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Shavuot(Exodus 19:1 - 20:23)

Shavuot 5762

GOOD MORNING!  For 3,300 years the Jewish people have believed that over 3 million Jews stood at Mt. Sinai when the Almighty gave us the Torah. That is a powerful statement! Is it possible to fake an historical event of that magnitude which had so many witnesses? If yes, then how come no other religion has ever made the claim that the Almighty spoke with the whole people and revealed His directives to them?

Over the past 3,000 years there have been many nations and individuals who have hated us and have denigrated us in every possible manner and libel. However, not once has any anti-Semite ever called us stupid! The Jewish people are known as a stiff-necked people. The Torah itself relates how we rebelled 10 times against the Almighty in the desert after leaving Egypt. Proverbially, it has been said that if there are 2 Jews, you have three opinions. How would you get a people like this to collude on a lie, especially one of this significance and enormity? Yet, the vast majority of the Jewish people has tenaciously believed (until recent times) that millions of our ancestors were there when G-d gave us the Torah at Mt. Sinai. We believed in this covenant so strongly, that through every generation, we were even willing to die rather than convert.

Were we crazy? Were we mindless followers of "tradition" -- or did we know something? Do those of us who do not believe in the Divine revelation of the Torah to the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai know more or less about our heritage than the 150 generations of our forebearers who believed in Divine revelation of the Torah? Perhaps the breakdown in Jewish education over the last 150 years has deprived us from learning what our ancestors knew!

This Shabbat is the second day of Shavuot, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah. I thought it might be interesting to share with you some insights into the claim of Divine revelation. Below is an excerpt from a fascinating article, '''Did G-d Speak at Mt. Sinai?" by Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith; the article is available in full at http://www.aish.com/holidays/Shavuot/Did_God_Speak_at_Sinai.asp.

"Throughout history, thousands of religions have been started by individuals, attempting to convince people that G-d spoke to him or her. All religions that base themselves on some type of revelation share essentially the same beginning: a holy person goes into solitude, comes back to his people, and announces that he has experienced a personal revelation where G-d appointed him to be His prophet.

"Would you believe someone who claims to have received a personal communication from G-d appointing him or her as G-d's new prophet? Maybe He did. Then again, maybe He didn't. One can never know. The claim is inherently unverifiable.

"Personal revelation is an extremely weak basis for a religion since one can never know if it is indeed true. Even if the individual claiming personal revelation performs miracles, there is still no verification that he is a genuine prophet. Miracles do not prove anything. All they show -- assuming they are genuine -- is that he has certain powers. It has nothing to do with his claim of prophecy.

"Maimonides writes: 'Israel did not believe in Moses, our teacher, on account of the miracles he performed. For when one's faith is based on miracles, doubt remains in the mind that these miracles may have been done through the occult and witchcraft ... What then were the grounds of believing him? The revelation on Sinai which we saw with our own eyes, and heard with our own ears, not having to depend on the testimony of others...' (Mishna Torah - Foundations of Torah 8:1)

"There are 15,000 known religions in all of recorded history. Given this inherent weakness, why do all of them base their claim on personal revelation? If someone wanted their religion to be accepted, why wouldn't they present the strongest, most believable claim possible -- i.e. national revelation! It's far more credible. No one has to take a leap of faith and blindly trust just one person's word. It is qualitatively better to claim that G-d came to everyone, telling the entire group that so-and-so is His prophet.

"Why would G-d establish His entire relationship with a nation through one man, without any possibility of verification, and still expect this nation to obediently follow an entire system of instructions, based only on blind faith?

"Yet, Judaism is the only religion in the annals of history that makes the best of all claims -- that everyone heard G-d speak. No other religion claims the experience of national revelation. Why?

"Furthermore, the author of the Torah predicts that there will never be another claim of national revelation throughout history! 'For inquire now about times long past, from the day that G-d 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 G-d speaking from the midst of the fires as you have heard and survived?' (Deut. 4:32-33)

"Let's consider the option that G-d did not write the Torah, and its author successfully convinced a group of people to accept a false claim of national revelation. In this book, 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.

"How could the author include in the book he is passing off as a hoax the prediction that no other person will ever attempt to perpetuate the same hoax when he just made that exact claim? If he could do it, he can be certain that others will too, especially since it is the best possible claim to make. If you are making up a religion, you do not write something you know you cannot predict and whose outcome you would think is guaranteed to be exactly the opposite.

"However, aside from the Jewish claim of Mount Sinai, it is a fact that no other nation has ever claimed such a similar national revelation."

I recommend Permission to Receive by Lawrence Kellerman for anyone wishing to study the reasons why we believe that G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai (available from your local Jewish book store or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242). It is really the essential question in Judaism. Otherwise, why follow a religion if it is made up by man?

Torah Portion of the Week
Shavuot

1st Day -- Exodus 19:1 - 20:23 The Jewish people arrive at Mt. Sinai. The Almighty instructs Moses to tell us that we are to be "A Kingdom of cohanim and a holy nation." We spiritually and physically prepare to receive the Torah. The Almighty speaks the 10 Commandments to everyone assembled at Mt. Sinai.

2nd Day -- Deuteronomy 14:22 - 16:17 The Torah portion elaborates on tithing, remission of loans, to be warm-hearted and charitable to others, law of a Jewish bondsman and concludes with the Three Pilgrimage Festivals (when everyone came up to the Temple in Jerusalem to celebrate) -- Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.


PIRKEI AVOT 1:15

"Make your Torah study a fixed practice, say little, do much and receive everyone with a cheerful countenance." -- Shammai



CANDLE LIGHTING - May 16:
(or go to http://aish.com/candlelighting)

Jerusalem  6:51
Guatemala 6:05  Hong Kong 6:38  Honolulu 6:45
J'Burg 5:10  London 8:28  Los Angeles 7:31
Melbourne 5:01  Miami 7:42  Moscow 8:17
New York 7:50  Singapore  6:48



QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

The greatest risk is
not to take a risk



With Great Thanks to the Almighty
on the birth of Kaylee Ita
David & Natalie Wolf

Published: May 11, 2002

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