Shavuot(Exodus 19:1 - 20:23)
GOOD MORNING! Is it possible that the 3,000 year old Torah claim that the whole Jewish people heard God speak at Mt. Sinai is a hoax?
What exactly does the Torah tell us about the giving of the Torah?
[Moses told the Israelites]: "Only beware for yourself and greatly beware for your soul, lest you forget the things that your eyes have beheld. Do not remove this memory from your heart all the days of your life. Teach your children and your children's children about the day that you stood before the Lord your God at Horev [Mount Sinai]...
"God spoke to you from the midst of the fire, you were hearing the sound of words, but you were not seeing a form, only a sound. He told you of His covenant, instructing you to keep the Ten Commandments, and He inscribed them on two stone tablets." (Deut. 4:9-13)
"You have been shown in order to know that God, He is the Supreme Being. There is none besides Him. From heaven He let you hear His voice in order to teach you, and on earth He showed you His great fire, and you heard His words amid the fire." (Deut. 4:32-36)
Moses called all of Israel and said to them: "Hear, O Israel, the decrees and the ordinances that I speak in your ears today -- learn them, and be careful to perform them. The Lord your God sealed a covenant with us at Horev [Mount Sinai]. Not with our forefathers did God seal this covenant, but with us -- we who are here, all of us alive today. Face to face did God speak with you on the mountain from amid the fire." (Deut. 5:1-4)
Imagine Moses coming down the mountain and telling the Jewish people, "We all heard God speak today from the midst of the fire ....", but it never happened. What do you think would have happened? If it wasn't true, it might be the only time in history where you could get a whole group of Jews to agree -- and what would they have agreed on? "We've been here all day and that never happened!" Everyone would know that it is an outright, preposterous lie.
There are hundreds if not thousands of religions based on God speaking to one person or a small group of people. Either it happened or didn't happen. One can choose to believe the claim or not. However, there is only one religion that is based on God speaking to the whole people -- Judaism. Which claim is stronger? Obviously, the more witnesses, the stronger the claim and the harder to collude to lie. The Torah is telling us that over 3 million people heard God speak at Sinai. Did you ever try to get 3 Jews to agree on something?
For argument's sake, let us for a moment propose that the claim of National Revelation was a brilliant hoax, duping millions of people into believing that God spoke to them. Two very perplexing questions arise: If National Revelation could be faked, then how come no other religion has ever made the claim? 2) Why is it that Christianity and Islam which consider themselves "successor religions" to Judaism not only don't claim National Revelation for themselves, but substantiate our claim that God spoke to the whole Jewish people at Mt. Sinai?
There is a third question: If National Revelation COULD be faked and is a hoax why would the Torah have the audacity to make this claim: "You might inquire about times long past, from the day that God created man on earth, and from one end of heaven to the other -- has there ever been anything like this great thing or has anything like it been heard? Has a people ever heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fires as you have heard and survived?" (Deut. 4:32-33).
The Author writes a prediction that over the course of history no one will ever make a similar claim. That means if such a claim is ever made at some future time, the prediction will end up being false and his religion is finished. Kaput!
An event of great significance with a large number of eyewitnesses cannot be perpetuated as a hoax. If it did not happen, everyone would realize it is false since no one ever heard about it before. Thus, if such an event was indeed accepted as part of history, the only way to understand its acceptance is that the event actually happened. (This piece is created from "Did God Speak at Sinai" by Nechemia Coopersmith at http://tinyurl.com/dgsas -- The original article is fuller, deals with more issues and is more slowly developed.)
Beha'alosecha, Numbers 8:1 - 12:16
Aharon is commanded in the lighting of the Menorah, the Levites purify themselves for service in the Tabernacle (they trained from age 25-30 and served from age 30-50). The first Pesach is celebrated since leaving Egypt. The Almighty instructs the Jewish people to journey into the desert whenever the ever-present cloud lifts from above the Tabernacle and to camp where it rests. Moshe is instructed to make two silver trumpets to be sounded before battle or to proclaim a Yom Tov (a holiday).
The people journey to the wilderness of Paran during which time they rebelled twice against the Almighty's leadership. The second time they complain about the boring taste of the maneh and the lack of meat in the desert. The Almighty sends a massive quantity of quail and those who rebelled died.
Moshe asks his father-in-law, Yitro (Jethro) to travel with them in the desert, but Yitro returns to Midian.
Miriam, Moshe's sister, speaks lashon hora (defaming words) about Moshe. She is struck with Tzora'as (the mystical skin disease which indicated that a person spoke improperly about another person) and is exiled from the camp for one week.
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"According to the word of the Almighty, the Children of Israel traveled and according to the word of the Almighty, they encamped." (Numbers 9:23)
What can we learn from the phrase "the word of the Almighty"?
The Talmud (Shabbat 31b) discusses the various forms of creative acts that are forbidden on Shabbat. All of the prohibitions of creative acts on Shabbat are derived from the creative acts required for the building and maintenance of the portable Tabernacle in which we worshipped during the 40 years in the desert. The prohibition against tearing down a building applies only when it is planned to be rebuilt on the same spot.
Since the Tabernacle was taken apart only to be rebuilt on a different spot, likewise the prohibition on Shabbat should be against tearing down a building to rebuild it in a different place. Why is the prohibition only for the same place?
The Talmud answers that since they traveled and encamped according to the word of the Almighty, it is considered as if it were in the same place. Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz likened this to a baby who travels with its mother. As long as the baby is with its mother, it doesn't matter what city it is in. Since they did everything according to the word of the Almighty, they were totally with Him. He was their place and even though they moved from one spot in the desert to another, their place was really always the same -- with the Almighty.
When one has a constant awareness that he is always with the Almighty, the exact place where he is will not make a major difference. His main focus is on the Almighty and not on the superficial differences between one spot and another.
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Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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