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Basics of Emunah #6: Can An Intelligent Person Believe That Torah Is Divine?

How Do We Know That We Heard G‑d at Sinai?

1 hr 43 min

Class Summary:

Is there a rational basis to accept that some 3300 years ago G-d revealed Himself to our ancestors at Sinai? Why was Maimonides, a rationalist par excellence, so convinced of the historicity of this event? And in what way is the Jewish claim of divine revelation any different from the many thousands of claims made by various other religious groups.

Please leave your comment below!

  • DB

    Doron Birnbaum -1 year ago

    Further research

    Anyone interested in studying this more, I would advise you to read 'reason to believe' by Rabbi Dr Dovid Gottlieb.  
    you will also find interesting articles on his website and an appendix to the book where he looks at evidence in other religions. 

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  • Anonymous -5 years ago

    You mention in your shuirim one of the proofs of the divinity of Torah is the fact that it projects negatively on the Jewish people. Seemingly it is a weak argument as that is clearly the style in use in Israel at the time (e.g. the writings of Isaiah, Jeremiah etc. Also see from outside of Israel e.g. mesha steele). It was a general view in those days that when bad stuff happened it was because the people had been bad to their god(s) so their god(s) was / were punishing them

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    • PF

      Pinchos Fried -4 years ago

      I don't get your question; the books of Isaiah and Jermiah are also devine, and 100% true. As for Mesha Steele, I didn't see anything negative about the author or his nation there.

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  • M

    Moshe -5 years ago

    Listening to an interview with Charles Krauthammer on "the Israel Show" on Nachum Segal network. He quotes a historian Barbara Tuchman who says that the yidden are the ONLY people in history living in the same land, worshipping the same G-d and speaking the same language as 3000 years ago.

    He says the resurrection of the Hebrew language is unique in history, and just as marvelous as the resurrection of the land. 

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  • S

    Shira -5 years ago

    Your classes are incredible! I have one thing to say about this one, you made a statement about that no rabbi left judaism. There’s a comedian called Jackie Mason who used to be a big rabbi and went off the derech. I have heard Rabbi Kelemen present the same argument about the difference between judaism and other religions, so not disputing the discussion. Just thought Id point out that your statement may not be so 100% true because theres always that one in a million...

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    • Anonymous -5 years ago

      I meant no Rabbi left Judaism to another religion, out of conviction. Of course, you can find rabbis who became SECULAR, wanting to free themselves from the burdens of faith and Judaism, or because of other factors, reasons or struggles. That is a normal human behavior. I meant you will never find a really educated Rav, Talmid Chacham, who declared one day, that the real G-d and the real true religion is to be found in Christianity or Islam, and converted out of conviction, volition, and internal passion. Name me one please!! 

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    • PF

      Pinchos Fried -4 years ago


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  • I

    Igor -6 years ago

    Toda for help.Shalom.HaShem Bless upon You all.S'ma.Amen ve Amen.

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  • Y

    yosef -6 years ago

    mr yosef


    i really enjoy your lectures 

    but one thing bothers me, in this lecture the words "chasdei hashem we have a jewsih army" it seems like you are a supporter of the jewish state of isreal \and the army ,( i am not talking about the holy land erestz yisroel rather the zionist idea of having a govement). 

    also i will quote you the speach you spoke at Yale you mention there that judisum does not have an isuue with the zionist state if they would not be against the torah, 

    but let me point out that there is a fundamental problem with having and supporting a jewish state even if it world be based on supporting toraha and mitzvos, ( and the problem is even by supporting it in the mind only, beacuse avodah zorah and kefirah is osser even bemachshave-in mind, esspesaly to express with the mouth words that support the idea and conccept of having a state or army to protect us while we are still wating for the geula shulema).the fundamental isuue is that the gemarah says that from this golus we are going to be redmepted in the merit of netruna , and rashi explaoins in the zechus of wating patiantly for god and only god to bring the geulah. 

