Forgiveness: Part III

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

Dr. Zuniga,

I will quote you and reply…

Dr. David Zuniga: No one, in any tradition (Jewish, Christian or otherwise) has “proven” what the divine transmission of the bible is. Proof means discovering and demonstrating empirical evidence that can repeatedly be verified in a variety of settings. You, just like believers of other traditions, have faith that satisfies you. And I’m glad you do. But respectfully, your theology of the bible isn’t objective proof.

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: David, respectfully, you have made an error by projecting onto me your guess of what I hold to be true. It would be productive to first inquire of my position, prior to making a false decision. 

I do not “believe” in the Bible, but know it to be truth, as true as any historical event attended by masses. I will explain shortly. 

As the proof I will repeat below is the core foundation of the Bible, the very event of God giving man the Bible, I am surprised you did not hear of it.

Dr. David Zuniga: “Why did God flood the entire Earth in Noah’s generation?” It sounds like you engage in textual literalism. Yet I know other learned rabbis who see that biblical story more as symbolic mythology than a literal, historical account.

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: It appears you prefer the student over the teacher. The original recipients of the Bible, i.e. Moses, Joshua, and the Bible’s original teachers, Kings David and Solomon, the Prophets, hundreds of the authoritative Talmudic and Mishnaic sages, and the Rishonim — medieval Rabbis including Rashi, Maimonides, Nachmanides, Ibn Ezra, Sforno and many others — all hold the Bible to be literal. I am not concerned that those with lesser minds (rabbis with whom you’ve conversed) who have not authored works like Deuteronomy (Moses), Psalms (King David), or Proverbs (King Solomon) will casually suggest a fantasy or whim that the Bible is not literal. Today’s rabbis are not authoritative. 

Now, as you see today’s rabbis conflict with the Bible’s recipient Moses, and its original teachers, both views cannot be correct: either the Flood (and the entire Bible) occurred literally, or it did not. How do you decide the truth? 

I am interested in clarity and a conclusion. I would not suggests to someone to simply follow his heart on such a decision, as the matter is great. Similarly, I would not suggest to someone to follow his heart on which surgeon to perform a life-threatening operation. I would, instead, urge him to use his mind to determine definitively, who is the most fitting doctor. 

The existence of God is not left to faith. God designed man with reason and intelligence so that we engage both, and certainly in the most vital of areas, our relationship with God, i.e., religious life. Using reason, we today realize that such a massively-attended event — Revelation at Sinai — must have occurred. We possess the same proof as those eyewitnesses over 3300 years ago. For if Revelation at Sinai did not take place, and Moses attempted to convince some nation that they and millions of others saw something which they had not, the story would never get off the ground. Moses would be viewed as a psychotic. That nation would not adopt Moses’ lies in place of what they all knew was their true history. Imagine someone telling a few thousand New Yorkers that they just witnessed the Twin Towers suddenly reappearing. Not a singe soul would pass this on to his children as a true event, and 3000 years for now, such an event will not be incorporated by major religions. This is exactly what Moses would have confronted, had he lied about Sinai. But the fact that the world accepted the account throughout time and up to today, is a testament to the truth of God’s revelation. It must have occurred. As is true regarding any historical account, Sinai too relies on mass witnesses for its validation. But had it simply been Moses’ word alone, or the word of small groups, this does not provide proof, for motive to lie can be found in small groups. Only with mass witnesses do we know for certain that an event transpired. This was the single time in history where God revealed Himself to man. Additionally, had Moses lied, today the world should be in receipt of the “true” history of the Jews during the time of Moses’ lie. But there is no “alternative Jewish history.” 

Mass witnesses is how the Bible — and any history — is proven, and all other religious claims are unproved, explaining why other religions demand faith. For they have no proof. You follow this reasoning to accept the historical truth of Caesar, Alexander and others. The Bible is no different.

Without proof of a doctor’s credentials and history of success, one endangers his body when undergoing a life-threatening operation. Without proof of a religion’s claim as “God’s word,” one  endangers his soul by violating God’s will, a will that he could have learned had he expended the proper energy and intelligence in research.

It must, at the least, be a concern to learn that from Moses to Maimonides, their was no confusion: they all understood the Bible as literal. Why do you think they had no argument on this?   

Dr. David Zuniga: You state that studies of the bible and Talmud is “the only method to accurately answer your questions.” But I’ve known Muslims and atheists and many others from other traditions who don’t share your central emphasis of your texts and yet develop equally sophisticated philosophical perspectives, which likely make them just as happy and ethical as you are.

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: Happiness with an ethical system does not equate to truth. Psychotics too are happy. Your original question was how one determines whom to forgive, and I replied that this depends on what is a worthy matter, to which one may rightfully take offense. This can only be defined by an Authority — God — as a large portion of morality cannot be arrived at by reason. 

Dr. David Zuniga: As a Zen Buddhist, I don’t want the bible, Talmud, or Koran to be the basis for civil law. I also don’t want the Pali canon or Koan literature to form civil law either. I respect people’s right to have individual differences. 

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: I don’t see how your personal wants play any role in determining objective truth. There is but one mankind. Two people with the identical illness are treated similarly. Our bodies are identical. So too, our psyches and minds are identical. We all strive to be happy and avoid pain. We all sense loss when one dies; and we are joyful at a birth. We all sense justice, feel anger, love and the myriad of emotions and feelings. As there is but one design of man, it is reasonable that God gave only one religion. I too respect people’s right to have individual differences. But they cannot all be correct, if they differ. My search is for truth, not a faith which might very well be wrong…certainly, if it conflicts with God’s proven words.