B”H, 14 Av, 57191

Peace and blessing!

In response to your letter of 8/9, which was filled with questions and challenges.

I hope that there is no need to explain to you that in general this is not the proper path to achieve any goal — by starting with problems, and with many different problems all at once. If you want to understand a given perspective, and especially if you wish to understand a comprehensive worldview, an all-encompassing outlook on life, it is first necessary to rid yourself of any preconceived notions. First of all, you must divest yourself of the decision that “I must find failings and fault and the more, the better.”

And although our Sages advise, “a shy person doesn’t learn,” I must say that from the tone of your letter it seems your questions do not stem so much from curiosity, but rather as mentioned above, from challenges, problems, and maybe more.

Still, I judge you favorably and assume that ultimately your intent was for the good. Perhaps it is only that nobody ever taught you the proper way to approach the study of a worldview or outlook on life, and you are not personally responsible for the approach in your letter, etc. Therefore I will attempt to answer your questions, at least in short, although such questions are generally better discussed face to face. Certainly several of the local Chassidim or those in your Yeshiva would have responded much as I do below. And, when speaking orally, it is much easier to expand at greater length and in greater depth on the areas that most concern the listener. In a letter, on the other hand, it is not always possible to decipher what is most not understood, and which issues are not quite so central.

a) Is it possible to prove that the Torah was given by G‑d at Sinai?

The proof of this has already been elaborated in several of my letters, as well as in the books of great Jewish scholars published long ago. Let us take for example your actual day-to-day life, in the vast majority of instances. When you decide on a course of action, even one that requires an expenditure of much energy or money, you don’t demand of yourself one hundred percent certainty that the hoped for results will happen. Rather, you rely on the opinion of others.

For instance, when you buy a ticket to travel somewhere, you do not first personally examine the bus or train, and study mechanics to learn how it works, in order to be certain that you will be able to use this ticket to travel and reach your destination. This is true not only in areas where the return on the investment will come immediately, so that you will shortly know for sure; rather, it is true even with regard to areas where the results will be years in the making. If you honestly examine your own actions, you will find that you rely not only on your own knowledge, but rather also on what you have been told by reliable people, as long as there is no reason to suspect these people of lying, or of having some vested interest in leading you astray. Moreover, the greater the number of people testifying that something is true or is functional, the greater is your certainty in your decision to rely on them.

Furthermore, even in life and death issues, such as a serious operation (may G‑d protect us) you rely on the surgeon, as long as he has a certificate which states that he completed his studies under another expert surgeon ten or twenty years earlier and that he is a competent doctor. It is even better if you get personal testimonials from patients, who say that he treated them successfully. Based on this testimony, you would allow a person to perform a very serious surgery, even though he is just a mortal individual, and he himself says that he may make a mistake or fail in the procedure, even though he has been successful several times in the past in similar situations. The entire basis is the fact that you rely on other people’s testimony. In important issues, the only difference is that you do not rely on just the testimony of one, two, or three people, but rather you search for the opinions and testimonials of many people.

This mode of verification is even more widespread regarding events that happened in the past. There is no way to discern now whether events unfolded in one specific manner or another. Nevertheless, no normal person would doubt the consensus of three or four historians. Even if they contradict each other in some details, the majority opinion usually is accepted, especially if it is an overwhelming majority, such as ten, one hundred, or even one thousand against one. The majority testimony is then accepted as a verified certainty.

After that introduction: The fact that the Torah was given on Sinai directly from G‑d is not some new theory that was floated recently. We heard about it from our parents, and our parents heard it from their parents, etc., all the way back, from generation to generation. (In each and every generation it was transmitted in the exact same version, by hundreds of thousands of people from the broadest possible range of backgrounds, all repeating it exactly the same way. From the time of the giving of the Torah, there was never a time or place in which the tradition changed.) It goes all the way back to that very generation, the Children of Israel who entered the Land of Israel with Yehoshua, who heard it from their parents who had left Egypt, who had themselves stood at Mount Sinai, and had themselves heard the Voice declare: “I am the L_rd your G‑d.”

