Friday, May 30, 2008

Shavuos IV- Jews' inherent skepticism required the experience of Sinai

The following was taken from Daas Torah I & II

Rashba (4:234):
We learned from our forefathers not to accept something which contains the slightest doubts or uncertainties until it has been thoroughly investigated and the truth is ascertained. This we see concerning the acceptance of Moshe as a true prophet. They were uncertain whether to believe him—even though he came to announce that they were to be rescued from the horrible servitude of Egypt. This is why Moshe said they won’t believe me. This is because it was known that they were inherently skeptical and did not believe anything except that which simply had to be unquestionably true. Therefore, even though G‑d did incredible miracles in Egypt until they were taken out with an outstretched arm and awesome events—it was not sufficient to remove the doubts about Moshe from their hearts. These doubts were caused by the fact that all that occurred in Egypt were possible just a coincidental or natural events or from magical powers. Because of these doubts, they did not have unconditional faith in Moshe until the Splitting of the Sea—as the verse says, “that they [now] believed in G‑d and Moshe His servant” (Shemos 14:31). The Targum(Shemos 14:31) says they now believed in the prophecy of Moshe that it was true and was not the result of natural events. This event removed the last vestige of doubt that the miraculous events in Egypt could have been the result of random natural events. It was obviously impossible that the sea could have been split at night and the next day return to its normal state. Therefore, the splitting of the sea removed the doubts from their hearts—for the time being. However soon after the Splitting of the Sea, the doubts returned. They thought perhaps Moshe, who was more knowledgeable than any other man had ever been, knew how to do this by natural means which they couldn’t ascertain. The only remaining option for clarifying the truth of Moshe’s prophecy was by their own prophecy and this is what in fact occurred at the Revelation of Sinai when they final established the truth.

Kuzari (5:1): Tradition is only good for the satisfied person. However for the confused person it is better to investigate thoroughly especially if this analysis comes to validate the Tradition. Then there is an integration of these two approaches—knowledge and tradition.

Kuzari (1:25): G‑d introduced His words to the entire Jewish people by saying that He was their G‑d Who took them out of Egypt. He didn’t say that He was the creator of the world and the creator of the Jews… Therefore that which obligates all Jews to keep the Torah is the experience of the redemption of Egypt and the revelation of Sinai which was they witnessed with their own eyes and afterwards transmitted through an unbroken chain of tradition through the generations—which is equivalent to actual seeing with one’s own eyes.

Rav S. R. Hirsch (Shemos 19:4): Faith—which is inherently vulnerable to being undermined by doubt—is not the basis of either your awareness of G‑d or your awareness of yourself. Both are in fact your direct knowledge of that which you have experienced directly through your physical senses. [This verse is describing the direct experience of the Exodus from Egypt]. The exact same idea is expressed later concerning the revelation of Torah—(Shemos 20:19), “You have seen that I have spoken to you from Heaven.” All of Judaism rests upon these two pillars of truth—the Exodus from Egypt and the Revelation of Torah at Sinai. These two pillars stand firmly on your own direct experience with your physical senses which excludes the possibility of deception. They were witnessed simultaneously by 600,000 people. These two pillars both have the highest degree of certainty and are excluded from the realm of mere conjecture or faith. They are in fact in the realm of direct knowledge and are therefore facts which are incontestable in the same way as the indisputable facts that we exist and the physical world exists are incontestable…

Chovas HaLevavos (Introduction): This is like the servant who was commanded by the king to collect money from his agents and to carefully count and weigh it. This servant was bright and had great expertise in this matter. The agents, however, were cunning and persuaded him to simply accept their word concerning the accounts without his own personal audit. He thus was lax following the command of the king. When the matter came before the king he commanded that the money be brought to him and he asked the servant to precisely describe the sum. The servant of course was not able to answer and the king punished him for taking his command lightly and relying on the word of his agents and not just because the amount of money was incorrect. However, if he had not been an expert in these matters the king would not have punished him for relying on the word of others. Thus it is with Judaism. A person who lacks the ability to comprehend something with his intellect has full justification for not investigating it. In such a case, he must of course rely on the traditions from the prophets that are taught by the sages. The idea is to start with the tradition and learn to comprehend the tradition with your own intellect. That way you have the best of both worlds. If you are negligent in this matter, it is taking lightly what your Creator requires of you….

R’ S. R. Hirsch (Nineteen Letters #18): [the leaders of Orthodoxy] became at first enemies of this philosophical spirit, and later of all specifically intellectual and philosophical pursuits in general. Certain misunderstood utterances [e.g., Bereishis Rabbah 44:1] were taken as weapons with which to repel all higher interpretations of the Talmud . . . The inevitable consequence was, therefore, that since oppression and persecution had robbed Israel of every broad and natural view of world and of life, and Talmud had yielded about all the practical results for life of which it was capable, every mind that felt the desire of independent activity was obliged to forsake the paths of study and research in general open to the human intellect, and to take its recourse to dialectic subtleties and hairsplitting. Only a very few [e.g., R’ Yehuda HaLevi’s Kuzari and Ramban] during this entire period stood with their intellectual efforts entirely within Judaism, and built it up out of its own inner concept [Drachman translation]…. we are left with two generations confronting each other. One of them has inherited an uncomprehended Judaism, as practiced by men from habit, a revered but lifeless mummy which it is afraid to bring back to life. The other, though in part burning with noble enthusiasm for the welfare of the Jews, regards Judaism as bereft of any life and spirit, a relic of an era lone past and buried, and tries to uncover its spirit, but, not finding it, threatens through its well‑meant efforts to sever the last life nerve of Judaism—out of sheer ignorance [Paritzky translation].

1 comment :

  1. R' Eidensohn,

    This seems as good a place as any to thank you for the immense service you are doing by putting together these Daas Torah books.

    -A reader


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