This post is a sort-of continuation to this post
The arch-traditional view holds that the entire text of the Torah was dictated to Moses on Mount Sinai in 1313 BCE by God; Moses copied it out a few times whilst on Sinai, and all subsequent copies have been made from those masters, the text remaining marvellously unaltered through several thousand years. You don't have to look very far to see that the text has rather suffered a few minor mutations since then, mostly yuds and vavs popping in and out. Yuds and vavs don't alter the meaning of the word per se, but in a theology which holds that every single letter of the Torah contains oodles of meaning, such that a law may be decided on the existence or lack thereof of a single yud or vav, that's a bit problematic. Nonetheless, the text is more or less intact.
Then you look a bit more closely, and just sometimes there are bits which look an awful lot like scribal errors. The homophones "lo" meaning "to him" or "to it" and "lo" meaning "not" get confused a few times; in Leviticus 25, for instance, the difference between a city which has unto it walls and a city which has not walls is considerable. It's exceedingly easy to make that kind of error in copying; on the other hand one might say that it is not an error but a deliberate message from the Holy One.
Then you look closely on a large scale, and sometimes there are Really Weird Things Going On. You get stories which contradict each other, different linguistic styles, that sort of thing. Higher biblical criticism posits that such Really Weird Things happen when you have several sets of canonical legends from different cultures which get combined into a single canon when the cultures merge, and tries to deduce which bits are from which sources. Higher biblical criticism is, obviously, Massively Problematic if you believe that God dictated the Torah to Moses complete on Mount Sinai.
When writing, I don't pick up so much on the large-scale oddities, nor really so much on the minor spelling things, but more on the tone of the parts I'm wriitng. My relationship with text is fairly experiential; if I'm reading fiction, I read not so much for the details of the story, more for the atmosphere one experiences whilst reading the story. If I'm writing Torah, I don't remember the precise words of the text necessarily, but whatever it was that that particular combination of words evoked in me. While I was writing Exodus, I was struck by the disproportionate amount of space given over to the minutae of the sanctuary tent, and how the holy shopping list at that point doesn't fit into the narrative very smoothly, and it made me think; if I wanted people to think that something was really important and they ought to donate lots of money to it, a lengthy description of how God commanded said thing and how our ancestors willingly donated to it would really be rather useful.
Earlier in Bemidbar, in chapter 3, there's a chunk detailing the division of the ritual duties amongst the sons of Aaron. By the way, I've theoretically read all this before a number of times, but it's very easy to skim-read this stuff and not pay detailed attention to every word. When you're writing, you have to pay attention to every word, so you see it in a different way, so this is actually the first time I've noticed some of this even though I've read it umpteen times. Anyway, this division of duties reminded me of a Mishnah which talks about the fierce competition amongst the priests for the temple duties. In particular, a certain part of the service could be performed by whoever got there first, and the duty priests would all gallop round the sanctuary and up the altar, pushing and shoving to get to the front. The altar being rather high and not having handrails, people quite often sustained injury (the point of the mishnah there is that eventually they instituted a safer way of allocating the work, as I recall). This image stayed with me, too; being willing to risk falling off the altar and breaking one's leg suggests a pretty high prestige on getting to do the parts of the service. The sort of thing, in fact, that would be hotly contested unless it was utterly inarguable. A legend suggesting divine origin for allocating different families to different jobs would, again, be rather useful.
And then shortly afterwards is the temple honours list - "The following donations are gratefully acknowledged: Millie Cohen, twenty siddurim, in memory of Irving Cohen; Phil Stein, twenty siddurim, in memory of Sadie Leib; Valerie and Max Miller, twenty siddurim, in memory of Irving Miller" - only it's actually "On the first day, the leader of the tribe of Yehudah, Nahshon ben Aminadav. His offering was one silver dish, of a hundred and thirty shekels' weight; one silver bowl, seventy shekels by the shekel of the sanctuary..." I can totally see that someone polishing up the canonical texts would be inclined to emphasise this sort of thing.
In historical context, the sacrificial cult which became rabbinic Judaism had been scattered over the land. At some point, the cult centralised in the Jerusalem temple, not without a lot of resistance; the Jerusalem priests I think claimed authenticity through lineage to Aaron. Also, the Temple required a good deal of taxation to fund its construction. King Solomon had pretty good statescraft, and when he built the temple was able to persuade people to cough up, but there's only so much coughing up a society can do, and a sacrificial cult is pretty expensive to maintain. Given this, the similarity of some of the priestly bits to some of the materials put out by shuls makes quite a lot of sense, in my head. Certainly makes it a bit less boring. This is a paragraph which could be expanded to a whole book, or several books. Of course it's a bit sketchy on the details.
Of course, then the question is: if this whole thing was written by people like me, why on earth do any of it? The answer to that could take a whole book, too, but basically: people need a sense of the awesomeness of the big picture, people need communal identity and social structure, and people need lifecycle structure. Rabbinic Judaism gives me that. And actually, rabbinic Judaism can do pretty much anything it damn well likes; it can contradict the Torah if it wants to, and sometimes it jolly well does. It's not really motivated by What God Said so much as by What People Do. Unless you're a hermit, you have to deal with What People Do no matter what standards you choose to live by; Judaism gives me a structure for dealing with that, one which enables me to work towards being a good person in a good society. If I can do that, it doesn't matter a great deal whether the inspiration for it came from a God on a Mountain or a Priest in a Temple.