Sinai's Vital Role
Chaim: Two points:
1) Why isn't there a separate paragraph in the Shmoneh Esrei devoted to asking Hashem to help us strengthen our belief in Revelation at Sinai? Many, many Jews have gone astray because they lack the important belief that the Revelation truly occurred. We should pray to God, everyday, to ask Him to remove the elements of doubt in our minds, that the Revelation did happen.
2) Our conviction and belief that it really did occur is based on a "NEGATIVE" conclusion: Down through time, there "never" was found written books, or other concrete evidence, supporting the idea that the Revelation didn't take place. Wouldn't belief be better reinforced through "Positive" proof?
Doesn't the high rate of assimilation in todays Jewish society, justify our Rabbis adding another important paragraph to the Shmoneh Esrei, namely, to remove the elements of doubt in our minds, that the Revelation ever happened, and strengthen our beliefs that it indeed, did occur?
Chaim -Monsey, NY
Rabbi: 1) You are correct, that Revelation should find its place in our prayers. In fact, the Talmud teaches that in prior years, the Rabbis included the Ten Commandments in the prayers. However, the Rabbis ended that practice once the heretics told Jews that all that exists, are these Ten Commands, and no others. Nonetheless, the fundamental nature of the Ten Commands (Revelation) is recognized.
Perhaps though, asking God to help us be convinced, of anything, is not within Torah law and philosophy. Our personal convictions belong to the realm of our individually-expressed, free will. Just as we do not ask God, "Help me do this mitzvah" while we are fully capable, we also are out of place asking Him to help us believe anything. God's will is that we exert ourselves to arrive at truths, and perform actions. We cannot ask Him to make us think something, when this is already within our abilities. The importance of Revelation at Sinai is certainly stressed by God, Moses and all Rabbis, but our beliefs is up to us. This is God's will.
2) Regarding your comment about negative knowledge, I do not agree that Revelation is accepted since there's no other account. While that is true, Revelation is accepted based on mass transmission: a "positive" reality. The generations and masses transmitting a single story removes any motive for fabrication, as a lie requires motivation, and masses cannot share a common motive. And as the event of Revelation was easily-comprehended phenomena, by a typical person's senses and intellect, we have no grounds to assume the event was misconstrued. Once fabrication and misconception are eliminated, a given history must be true. For we have removed all possibilities of error in transmission. The positive truth of Revelation thereby remains unchallenged. This is based on the words of the Kuzari, and Maimonides as explained by Rabbi Israel Chait.
While assimilation is high, God knew what would transpire throughout all generations. Therefore, He included the tenets and necessary commands in Torah to ensure Torah survives throughout time. He also gave the Rabbis the right to create fences to protect Torah laws. Only if the Rabbis deem the lack of conviction in Revelation relate to a Torah command, can they create a Rabbinic law to protect Revelation's loss. But beyond protecting a Torah law, the Rabbis have no jurisdiction.
Reader: I agree with you that there is a certain point when someone is worthy of receiving Hashgacha pratit – individual divine providence – but no one can ever know if they reach that point unless they attain prophecy. So is it wrong to look at unfortunate events in your life and use them as wake up calls? Or to think that G-d is involved in your life at all since that would be total arrogance?
Rabbi: The Talmud suggests one introspects upon unfortunate experiences. For this could be a "wake up call". Regardless, if one improves his/her ways due to such an event, he/she benefits, whether it was divine providence, or chance. But without an outright miracle or prophecy, one cannot say for certain that God caused any event. There simply is no way to determine this. And yes, it could be arrogance that compels one to say "God is doing this to me".
Man Dominating Woman
Reader: What does it mean when G-d says in Genesis, "man shall rule over woman"?
Rabbi: This means that Eve (woman), having expressed dominance by coercing man to eat the forbidden fruit, she will now be corrected, and made psychologically subservient. She will view man in a dominant light. This counters woman's dominant streak possessed prior to the sin, allowing both parties to be more free from each other, so as to follow God.