    you remember the mashal that you finished off one of the emunah lectures of a lady wating for her husband with the soup, you said the mashel a great mashal, but you did not connect that the main point of the nimshal, to wait for the geulah, so now after the mashal you said with such passion you can understand a little how chomur it is to do any thing that shows to god that we are not waiting for him and we are taking land and making a army. 

    regarding the story you mentioned at yale from one of the lebavitche rebbe, its known that lebvitch was one of the strongest fightest against the idea of zionism, and you cannot base such a severe issue just based on a stroy that a rebbe said to some not frum group, as 1st you have to be 100% sure that he said it, and then you have to know to who and how he said it and what else he said, and even after this you cannot base a whole shita just on a story, i hope you understand my point. 

    a graet godol once said that the nesoen of zionisem is such a hard nessoen, even worth than communisum, and the proof is that even lebavitch chasidus who staying so so strong under stalin and communsum failed under zionisum and got confused, 

    it is a big nessoen before moshiach is coming, because the satan knows that he is going to be finished shortly so he is bringing out is strongest and best weppons, its very hard and confusing because every yid has a tremendious passion for the holy land and for jews so we get confused very fast between isreal and the state and jews and reshaim that are according to the zohar just like erev rav who made the egel that was nessoen, and because of them we still are suffering till now.

    you are probably thinking that if it is such a bad thing why did hashem let it to happen, but for sure you know that this is not even a question, the holochust was also for sure a good thing beacuse hashen never makes anything bad, and for sure in the penimios it was a good thing, but would you say bechasdei hashem we had a holochust? or bechadei hashme we had a egel? or communisum ? sometime hashem gives premession for the sitrah achra to do a thing (like with the egel) in order to make a nessoen. we don;t know gods ways, but when we heimishe jews give it support in our minds and we support it with words or whatever ways, thats when the sitrah achrah receives more power to keep the nessoen going, and to make it look even harder, 

    in fact the satmar rav in the hakdama of veyoel moshe says without a doubt that eventhough he believes that there was deaper meaning and purpose in the holocust, but he is proving from allot of seforim that there is still a obligation to try and see why it happened, and he says thet if you look in gemarah in sanhedrin when the gemruah talks about the 3 shevios that hashem told us before going in golus the gemarah says that the punsihment for not keeping it and doing anything against it will be that our flesh will be hefker (free)like the animal from the field,(from a posuuk in shir hashirim) and this is exactly what happened at the holuchost, there was not a gezeiras shemad or something else just plain and simple jewish blood was hefker exactly like the animals and anyone could kill them, so he says that you don;t have to look to deep as you can straight away see why it happened, because before the war most of klal yisroel where over on the 3 shevios bemachshava and even with actual support and trying to do all ways and methods to achive it thats why the pusnishment was mekiom. ( and even some groups by distrubing rescue of jews from some countrys in order to archive the goal of having a jewsih state by beleiving that the larger the loss the easier it will be to archive the state, like the famous quote of dr weitzman one cow in palestaine is more worth than 1000 jews in poland - but this is really a seperate subject) 

    and he explains what happened after the war that they managed to make a jewsih state is just a big massive nessoen and birrur before moshicah is coming, to test who is waiting for god like that lady that waited for her husband for 2000 years, and you can imagen the reward of the people that god will point at them, YOU WAITED 2000 YEARS FOR ME!!! just like in your mashal. 

    rabby jakobson lets all stay strong in this nessoen, you that always have such a clear and open mind to hear the truth, be open and accept the truth, or at least be sensetive and don;t mention positive words to on of the worse nessoen that happened to the jewish nation ever. 

    and if you will ask me why some gedolim seem to support it, 1st let me make it clear that almost no real erliche yid today and for sure not one tzadik from the pre war supported that conccept and the idea of zionism, of having a state and an army, there is just a diff type of machlokes what to do now in regards to voting and taking money ect... but every one of them was strongly apposed to the core idea of having and supporting a jewish state, i am so very bothered to hear this words come out of a erliche yid that is searching for the ultimate truth. while he is giving such a nice lecture on the ulitamate truth. saying bechasdei hashem we have a jewsidh army to protect us, 

    thank you 




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  • Anonymous -6 years ago

    I have heard from you a couple of times that people who dismiss Yiddishkiet/any belief in it, are elitists who are being irrational to think that all the believers prior to them were stupid and that they are the only smart ones. 

