Beit Midrash

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Asher Ishaayahu Ben Rivka

5. Historical Proof

The Khazar king was puzzled. In what sense could the story of the Exodus, the Revelation at Sinai, or the account of the forefathers serve as a solid foundation for faith?


Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed

Cheshvan, 5762
In his search for the correct faith, it did not at first occur to the Khazar king to investigate Judaism. This was due to the fact that then - some 1,200 years ago - the Jews were a dispersed and disregarded people, sojourners, living in exile among the nations. It was inconceivable to the king that such a nation could be the bearer of a faith that was worth examining. Yet, after investigating Islam and Christianity and not receiving a satisfactory explanation to his questions, after having discovered that both of these two religions rely upon the Bible of the Jews, the King decided to approach a Jewish sage and to inquire concerning his faith.

The wise Rabbi replied in brief: "We believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Who took the Children of Israel out of Egypt with miracles and wonders, Who sustained them in the wilderness, and, after bringing them through the Red Sea and the Jordan river, granted them the Land of Canaan as their inheritance. He sent them Moses with the Torah, and after him thousands of prophets, etc. And we believe all that is written in the Torah, which is a massive amount of information."

When the Khazar king heard this he responded with disappointment, saying: "I knew that it would be useless to ask the Jews. It appears that their downtrodden state has left them with no spiritual insight. You, wise Jew, should have responded that you believe in the Creator and Master of the universe, He Who created you and provides you with food. Why is it that you base you faith upon events from your nation's past, uniquely Jewish events? Why do you not view the Almighty more broad-mindedly; why do you not see Him as Creator of the Universe, Creator of the heavens and the earth, He Who created you, Who sustains and provides for all creatures, including you?"

The wise Rabbi responded, saying: "All of what you say holds true for a religion which is based upon logic and human intellect. Yet, it is precisely this sort of religion that lacks what you refer to as "broad-mindedness." Human intellect alone can never serve as an absolutely unshakable foundation. All are aware that philosophers, when asked, cannot agree on a single outlook. This is an indication that it is impossible to rely on the intellect in any absolute sense; faith, though, by its very nature, must be absolute. Faith must be firm and unwavering. It cannot base itself upon rational estimations alone. Such judgments are not absolute."

The words of the Jew were received well by the King, and he responded: "Your words make more sense now than when you began speaking. I would like to continue our conversation." The Rabbi responded: "Yet, what I said at the outset serves as the greatest proof of all, a proof after which there is no longer any need for additional proofs." The King could not understand this, and was surprised. How could the story of the Exodus, the Revelation at Sinai, or the account of the forefathers comprise a firm foundation for faith?

"Yes," said the Rabbi, "Our faith is not founded upon intellectual speculation, it is not based on the sort proof which claims that because there is a creation there must be a Creator, and one must therefore believe in Him. Our faith is based upon eyewitness testimony - not upon speculation but upon actuality; it is based upon God's having appeared to us, upon His revelation to our forefathers. We recognize the Creator through our direct historical contact with Him. He revealed Himself to us by way of the Exodus and the Sinaitic Revelation. We actually bore witnessed to His appearance. In order to elucidate this concept properly, it is necessary to offer a number of preparatory explanations. This we will do in our next discussion.

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