Torah in a jar
Torah in a jarTzvi Fishman

Part II (for Part I, click here)

Here’s how to prove the Torah is true in about ten words: there are more than two million passionate Torah-observant Jews worldwide.

Unbroken Chain of Jewish Torah Observance since Sinai

How can I bring consequences to prove what came before them? It is legitimate to do so because many of the biblical commandments arose from historical events. God obliged us to keep testimonials to our history, so that we would never forget its lessons. If the history didn’t happen, the burdensome commandments would not have been adopted and preserved by the Jewish people of that time. No woman in ancient Israel would have agreed to purge her home annually of leaven to prepare for Passover unless God did lead her out of Egypt with matzah on her back. No Israelite family would have consented to build huts and sleep outside for a week every year at Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) had God not protected the people in the desert as He led them to the Holy Land. No individual in ancient Judea would have accepted the arduous weekly preparations and restrictions of Shabbat, if the double portion of manna hadn’t fallen in the desert on Fridays to sustain our ancestors, as the Torah tells us it did.

The Torah describes in detail the miracles showered on the Jewish people—in Egypt, during the Exodus, and in their desert wanderings to Canaan, the Promised Land. To name just a few among many more encountered in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy: supernatural plagues in Egypt; a voice from Mount Sinai audible to three million Jews—the entire Jewish people—declaring the first two of the Ten Commandments; protective pillars of cloud and fire guiding the nation through the desert; and sustenance for forty years with miraculous food called manna. These wondrous events were God’s imprimatur, forging His claim on our allegiance. Had they not happened, ancient Jewry would have rejected the Torah testimony and renounced the commandments, which they did not do!

As Rabbi Judah Halevi, author of the medieval philosophical treatise the Kuzari notes, these miracles were witnessed by every Jew alive, not by a select few or a sole prophet, as in the cases of Jesus or Muhammad. And the Israelites received a Torah claiming these events in their own lifetimes, when Moses wrote and gave a Torah to the tribe of Levi before his death, more than three thousand years ago. Had the miraculous events it details never taken place, Jews would have abandoned the Torah by the roadside wholesale, along with its laborious divine demands. Our ancestors would not have preserved and revered a testament—full of censure for their failures no less—that contradicted their own experience!

By the way, do you really think Jewish women, capable of spotting a Gucci in a pile of Prada, could have been so easily hoodwinked? Would modern Jewish women, who would rather surf eBay than overturn our homes and routines for at least a month every year preparing for Passover, do so unless we knew we were divinely commanded? God is the only entity Who really gets our respect. Let’s be honest: we know how accomplished we are. Would we do any housework at all unless the command came from God?

Torah observance requires comprehensive lifelong self-sacrifice and devotion: obedience to kosher dietary laws; monthly marital sexual separation and ritual bath for women still in childbearing years; Shabbat and festival observance; and prayers three times a day, not to mention the myriad laws governing everyday conduct. Millions of Jews stayed true to the Torah through the ravages of the Crusades, the temptations of the Enlightenment, the slaughter of the Holocaust, and the scientific skepticism of modernity. Until 250 years ago, when the Haskalah—the Jewish “Enlightenment”—tore apart traditional Judaism with shallow arguments that nevertheless enticed persecuted European Jews, chafing at their divine obligations, the vast majority of the Jewish world preserved, believed in, and kept the Torah (more or less) since receiving it at Sinai, over 3,000 years before.

This kind of dedication is not engendered by hallucination or madness. Nor are hallucinations shared by millions of people—hard sell, bargain-loving, stiff-necked Jews no less. The very continuity of Jewish observance serves as living evidence for the Hebrew Bible. If the Torah testimony were not true, there would not be any practicing believing Jews today who trace their observance to the Sinaitic Revelation, let alone millions. The Talmud—with the more than 2,000 years and counting of scholarship it has inspired—also bears witness to the miraculous early history of the Jewish people, which it documents and analyzes.

Bear in mind, since the exile from the Holy Land in 70 CE, Judaism has been a voluntary enterprise; unlike, for example, Islam, a religion that also requires great effort, but is widely imposed on its adherents by threat and force. Tragically, most contemporary Western Jews do not learn their own history, never learn to read their sacred books, and grow up believing they are an ethnic minority like any other. They are missing what is most important about themselves!

The pejorative label “Orthodox” was affixed to Torah-observant Jews only about 175 years ago, following the rise of Reform Judaism. Until then, Judaism and its practice were universally understood to have been established by the Torah. Modern denominations emerging since the Haskalah which deny the divinity of the Torah—such as Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Renewal—are ideological revisions of Judaism that have accrued authority largely because postmodern Jews are unaware of the brief history of these movements, or what came before them.