    That's a very valid good point.

    But there is a problem.

     Does every frum person go to a priest and an imam to check out their religions? To here what they have to say to our taoynis?

    Yet we totally dismiss it because of our claims. Don't they have generations of believers?

    Yes we have questions on them, but do we go to ask them? Isn't this elitist? They have and had many more believers!

    We shouldn't just dismiss generations of theirs as fools. That is intellectually dishonest. It’s irresponsible. 

    It should be incumbent on every Jew to do real research. Why should I trust my rabbi's logic if I never heard the priests answers and counterattacks. 

    I would love to have a debate between a head priest and a head rabbi. Because then we can hear from both sides. Not just from the biased rabbi's and then just dismiss everyone else.

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    • RY

      Rabbi YY -6 years ago

      I will be brief:

      1. It is not elitism. We know for Judaism is true; and the other religions contradict Judaism, so we know they are not true. An example: if you saw me last night in your home in NY, and then someone tells you I was last night in Australia, you know that the person is stating the untrue. Not because you are elitist; but because you are a realist.Matan Torah the people saw; so that is the barometer for truth. See Rambam laws of yesodei hatorah ch. 7-9.

      2. Many great rabbis had debates with chritians, and they never were defeated.... why not? All the way from the Ramban in his day to this very day. I had a friend, Rabbi Dr. Emanuel Schochot, who debated many of them and defeated them. You can watch them on line if you need to.



      3. Why is it that throughout all the generations they always had to coerce Jews to accept their religion? Why did no Jew ever accept it willingly based on learning? Why could they not just prove it to the Jews? They always had to scare us? The answer is because when you hear their positions, no Jews would accept it willingly, if he was only knowledgeable in Judaism, and was not forced to convert for any benefit or penalty.

      4. I do not think everyone who rejects truth is an elitist; but many clearly are. They speak with such arrogance, as to intimating that anyone who heaven forbid thinks otherwise is a primitive idiot. To those feelings of pompousness I was addressing my remarks.

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  • D

    David -6 years ago

    I'm writing you regarding your class "Basics of Emunah #13" about the question on the historical validity of Yetzias Mitzrayim. Just to preface, I'm not suffering from sfeikos in Emunah, and the answer to this question will (hopefully) not throw me off the path. I am, however a baal teshuvah with a somewhat extensive background in science and secular thinking (btw you might remember me from when I was your talmid in Chovevei Torah about 11 years ago), and it occurred to me that the 2 options you presented for someone to fabricate Judaism may not be the only two. 

    To say that someone lied to a few million people and they believed it, very unlikely in both options you presented. However, this is only if you assume that this lie was yeish me'ayin. If, however, the Jewish people had been a long standing nation of people with many traditional stories about their history, including creation stories etc. (All cultures have stories) Maybe they had many quirky customs like resting on Shabbos and dietary restrictions (all cultures have quirky customs) which resembled those mitzvos we have from the Torah. For somebody to compile a book containing all the stories and all the customs, and then codifying them into law, then adding some compelling details about Matan Torah, would be (still unlikely, but) more likely than your 2 options. The question you asked in the shiur "who is this man who came along and wrote the book"?, Don't we learn about such a story in the second day of Pesach Haftarah? Chilkiyahu found the Sefer Torah hidden away in the Beis haMikdosh. Its contents were obviously somewhat familiar to everyone, but for the previous 70 years about who had a copy and who knew about it? I'm leaving out other details as well for the sake of brevity, but for a Bible critic this should be the perfect smoking gun... (I admittedly don't know much about Bible criticism)

