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Basics of Emunah #11: Why Did Jews Reject Christianity & Islam?

The Historical “Evolution” of a Mysterious Baal HaTurim

1 hr 31 min

Class Summary:

This class was presented Sunday morning, 24 Av 5776, August 28, 2016, at the Ohr Chaim Shul in Monsey, NY.

Prophecy is a fundamental part of Jewish belief. As a matter of fact two of Maimonides thirteen principles of Jewish Faith are:the belief that G-d communicates with man through prophecy (#6), and the belief in the primacy of the prophecy of Moses our teacher (#7). But how does one go about authenticating prophets? How can we know if G-d has really spoken to the self-proclaimed prophet or if he is a fraud, as has happened all too many times in history?

The criteria usually given is this: if he has successfully proven that he can accurately foretell the future, or he performs miracles, we are commanded to believe him and follow his directives.

But then there is a fascinating section in the portion of Reah (Deuteronomy 13:2-4) :

“If there will arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder of which he spoke to you happens, [and then he] says, ‘Let us go after other gods which you have not known, and let us worship them’, you shall not heed the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of a dream; for the Lord, your God, is testing you, to know whether you really love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul.”

The Torah is in essence saying: The prophet may perform true miracles. He may not be a fraud or an illusionist. Yet at this point we cannot listen to him.

Why? If he has proven himself to be a Spiritual Master, a miracle worker, should we not trust him more than we trust ourselves?

An enigmatic comment by Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher (1269-1343), the author of the “Tur,” has been analyzed for generations. Some claimed that his insight granted us tremendous historical insight into these verses, and answers one of the most sensitive theological questions of all time: Why did the Jews reject Christianity and other religions?

And yet, there may be a far simpler interpretation, defining the role of women as prophets.

Please leave your comment below!

  • Anonymous -1 year ago

    Why the ה  haisha hei  hajedià 

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  • D

    Dovid -6 years ago

    clarity as usual

    thanx Rabbi Jacobson

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  • DG

    David Glenfield -7 years ago

    One thing isn't clear to me about the Rambam's logic:
    The Rambam separates Moshe's Nevua from others because of Maamad Har Sinai - not becauses of miracles. The question is, how can we know that Maamad Har Sinai itself wasn't a miracle that Moshe performed? What separates it from any other miracle - except the amount of witnesses?

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    • W

      Wolf -7 years ago

      Maamad Har Sinai, was an experience that people experienced themselves. no one had to convinced them anything. a few million people had a live changing experience.

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      • DG

        David Glenfield -7 years ago

        That's true, but still: it can be a miracle.
        The same few million people experienced Krias Yam Suf, or the ten Makot. Moshe or Aharon performed them.
        The Rambam insists that Maaamad Har Sinai wasn't a miracle. How can he prove that it wasn't a miracle performed by Moshe? What sets it aside from all other experiences that the Jews experienced then?

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        • W

          Wolf -7 years ago

          Again, a few million people claimed they THEMSELVES experienced something that changed their lives.
          NOT a miracle that someone showed them and because of a miracle they had to believe.. it was an EXPERIENCE THAT THEY FELT. that is what the Rambam is saying.
          and the rambam brings those Psukim that testifies to that and those psukim was given to the jews and the jews agreed to those psukim.

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          • DG

            David Glenfield -7 years ago

            Can you please define the difference between an unnatural experience which is a miracle, and such that is "not a miracle"?
            It is obvious that Maamad Har Sinai wasn't a natural experience. All the voices, fire, lightenings, hearing the strong "voice" of G-d, etc. So according to the common definition, it is a miracle.
            Note that the same "few million people claimed they THEMSELVES experienced something that changed their lives" in Krias Yam Suf, ten makot etc. etc. All these experiences were "EXPERIENCES THAT THEY FELT."

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            • W

              Wolf -7 years ago

              i understand your question. but this question needs to be directed to those people who claimed that their experience at Har Sinai was the something that tipped the scale, Vs the other miracles. meaning, THEY CLAIM that Har Sinai was was a different experience and based on that experience they excepted a lifestyle of tora.

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              • DG

                David Glenfield -7 years ago

                Well, those poeple aren't with us. And, by the way, it seems that they didn't claim too much anyways. Just remember that we were told that after Krias Yam Suf the same Jews already believed in Hashem and Moshe:
                ויאמינו בה' ובמשה עבדו.
                See Even Ezra and Ramban.

