Sinai Defended

Moshe Ben-Chaim

One of the most fiercely attacked historical accounts is God's revelation to the Jewish nation at Mount Sinai. Why this over all other accounts? That is understandable: one's acceptance of God revealing Himself and giving a religion to a select few imposes numerous, unwanted obligations on the Jew, and generates resentment from other religions – they aren't the "chosen people". 

Acceptance of Sinai is actually more in line with reality, than not. As God equipped mankind with intelligence, it follows that God desires humans to engage that very faculty. Granting a Torah system understood by the wisest of men to reveal deep truths and so abstractly not of human origin, God gave mankind the object with which man might engage that intellect, deriving great satisfaction in its wisdom. It would actually be more difficult to understand a God who creates the marvel of human intelligence, but withholds such a system as Torah. This would be akin to God creating the mouth and stomach, but not creating food.

The critiques aiming to dismiss Revelation at Sinai take on a few forms. Some lodge numerous arguments with the hopes that "something sticks". Reading one article with literally dozens of arguments against Torah, not just Sinai, one cannot help to assume an anti-Torah agenda. Certainly, when the critique ranges from archaeological, to historical, and then to writing styles. Is the author of this list of grievances really so fluent in all these sciences? And why has he not invested equal time critiquing Irish fables?

It is of utmost importance that we follow a reasonable approach to this, and all areas. Central to a rational approach is the loyalty to truth, even when faced with questions. That is, once we prove something, no number of doubts can undo that proven truth. So if we prove that a certain people's history is factual, since we find these people possessing only one account of their travels and events easily grasped by anyone...all subsequent "questions" or doubts are of no avail to undo their impregnable history. We may be left with questions, but that's all they are. Eventually we might even resolve some of them. 

Here now are a few critiques and the flaws in these arguments... 

"Jews at Sinai were an Ancient, Mystical, Superstitious cult"

With these words, one wishes to portray the ancient Jew as incapable of accurately assessing a witnessed event as real. They must have been delusional. Each one of them.  (That is a very difficult position, but they go on) "Since the Jews were backwards back then, they could have simply imagined the account of Sinai we have today".  One person wrote, "Other races like the Irish and the Aztecs believed supernatural events happened to their ancestors. If you study history you will find other cultures that believed a false or exaggerated history of their ancestors." 

I ask as follows: If this is what Sinai is, an exaggerated or false story, where then, is the "real" history of the Jews during that era? And why don't we find a few accounts of Jewish history? For if a story is exaggerated or false, 1) the true story should exist at least somewhere among nation, and 2) without orchestration of the falsified story, we should find many versions. However, mass conspiracy is an impossibility. As Rabbi Israel Chait explained in his article Torah from Sinai, fabrication is fueled by motive. And masses cannot share a common motive, since motive – by definition – is a subjective phenomenon. We may find a few individuals with common motive to lie, like Jesus' followers, but we will then find discrepancies in their lies, as witnessed in the four conflicting Gospels. These conflicting accounts of Jesus expose the lie.

Some doubt Revelation at Sinai since they don't witness miracles today, and feel such stories are akin to the Irish and the Aztecs who believed supernatural events. However, the difference is that those races accepted such stories as "tales" and they do not claim masses witnessed such events. This sets apart fable, from history. These "stories" are either accepted or rejected. Similarly, when stories were committed to paper regarding Jesus, these too were imposed by the sword, since therec were no masses witnessing these lies and transmitting them, as is so regarding Caesar and others who were witnessed by the entire population.

I would add that an equal number of people today consult palm readers, read horoscopes, and believe in the most foolish superstitions. Conversely, back then many people were thinkers: from the patriarchs and the prophets; the Greeks; the great builders of empires and bridges; those who developed navigational tools to explore the sea and the stars, mathematicians; scientists, philosophers; the list is endless. So this claim of an ancient, backwards Jew conflicts with reality. There are wise and foolish people in every generation.

One should also explore his or her rejection of miracles, and not use this rejection to abandon much of Jewish history, and Sinai. For with the acceptance of God, one also accepts His abilities to create laws, and suspend those laws...the latter being "miracle".

The "Real" Jewish History

It is astounding that those rejecting Sinai do not produce support for an "alternative" Jewish history. According to those rejecting Sinai, the Exodus, the miracles and all Torah sources...where is the "real" Jewish history? The fact is that there is no other altrenative history of the Jews. And this can only be so, if the singular account today is the truth.

Altering History

Imagine someone today apporaching you, or a number of your people, saying your history is false. First of all, as an outsider, this person will be rejected. Second of all, as you share one common history, you reject this attempt to alter what you have received unanimously. This will not occur instantly, nor over time; not to you or to any number of others. The transmission of a people's witnessed history will never be abandoned for any other account. People cannot lie to themselves, and they will never abandon their collective past. In fact, their past is repeated so often, that the opposite happens: their allegiance to that truth grows ever-more unwavering. This dismisses the suggestion that over time, a people's history can be altered.


Lack of Evidence, is Just That

Some claim that the lack of evidence of 2,000,000 wandering Jews disproves our 40 years in the desert. Aren't many traces of ancient civilizations lost? And these were stationary communities....not like the wandering Jews. Furthermore, lacking evidence cannot be a disproof. "Lacking", by definition, means one is "bereft" of facts. Whereas proof is arrived at through a positive, through evidence. Were the true paths of travel of those Jews accurately located and excavated? Did the sands of time cover over what ever remnants the Jews left at their campsites? And perhaps evidence might yet be located.

In this issue you will also find the Merneptah Stela – an Egyptian account of the Jews. We are not lacking evidence, as was previously assumed.

Biased Prophets and Rabbis? All of Them?

Why have the greatest minds never suggested these theories rejecting Sinai? Why did Maimonides say we, today, are so convinced as if we "saw" Revelation? What was so compelling to hundreds of great minds that they unanimously accepted Revelation? Are we to suggest that everyone, from Kings David and Solomon, throughout the prophets, the Great Assembly, Talmudic sages, medieval Rabbis, through the Rav, Rav Moshe Feinstein z"l and our current leaders are all making the same error? Or, perhaps they have reason to accept our history as truth? Should we not give these beacons of monumental wisdom the benefit of the doubt and discern what exactly compelled their conviction? 

One of the most insulting critiques, was the accusation that Judaism intends to "prove the story, from the story". As if the greatest minds would make such a obvious error.

In truth, it is not the from the text where we derive the proof of our history, and Sinai, but from the unbroken chain of verbal transmission. Maimonides records the 40 transmitters: Moses through Rav Ashi. This passes through the account in Prophets where the "Torah was found" – an easy target for Torah critics. In fact, the Torah was never lost as Maimonides records.

We accept Sinai because a unanimous testimony is impossible, had the event never occurred. Had Moses lied to people, surely, an alternate "true" history would have survived through today. But we don't have one.

The claim every Jews knows, of each person being an eyewitness at Sinai would never had been accepted and retold, had the people not witnessed Revelation. Yet, this is the transmission. This is our singular story. Nor would the nation have unanimously transmitted witnessed miracles, had they not experienced them. 

I dare anyone today to tell any group that their history is not as they received it. I dare anyone to suggest that over time, Caesar's name was changed through careless transmission. I dare anyone today to spread reports of miracles and that masses saw them. Such stories will not survive the hour, nor will they be the unanimous account of any people 3000 years from now.

Revelation at Sinai is our only history. It would not have been accepted, transmitted and could not have reached us, had it never occurred or been witnessed by masses. And what ever criticisms follow over the next 3000 years, this, in no way undoes what has been proven – what has occurred.