These Orthodox Jews Are Challenging Commonly Held Beliefs About the Torah

Who wrote the Torah? Was it handed down in one fell swoop? And did the stories in it really happen? The official Orthodox Jewish position is that the Torah was given by God to Moses at Mount Sinai some 4,000 years ago and yes, everything written in it pretty much happened.

Which means that if you are Orthodox and skeptical of the so-called “Torah from Sinai” doctrine, you might not want to draw too much attention to yourselves — lest you be accused of heresy.

– Haaretz Weekly Ep. 48

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 48Haaretz

That’s why Project TABS (Torah and Biblical Scholarship), an online collection of commentaries on the Jewish holy texts, deliberately kept a low profile for the first six years of its life. After all, its main mission — introducing religious Jews to contemporary biblical scholarship, which assumes that the Torah was written by people over time and should not be taken literally — could be seen in some quarters as subversive.

So there was little incentive to make the flagship website of the project,, attractive, intriguing or even user-friendly when it launched in December 2012. As TABS co-founder Rabbi David Steinberg notes, “It served my purpose to keep it under the radar, and the fact that it looked so raw — almost like a blog — and was hard to navigate was actually convenient for us.”

But there’s only so long an online database of this sort can be kept under wraps, especially when hundreds of academics and rabbis, Jews and non-Jews alike, have contributed more than 1,000 articles.

Rabbi David D. Steinberg, left, Marc Brettler, Rabbi Zev Farber and David Bar-Cohn in Jerusalem, February 2019.Courtesy of Rabbi David Steinberg

“We realized that we’d grown to the point where we’d become a fact on the ground and needed a new home,” says Steinberg. “In the past month alone, we had 70,000 people come to our site.”

This September, TABS launched its new and upgraded website. Articles and essays are now broken down according to topics and authors, and the homepage changes on a regular basis, rather than remaining static as it had in the past. In short, unlike its precursor, the new website looks like a proper online platform.