                What we do have is the Torah that describes the events, and the explanations of the commentators.
                Now, we have a dispute between the Rambam and other commentators regarding why we believe in Moshe, and as a result, dispute on the "quality" of Maamad Har Sinai. It seems that the Rambam is the only one that differentiates between "miracles" and "Maamad Har Sinai", which seems to be some kind of a "natural event" according to his view. In his own words:
                משה רבינו לא האמינו בו ישראל מפני האותות שעשה שהמאמין על פי האותות יש בלבו דופי שאפשר שיעשה האות בלט וכשוף ... ובמה האמינו בו במעמד הר סיני שעינינו ראו ולא זר ואזנינו שמעו ולא אחר האש והקולות והלפידים, והוא נגש אל הערפל, והקול מדבר אליו ואנו שומעים: משה משה! לך אמור להן כך וכך.
                My question his, how can the Rambam claim that this was a natural event? And how a Jew that was there at the time of Maamad Har Sinai was able to be sure, without any place to a doubt, that the entire scenario isn't a miracle performed by Moshe? After all, Moshe was capable of performing mind-blowing miracles, e.g. ten makos and krias yam suf (and more to come), so what is it for him the arrange a pyrotechnical show on a mountain in the desert? So they heared a voice! Is it such a big deal to "make a voice" by a miracle?
                According to other commentators it is not a question, since the miracles that Moshe performed are what causing us to believe in him. They are a proof of him being servant of G-d and prophet, since only true servants of G-d can perform miracles - so miracles are enough. But the Rambam isn't satisfied with it. So, again, what made the Rambam so sure that Maamad Har Sinai is a proof that doesn't leave any place to a doubt about it being a miracle performed "B'elat U'Bekishuf", as he writes?

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                • W

                  Wolf -7 years ago

                  the Rambam doesn't claim anything. he is just explaining the psukim. the psukim was excepted by the millions who witness those events.

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                  • RYJ

                    Rabbi YY Jacobson -7 years ago

                    ​approve​

                    Office of Rabbi YY Jacobson | Dean, TheYeshiva.net
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                  • DG

                    David Glenfield -7 years ago

                    What do you mean by: "The Rambam doesn't claim anything"?
                    Of course the Rambam claims something very important - by the way he explains the psukim!
                    Remember that the Kuzari, Ramban etc. have seen the same psukim, but explained them differently.
                    The Rambam claims that the reason for our belief in Moshe is not because any miracle, but because "we heard and saw the voices and fire" etc., assuming that this cannot leave any place to a doubt of its authenticity, as opposed to a miracle/miracles.

                    This is opposed to the explanation of other commentators on the same psukim.
                    So let's leave the psukim out, and deal with the Rambam's Shitah: again, the basic question is WHY seeing fire and hearing voices don't leave any place to a doubt? it can itself be made by a miracle (which, according to the Rambam, is not enough to establish Emunah)?

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                    • W

                      Wolf -7 years ago

                      David, your question: "WHY seeing fire and hearing voices don't leave any place to a doubt?"
                      Answer: because a few million people claimed that it left them without a doubt!. if thats not good enough, then why are we convinced that today is Sunday without a doubt.. maybe it an magic illusion made by a single person?..
                      this is the rambam's pshat in the psukim. the psukim was approved by those same few million people.

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                      • DG

                        David Glenfield -7 years ago

                        "Answer: because a few million people claimed that it left them without a doubt!." - No! They didn't claim anything that is known to us! The only one who claims so is the Rambam. We're going in circles here, but I'll write it again: other commentators explain the psukim differently, so obviously there's no clear proof from the psukim that Maamad Har Sinai was something different than the other miracles they saw and experienced.

                        Let me put it in a practical representation: You are standing now, here, and someone will ask you: "What are the grounds of your belief in G-d?" Your current answer will be: "You know, some 3330 years ago there was a great performance of fire and voices in the Sinai desert, nothing spectacular in comparison to other miracles performed those days to the Jews, BUT, according to one sage, who lived about 850 years ago, all the people there claimed that this specific performance left them without a doubt about the existence of G-d - so I believe this sage, and therefore I also believe in G-d without any place to a doubt."
                        To be honest, it doesn't sound very convincing.

                        You know that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. You have here, in my opinion, a very weak link (maybe even few of them) to base your belief on.

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                        • RYJ

                          Rabbi YY Jacobson -7 years ago

                          aprrove

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                        • W

                          Wolf -7 years ago

                          David: (so I believe this sage, and therefore I also believe in G-d without any place to a doubt.")
                          Wolf: NO i don't believe this sage. i understand his pshat!! actually if you have a question or doubt is should be towards the other rmfurshim!

