Reader: According to Rabbi Chait it seems like the more people that tell us of an event, the greater the possibility that it actually occurred. If we met someone who told us the 8:30 train to Montreal derailed, we might at first be doubtful. But if several people gave us the same report we would accept it. For Sinai, however, how can we determine which possibility is truth: 2 million people lying, versus the alleged events at Sinai occurring? Not only is lying probable, but also the issue is not even addressed (nothing is mentioned about the phenomenon of Sinai being more probable). The fact that the other side of the equation (i.e. probability of God actually performing the miracles at Sinai) wasn’t even mentioned may imply that when it comes to such a massive number of people, we don’t care WHAT they claim as long as it isn’t impossible. How can we propose (or prove) such an idea that a “mass” has the reliability to claim almost anything? How does this “mass” proof work? For instance, how many people do we need to have?
Mesora: Jacques, There is no “probability” issue here. Rabbi Chait is stating that it is “impossible” to have mass conspiracy. Human nature has a discreet design, and a human cannot function outside of his limited design. Man requires a motive to lie. So we will find individuals lying: they possess a motive specific to a given case, which propels them to lie for some subjective benefit. But this operates based on the very specific desires of the individual. However, put 100 people together in a room and try to get them to lie about something, and you will fail. They do not share a common motive. They cannot lie en masse. This violates the very real and proven principle that lying is based on “individual” desires, and masses do not operate as a single individual. Masses cannot lie. Therefore, the proof of Revelation at Mount Sinai is not a probability theorem, but a solid proof based on real, proven principles of psychology.
And yes, any time we find masses attesting to having witnessed an event, it must be true. But do not confuse this with religions that affirm a “belief”, but possess no witnesses transmitting a story in an unbroken chain of generations. Unlike Jesus’ supposed miracles, which had no one transmitting these purported wonders, Sinai has an unbroken chain…commencing with the event. There was no “100-year lapse” until stories began to spread, as in the case of Jesus. Such time lapses prove there were no attendees…precisely because there was no event, and thus, no time lapse, but rather, a completely fabricate fable. Jesus performed no miracles.
Reader: I also had a more theoretical
question. Assuming the proof does not turn out to be definitive, and in fact
can’t be used (purely theoretical), at least in one’s mind, what should he do?
I’m not asking a subjective question, but rather, what should a thinker do if
the proof is not convincing to him, and he has removed any emotional conflicts
he had with accepting the Torah. Would the Torah itself say that he should not
be religious? It seems it does, but I’m not sure. (I know there are also other
proofs for the veracity of the Torah, for instance using the fact that it is so
immense and infinite, but I’m assuming those don’t pan out either). I’ve heard
that some Rishonim hold it is better to accept the Torah because your father
does, and only use a proof if you have to, but that seems genuinely insane.
I’ve also seen the article on your website “God's Existence: Belief or Proof?”
so I’m guessing you would agree.
Thank you for helping me find truth, and in general for being one of the few bastions of rational thought.
Mesora: From the standpoint of the Torah, Torah obligations exist, regardless if one has proven their veracity. However, asking from the standpoint of someone knowledgeable of Torah, but not convinced of God’s existence, it would seem impossible to fulfill “Love of God” for example. But nonetheless, his ignorance does not exempt him from Torah obligations.
But I would suggest that the practical relevance of such a person’s ignorance in this case does not really exist.
For something to have practical ramifications, it must exist in reality…it must have the “quality” of reality. But besides being realistic, it also must partake of reality…in “quantity”. For example, something, which exists in reality…but only for a split second once every 1,000,000 years can hardly admit of any practical ramifications, provided it does not affect other things. This is the case with someone’s ignorance of God’s existence and Sinai’s truth. Such ignorance is quite readily removed by going through the proof of Sinai and God. So your question whether one who is yet ignorant of Sinai’s proof is obligated in Torah, has really no practical implications: he can remove his doubts quite easily and quickly. Of course during the brief period of his ignorance, one cannot be completely “culpable” until knowledgeable of his offense. (Talmud Sabbath 67b) And this applies to your case as well. But after studying the events surrounding Sinai, one cannot deny the truth of God’s existence. If one does remain with his doubts, it is clearly his own emotional resistance, for which he is in fact culpable. As Jeremiah states, “Who does not fear Your, King of the nations?” (10:7) Meaning, all admit of God’s existence.
