Sinai-Questions III
Moshe Ben-Chaim
Reader: The difficulty I have is with your proposition that Moses "required demonstrative proof." Nowhere in Exodus preceding the Event, is there described a situation where Moses demands that HaShem prove HaShem's existence. Moses required nothing of HaShem; Moses simply accepted what was freely given.
Mesora: If you are asking about why Moses believed in the existence of God, that was through his own proofs and certainly subsequent to God revealing Himself to Moses at the bush.
Reader: Nevertheless, we only have Moses' word that HaShem talked directly to him at Sinai.
Mesora: Then why didn't the Jews at Sinai confront Moses and claim that Moses had no proof?
Reader: Obviously, the people of Israel didn't have the same perception of the events that Moses had. It's a situation similar to Abraham's. Abraham heard HaShem's voice and followed his commands. No one else heard HaShem. It was due to Abraham's strength of character that he was able to convince his people to follow his developing understanding of HaShem. Similarly, because the people saw Moses accomplish many amazing things, Moses had the necessary cache to influence them. Because Moses was able to do many great things, the people accepted and followed him.
Mesora: The people themselves "believed in Hashem and in Moses His servant" . This is written in the Torah, and if they didn't believe with clarity and proof, they would have confronted Moses on this passage when the came to it. No greater proof exists that the people were convinced of God's existence than their own words. They understood man's (Moses') limited capabilities and attributed all miracles and the splitting of the sea solely to a supernatural force, God.
Reader: Now, if you accept the account in Exodus, it is clear that even at the time of the event the people had difficulty understanding what was happening, and in fact they did not believe HaShem had come to Mount Sinai. According to Exodus 24:17, "the appearance of the glory
of HaShem was like a devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel." The people apparently thought they were witnessing a volcanic eruption. It is absolutely clear that they did not recognize what was happening as a visitation from Hashem. In fact, even after standing before the mount and seeing and hearing what was happening, they requested that an idol be made. Exodus 32:1 indicates that "when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron and said unto him, Arise, make us a god who shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we know not what has become of him." And Aaron complied with their requests. Apparently, even Aaron realized that the people did not believe they had heard the voice of HaShem. The people would not have demanded the creation of an idol within 40 days of witnessing such an awesome event, if they had actually perceived that HaShem had come to Mt Sinai. (It is my view that the people's inability to perceive what had happened is the thing that drove Moses to such fury when he became aware of what the people did.)
Mesora: Perhaps your interpretation is not the only one. Perhaps the people knew God existed, from all that happened in Egypt, from their own words I quoted above, and from Sinai. There was no doubt, again, as I mentioned, they should have confronted Moses back then, when Moses first introduced the idea of God. Their desire to make an idol stemmed not from a disbelief in God, as they even uttered at that moment of making the golden calf, "these are the Gods which took us out of Egypt". They believed in God and in Moses His servant as they said on the shore, but they had a problem relating to a non-physical being. This is why they made the calf, and this is why they said, "the man Moses......we don't know what has become of him" Why did they say the "man" Moses? Do not all know he is a man? The answer is that they were saying that they needed a "man" , a physical being. So as long as Moses was alive (in their minds), they had something tangible to relate to. But as they miscounted the 40 days Moses was to be on the mountain, they feared tremendously that they had no more physical, tangible relationship with God, via Moses.
Reader: It was only because of the force of Moses' will that the people were able to bring their hearts and minds back to HaShem. Moses' awesome powers of persuasion led the people back to HaShem. But the people clearly did not understand that they had witnessed an actual visitation from HaShem. I wouldn't call it disbelief because it is apparent that the people simply did not see or hear HaShem that day. Yet, Moses was able to explain what happened and convinced the people that HaShem had been on Mount Sinai. But you will recall that the people were convinced only after Moses killed a very large number of them. I think I might have been inclined to accept what Moses was saying, if I had just observed the killing of thousands of people on Moses' order. Israel's perceptions were immediate; they saw a volcanic eruption. You are suggesting that now, thousands of years after the event, there is stronger proof that the events at Sinai occurred. If the people didn't accept or perceive it at the time, why should we accept it today, other than through faith? Apparently, there was insufficient proof then, and there is no greater proof today. It must be faith that compels us to accept HaShem.
Mesora: This is inaccurate, as Moses told the people "aynechem raos", "your eyes have seen". How could Moses have said this with the compliance of the people had they not seen for themselves?
You need to go over the story accurately and read for yourself what transpired, and what exactly the Jews said themselves. There was no persuasion. The people themselves attested that they heard God. There is also no stronger proof today than back then. The proof we have today is equal to what those eyewitnesses had.

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