Obviously, if this story was a rumor that had started suddenly in one of the generations since, there could be no way that hundreds of thousands of people would all conspire to disseminate this rumor simultaneously; namely, that there had been a giving of the Torah. Certainly, someone would have objected: “What is this new idea, that we never heard about before?!” One may expand considerably on this line of reasoning, which is, as mentioned, many times stronger than all of the hearsay evidence upon which you rely concerning events of even ten or twenty years ago.

b) You might contend that the Christians and Moslems also number in the millions and also preserve their traditions.

However, this poses no challenge at all, since, as mentioned, there is a basic difference. The Christian tradition ultimately narrows down to one person (the apostle Saul2), or at most ten or twelve apostles, who claimed that they heard from someone else. They themselves do not claim to have been privy to this “prophecy.” In other words, it ultimately is narrowed down to one mortal person, who may have made a mistake or a change, whether accidentally or purposely. The same is true of the Moslems; the origin of their faith is Mohammed returning from the desert and claiming that he had seen a “prophecy,” etc. etc.

c) Is it possible for non-Jews to achieve elevated spiritual status?

There is a famous ruling by the Rambam3 that the 'righteous among the nations' have a portion in the World to Come.

d) How can you rationalize to yourself why non-Jews were not given the same opportunities as Jews?

There are several explanations. The primary one is the fact that none of us can comprehend G‑d’s ways, reasons, or actions — why they are specifically in one particular manner or another. This is analogous to the various limbs of the “microcosm,” man: It is impossible for the leg to achieve the intellectual understanding of which the brain is capable. Similarly, the brain cannot share the emotional feelings of the heart. In other words: Every organ of the human microcosm has its own purpose. Some organs are more complex, while others are simple. But each has its own specific and distinct purpose. Only when it fulfills its function does it achieve its own degree of perfection and fulfillment.

The same is true in the macrocosm, the world at large. Inanimate objects each have their job, as do plants, animals and human beings, each type having its own mission. The Zohar explains4 that Jews amongst the nations are like the heart within the body. Obviously, the hand or foot cannot attain the same feeling experienced by the heart, since the job of the hand is to write and move, the foot’s job is to walk, etc. Just as you do not wonder why your foot cannot write, or why the heart cannot comprehend intellectual concepts, so too there is no place at all for the question you posed. The above serves to answer as well your next question:

e) Who is better: a righteous non-Jew or a sinful Jew?

The answer is dependent upon your intent. Are you referring to the potential, or are you talking about actuality? Again, compare it to a heart or a brain that is not fulfilling its purpose. In simple terms, which is better: a sick heart or brain, or a healthy foot?

f) According to tradition, we are now in the year 5719 from the creation of the world. How does this fit with “the scientists’ account?”

The answer to this in brief is: All of the sciences, even those that are called “exact sciences,” are based on assumptions that are completely unfounded, and are no more than agreed upon theories. This is most blatant in the area of researching the world’s evolution and development (cosmology).

Among these assumptions: That the laws of nature have not changed at all, and always were exactly the way they are today, without any change; that the atmospheric pressure, radiation, and several hundreds and thousands of other variables, were always approximately the same as they are now; and many other assumptions that have no proof whatsoever… Most central among these assumptions is that the world could not have been created in a completely developed state. Rather, it could only have started with the creation of several separate atoms, which then had to unite, and this fusion would have had to occur in the manner and speed that it would happen today (with no change at all, even though the world was then in its formative stages). Then a given number of years would have been needed, until the world could possibly evolve into a developed condition with animals and humans, etc.

If even some of these assumptions are discarded, then all of the scientists’ conclusions are completely invalidated. For instance, what rational idea could possibly compel someone to believe that G‑d could not create man as is, but rather that He could only create separate atoms, which would then combine on their own, etc.?

P.S. Another proof of how unfounded the scientists’ calculations are: The conclusions as to the age of the universe reached by various fields within science (geology, astrophysics, radioactivity measurements, etc.) contradict each other. Scientific researchers were forced to contrive all kinds of ad hoc rationales to explain away these contradictions5.