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    • RY

      Rabbi YY -6 years ago

      In regards to your question:

      1. A man compiling a book with all stories and traditions and rituals etc. seems rational. But here we come agin tot he key issue: In this book he maintains that there was ONE AND ONLY defining event that turned this nation into a people with a mission to change themselves and the world.​

      Not just an event of liberation, but the entire story of the Exodus, the Plagues, the Yam Auf and primerily Sinai.

      And for forty years they learnt all the mitzvos before entering the Land.

      And any sane person to accept this book needs to ask: Okay, I heard of these rituals; but my father or grandfather never ever mentioned about this mass revelation which they were all commanded numerous times to share with their children, every single day, and especially on pesach and other holidays!

      And this is not a small detail in this man's book -- all Genesis and Exodus lead up to this. All of the rest of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and the entire Tanach, follow this one defining story.

      And here we ask this man: And no one ever ever heard of this?!

      Unless he tells me: That entire egenration died out, and all their children died out, and we are not their children.

      But then, we would say: The Torah has no claims or connection to us.

      ​2. As far as the story of Yosheyahu and Chilkeyahu, it is based on a complete misunderstanding of the story and the Tanach. I have a long essay on this.

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      • B

        binyomin -6 years ago

        hey Rav Jacobson shlita

        thanks for the great shiur

        do you have a link for your essay about Yosheyahu and Chilkeyahu?

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  • Anonymous -6 years ago


    רבי יהונתן אייבשיץ היה מגדולי הרבנים ביהדות אשכנז לפני כ-300 שנה. הוא היה ידוע בפיקחותו הרבה עוד מילדות. היו לו קשרי ידידות ענפים עם אישים באקדמיה ובכמורה המקומית בפראג. הם אהבו להשתעשע עמו בדברים ולשמוע ממנו דברי חכמה ופיקחות. באחד המפגשים טענו לפניו אנשי הכמורה ואמרו, שכתוב בתורה "אחרי רבים להטות", ואם כן הנוצרים הם "רבים" לעומת עם ישראל... ולכן...! הסביר להם רבי יהונתן, שעל אף שיש יותר אנשים שמאמינים בנצרות, אבל בכל זאת אינם נחשבים ל"רבים", כי כולם נשענים על אדם אחד, שלטענתו, הייתה לו התגלות אלוקית. לעומתם, בני ישראל מתבססים על שש מאות אלף איש שנכחו וראו בעצמם את ההתגלות בהר סיני, ולכן עם ישראל הם הם ה"רבים". כדי להמחיש להם את ההבדל, ביקש רבי יהונתן מהכומר לצאת עמו לטיול לילי ברחובה של עיר, ולשתף עמו פעולה ב'תרגיל' שהכין. כשהתקרבו לבניין גבוה נעצר רבי יהונתן והביט לגג הבניין וגם הכומר עשה זאת. כשעבר במקום אדם זר וראה אותם מביטים כלפי מעלה, הסתכל גם הוא לאותו מקום. ואז פנה רבי יהונתן לכומר והסב את תשומת ליבו ל'מלאכים' הנמצאים שם למעלה... והכומר הנהן בראשו שאכן גם הוא רואה אותם... האדם השלישי שראה את התפעלותם מ'המלאכים', הצטרף אף הוא ל'ראיית' המלאכים, וכך הצטרף עוד אחד ועוד אחד, ותוך זמן קצר כבר היה קהל גדול שהתפעל מהמלאכים שהיו על הבניין... כשהמשיכו בדרכם סיכם רבי יהונתן ואמר שההמון הנוצרי האמינו במלאכים שראו, כי סמכו על ראיית הכומר... עתה הוחלט לעשות ניסוי דומה אצל בני ישראל. הכומר התבקש לשלוח לשבת הקרובה נציג לבית הכנסת של רבי יהונתן להיווכח בעצמו בתרגיל שהכין הרב. כשעלה רבי יהונתן לדבר לפני הקהל, פתח וציין את שם פרשת השבוע, אך אמר במכוון שם של פרשה שונה... מיד החלו קריאות בינים מתוך הקהל ש'תיקנו' את הרב וציינו את הפרשה הנכונה... גם כשהרב ניסה להמשיך בשלו, הוא לא הצליח. הקהל לא הסכים לקבל את 'הטעות'. עד שהרב נאלץ להודות בטעותו... וכך ראו בבירור שאצל עם ישראל כל יחיד מרגיש את שייכותו האישית לתורה, ולא רק משום שכך שמע מפי הרב... אלא כיוון שבקבלת התורה, כולם היו נוכחים ולכן התורה שייכת לכל אחד באופן אישי. כל אחד מחויב ללמדה ולהבינה בעצמו. ואף אחד לא יכול לשנות בה מאומה.

