Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch
Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirschצילום:

A bunch of rabbis made the whole thing up. That’s what non-frum Jews sometimes say in self-righteous dismissal of the Torah. Unfortunately for them, this accusation doesn’t withstand serious scrutiny.

Based on Shemos 21:35, the Gemara states that a man is not liable to pay damages if his ox injured an ox belonging to the Beis Hamikdash. According to Tosafos (as summarized by Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch), “even for direct damage done by the man himself, no compensation in any form is imposed. Nesikin l’hedyot v’ein nezikin ligvo’ah – compensation is to be paid for damage done to profane property but not that done to property dedicated to G-d” (emphasis added).

This law is incomprehensible if the Torah was “made up by a bunch of rabbis” or a “priestly class.” As Rav Hirsch notes, “[p]riests, hierarchs, would certainly have stamped the perpetrators of such sacrilege with the mark of Cain as criminals of the worst type, and would have appointed the secular arm to make it their first duty to protect and avenge their sacred treasures.”

And yet, Jewish law grants the government no such authority (for reasons that aren’t relevant here). A person can “break the holy Ark of the Covenant, tear the holy Veil, destroy the vessels of the Temple, demolish the whole treasure of the Temple without finding any judge in the world who would be empowered to make him pay one penny for damages.”


This law is thus “a striking proof that in dealing with this Torah system of Law, we have before our eyes the work of no human brains, and that most certainly it is not the product of a priestly hierarchy to which people are so inclined to relegate the Jewish Law.” Rather, it is the word of G-d.

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) – head of the Jewish community in Frankfurt, Germany for over 35 years – was a prolific writer whose ideas, passion, and brilliance helped save German Jewry from the onslaught of modernity.

Elliot Resnick, PhD, is the host of “The Elliot Resnick Show” and the editor of an upcoming work on etymological explanations in Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch’s commentary on Chumash.