But this topic you mention is significant. If one reads through the account of Revelation at Sinai in both Exodus and Deuteronomy, one notices a recurring theme.
Exod. 20:17: “For the sake of proving you has God come (on Sinai) and so that His fear shall be on your faces, so that you should not sin.”
Deut. 4:4: “And now Israel, listen to the statutes and the laws…that the God of your forefathers has given to you.”
Deut. 4:9: “…lest you forget the matters your eyes saw…and you shall teach them to your children.”
Deut. 4:10: “[Do not forget] The day you stood before God your God in Horeb, when God said to me, ‘Assemble for Me the people and I will cause them to hear My words that they shall learn to fear Me all the days they are alive on the land, and their children they shall teach.”
Deut. 4:35: “You have been shown to know that God is God, there is none other than Him.” 36: “From the heavens He caused you to hear His voice to prove you, and on the land He showed you His great fire and His words you heard from amidst the flames.”
What is the theme? It is significant.
Along side each mention of the miracles the Sinai, we find the command to teach or some reference to the Torah. Of course, the entire event of the miracles was regarding Torah, so it could not be otherwise. But I say that this carefully organized event, and its Scriptural juxtaposing of the irrefutable miracles to the Torah’s adherence, was orchestrated for a precise lesson: “Torah adherence is inseparable from the proof of God”. Sinai (proof of God) is paired with Torah adherence. Our Torah adherence must be the result of convictions based on proofs. God desires this, and therefore gifted mankind with the intelligence necessary to accomplish this. This is the precise message and one, which you must have clear, and fully appreciate.
Review the quotes above once more. A recurring theme indicates that we must not take this idea lightly. God’s command that we follow the Torah is joined to the miracles in these verses. Moses in fact teaches us that the very imperative of Torah is the provability of God’s existence…your precise point Jacques. I am glad you brought up this issue.
We derive from here the essential principle that God desires our Torah adherence to be the reaction of our complete conviction in His existence. God desires that are actions are to be the result of intellectual conviction. This applies all the more to our overall attitude regarding Torah: we must view it as God-given. We must be convinced of this, if all our other Torah performances may be truly based on intelligence. Blind faith is not Judaism. God demands we engage our intelligence, and this apparatus can offer us complete conviction – this is its prized function. We must therefore be concerned to arrive at a complete conviction in God’s existence, and the truth of the Torah and its myriads of ideas and ideals. Only then do we truly fulfill our mission, as stated by Rabbi Bachya (author of “Duties of the Heart”):
“Whoever has the intellectual capacity to verify what he receives from tradition, and yet is prevented from doing so by his own laziness, or because he takes lightly God’s commandments and Torah, he will be punished for this and held accountable for negligence.”
“If, however, you possess intelligence and insight, and through these faculties you are capable of verifying the fundamentals of the religion and the foundations of the commandments which you have received from the sages in the name of the prophets, then it is your duty to use these faculties until you understand the subject, so that you are certain of it - both by tradition and by force of reason. If you disregard and neglect this duty, you fall short in the fulfillment of what you owe your Creator.”
Deut. 17:8-10 states: “If a case should prove too difficult for you in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, between (leprous) mark and mark, or other matters of dispute in your courts...you must act in accordance with what they tell you.”
“The verse [above] does not say to simply accept them on the authority of Torah sages, and rely exclusively on their tradition. Rather, (Scripture) says that you should reflect on your own mind, and use your intellect in these matters. First learn them from tradition - which covers all the commandments in the Torah, their principles and details - and then examine them with your own mind, understanding, and judgment, until the truth become clear to you, and falsehood rejected, as it is written: “Understand today and reflect on it in your heart, Hashem is the G-d in the heavens above, and on the Earth below, there is no other.” (Ibid, 4:39)
Proof of God and Torah adherence are inseparable in the verses quoted, precisely because God wishes that our Torah adherence be based on proof of God.