Sinai: Does Absolute Proof Inhibit Free Will?
“God didn't orchestrate Revelation at Sinai in a 100% provable fashion, for the precise reason of allowing man free will.”
I recently heard this quoted in the name of a Rabbi and submitted to him my thoughts below, which I feel others might appreciate.
1) Firstly, and primarily, of what benefit is it to a rational being to be left with doubts, when in fact, proof is available and preferred for all other historical accounts? Proof allows man an unshakable, rational foundation to further build on is findings. To be successful when building his home or taller structures housing human life, God does not wish man to “believe” that his cement is sturdy, lest his belief be false and the structure – and dwellers – crash to the ground killing all. God wishes life, not death, and God wishes man to operate within natural law. Testing the cement before constructing a building to “prove” it is sturdy, will prove beneficial, and save lives. God wants man to benefit. This obviously applies to all matters.
And to arrive at an ever-growing love for God, God wants man to have an accurate view of Him. So if man were to believe that God were physical, he would be invoking “belief”, yet he would forfeit his Olam Haba as a heretic.
Belief is simple emotion, unworthy of praise in this regard, and subject to shifting 180º at a whim, when a greater emotion attracts us. If belief is all God wants, we do not require intelligence. If belief is what Torah asks, we are akin to Christianity, which also asks for faith, and not proof.
2) Scientists subject their hypotheses to batteries of tests. They demand proof, because this is how they “know” what is not coincidence, but actual law. They wish to know what is true in the universe. They do not apply belief at all. Shall we seek less basis for God's existence?
3) Belief, as demonstrated by Avram (Gen. 15:6) is part of Torah, but is limited to our trust in God “keeping His word”. While belief that God is truthful is warranted, belief that God “exists” is not part of Torah, but it is as Rambam, Kuzari and others teach, God wishes man to possess “proof” of His existence. I cite Rambam (Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 8:1-3) who said that Sinai is in fact “the” event of which we have no doubts, in contrast to the miracles performed in Egypt and en route to Sinai, which do leave doubts.
4) Torah actually teaches that God in fact said He was about to perform Revelation at Sinai for this precise purpose: “I will come to you in a thick cloud, so that all the people will hear when I speak to you. They will also then believe in you forever.” (Exodus 19:9) God said Revelation will serve as an “eternal proof” . In fact, if all God desires is belief, Revelation was unnecessary.
5) Finally, free will is not conditional, based on a given events, but it is an inherent faculty in every man and woman by “design”. God could create any event He desires, and this in no way impacts human design. We possess free will by design, independent of events that are external to ourselves. No matter how Revelation at Sinai was orchestrated, this can in no way impact human free will. To suggest “God didn't orchestrate Revelation as 100% provable, to allow free will” ...runs contrary to facts.
The following is a worthwhile read, authored by Rabbi Israel Chait, “Torah from Sinai” (www.mesora.org/god):
“The very concept of a proof or evidence for the occurrence of the event at Sinai presupposes certain premises. It sets the system of Torah apart from the ordinary religious creed. The true religionist is in need of no evidence for his belief. His belief stems from something deep within himself. Indeed, he even senses in the idea of evidence for his belief a mixed blessing, as it were, a kind of alien ally. He does not enjoy making recourse to reality. Judaism, on the other hand, doesn't just permit evidence; it demands it. If one were to say he believed in Torah from Sinai and does not need any evidence, he would not be in conformity with the Torah. The Torah demands that our conviction that it was given to us by God be based on the specific formula of the demonstration He created for us. Nachmanides states further that were it not for the event at Sinai we would not know that we should reject a false prophet who performs miracles and tells us to abandon any of the laws or ways of the Torah. It is written in Deuteronomy 18:20 that we should not follow such a prophet. But, says Nachmanides, were it not for the demonstration at Sinai we would be totally in a quandary, unable to know whether we should follow the Torah based on miracles that occurred in Egypt or follow the false prophet based on his miracles. (4) The event at Sinai resolves this dilemma. After the event at Sinai the Jew remains unimpressed even by miracles that would lead an ordinary person to conclude that the words of the false prophet are true.”
(4) From both Maimonides and Nachmanides who concur on this point, as well as from the plain meaning of the Bible itself with regard to the objective of Revelation, it is clear that Judaism does not give credence to the existence of an authentic inner religious voice. Were this the case, there would be no need for the demonstration at Sinai in order to discredit the false prophet (Deuteronomy 8:2-6). On the contrary, this would be the exact test spoken of, to see if one will be faithful to this inner voice. For Judaism this inner voice is no different from the subjective inner feelings all people have for their religious and other unwarranted beliefs. It stems from the primitive side of man's nature and is in fact the source of idolatry. This is clearly stated in Deuteronomy 29:17, 18:
“Today, there must not be among you any man, woman, family or tribe, whose heart strays from God, and who goes and worships the gods of those nations. When [such a person] hears the words of this dread curse, he may rationalize and say, “I will have peace, even if I do as I see fit.”
Why does the Torah here as in no other place present to us the rationalization of the sinner? The Torah is describing the strong sense of security these primitive inner feelings often bestow on their hosts and is warning of the tragic consequences that will follow if they are not uprooted.”