Shmot (Exodus 1:1-6:1 )
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GOOD MORNING! Who wrote the Torah? Most people you ask - depending on your circle of friends - will answer, "A group of very wise men got together and wrote it." For the past 3,300 years the Jewish people have lived with the consciousness that the Almighty dictated the Torah to Moses who wrote it down word for word, letter by letter. Every Torah-educated Orthodox Jew believes that. Are they fools, fantasizers, misguided religious fanatics?
It will surprise some people to know that for the past 3,300 the Jewish people have taught their children the evidence for the belief that there is a God and that He dictated the Torah to Moses. Actually, I am sure that for the first hundred or two hundred years after the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai the authorship of the Torah was not even a question. For generations all a Jewish child had to do was to ask his father if he was at Mt. Sinai or if his father or grandfather was there. Even Moses himself tells all generations to:
"Go and ask ... has a people ever heard the voice of God speaking ... as you have heard and survived?" (Deuteronomy 4:32-35)
Since its inception in 1974, Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem offers a class in the "7 Classical Categories of Evidence That There Is a God" and the "7 Classical Categories of Evidence That the Almighty Gave the Torah." One of my favorite categories is the Psychological Category of Evidence that God gave the Torah. Put succinctly, either God authored the Torah or a meshugenah (a crazy person).
If human authors were writing the Torah with intentions to pass it off as a Divine document, there are certain laws and passages that never would have been included. They would undermine their own credibility.
Perhaps the most powerful example is Shmitah (the Sabbatical year for the land). Modern agriculture science has taught us the value of letting the land rest and replenish itself. A sensible law would be to divide the Land of Israel into 7 regions and each year let one region lie fallow while people eat from the crops of the other 6 regions. However, that's not the law of the Torah! The Torah writes:
"For six years you may plant your fields ... but the seventh year is the Sabbath of the land in which you may not plant your fields nor prune your vineyards. (Leviticus 25:36)
The WHOLE land is to rest! What happens to an agrarian society that stops farming for one year? Starvation! And how long does a religion last that advocates letting the whole land rest in the 7th year? My guess is about 6 years!
Perhaps they could avoid starvation by buying food from surrounding countries? A good idea and a reasonable idea ... but the Torah has other plans. The Almighty says:
"I have commanded My blessing to you in the sixth year and you will have produce for three years." (Leviticus 25:20-22
Either one has to be God to have the "audacity" to make a law for the whole land to rest and then to promise a bounty crop 3 times as large as usual in the sixth year - or a stark raving mad lunatic!
Yet, the Jewish people neither starved nor abandoned the Torah! 3,300 years later a sizable portion of our people still adhere to the laws of Torah and still trust in the promises of the Almighty!
How could any human being promise in writing something that requires powers totally beyond his control? And furthermore, why would anyone be willing to risk his own credibility and the legitimacy of his religion, when in both cases, it would be so easy to come up with other, easier ways to eliminate the problems?
The Jewish people are known as a stiff-necked people. There is an old adage, "2 Jews, 3 opinions." (I once mentioned this to a man I was teaching and he replied, "NO! 4 opinions!"). We do not "buy a pig in the poke" (hopefully, we don't buy pigs at all...). We are a nation of philosophers, intellectually rigorous and stubborn - yet for over 3,000 years we have clung to the Almighty's Torah. Does it make you wonder?
If you would like to learn more about our people's evidence for our beliefs, I recommend Lawrence Kelemen's Permission to Believe and Permission To Receive available at your local Jewish bookstore, at judaicaenterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242. You can listen to or buy Rabbi Noah Weinberg's lectures on "Evidence of the Existence of God" and "Can We Believe God Spoke at Sinai?" by Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg on AishAudio.com.
For more on "Torah from Sinai" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!
Torah Portion of the Week
This week's portion tells a story often repeated throughout history: The Jews become prominent and numerous. There arises a new king in Egypt "who did not know Joseph" (meaning he chose not to know Joseph or recognize any debt of gratitude). He proclaims slavery for the Jewish people "lest they may increase so much, that if there is war, they will join our enemies and fight against us, driving (us) from the land." (Anti-Semitism can thrive on any excuse; it need not be logical or real - check out our online seminar "Why the Jews?" at http://www.aish.com/seminars/anti-semitism/index.html . It's spectacular!)
Moshe (Moses) is born and immediately hidden because of the decree to kill all male Jewish babies. Moses is saved by Pharaoh's daughter, grows up in the royal household, goes out to see the plight of his fellow Jews. He kills an Egyptian who was beating a Jew, escapes to Midian when the deed becomes known, becomes a shepherd, and then is commanded by God at the Burning Bush to "bring My people out of Egypt." Moses returns to Egypt, confronts Pharaoh, who refuses to give permission for the Israelites to leave. And then God says, "Now you will begin to see what I will do to Pharaoh!"
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
When Moshe was told by the Almighty that he would be the leader to approach Pharaoh to demand freedom for the Israelites, Moshe replied:
"Please my Master, send anyone else." (Exodus 4:13)
Why did Moshe seek to avoid this position of leadership?
The Ramban, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, explains that Moshe told the Almighty to send anyone else because he believed that any other person in the world would be more fitting than Moshe for this mission.
At first glance this is puzzling. How could Moshe sincerely have thought of himself as unworthy? Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin explained that even if a person is very intelligent and wise and has accomplished very much, he nevertheless might not be working as hard as he should. With his talents and abilities he might have accomplished a lot more if he tried harder. On the other hand, a person who seems to be very lowly perhaps is doing all that he can. The lowly person is reaching his potential, while the great person might be far from it.
For this reason Moshe felt he was unworthy. In his humility, he thought that he was further from fulfilling his potential than everyone else.
This is a lesson for two types of people. Those who feel arrogant and conceited because of their great intellect and accomplishments should be aware that perhaps they are far from reaching their potential. This should lessen their inflated feelings about themselves. For this exact same reason, those who are trying very hard to act in an elevated manner and put in great effort should not feel envious or disheartened when they see others apparently accomplishing more than them.
One's true spiritual level cannot be measured by any mortal. There is no accurate objective means of evaluating any person. The true level of each person is based entirely on effort and this only the Almighty can measure.
CANDLE LIGHTING - January 12
(or go to http://www.aish.com/shabbat/candlelighting.asp)
Guatemala 5:33 - Hong Kong 5:40 - Honolulu 5:50
J'Burg 6:47 - London 3:57 - Los Angeles 4:46
Melbourne 8:27 - Mexico City 5:58 - Miami 5:32
New York 4:31 - Singapore 6:57 - Toronto 4:44
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself.
It means thinking of yourself less.
-- C.S. Lewis
In Loving Memory of My Parents
Beatrice Rosov Messinger
and Tobin Messinger,
of blessed memory,
and Aaron Messinger
who dedicated his life to the Family,
was very wealthy and
gave millions to charity.
With love, Betzalel Messinger