Judaism: A Religion of God, or Man?

Moshe Ben-Chaim

Last week we addressed the single issue central to Judaism: our correct perception and understanding of all reality.  We stated that God designed man with the five senses, in order that we accept what we perceive, is in fact true. And also God gifted us intelligence, so we might develop proper conclusions, based on those very senses. The two – senses and reason – go hand-in-hand. This explains the phrase "Making Sense", referring to that which is reasonable, as jiving with what we "sense" physically. 

The one faculty may not be used without the aid of the other, if we are to arrive at truth. 

If we would follow our senses and ignore reason, we might accept that a magician can make an elephant vanish. But reason tells us that matter can neither be created or destroyed. And if we use reason but ignore our senses, we would be as those depicted in that analogy, whose faces were turned away from the fire. They saw images moving on the ground, and using reason alone, arrived at false conclusions. But had they turned around and seen the flames and other people, they would realize what they saw moving, were merely shadows.

Last week we explained how our greatest leaders rejected the medrashim as literal. We intended to address Rebbes and educators who still teach medrashim in this harmful manner. Maimonides teaches in his introduction to the Mishna that accepting medrash as literal leads one to the height of absurdities. King Solomon and all of our leaders agreed. But there is yet another foolish, prevalent teaching that is spread by Rabbis and educators who ignore King Solomon and Maimonides' warnings...

The Torah tells us that Daniel was a prophet, on a higher level than anyone in the past few thousand years. Higher than Rebbes and "tzaddikim". Nonetheless, Daniel, Mishael, Azarya and Chananya were all powerless to save themselves from the furnace, into which Nevuchadnezzar tossed them. It was God who saved them. As is true regarding all creations, these men had no control over natural laws. They did not rely on miracles, and they said so. They said it was God alone who could save them. In light of this fact, and that prophecy has since ended, it is alarming that I once heard in person, a highly distinguished Rabbi tell this story: 

"Once, it was a wintery Friday evening, and the great Rabbi XXXX had no candles to light for Shabbos. He thereby instructed his students to climb up the roof, detach a few icicles, and bring them to him to use in place of candles. The great Rabbi XXXX ignited the icicles, and sure enough, they lit!"

This is but one of literally hundreds of similar stories in current circulation. Shul Rabbis recite these "accounts" to their large audiences, who in turn "ooh" and "ahh" when the hear these fables. They all believe these stories as fact. But should they? If we apply the lessons above, they should not, for a few reasons.

1) "One must not rely on miracle" is a Torah principle, which this Rabbi violated. Assuming ice can ignite, man denies his senses, he denies reason, and he is relying on a miracle.

2) Revelation at Sinai is the sole proof that Judaism is true, and that all other religions are impostors. God created a "mass" revelation, as He desired that Judaism possess proof, not belief. We accept Sinai – and Torah – for the exclusive reason that it contains incontrovertible proof provided by an event witnessed by masses. For such an event cannot be perpetrated as truth, accepted, and transmitted, had it not occurred. Mass attendance is at the core of all historical truths. However, when masses are absent, one either believes or he does not...but there is no proof in such a case. We accept Caesar was Rome's emperor due only to the masses who witnessed this. God's will is that we follow reason, and reject any story lacking mass witnesses. This is why He orchestrated Revelation at Sinai. God desires that man use his senses and his intelligence, and not his blind faith.
Therefore, God desires that we reject isolated fables where masses did not witness the event, like these stories of miracle-working Rebbes. For if one accepts such stories, he has no grounds to reject Christianity, Islam, and all other religions.

3) The Torah teaches that Daniel and his friends could not control the flames, by their own admission. Yet, Jews and pulpit Rabbis claim that Rebbes are on a higher level. Thereby, they reject the status reserved exclusively for prophets.

This problem – the same problem Christians have – stems from Jewish communities who view recent Rebbes as infallible, "holy", miracle workers. They incorrectly raise them above prophets, who could not render miracles. They dilute God's exclusive role as the only being that can perform a miracle.
I personally know of cases where desperate Jews seeking healing and advice were promised health and success by such Rebbes, only to find that they were lied to. In one case, the woman's sister stricken with cancer was told she would heal, but she died. In another, a man's daughter who was barren, was told by the Rebbe that she would conceive, but she too died.

To quote an intelligent Rabbi, "Today, Jews live a religion of man, not a religion of God." Their minds become crippled by a desire to accept childlike fantasy stories, instead of their own senses and reason gifted to them by God. Their infantile need for the parent expresses itself in a deification of Rebbes. And pulpit Rabbis enjoy the response evoked from such amazing stories. They cannot prove their stories (thereby ignoring Sinai) but nonetheless intend to charm their flocks, reciting wild stories, enjoying their captivation of members like a mother who excites her child's imagination with amazingly drawn fairytale books. Such Rebbe stories were never witnessed, so these pulpit Rabbis live a lie, and mislead their members. They ignore both reason, and their senses.

In today's Judaism, tragically, the Rebbe is the center. God is no longer to sole focus.

But Judaism is about God. 
And as Maimonides teaches, our love of God is increased when we study His creations and His Torah, not when we deify man. 
Judaism is not about man, and for this reason, God hid Moses' grave, God recounts Moses' mistakes, and God sought to kill Moses on one occasion. 
There is no deification of man, in God's Judaism. 
The Jews didn't run to receive blessings from Moses, in God's Judaism. Gods says "I will bless them". (Num. 6:27) 
There is no man who controls nature, in God's Judaism. Moses and Daniel were defenseless, with no ability to create a miracle to save themselves. Yet, Jewish leaders today concoct and repeat miraculous stories of Rebbes who can do what prophets could not. 

Where is the devotion to God's Judaism today?
Where are the true Torah leaders today, who will study and teach God's words alone, and not man's fantasies?
Where are today's leaders who will defend Torah?