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Suddenly Sinai

Suddenly Sinai

With Palestinian propaganda aimed at severing the Jewish Biblical connection to the Holy Land, the revelation at Mount Sinai has suddenly been thrust into the spotlight.

by

Among the lessons lying in the recent Middle East unrest is the powerful connection between the Jewish past and current events. The prospects for peace have been torn asunder on the rocks of the Temple Mount, a piece of land Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has refused to concede to his erstwhile peace partners. As part of their efforts to sway world opinion, the Palestinians have taken to denying the existence of any Jewish religious or national claim to the Temple Mount and, by extension, to Jerusalem as a whole.

The chorus of Arab revisionism includes the Palestinian Authority's top Moslem cleric, declaring that "the Wailing Wall is not a holy place of the Jews," as well as Yassir Arafat himself, who asserts that the status of Jerusalem "is a Palestinian, Arab, Islamic, and Christian issue," but not a Jewish one, because the First and Second Holy Temples are just so much myth. Indeed, Palestinian spokesmen have gone so far as to write off huge portions of early Jewish history -- including the Patriarchal period and the Davidic dynasty -- as mere legends.

Palestinian spokesmen have written off the Patriarchal period and the Davidic dynasty as mere legends.

These pronouncements are designed, of course, to undermine Jewry's reliance on the Torah as a divine deed to the Land of Israel. Israel's Biblical promise is an argument that even arch-secularist than Ben Gurion made before the United Nations. And so, as the question of the Torah's historical accuracy takes on a heightened immediacy, the revelation at Mount Sinai has suddenly been thrust into the spotlight.

Judging from surveys, however, the question of the Torah's veracity does not rank very high on most American Jews' list of important issues. It seems, at least to them, to lack the relevance of other concerns -- like Jewish cooking, which ranked first in a recent Jewish Theological Seminary survey of American Jews' study interests.

INVESTIGATING THE ORIGINS

The relative disinterest in the issue of the Torah's authenticity extends even to some who profess to live the life of the mind. In the introduction to his book Permission To Receive: Four Rational Approaches to the Torah's Divine Origin, Lawrence Kelemen writes that he had sent a review copy of his work for critique to a colleague, a brilliant academician with wide-ranging intellectual interests. To his surprise, the colleague declined to read the manuscript, because he "was never bothered by the question" of the Torah's authorship. How was it possible, Kelemen wondered aloud, "that such an inquisitive scholar could approach the origin of humankind's most read, most published, and once most influential text with such unabashed apathy?"

In truth, most of the prosaic practicalities that fill our lives are actually based on abstract concepts from theoretical realms like physics, chemistry and physiology. While we may not always be fully conscious of or knowledgeable about these natural laws, we certainly acknowledge their relevance.

Yet the question of whether the Jewish people possess an accurate record of God's will for humanity is consigned by many to the same mental compartment that houses ruminations about pinhead-dancing angels. In truth, though, the facts of the Torah's origins hold the most profound sort of relevance imaginable for every area of human experience.

If God did not give us the Torah on Mount Sinai, then who cares what it says?

A letter writer to Reform Judaism magazine, writing to support that movement's recent turn towards tradition, succinctly described what's at stake: "It all comes down to this: Either God gave us the Torah on Mount Sinai or He didn't. If He did, then we need to accept it and study it in order to gain meaning in our lives, not just dismiss it as myth or drone on about the J, E, P, or D editors. If God did not give us the Torah on Mount Sinai, then who cares what it says?"

Or, as the writer David Klinghoffer put it: "It's hard to see why anyone would embrace a religion if it comes down to [it being] ultimately not from God but from some long-dead Middle Eastern guys."

TRUTH MATTERS

There are, of course, some who do recognize the far-reaching ramifications of the Torah's origins but automatically dismiss the issue as a non-starter, having, in Kelemen's words, "internalized [the 18th century Enlightenment's] secular creed that revelation is necessarily irrational." Yet, as the late Professor Leo Strauss trenchantly observed, the savants of the Enlightenment, in their onslaught against religion and biblical historicity, never truly engaged the entire concept of revelation. They merely posited its non-existence, elevated that assumption to the status of fact and proceeded from there.

Common sense dictates that it be pondered and studied rather than dismissed as irrelevant or irrational.

