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What is Torah? What is a commandment? What is revelation? What happened at Sinai? In this second in a six-part course on core Jewish beliefs, we set out to understand how Judaism views the Torah as much more than a set of laws.

What Jews Believe: Torah

What Jews Believe: Torah

Jewish Theology, Lesson 2


What Jews Believe: Torah: Jewish Theology, Lesson 2

What is Torah? What is a commandment? What is revelation? What happened at Sinai? In this second in a six-part course on core Jewish beliefs, we set out to understand how Judaism views the Torah as much more than a set of laws.
What Jews Believe 2
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Questions for Discussion
1. In the previous lesson, we were introduced to the concept that G‑d is “perfect existence” who desired a creation. How does this idea lead us to the idea that this same G‑d also gave the Torah?
2 What does it mean to say that the Torah makes G‑d “vulnerable,” so to speak?
3. Are the commandments more for our benefit or more for G‑d’s own purposes? Defend your position.
4. What does it mean that G‑d “revealed Himself” at Sinai? How is Torah a revelation?

Further Reading:

By the Instructor
What Does It Mean to “Believe in G‑d”?
Texts Cited
Talmud, Shabbat 105a
Exodus 20:1–2
What Is Torah?
How Do We Know That We Heard G‑d at Sinai?
What Is the Torah?
The Bargain and the Jew
Rabbi Manis Friedman, a noted Chassidic philosopher, author and lecturer, is dean of Bais Chana Women's Institute of Jewish Studies.
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Yehuda Shurpin for May 27, 2014

Re:Enlightening G-d both entrusted the nations of the world with stewardship of the planet and gave them their own set of commandments known as the Seven Noahide laws (for more on this see The Discovery of Planet Earth. Each nation and individual has their own unique mission in this world. In Judaism (unlike other religions) one need not be Jewish, to get a portion in the 'world to come.' All you need to to is keep those commandments that were meant for you. In other words, all a non-Jew needs to do is keep the seven Noahide laws.

For more on this see Is Judaism For Everybody?
In addition to those laws, before giving the Torah with all of its 613 commandments, the Midrash (Sifri on Deuteronomy 343) relates that G-d first offered the Torah to the other nations as well. In short, while the non-jew may need only 7 mitzvot to get a share in the world to come, the Jew is required to fulfill 613... Reply

Leandra EL PASO, TX May 21, 2014

Enlightening I enjoy these lectures very much but I am bothered by the idea that other nations refused G_d. I have not read anywhere that G_d offered himself through the commandments to other nations. I am not Jewish so does this mean that G_d does not care about gentiles? Can anyone site me a reference for the idea that other nations did not want G_d? It is disheartening to think that G_d that I believe in and want to please cares nothing about me just because He didn't see fit to have me born into a Jewish family. Reply

Marwan Hassan Germany January 12, 2014

Once again just great, though I have a question Just relaxing to listen to and to learn such beautiful meanings. Though I have two thoughts, or questions.

What if Hashem does not NEED us, but wants to help us for his gentle desire to help his creation.

How can the 613 Mitzwot be out of interest in a partner in the relation. Interest would not mean to burden your partner. Seen in the light of his desire to lead us, then the 613 Mitzwot can be seen in another light. A way, a path, to good life? Reply

Marty Denver December 15, 2013

On perfection and relationship Is G-d perfect? Would a perfect being even have a need or desire to create? Isn't a perfect being content to just be? Or does a perfect being need to have people do His bidding?I don't think G-d ever says He is perfect in the Torah, why should we think He is? We are in His image and we're certainly not perfect. To be clear, I'm not hung up on G-d having needs but on His supposed perfection. I think His having needs is a symptom of imperfection.
On relationship: The Rabbi defines it as, "I did for you and now I ask you to do for me." I agree, relationship is often based on reciprocity. But there is another key ingredient that the Rabbi dismisses. And that is understanding. He said to ask someone "why" is rejection. But It depends on one's intention. If you're asking so you can understand and thus deepen your connection, asking why becomes an imperative. So it sounds like, "Is it ok if we talk about it? I want to understand what you're experiencing so I can relate to you...
We all have the same needs. If I can understand what you’re needing, then I can better connect to you.” Let’s look at the Rabbi’s example of scratching a blackboard. So I could say, “When you hear scratching on the blackboard I’m guessing you feel annoyed, you cringe, and you really value peace of mind, is that what is going on for you?” And if that is confirmed, then I can say, “Yeah, I want peace of mind too. I can relate. No problem.” We need to understand G-d in the same way otherwise it’s not a true relationship. Where is the reciprocity promised by the Torah? If you follow the laws, do you ever get sick? Do you reap what you sow?
Regarding the midrash with other nations rejecting the Torah: I don’t understand it. The Torah makes it clear that the mountain quaked and smoked and the people heard G-d’s voice and were frightened. Of course they will say, “We will do and we will hear.” Not to mention G-d just freed us from slavery. Did G-d do the same for the other nations? No. Reply

Yira Winter Spgs November 28, 2013

Love it I really enjoy your videos, I always learn something from your lesson. Reply

Bishadi Valley of the Sun November 27, 2013

The reason..... to define itself, in words; to understand Ask Manis to please review these comments;

We are HIM, defining itself. That pinnacle is the 'name' in which all things can (are) created. Mankind created the 'word'. The word evolves over time. Eventually mankind knows god, personally.

Mankind is of its creation (of nature/god) to know itself. We are and have NEVER been separate (away from the garden).
The exodus is the schism from thebes.
I often ask, if the 10 commands came in 2 tablets how many tablets to convey just genesis? How many men to carry torah off the mount? Reply

Barry Wicksman Saipan November 25, 2013

torah and science interesting lecture but where does scientific evidence come in when accepting the torah as the word of hashem? Reply

Anonymous NM November 19, 2013

Beautiful Thank you... I learned a new dimension about Torah and how intimate Hashem desires a close relationship with me/us. This is so freeing from my old thinking. Reply

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