BAL TOSIF AND THEOLOGICAL DOGMA (pps.169-171)
as well, authoritarian theories that would best be left uncanonized.
It would be unfortunate for Judaism to yield the intellectual highground it maintains if, from the wide spectrum of viewpoints possible on omniscience and providence, it effectively canonized only the more aggressive and authoritarian theories, in spite of their apparent problems of internal consistency.
One of Judaism’s strengths has been its self-limitation, its caution with regard to new restrictions, new obligations, new miracles, and new prophets.
Judaism regards the transgression of Bal Tosif seriously. A central thrust of this study is that it is as dangerous to overexpand the attributes of the Divine as it is to overly delimit His attributes. No service is done to God or to Judaism by attributing to God attributes or extensions of attributes which God neither manifests nor desires having attributed to Him.
Add not unto His words,
lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.
We take the philosophical liberty of extending the proscription regarding overextending God’s precepts, into a caution against theologically overextending infinite God’s manifestations and interventions to areas from which the Deity demurs. Interestingly enough, the Bal Tosif proscription is initially cited by the Midrash with regard to the Garden of Eden itself. Eve’s overextension of the proscription on eating from the Tree of Knowledge into a proscription on touching the Tree of Knowledge is cited as a major factor in her “ensnarement.”603
There is a natural inclination among rabbinic elements of certain schools to “keep the masses in line,” or to adopt the “most devout” formulation. However, no service is done God by overextending His edicts or by overextending His potentially infinite, but not necessarily manifested, attributes.
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603 See Midrash Bereshit Rabbah 19:3.”. . . you must not make the fence more than the principal thing, lest it fall and destroy the plants. Thus, the Holy One, blessed be He, had said, ‘For in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die’ (Genesis 2: 17); whereas she [Eve] did not say thus, but, ‘God hath said: Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it’: when the serpent saw her thus lying, he took and thrust her against it. ‘Have you then died?’ he said to her; ‘just as you were not stricken through touching it, so you will not die when you eat it.’ ”
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