GOOD MORNING! Did God actually speak to the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai - or was it the biggest hoax and snow job in history?
Here's what the Torah tells us happened: All Jewish people, numbering between two and three million, were camped around Mount Sinai - every man, woman and child. There was a tremendous display of thunder and lightning, and the sound of a shofar (ram's horn) growing louder and louder. The first two of the Ten Commandments were spoken directly to the entire nation; the last eight, at the Jews' request, were given to Moshe to transmit to the rest of the nation (Exodus, chapter 19, verses 9-19).
Could Moshe have fabricated the entire story and then convinced approximately three million people that they had experienced something that they did not? How do you convince someone that he experienced something he does not remember? How do you convince an entire nation?
The Rambam (Maimonides) lists the mitzvah (commandment) to Know There is a God as the first of the 613 commandments. Jews are commanded to gather evidence, think and conclude - not have blind faith. Faith is an emotional leap to a conclusion. Belief is a point along a scale of evidence from complete ignorance to absolute knowledge; the more evidence, the stronger one's belief. For the past several thousand years Jews have believed that the Almighty gave us the Torah based on logic and evidence. Half the world professes that belief.
There are several categories of evidence including the Historical Category. This category comprises three questions:
1) Can one fake or rewrite history?
There are 2 types of History - individual history and collective history. What happens to an individual with few or no witnesses may or may not be true. What happens to a nation cannot be faked.
Whether George Washington really cut down the cherry tree may or may not have happened. That George Washington was the first president of the United States is an indisputable fact. Whether a Nazi guard's claim that he saved a Jew may or may not have happened. That the Holocaust happened is an indisputable fact - no matter how hard Holocaust deniers try to deny it.
An event of great significance, with a large number of eyewitnesses, cannot be perpetuated as a hoax. Everyone would realize it's a fabrication, since no one has ever heard about it before. Thus, if such an event was indeed accepted as part of history, it can only be because that event actually happened. If the revelation at Sinai did not occur, then everyone - at least 3 million people - immediately knows that they never heard God speak. It's preposterous to think that Moshe could get away with such a claim.
If a claim is true, people will go along with it because they already know about it. Either they personally witnessed it, or their ancestors collectively passed down the account as part of their nation's accepted history.
For those who would like to believe that the story was concocted, sold to the whole nation - either at that time or later in our history -and passed down to their children as truth, they should focus on the impossibility for large numbers of people to lie in unanimity. The stories would vary, and the conspiracy would be exposed. People do not lie to their children about truly important issues. Even if a few sets of parents would concoct a story and lie about it to their children, is it reasonable to believe that millions would do so?
2) Why has no other religion made the claim of national revelation?
Every religion bases itself on the inherently weaker claim of revelation of God to one or a few people because a national revelation is the one lie that you cannot get away with or fabricate. Its veracity cannot be denied. Therefore, if God spoke to the Jewish people on Mt. Sinai and gave them His Torah, the only hope in promulgating their religion was to create a "replacement theology" -that the Almighty chose the Jewish people for His revelation, but now has "moved on" from His eternal covenant with the Jewish people.
3) Why would the Torah audaciously state that no other religion will ever claim that God spoke to the whole nation?
The Author of Torah knows not only the past and present, but the future. This is not only a statement, but a prophesy: "No other nation has ever or will ever make the claim of national revelation to the whole people by God" (Deut.4:32-33). The prophecy and its fulfillment give additional evidence that the Torah is of Divine Origin and true.
If the question of God's revelation to the Jewish people intrigues you, I highly recommend Lawrence Kelemen's Permission to Receive (available at your local Jewish bookstore, at JudaicaEnterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242) which goes into far greater depth and breadth into this and other categories of evidence.
(with special thanks to Rabbis Nechemia Coopersmith, Moshe Zeldman -The Eye of the Needle
and David Baum - The Non-Orthodox Jew's Guide To Orthodox Jews - for their contributions to this piece.)
For more on "Mt. Sinai" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!
Torah Portion of the Week
This week's Torah portion includes the laws of: the Burnt Offering, Meal Offering, High Priest's Offering, Sin Offerings, Guilt Offerings and Peace Offerings. It concludes with the portions of the Peace Offerings which are allotted to the Priests and the installation ceremony of the Priest for serving in the Sanctuary.
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"This is the law of the burnt offering." (Leviticus 6:2).
The verse can alternately be read as: "This" is the principle of the arrogant person (the one who looks upon himself as - in the Hebrew, "haOlah" - an exalted person.) The arrogant person constantly demands "This!" He wants things to be done his way, immediately and without consideration of the needs of others.
An arrogant person's thoughts are focused only on what he or she wants. He is totally self-centered and inconsiderate of others. This trait causes much strife in interpersonal relationships. If two people in a relationship both demand that things must be their way, they will quarrel all the time. If such a person finds someone who is submissive to him, he will get his way, but at the heavy price of causing another human being pain and anguish.
What to do? All of us have a certain degree of arrogance in us. Be aware of the needs and feelings of others. Be willing to compromise on your demands of how things should be. You need not always give in to others. However, when you take someone else's needs into consideration, you gain spiritually more than just having your demands met.
And if it is someone else who is arrogant and demanding? Obviously send him or her a copy of this week's edition.
CANDLE LIGHTING - March 18
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)
Guatemala 5:55 - Hong Kong 6:15 - Honolulu 6:23
J'Burg 6:03 - London 5:51 - Los Angeles 6:45
Melbourne 7:18 - Mexico City 6:28 - Miami 7:13
New York 6:47 - Singapore 6:58 - Toronto 7:09
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
A generation which ignores history
has no past and no future.
-- Robert Heinlein