Beit Midrash

  • Jewish Laws and Thoughts
  • Foundations of Faith
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

Asher Ben Haim

19. Divine Providence and Prophetic Revelation

Through the Exodus from Egypt, the Splitting of the Red Sea, and the Giving of the Torah, the three fundamental principles of Jewish faith were established: God's Divine Providence over creation, His unbounded Sovereignty, and the Torah's Divinity.


Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed

Religious faith consists of three fundamental elements. The convictions that:
1. The Almighty exercises His Divine providence over all of creation. He did not simply create the the universe and then abandon it. Rather, He directs and oversees His handiwork.
2. The Almighty is all-powerful. He is the unrivaled Ruler of all, and there is absolutely nothing in existence which escapes his providence.
3. The Almighty gave the Torah to Israel. It is therefore not a human creation but a Divine one.

Three monumental events in history serve to reinforce the above-mentioned principles: the Exodus from Egypt, the Splitting of the Red Sea, and the Giving of the Torah.

The Exodus from Egypt. God freed us with miracles and wonders and with a great outstretched arm from a most terrible bondage. He released us from our complete subjugation to Pharaoh and the Egyptians. This event revealed God as Overseer of His creation. He saw the privation of our forefathers, heard their cries, and came to their rescue. The Torah relates that when Moses came to take His people out of Egypt, "the people believed" - i.e., their faith in God's all-encompassing providence was firmly established.

The Splitting of the Red Sea. This miracle was greater than any of the other miracles performed in Egypt. The sea opened up and the Children of Israel passed through on dry land. The waters became like "walls on each side of them." This transformation of water to dry land held still so long as the Israelites passed through the sea. The closing of the waters upon the pursuing Egyptian army was a miracle which clearly demonstrated God's omnipotence and His ability to change the laws of nature completely. At this point, the people’s faith in God was unquestionably established. It became clear that everything is subordinate to His rule, as the verse states: "And they believed in God, and in Moses His servant" (Exodus 14:31).

The Giving of the Torah. Via the Divine revelation at Sinai it became known that God reveals Himself to man through speech. The prophecy of Moses and prophecy in general were thus substantiated. It was firmly established that prophecy is not a dream, the workings of the imagination, or some other kind of powerful outpouring of human emotion. Prophecy is definitively unlike any other sense or cognition that man is familiar with. It is not some form of overpowering hallucination in which man imagines that he is hearing real voices or seeing actual sights. Prophecy is not some earth-shattering dream of which a person remains intensely aware when awakening. It is not a burning inner sense - it is something else completely. The difference between prophecy and imagination is even greater than that between the the heavens and the earth. Unfamiliar with prophecy, man tries to compare it to mental faculties he is familiar with, but this is a terrible mistake. Prophecy does not originate from man's inner faculties, but from the Almighty Himself. God causes man to prophesy. All human faculties are as nothing in light of the enormity of prophetic revelation. When an individual experiences prophecy he is instantly transformed into a different person. He is illuminated by the Divine light, the Divine light which penetrates his whole body and changes him into a different person. Only a individual who has personally experienced prophecy knows how to distinguish between prophetic inspiration and other human faculties such as imagination and dream.

Recognition of the fact that God causes man to prophesy, that He Himself gave the Torah to the Jewish people, was attained by the Israelites at the foot of Mount Sinai. At that time, the entire nation heard the word of God in the form of the Ten Commandments. The entire nation prophesied. At that time, faith in the fact that God speaks to man and has presented man with His Divine Word in the form of the Torah was established. It became clear that Moses was, and would forever be, the greatest of all prophets, and that he stood between God and the people when giving the Torah to Israel. It is hence written, "God said to Moses, 'I shall come to you in a thick cloud so that all the people will hear when I speak to you. They will then believe in you forever" (Exodus 19:9).

In sum, through the Exodus from Egypt, the Splitting of the Red Sea, and the Giving of the Torah, the three fundamental principles of the Jewish faith were established: (1) the Almighty exercises providence over creation, (2) He is the unrivaled Ruler over all, and (3) the Torah was Divinely given from God.

The translation of Exodus 19:9 was taken from Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's The Living Torah (Moznayim)/

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