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                          • DG

                            David Glenfield -7 years ago

                            According to other Meforshoim there's no question, as they say that there's nothing special in Maamad Har Sinai in terms of belief in G-d.
                            Jews believed in G-d before Maamad Har Sinai (as I quoted above the Posuk of "Vayaaminu BeHashem U'bMoshe Avdo" which is mentioned earlier - in Krias Yam Suf), during maamad har sinai and after maamad har sinai.
                            What sets aside maamad har sinai is that in that day G-d gave the Torah (or at least the ten commendments). The Jews maybe became then a nation with rules and laws, but they already believed G-d before, for two reasons:
                            * Tradition (it is G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, they've heard the stories from their fathers) As we see that G-d Himself told Moshe in Egypt that the Jews believe in Him, long before all the miracles; and:
                            * Miracles that they saw with their own eyes and experience with their body (G-d of the ten Makot, G-d of Krias Yam Suf, Mara, AND Maamad Har Sinai).
                            The Rambam is "afraid" of miracles. Maybe due to the claimed miracles done by Jesus, Mohammed etc. (which we deny - but he tries to avoid). So he tries avoiding them as a proof to the existence of G-d, and base it solely on Maamad Har Sinai, as if it is, according to him, some kind of a "natural event" that cannot be denied. But here lies the problem: such event can "easily" be arranged by a miracle - specially according to the Rambam that claims that miracles of all sorts can "easily" be performed "B'lat U'Bkishuf". So the claim that Maamad Har Sinai leave no place to a doubt (and remember: leavs no place to a doubt here, now, to you and me and everyone who want to be closer to Judaism - assuming that we all don't know and don't remember what happened then) - is a claim that is unclear.
                            Yo keep writing that from the Psukim it seems that due to Maamad Har Sinai the Jews believed in G-d like never before. But: 1) With all due respect, the majority of the Meforshim don't agree with (or at least don't claim) this Pshat; 2) Even if we'll agree to that, maybe it is because of the effects of the overwhelming miracles that they encounter those days - nothing "natural".
                            With "understanding a Pshat" in hand, one cannot go to the market. Try to explain it to someone else, who isn't so familiar with the belief in G-d, and see his/her reaction - or even try to examine yourself, in a moment of honesty, whether you REALLY believe in G-d, without any place to a doubt, just because you "understand the Pshat".

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                            • W

                              Wolf -7 years ago

                              I think we are getting of topic here.
                              the Rambam has his pahat in Mamad Har sini and in the psukim.
                              your original question was, how is the Rambam differentiating between the miracles of har sini and the 10 plagues. for that the answer is: that Rambam is explaining 2 million jews from that time claimed all of them together that this was the case. (based on his pshat in the psukim).
                              How to proof judaism is a different topic. The Rambam is trying to explain and to understand his ancestors decision proses that he got from them by Meaorah etc.
                              we are not trying to proof judaism by any pahat

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                              • DG

                                David Glenfield -7 years ago

                                The Rambam writes his explanation not as a Pshat on the Torah. It is not a book of Pshetlach. It is in a) Hilchot, and b) Yesodei Hatorah. And he states it as a fundamental basis of our belief in G-d and Moshe.
                                But nevertheless: can YOU explain the difference in the Psukim between all other miracles and Maamad Har Sinai? In other words, can you bring a proof to the Rambam's Shita? I cannot. I don't know what the Jews back them thought or said or believe. I know the Psukim.
                                I also know that logically, the Rambam's shita is problematic, as I wrote before.
                                For both questions, I cannot see here any answer.

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    • Anonymous -6 years ago

      See Rabbi Gottleibs book 'Reason to Beleive' where he adresses this question. Also see his online book (written earlier) called 'living up to the truth'. 

      Behatzlacha

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    • PF

      P Fried -3 years ago

      The Torah clearly says all of the Jewish People saw G-d. It also says clearly that we did not see any image. Clearly, they knew they were seeing Hashem, and there was no image there to say they interpreted that as being G-d. This is the "claim" we have, and have passed down as absolute truth. We are careful to preserve every word, and even letter of the Torah, hence, this is the exact tradition.

      I think this should satisfy your questions.

      Additionally, though this is not necessary, there is a tremendous difference when you increase the amount of witnesses exponentially. It is certainly more likely to succeed to fool a small crowd, possibly specifically chosen for their gullibility, than a huge one.

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  • MZ

    Mendel Zilberberg -7 years ago

    1. the red Hamoar chumash saya zoo haisha, but the pocket size blue Hamaor chumash ( which has broader inclusion of censored text) says U'benah
    2. Is it possible that we do not have to reach Gezerah Shoveh but merely that the posuk in Shoftim DEFINES that the word Bkirbecha encompasses both Male and Females

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    • RYJ

      Rabbi YY Jacobson -7 years ago

      The Meshech Chachmah clearly states that is derived from a "Gezirah Shavah." A Gezirah Shavah, by definition, means that it is not the meaning of the word, but rather we derive the halacha in one instance from another instance simply because of the superfluous word in both instances. In this case, it is clear that "bekerbecha" does not mean a women, but it is the gezeira shavah that teaches this. (Unlike the Netziv who actually sees this idea intimated in the very word bekerbecha.)

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The Emunah Series

Rabbi YY Jacobson

  • August 28, 2016
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  • 24 Av 5776
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Leilu Nishmat Reb Eliyahu Tzion ben Reb Chananya Niasoff ז"ל
And in the merit of our partner in Torah Yigal Yisroel ben Sofia שיחיו
The Basics of Emunah series is A project of The Eugene and Monica E. Hollander Foundation

 

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