Va'eira (Exodus 6:2-9:35 )
Who wrote the Torah?
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 or a meshugenah (a crazy person) authored the Torah.
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 all at the same time! 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 ... 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 it would be easier to present a more rational solution and avoid the credibility issues.
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 -- or read articles on Evidence of God's existence on Aish.com.
Torah Portion of the Week
Here begins the story of the Ten Plagues which God put upon the Egyptians not only to effect the release of the Jewish people from bondage, but to show the world that He is the God of all creation and history. The first nine plagues are divisible into three groups: 1) the water turning to blood, frogs, lice 2) wild beasts, pestilence/epidemic, boils 3) hail, locust, and darkness.
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains that these were punishments measure for measure for afflicting the Jewish people with slavery: 1) The first of each group reduced Egyptians in their own land to the insecurity of strangers. 2) The second of each group robbed them of pride, possessions and a sense of superiority. 3) The third in each group imposed physical suffering.
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based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
Moshe warned Pharaoh and the Egyptians that there was going to be a devastating hail that would destroy living creatures remaining out in the open. The Torah states:
"Those who feared the word of the Almighty from the servants of Pharaoh brought his servants and his cattle into the houses. And those who did not pay attention to the word of the Almighty left their servants and cattle in the field" (Exodus 9:20-21).
What can we learn from these two responses?
The Torah does not state that there were people who did not believe that Moshe's warning was true. Rather, the Torah states that they did not pay attention. From here we see that the opposite of fearing the Almighty is not paying attention.
Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz asked regarding these verses: Why didn't the servants themselves flee to safety? They should have feared for their own lives and run to find safe places. The answer, said Rav Chaim, is that they did not pay attention. When one does not pay attention to danger, it is as if it doesn't exist.
All the knowledge in the world will not help a person keep away from danger unless he takes that knowledge to heart. For this reason there are plenty of people who do things that could greatly endanger their spiritual and physical well-being. They do not take the dangers seriously. Lack of paying attention to dangers will lead to all kinds of impulsive behavior that will have painful and damaging consequences.
The Talmud (Tamid 32a) teaches that the wise man is one who sees the future consequences of his behavior. The Chofetz Chaim (Introduction to Chovas HaShmirah) writes that the Sages used the term "seeing" to tell us a means of making future events real. One should use one's power of imagination to see the future as if it is actually occurring in the present. When you see something before your eyes, it has a much stronger effect than just hearing about it.
CANDLE LIGHTING - January 11
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)
Guatemala 5:32 - Hong Kong 5:39 - Honolulu 5:49
J'Burg 6:47 - London 3:56 - Los Angeles 4:45
Melbourne 8:27 - Mexico City 5:57 - Miami 5:32
New York 4:30 - Singapore 6:56 - Toronto 4:43
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
You don't have a soul.
You are a soul.
You have a body.
-- C.S. Lewis