The point, in essence, is elementary: irrespective of how one, after careful investigation, may ultimately conclude on the question of whether the Jewish people experienced a national revelation at Sinai, common sense dictates that it be pondered and studied rather than dismissed as irrelevant or irrational. After all, there are only a very few questions with powerful implications for every aspect of our lives -- and this is certainly one of them.

It is a crucial question because truth matters. It is a crucial question because so many contemporary Jews are faced with a competition for their loyalties between Judaism and the enticements of a fiercely secular and pluralistic American society.

And it is a crucial question because Israel's very claim to legitimacy depends upon it.

courtesy of Am Echad Resources

Published: December 16, 2000


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Visitor Comments: 12

(12) Michael Felgin, December 23, 2000 12:00 AM

who cares...

American Jews mostly care about their front yards and 401k. Also, they do not want to be bothered (especially on Sundays, football, you know...).

Mount Sinai? What Mount Sinai? Is there skiing there? No? Then, who cares!

P.S. I'm not an American Jew, I came from Russia.

(11) Anonymous, December 23, 2000 12:00 AM

Authenticity of Torah

I recently wrote a paper, "The Original Diaspora," which was distributed at the conference on "Pluralism and Religions in Iranian History and Civilization," (September 27-28, 2000) held at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. In this paper I assert that Iranian Jews represent a shaping force in Ancient Persian civilization, and that the Koran provides no basis whatever for any political, economic, or even emotional basis for resisting the modern State of Israel.
I published regularly in Persian Heritage magazine (New Jersey) [www.persian-heritage.com], and am trying to change the way Iran things about Israel today. What the Palestinians are doing is ludicrous at the least, and monstrous at worst. No one in the world can respect what they are doing. The Koran does not support this. Mohammad would be aghast.
I wish I could help.
Thank you for all your mail! I teach at Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma City, but this is a small campus, and I don't really represent the school...
sincerely,
Dr.David A. Yeagley

(10) Anonymous, December 21, 2000 12:00 AM

"It all comes down to this: Either God gave us the Torah on Mount Sinai or He didn't. If He did, then we need to accept it and study it in order to gain meaning in our lives, not just dismiss it as myth or drone on about the J, E, P, or D editors. If God did not give us the Torah on Mount Sinai, then who cares what it says?"

I would take this argument one step further. If it was not god who wrote this then it was some charlatan. One who unabashedly invented or wrote stories in the first person, that either he invented, or at best heard from someone eles. And on this comnpilation of lies, mankind swears to tell the truth...

(9) , December 21, 2000 12:00 AM

Belief in revelation and observance in intricately linked

To the poster who claims that the apathy expressed by some is only to the "observances" of the "man-made outdated" laws :
If you truly believe that at Sinai God gave us the Torah, then how can you dismiss His own words, which are written in the Torah as "outdated" and "man-made"?
If these are truly God's words, and if we assume that God is omniscient, wouldn't He at least say :
"Hey guys, here's the laws. Throw out anything thats impractical in your circumstances". But He didn't do that, did He?
Don't you see that believing that it's God's words, and listening to them are linked, and one cannot exist without the other?

Finally, note what happened over the centuries to all the "branches" off of Judaism. None of those people remain as Jews. The Reform and the like is not the first time that the idea of adapting the Torah to modern times was tried. Think about it.

(8) Frank Dellinger, December 21, 2000 12:00 AM

Thank You

My Dear Israeli friends,
Thank you for doing so much to help us stay informed about what is going on in the land of Abraham's inheritance. I am a Baptist pastor in Pennsylvania, USA, and pray "for the peace Jerusalem regularly. I know that in the mind of most Jews, Christianity is connected to attrocities that have been committed against God's chosen people. Those who have committed these acts are false disciples and their actions go against everything that my Bible teaches me. I abhor what has been done to God's people for centuries in the name of Jesus Christ. (By the way, the Catholic "church" killed 30 to 50 million Baptists during the dark ages, so I understand your perspective a little better than you might expect.)

Please do all that you can keep Israel from giving away any more of the inheritance that God has given her. Actually, the time will come that you will possess the whole of that inheritance. What a glorious day that will be! God has placed a love in my heart for your people. Tears of joy have flowed down my cheeks as I have read the articles that spoke of faith in God, the importance of Jerusalem, etc. Thank you again. "Let God arise, and let His enemies (and yours) be scattered!" Shaloam

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