How Not to Read the Jewish Bible

Sadly, modern Jews are dissuaded from learning their Bible by misunderstandings and distortions introduced by fundamentalist Christians, who read the Bible literally. In contrast, learned Jews read the Bible according to a sophisticated, critical analytical hermeneutic method, with roots in Revelation. Our oral tradition—given at Sinai and recorded in the Talmudic era—defines when to read Bible passages as metaphor and parable, when to draw a different meaning from the apparent text, and when to regard them as principally factual. Our commentaries are replete with questions and answers, introducing multiple layers of meaning from the rational to the mystical. Our Bible must be read with a traditional commentary to make any sense of it.

Yet most Western Jews don’t even own a Bible with classical commentary. They open the stark passages of Scripture, declare them unintelligible, and close the book, convinced that it has nothing to offer them. An edition like the Stone Chumash with its digest of rabbinic commentary would open up vistas to the Western Jew, germinate faith, and inspire awe at the union between God’s word and Jewish history.

Muslim Appropriation of Jewish Heritage Sites

We can solve another puzzle by acknowledging the truth of the Torah tradition: why contemporary Muslims are so possessive of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem—the site of the two Jewish Temples in antiquity—as well as biblical shrines such as the tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron and the tombs of Joseph and Rachel. Why the Islamic fervor over the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, when Jerusalem is not mentioned even once in the Koran, since Muhammad himself regarded Mecca and Medina, rather than Jerusalem, as cities holy to Islam?

The short answer is that today’s Muslims have shrewd instincts: the Temple Mount is the holiest piece of real estate in the world, along with the Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron, where our ancestors Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, and Leah are buried. However, the Jewish Bible—which Islam and Christianity also accept as God’s word—records our rightful ownership of both sites: the Temple Mount was bought for 600 silver shekels by King David, and our first patriarch Abraham paid 400 silver shekels for the land and burial cave in Hebron. Vindicating biblical truth, Jews and Arabs have been time-sharing visitation to the tomb of their forefathers for hundreds of years because both nations emerge from Abraham—the Jews through his son, Isaac and the Arabs through his son, Ishmael, from whom the prophet Muhammad claims descent!

Almost miraculously, Israel won back the Temple Mount for the Jewish people in 1967 when three national Arab armies besieged the young Jewish state on every side. Alas, in an unreciprocated gesture for peace with the Jordanians, Israel granted the Muslim Wakf administrative control over the Temple Mount. When the Jews are worthy, our third Temple will rise upon the threshing floor that King David bought to build the Temple of God—from which blessing will issue to the entire world.

Two more documented phenomena exhibit the truth that God chose the Jewish people and gave us His Torah to uphold: Jewish giftedness and Jewish idealism.

Jewish Giftedness

Another principle from high school biology form follows function lends support here. If God created the Jewish people to play a special, redemptive role in the world, then He endowed us with unique talents with which to do so. In her 2014 book The Triple Package, Yale Law School professor Amy Chua catalogues the research that puts Jews at the top of the totem pole in every field of achievement. Jews are wildly overrepresented in the professions and among recipients of every award that recognizes excellence, from Pulitzer to Tony to Nobel. What besides divine blessing can account for such prodigious accomplishment by a people who have been so widely persecuted, and for much of our history, stripped of fundamental rights?

The world’s only Jewish country follows the trend set by Jewish individuals: entrepreneurial Israel shares her cutting-edge agricultural, medical, military, and scientific technology throughout the world. A country of barely seventy-six years and nine million people was declared the eleventh most powerful country in the world by 2023 U.S. News and World Report and according to Newsweek 2024, boasts the world’s ninth best hospital.

Jewish Idealism

Furthermore, the innately idealistic soul with which God blesses every Jew explains the eternal romance of the secular Jew with utopian pursuits. Jews cannot desist from trying to perfect the world: this is the Jewish occupation. Jews are social workers; campaigners for social justice; psychotherapists battling for our clients’ liberation; healers; philanthropists; and authors of visionary tracts, seeking to free the world from inequality and oppression. This is how Jews who are estranged from Torah observance express their irrepressible messianic souls! We even see how Jews, untethered by the Torah for a compass, become particularly gullible: their God-given compassion runs amok. Jews without the stabilizing discipline of Torah can feel compassion for the truly evil.

We will explore this a bit later… See Part Three….