Rabbi Freeman, I have just finished reading your article entitled How Do We Know that We Heard G‑d at Sinai? There you write that "the very fact that no other people ever made up anything similar to the story of Sinai should be enough evidence that it must be true." I'm sorry, but I just don't buy this. Someone, Moses perhaps, could have had a brilliant idea for a story and convinced everyone to believe it came from G‑d. Isn't there an independent source that can verify the events recounted in the Torah?


Each discipline has its set of rules and approach. You can't apply the same approach to mathematics as you do to psychology or the rules of physics to biology. When it comes to doing chemistry in a lab, you use one kind of proof. Mathematics in the 20th century developed its own regimen of what constitutes proof.

History is a whole other story. If we would expect the same proof for historical events that we expect for the laboratory, we would know absolutely nothing. And when it comes to events before the 10th century CE, the rules become much, much more lax.

Why? Because we simply have no historical documents of major events that were written before that time. Yes, we have copies—copies of copies of copies. But no proof that those were not forged. Those documents that exist in multiple forms generally conflict with one another. And there is tremendous conflict between the various accounts of history in varying documents.

Take, for example, the Egyptian Dynasties and the invasion of the Hyksos. The hieroglyphics are useless mythology. The account we rely upon is from Josephus in his Contra Apion—a refutation of an anti-Semite Greek writer of Egyptian origin named Apion who cites a history provided several hundred years earlier by an Egyptian priest named Manetho, who had his own agenda and axe to grind. Of course, we don't have Josephus' original work, we have several different and discrepant versions, copied over many times. Yet every public school, college and museum will list that succession of dynasties as though it is historical fact and discuss the Hyksos invasion as a major event of history. Why? Because a copy of a copy of a copy of a book cites an opponent who cites an earlier, admittedly biased author who says it's true. No other evidence whatsoever.

Not going into all the details here, but when it comes to the Peloponnesian Wars, Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, things aren't much better. Multiple, conflicting and often spurious accounts abound. There are no contemporary accounts, scant evidence from archeological digs and little if any consensus on major issues.

Now compare this to the Sinai event. We have a single account, uncontested for millennia. It presents its carriers in a not too favorable light. It is cited and confirmed in many of the later books of the Bible. And we have an entire nation that understands this as their history—including cynics such as the Sadducees and early Christians.

If we were talking about any other event, all historians would accept this as standard ancient history. There's only one reason why they don't: Because they don't wish to believe it.

All we can say is, let's be fair: If the rest is history, this is history as well. Further, as I pointed out in my article that you mention, the alternatives lead down ludicrous paths similar to conspiracy theories.

I'm writing fast and in brief. But I must add this: If anyone is going to base their life-practice on a proof of an event of the past, they're building on flimsy cardboard. Life-decisions need to be based on our visceral, here and now experience of life, on human reason, on deep faith, on family tradition—on many, many factors.

We keep the Torah for multiple reasons, all of them very strong. For some, the most important thing is its beauty, for others it is heritage. All of us feel a deep connection to the Jewish people and a will to do what G‑d wants. The sum total of all of it is a deep faith, one that has stood us strong against the vicissitudes of persecution, polemics and temptation for 3300 years. But don't expect to build your palace on one pillar alone.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman for