Rabbi Wolpe: The Exodus Didn’t Happen, but Let’s Eat Matzah Anyway

March 29th, 2010

Nine years ago Rabbi David Wolpe of L.A.’s Sinai Temple made headlines when he denied the historicity of the Exodus from Egypt in a Passover sermon in 2001. Now as Passover approaches once more, Wolpe has invited a dissenting voice into his synagogue: Egyptologist Galit Dayan. According to L.A.’s Jewish Journal, Dayan offered support for the Exodus from Egyptian sources, notably the Ipuwer papyrus. The manuscript, housed in a Dutch museum, laments the destruction of Egypt in a way that tracks the Ten Plagues recorded in the Bible. For the Egyptologist guild, like that of the archeologists, corroborating the Biblical account of events is the one unpardonable sin, so Dayan to her credit is sticking her neck out in her profession.

But Rabbi Wolpe wasn’t buying it, saying there’s no evidence of mass settlement activity in Israel at that time. He did offer this consolation, though:

“If you have a seder this year, you will be reenacting something thousands of years old that none of those other cultures who passed through that ancient world can do.”

So the message is: The Bible is not a reliable guide to Jewish history. But because some smart-alecky ancient ancestors fabricated a mythic exodus from Egypt, modern Jews should disrupt their lives cleaning and scrubbing, changing their diets and their dishes, taking time off of work and performing meaningless rituals.

Is there a point to celebrating Passover if the Israelites were never enslaved or liberated?

Welcome To the Who Really Wrote the Bible Blog

March 29th, 2010

Five years ago, right after Passover in 2005, Eyal and Gil started work on their book Who Really Wrote the Bible? We were dismayed by the foolishness of the consensus academic view that multiple authors living centuries apart wrote the Bible; (this is known as the documentary hypothesis). While this view rested on absurd assumptions and a mountain of contradictions, there was not a wealth of coherent responses from those who knew better. Over time it occurred to us that at stake in this badly needed debate was more than just the literary integrity of the Bible’s authorship but its relevance for contemporary society. We hope to explore these issues with our readers in future posts. We welcome your comments and feedback.