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  • YH

    Y Homnick -8 years ago

    1) Jay Homnick, otherwise known as Yaakov Dovid, is a prolific mechaber sefarim and not a doctor.

    2) His father, Moshe, thank G-d, "is," not "was," a psychologist. He is a musmach of Chaim Berlin and was a close talmid of R' Hutner z'l.

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  • M

    max -8 years ago

    Hi Rabbi,

    I was wondering, if the Jewish religion claim, that its uniqueness to other religions is based on mass revelation, how to we respond to the mass revelation claimed by other religions?. The pomo people claim mass revelation and so do others.

    Additionally, the Jews in Egypt believed in Hashem based on a single person- Avraham- , is it correct that our emunah in Egypt was nothing more that any other religion?

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    • PF

      P Fried -3 years ago

      First, before we raise challenges, we must verify our facts. Are these claims verified? Do these people actually have a tradition like ours, where over one million people saw God (not any image: which may be misinterpreted: as is clearly stated in Sefer Devorim, which is part of the tradition we posses)? Was this handed over, generation to generation, extemely meticulously, with cross references, names of prominent leaders for every generation, and great care taken for every detail of the laws? Or rather, are these semi verified vague stories about even vaguer traditions, known perhaps to  a few leaders only, who's identity is shrouded in mystery, and may never have existed?

      I have not looked into this tribe alot (yet), but a preliminary investigation shows that their belief does not even claim mass revelation at all https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/united-states-and-canada/north-american-indigenous-peoples/pomo    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomo (additionally, it's not clear if they believed anything contradictory to Yiddishkeit). In short, before we ask questions, let us verify our facts.

      As for the Jews in Egypt, remember, they lived not long after the Avos. When you have a father or a grandfather who clearly remembered Yaacov, knew that he was a holy man, and not Chas v'shalom a faker, it's a different story. Think about the Chafetz Chaim. Do we need the mass revelation factor to know he was a holy man, and would never lie to us and concoct a story to suit his purposes?

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      • MM

        m miller -2 years ago

        Egypt, The avos knew hashem through chakira, as written in medrish about avruhum uvinu that "ben shuloish shunim hiker as boroi"! And they were all neviem, all the shvutem were neviem and a lot of jews in egypt too, and probably the jews then were also choiker, but the way of chakira could not last for generation later thats why hashem made "mamad har sinei....."

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  • H

    hirsh -8 years ago

    If the Torah is the guide book for Humanity how do the Gentiles fit into this explanation. Even if this can be explained with the 7 mitzvos of a Ben Noach how could this be sufficient as a life guide. Furthermore what could of been expected of them prior to Matan Torah ?

    Trying to find part 1 of the series. I can't seem to find a link anywhere.

    Many thanks for your eye opening lectures.

