Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Problems with Assuming Reasons for Commands

A presumed "Spirit of the Law", presumed reasons for commands, or presumed meaning for commands can create problems for us in our observance. Reasons not only affect our understanding of the text and our subsequent following of it, but can even result in us unintentionally ignoring parts of the text and can prevent us from learning a more accurate interpretation.


I. We have different backgrounds. We bring those experiences with us.

II. We want to know "why". We want to know meaning.

III. We want to know "why" so we can bridge the gap between our background and the Torah.

IV. Benefits of Reasons:

1. Feeling good about the commands.
2. Teaching others. Helping others to feel good about obeying.
3. Defending Torah against those who reject it.

V. It's a trap. Problems with Reasons:

1. Reasons confuse our understanding of what the text actually says.
A. Can confuse us and others even if we know the text.
B. We start viewing the command through the reason.
C. We will mentally bring up the meaning instead of the text.
D. "Natural" example.
E. We might end up creating new commands based on our reasons.
F. Confirmation bias.

2. Reasons can result in us obeying incorrectly.
A. We might ignore parts of the command because of the reason we assume is behind it.
B. We assume our reason is the most important part ("spirit of the law").
C. We might create new laws as a result of the meaning we assume.

3. Reasons can prevent us from learning.
A. If we build up reasons for commands, 
it makes it harder for us to accept new 
contrary evidence.

VI. Be vigilant about what we are bringing to the table.

VII. Accept that we are biased.

VIII. Feeling resolved about an issue does not mean it is valid.

IX. Reasons for law as a whole: Ex 19:5, Dt 6:20-25

X. Be honest, be direct. Acknowledge the text's silence.

XI. People often delete a preface from their memory.

XII. Be careful about reasons for commands.

(Graphics are either sourced by me or are understood as US public domain)

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