Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Yitro
To dedicate this lesson

The Ultimate Proof of the Truth of Torah

In honor of the Torah's "Ten Commandments" Portion Rav Netanel Yosifun presents the Ultimate Proof of the truth of Torah

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Rabbi Netanel Yossifun

Shvat 18 5782
Translated and adapted by Hillel Fendel

We are privileged to be living in a generation of Baalei Teshuvah (newly observant Jews). Some of them returned to Torah through a pining for G-d, while others came from more of an intellectual angle, with various types of proofs having shown them the truth of Torah.

There was once a Baal Teshuvah who was largely won over by what he read in the Kuzari, by Rav Yehuda HaLevi of the 12th Century. The work states that the revelation at Mt. Sinai is the ultimate proof of the truth of Torah. For as we know, Am Yisrael is the only people whose emuna is based on Divine miracles and revelations that happened to masses of people; others claim that their "founding miracles" happened to only one or two people. The latter can easily be lied about, but to say that the Sinai revelation happened to a myriad of people without a reliable tradition of such is impossible. For at the moment of its "invention," everyone would immediately say, "If it were true, how did we never know about it before?"

Anyway, back to our Baal Teshuvah. For many years he taught Torah, and would often cite this proof on which his own faith was based . One day, lo and behold, a book of heresy caught his eye, in which was written that Moshe Rabbeinu was actually a great inventor, who came up with electricity, projectors, giant loudspeakers, and special pyrotechnic effects, and was able to pull off the Giving of the Torah as if it were a Divine event.

(In my opinion, this is a ridiculous hypothesis. Every inventor bases his ideas and contraptions on those of his predecessors, whereas prior to the period about which we are speaking, 3,300 years ago, we have no record of any inventions that could have led to electricity and the like. Nor is it likely that one man could do all this, and in a manner that Bnei Yisrael would not have known about, and more and more. Not to mention that this cannot explain the falling of Manna in place of food for 40 years and other miracles in the desert, nor what ultimately happened to his inventions and knowledge, etc. etc.)

But our Baal Teshuvah was somewhat thrown by what he read. He felt that his faith had been shaken, doubts gnawed at him, and he felt tortured inside.

He soon decided to talk it over with a friend. It is not known if the friend shared with him some of my above objections to the "inventor" canard, but he did say the following: "For myself, I have a different miracle on which my emuna is largely based – and that is the amazing, wondrous existence of the People of Israel throughout the generations, despite all the persecution we suffered, and then our incredible return to our Land after so many centuries of Exile – precisely as foreseen by our Prophets in the Bible."

Actually, on the deepest levels, both of these proofs are true, and they complement each other. The Torah is very clear about the centrality of the revelation at Mt. Sinai as a critical element in our belief system. The revelation itself begins with "I am Hashem your G-d, Who took you out of Egypt" – not "I am Hashem, the Creator of the world" – because He preferred to note that which happened to the Israelites themselves and which they saw with their own eyes. Later, too, in Parashat Va'etchanan, Moshe says, "G-d forged this covenant not with our fathers, but with us, those of us living here and today." The Rambam explains that this emphasizes that our commitment to Torah is based on the fact that we saw G-d's miracles with our own eyes.

But this leads to a difficult question: What about the generations, such as ours, that didn't see Mt. Sinai with its own eyes? And Moshe himself even says in G-d's name in Parashat Nitzavim, "Not only with you did I forge this covenant… but also with those who are not here with us today." So which is it: Is the covenant based on the fact that we saw it ourselves, or does it apply to future generations as well?

The answer is well-known in the words of our Sages and is quite basic to our faith: All the souls of Israel, including those who were not yet alive, were present at Mt. Sinai.

What this means is that every generation of Jews can see clearly, in one way or another, the revelation at Mt. Sinai. There were those who were actually there. And there are those who, throughout the generations, saw and experienced the fact that the tradition of those events were passed from father to son, again and again, confidently and consecutively. And on the deepest level, G-d reveals Himself in every single generation via the very fact of Israel's existence, as if He were still atop Mt. Sinai with Moshe Rabbeinu. And in our generation, He also reveals Himself in our return to our Land. We simply must open our eyes and see the Mt. Sinai revelation in front of our collective eyes in every generation.

And it is upon this 1-2 punch that our emuna is based!

As Rav Yaakov Emden, 18th-century author of a classic commentary on the prayerbook, wrote: "Oh so many enemies tried but did not succeed in destroying us… When I contemplate these wonders, they are to me greater than all the wonders and miracles that Hashem did for us in Egypt and in the desert… and the longer this Exile goes on, this miracle showing His greatness becomes even more fantastic."

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