wertheimer (professor of Jewish history at JTS) in his article, “Jews and Jewish Birthrate” (Commentary Magazine – Oct. 2005): “In the face of today’s secular norms, the Orthodox call on an additional source of strength: the power of Jewish norms and obligations. Until other sectors of the community are prepared to speak boldly and forthrightly about Judaism’s truly counter-cultural ideas, they will continue to lose larger and larger numbers of the next generation, and to face a smaller and smaller future.”

In summary: I have found Rivkin’s book to be full of information… but I found the information to be lacking a solid foundation and often misleading. At best, Rivkin’s theory is speculative. The majority of it however, I found to conflict with a plethora of verses and counter-evidence that show to be contrary to the message he is trying to convey.

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