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    • JK

      Jonathan Kahanovitch -8 years ago

      The rabbi said they will redo or repost first shiur, he left that comment in shiur 3

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  • R

    Reuven -8 years ago

    There are many any phrases in Torah that show that the Torah was written much after the purported story that it is writing about. Yes, whoever wrote it, exaggerated this whole notion about this GRAND Matan Torah with 3000,000 people standing right there and watching. It was probably based on some true facts of some Yidden coming out Mitzraim lead by a certain leader, but the stories were wildly exaggerated, probably to make it more interesting.
    Even according to the writer, he or she admitted that, whatever really happened there, there were loads of people in leadership, who did not believe him right there: The Bnai Eigel and Korach and Choshuva people associated with him (Lomo Tisnasu al Khal Hashem).
    Once a book is found from a genreration or two ago, and everybody is scared to say that its fiction, then everybody tells their kids that its True, and then it becomes a Bible..
    I think if the Aseres Hadibrus of Matan Torah would have included some chidushim that they still didn't know in those times, e.g. The the earth is round and rotates around sun, or the idea of differen time zones on earth, or that the moon does not have its own light, the Matan Torah would have been more believable.
    BTW, the ficticious book that was found about Yossele Goilem was also believed and taught to children.
    Regardless, whoever wrote it did not have a calculator. Just look at the ages of the Avos worked out, Yitzchok age at the Akeido, Rivka's age at her engagement, Yakov's age at time of marriage, the beginning of Parshas Lech Lecho that Avrom was 75 and then it leads us into the Bris Bein Habsorim when he was 70, and then the 430 years versus 210 years.

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    • PF

      P Fried -3 years ago

      Sad to hear such words from someone named Reuven.

      First of all, apparently you did not listen to this very shiur. In it, Rabbi YY expains meticulously how in fact, this story is logically proven to be precise and accurate.

      As for the story of Korach and they Egel, a little better understanding of those stories are in order. Please read the Torah's own description carefully, and Rashi's commentary, for starters. Furthermore, make up your mind; if you believe the "author" of the Torah's account regarding Korach, then how do not believe Him regarding Matan Torah?

      Your question about the years adding up is discussed extensively by Rashi and Chazal. Take it as another rejection of those who believe in Torah Shebicsav only. We believe in Torah Sheb'al Peh as well.

      Your comparison of the stories of the Golam, forgive my expression, is pathetic. I don't think too many people gave weight to those stories in even a remotely comparable way as to Yiddishkeit and Matan Torah.

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  • R

    reuven -8 years ago

    Many phrases in Torah shows that it was written much after the happening of the story that it is writing about. Yes, whoever wrote it, stressed the fictional notion about this GRAND Matan Torah with 3000,000 people standing right there and watching. Even according to the writer, he or she admitted that even if there was some kind of a show that Moshe put together, loads of people did not believe him right there. The Bnai Eigel and Korach (Lomo Tisnasi). Once a book is found from a genreration or two ago, and everybody is scared from everybody to sat that its fiction, then everybody tells their kids that its True.
    I think if Matan Torah would have included some chidushim, like that the earth is round and when by us its night it is daytime by other people, and the moon does not have its own light, it would be more believable.
    BTW, the ficticious book that was found about Yossele Goilem was also believed and taught to children.
    Regardless, whoever wrote it didn't have a calculator, just look how the ages of the Avos, Yitzchok age at the Akeido, Rivka's age, Yakov's age at time of marriage, the 430 years versus 210 years.

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  • C

    chaim -8 years ago

    Can an intelligent person believe Torah is NOT divine? That surely is the question!

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  • Y

    yosef -8 years ago

    Can one be intelligent and not see and believe in the divine? That is the question.

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  • R

    rsa -8 years ago

    why wait so many years from creation to provide manual

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

The Emunah Series

Rabbi YY Jacobson

  • January 28, 2016
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  • 18 Sh'vat 5776
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