Coming to Judaism - Part II

The Creator directly introduced Himself.

Rabbi Avi Shafran ,

Avi Shafran.jpg
Avi Shafran.jpg
Arutz 7

Occam’s Razor, once again, requires us to explain a fact or set of facts in the least complicated way. The darkening of the sky, for instance, might be a solar eclipse, and the pitter-patter on the roof, a family of cats. More likely, though, it’s raining.
Nowhere in the annals of religions is there a parallel to Jewish tradition’s claim.

Let us begin with the fact that nowhere in the annals of religions is there a parallel to Jewish tradition’s claim to a mass revelation from G-d. Christianity is mediated by an individual, Paul; Islam, by Mohammad; Mormonism, by Joseph Smith. Moses, by contrast, brought the Jews to Mt. Sinai, but it was the Creator who directly introduced Himself there to the Jewish people en masse.

That is no minor point. An individual’s claim to a personal Divine communication is only as strong as his own credibility. The claim of a mass experience, however, cannot be effectively asserted unless it actually happened; if it were a hoax, the perpetrators will be unable to produce the claimed mass. That is why reasonable people don’t contest the facts of recorded history.

Despite its supernatural element, the giving of the Torah is no different from - and thus no less reliable than - any other historical tradition; it, too, is based on a mass testimony.

A cynic might suggest that such a claim could have been fabricated after the claimed event and was somehow propagated without the masses’ corroboration. But a single, salient fact remains. Despite the obvious advantages of claiming a mass event-based faith, only one such claim has ever been made over the entire course of human history: the Jewish one. Even our cynic must admit the singular nature of the Jewish revelation claim.

Consider now a separate matter: the self-defeating nature of several of the Torah’s laws. One enjoins the Jews in the Holy Land to let all their fields lie fallow every seventh year (and at the end of 49 years, two years in a row), an unarguable recipe for economic disaster. No human lawmaker would be cruel or dim enough to lay down such a law; only a Legislator Who could in fact ensure that the populace will not starve as a result could dare make such a promise.

Or take the three “pilgrimage festivals,” when all adult Jewish males were commanded in Temple times to journey to Jerusalem, leaving their homes and the nation’s borders open to attack from enemies. The festivals are closely connected to the seasons and phases of the moon, and would thus have become entirely predictable to the Jews’ enemies, of which, as always, there were many.

The skeptic might retort that maybe those laws were added to the Torah’s text (for reasons unknown) at some later time and no one noticed the textual tinkering. But he would have no evidence for his speculation. Once again, the most straightforward (if supernatural) explanation points instead to the Divine authorship of the Torah.

Then there are the predictions, like the Torah’s foretelling of how the Jewish people will come to sin, be exiled from their land and scattered among the nations. And how Jews will seek to lose their identity but be rebuffed, often violently, by their foreign hosts. And how the scattered Jews will nevertheless persevere as a people (itself an unparalleled occurrence in history), and how the remaining Jews will eventually return to their ancestral land.

The doubter will likely attribute this one, too, to some post-facto text-meddling, or to plain chance. But his patchwork responses are multiplying and fraying. Occam would not be happy.
Each of the above observations independently points to the truth of the Jewish religious tradition; all of them taken together should be impossible to ignore.

There are other unrelated hallmarks of the Torah’s uniqueness, too. Like the fact that, unlike every other tradition hallowed by a world faith, the Jewish Bible harshly highlights the foibles and sins of its greatest men and women. In the New Testament, the books’ hero is without fault; the Koran’s protagonist is a perfect prophet - just what one would expect from documents written by men to extol men. The Torah, by stark contrast, publicizes the mistakes of its greatest personages, including Moses and Aaron, evidence that it was created not by hero-promoters but by an omniscient Judge. The naysayer may mutter, “Not necessarily.” But the oddity points, once again, to the Torah’s Divine origin.

As does Moses’ singular and striking lack of qualification for leadership. He suffers from a speech impediment, lacks the self confidence that is the essence of every great leader and doesn’t even want the job. Has there ever been a successful such leader? Other religion-forming figures possessed the natural ability to convince others of their connection to truth - and used it. Moses had no such ability, yet it was pointedly through him that the Torah was given. No one could ever attribute the historic success of the Jewish message to the impact of oratory, charisma or self confidence. Only a defective product needs a talented salesman.

Each of the above observations independently points to the truth of the Jewish religious tradition; all of them taken together should be impossible to ignore. Were there as many indications of heart failure in a human being, he’d be rushed to cardiac surgery without delay.

And what is perhaps the most striking anomaly about the Jews and their religion has not even been mentioned yet.