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Beit Midrash Jewish Laws and Thoughts Foundations of Faith

Chapter 6

6. Gifts From the King of India

God Himself initiated our faith. It was not intellectual investigation that brought us face to face with the Creator; rather, it was the Almighty who brought us close to Him.
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God Himself initiated our faith. It was not intellectual investigation that brought us face to face with the Creator; rather, it was the Almighty who brought us close to Him. This is reflected in the words of the Passover Haggadah, "Originally our ancestors were idol worshippers, but now the Almighty has brought us near to His service..." Therefore, when the Wise Rabbi was asked by the Khazar king concerning his faith, he answered, "We believe in the God of our forefathers who took us out if Egypt." He chose us to be his people.
Foundations of Faith (50)
Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed
5 - 5. Historical Proof
6 - 6. Gifts From the King of India
7 - 7. The Reliability of Tradition
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The Wise Rabbi explains this by way of analogy, saying, "Let us say that you were told that the King of India is a man of great kindness and that you ought to respect him, glorify him and relate his acts of generosity. The proof of this is in the fact that the subjects of his kingdom are righteous, kind, and honest. Would the fact that the people of India are good people obligate you to praise the King of India? Would you feel a necessity to do this?"

The King answered saying, "Why should I feel this way? To begin with, how can I be sure that the King of India is righteous? Perhaps the people of India alone are righteous. Perhaps there is no King of India at all. And even if there were a king, and a righteous one at that, why should this fact obligate me to tell about him? What good does it do me?"

The Rabbi then said to the Khazar king, "Now, let us say that Indian messengers came to you with special Indian gifts, and there is no doubt that these sorts of gifts could only have come from the palaces of the King of India, and no other place. And let us say that you receive a letter straight from the King of India, and it is clear beyond all doubt that it could have only come from the honorable King of India himself. Together with the letter are medicines that cure you of all of your maladies and preserve your health. Also included is a wonderful weapon for fighting enemies. If you were to receive all of these things from the King of India, would you not be obligated to thank him and pledge your allegiance to him?"

The Khazar king responded, "Certainly, for by virtue of all of this it would have become absolutely clear to me that there is a King of India - a great and virtuous king, who has done such good for me. In light of all of this, his rule and his direction would certainly be to my benefit."

"And," continued the Rabbi, "were someone to inquire, how would you describe the King of India?" The Khazar king responded, "I would describe him according to my familiarity with him, according to those items that he had sent me, and all which he had done for me. Next, I would bring as additional support the fact that the people of India are a kind people. This demonstrates that the King of India is a man of kindness and deserving of honor and respect."

"This, then," said the Wise Rabbi to the Khazar king, "is exactly what I answered you when you asked me concerning my faith. Moses acted similarly when he came to speak before Pharaoh. He did not say to him, 'The God of the heavens and the earth sent me,' and he did not say, 'My and your Creator sent me.' Rather, Moses said to Pharaoh, 'The God of the Jews has sent me to you.' That is, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for the Forefathers were well known among the nations, and it was well known that God had spoken to them and provided for them, and performed wonders for them. For this reason, then, Moses did not say to Pharaoh, 'The God of the heavens and the earth has sent me to you,' and not, 'My and your Creator has sent me to you.' He did not say something that could not be proven. Rather, he said things which were indisputable and known to all."

"I responded in a similar manner when you asked me concerning my faith. I told you of that which has become clear to us Jews beyond all doubt. I told you concerning the things that we saw with our own eyes - that is, that which our ancestors saw - for this is what obligates us right up until today. These things have been handed down to us via firm and unshakable tradition. Such tradition is just like eyewitness account - as if we ourselves had seen with our own eyes God's revelation to our ancestors. Therefore, I said to you that we believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who took us out of Egypt, etc."

Regarding the reliability of tradition, we shall speak in our next discussion.

Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh Yeshiva of the Bet El Yeshiva, was the head of the Yesha rabbis board and rabbi of Bet-El, founder and head of Arutz 7.
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