You Have Been “Shown To Know”
Rabbi Reuven Mann
In this week’s Parsha, Vaetchanan, Moshe continues his final admonitions to the Jewish people. He reminds them of the unique foundation of their religion by stating “You have been shown to know that Hashem, He is G-d, there is none other beside Him.” Two questions arise. First, what is the meaning of “shown to know?” Secondly, is it not redundant to assert that there is no other G-d beside Him? It is very interesting to note that Moshe did not call upon the Jews to have “faith” in Hashem and His Torah. He did not ask them to put reason aside and simply trust their feelings. Judaism is not based on ordinary, unsubstantiated faith as is the case with all other religions. In Exodus Hashem told Moshe, “Behold I will come to you in the thickness of the cloud in order that the nation will hear when I speak to you and also in you will they believe forever.” Hashem was making a “one time appearance” before the entire people who would be gathered at a mountain engulfed in flame, thick cloud, super natural sounds and hear a voice from heaven proclaiming the Ten Commandments. This was done in order to remove any doubts as to His existence and the veracity of the Torah. By revealing Himself in such a blatant “face to face” manner Hashem relieved the Jews of any need to rely on faith in order to serve Him.
One may ask: Why was Sinai necessary after the Jews had experienced the great miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea and the complete destruction of the Egyptian army? That event had a profound effect on the Jews who “saw the Egyptians dead on the beach and believed in Hashem and His servant, Moses.” If the people had achieved Emunah in Hashem and Moshe why was there a need for the Revelation at Sinai whose stated objective had, seemingly, already been achieved?
It would appear that the type of faith attained by the Jews as a result of Kriat Yam Suf (splitting of the Red Sea) was not deemed sufficient to serve as the basis for our obedience to Hashem. That kind of faith was not based on sober, rational thought and analysis. It was, rather, a natural emotional response to experiencing a miraculous deliverance from the jaws of one’s enemy. The impact of such an event is profound and produces a powerful sense of belief and gratitude. However, it is not the appropriate basis for religious commitment. Emotional experiences can generate powerful feelings but they tend to have a short “shelf life.” It doesn’t take long for other experiences to produce contrary emotions which can neutralize one’s faith. Hashem wanted the Jews to know that He exists and that His authentic revelation can be found in the Torah of Moshe. He therefore gathered them together to personally witness as He addressed them from Heaven and singled out Moshe as His special emissary. Hashem, thereby, relieved the Jews of the need to believe. Moshe exhorted them to use their minds, by remembering the great event which they had witnessed with their own eyes. They were not asked to have faith but were “Shown to Know” that Hashem is the true G-d. Judaism is thus the only religion that is founded on knowledge and appeals to people to study the relevant historical phenomena in order to arrive at the conviction that “Moshe is true and his Torah is true.”
We can now understand why it is necessary for the verse to say, “He is our G-d, there is no other.” Faith, based on emotion is not completely satisfactory to the mind. Thus, while people believe, they also harbor doubts, are not completely secure and, therefore, search for other deities, miracle workers, lucky charms, etc. Emunah rooted in absolute conviction in Hashem leads to a way of life based on “Be wholehearted with the L-d your G-d.” Our exclusive service of Hashem is sufficient to provide for all our needs. We are free of all superstition and belief in imaginary deities which can be of no help. “He is our G-d there is no other” is a message every Jew must take to heart as we complete the observance of another Tisha B’av. This could be the beginning of redemption, may it occur speedily and in our time.