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Embarking on a journey of faith:


Prepare to challenge your mind and awaken your spirit as you embark on this transformative intellectual journey with the Rabbi and the Khazar. Let their wisdom guide you, leading to a profound understanding of yourself, the world around you, and the mysteries that define existence.

Miracles in History
Eyewitness Testimony to Divine Intervention

  1. Al Khazari: Let us now return to our subject, and explain to me how your belief grew, how it spread and became general, how opinions became united after having differed, and how long it took for the faith to lay its foundation, and to be built up into a strong and complete structure. The first element of religion appeared, no doubt, among single individuals, who supported one another in upholding the faith which it pleased God should be promulgated. Their number increases continually, they grow more powerful, or a king arises and assists them, also compels his subjects to adopt the same creed. 
  2. The Rabbi: In this way, only rational religions, of human origin, can arise. When a man succeeds and attains an exalted position, it is said that he is supported by God, who inspired him, etc. A religion of divine origin arises suddenly. It is bidden to arise, and it is there, like the creation of the world. 
  3. Al Khazari: Thou surprisest me, O Rabbi. 
  4. The Rabbi: It is, indeed, astonishing. The Israelites lived in Egypt as slaves, six hundred thousand men above the age of twenty, descendants of the Twelve Tribes. Not one of them had separated or emigrated into another country, nor was a stranger among them. They looked forward to the promise given to their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that the land of Palestine should be their inheritance. At that time it was in the power of seven mighty and prosperous nations, whilst the Israelites sighed in the depths of misery under the bondage of Pharaoh, who caused their children to be put to death, lest they should increase in number. Notwithstanding their lowly position as compared to the tyrant in his might, God sent Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh with signs and miracles, allowing them even to change the course of nature. Pharaoh could not get away from them, nor harm them, neither could he protect himself from the ten plagues which befel the Egyptians, affecting their streams, land, air, plants, animals, bodies, even their souls. For in one moment, at midnight, died the most precious and most beloved members of their houses, viz. every firstborn male. There was no dwelling without dead, except the houses of the Israelites. All these plagues were preceded by warnings and menaces, and their cessation was notified in the same way, so that every one should become convinced that they were ordained by God, who does what He will and when He will, and were not ordinary natural phenomena, nor wrought by constellations or accident. The Israelites left the country of Pharaoh's bondage, by the command of God, the same night and at the same moment, when the firstborn died, and reached the shores of the Red Sea. They were guided by pillars of cloud and fire, and led by Moses and Aaron, the venerated, inspired chiefs, then about eighty years of age. Up to this time they had only a few laws which they had inherited from Adam and Noah. These laws were not abrogated by Moses, but rather increased by him. When Pharaoh pursued the Israelites they did not have recourse to arms, being unskilled in their use. God, however, divided the sea, and they traversed it. Pharaoh and his host were drowned, and the waves washed their corpses towards the Israelites, so that they could see them with their own eyes. It is a long and well known story.
  5. Al Khazari: This is, in truth, divine power, and the commandments connected with it must be accepted. No one could imagine for a moment that this was the result of necromancy, calculation, or phantasy. For had it been possible to procure belief in any imaginary dividing of the waters, and the crossing of the same, it would also have been possible to gain credence for a similar imposition concerning their delivery from bondage, the death of their tormentors, and the capture of their goods and chattels. This would be even worse than denying the existence of God. 
  6. The Rabbi: And later on, when they came to the desert, which was not sown, he sent them food which, with the exception of Sabbath, was created daily for them, and they ate it for forty years. 
  7. Al Khazari: This also is irrefutable, viz. a thing which occurred to six hundred thousand people for forty years. Six days in the week the Manna came down, but on the Sabbath it stopped. This makes the observance of the Sabbath obligatory, since divine ordination is visible in it. 

  8. The Rabbi:
    [1] Doubting Divinity: The Israelites Question Moses' Authority
    The Sabbatical law is derived from this circumstance, as well as from the creation of the world in six days, also from another matter to be discussed later on. Although the people believed in the message of Moses, they retained, even after the performance of the miracles, some doubt as to whether God really spake to mortals, and whether the Law was not of human origin, and only later on supported by divine inspiration. They could not associate speech with a divine being, since it is something tangible.
    [2] Preparing to Meet God: Physical and Spiritual Purification
    God, however, desired to remove this doubt, and commanded them to prepare themselves morally, as well as physically, enjoining them to keep aloof from their wives, and to be ready to hear the words of God. The people prepared and became fitted to receive the divine afflatus, and even to hear publicly the words of God.
    [3] A Spectacle on Sinai: Nature Unleashed at God's Command
    This came to pass three days later, being introduced by overwhelming phenomena, lightning, thunder, earthquake and fire, which surrounded Mount Sinai. The fire remained visible on the mount forty days. They also saw Moses enter it and emerge from it;
    [4] Hearing the Divine Voice: The Ten Commandments Revealed
    They distinctly heard the Ten Commandments, which represent the very essence of the Law. One of them is the ordination of Sabbath, a law which had previously been connected with the gift of the Manna. The people did not receive these ten commandments from single individuals, nor from a prophet, but from God, only they did not possess the strength of Moses to bear the grandeur of the scene.
    [5] Beyond Human Prophets: Dispelling Doubts About Moses
    Henceforth the people believed that Moses held direct communication with God, that his words were not creations of his own mind, that prophecy did not (as philosophers assume) burst forth in a pure soul, become united with the Active Intellect (also termed Holy Spirit or Gabriel), and be then inspired. They did not believe Moses had seen a vision in sleep, or that some one had spoken with him between sleeping and waking, so that he only heard the words in fancy, but not with his ears, that he saw a phantom, and afterwards pretended that God had spoken with him. Before such an impressive scene all ideas of jugglery vanished.
    [6] From Spoken Word to Divine Script: The Tablets of Stone
    The divine allocution was followed by the divine writing. For he wrote these Ten Words on two tablets of precious stone, and handed them to Moses. The people saw the divine writing, as they had heard the divine words.
    [7] The Ark of the Covenant: A Symbol of Prophecy's Presence
    Moses made an ark by God's command, and built the Tent over it. It remained among the Israelites as long as prophecy lasted, i.e. about nine hundred years, until the people became disobedient. Then the ark was hidden, and Nebuchadnezzar conquered and drove the Israelites into exile.
     
  9. Al Khazari: Should any one hear you relate that God spoke with your assembled multitude, and wrote tables for you, etc., he would be blamed for accusing you of holding the theory of personification You, on the other hand, are free from blame, because this grand and lofty spectacle, seen by thousands, cannot be denied. You are justified in rejecting [the charge of] mere reasoning and speculation. 

  10. The Rabbi:
    [1] The Limits of Reason and the Power of Certainty (Faith)
    Heaven forbid that I should assume what is against sense and reason. The first of the Ten Commandments enjoins the belief in divine providence.
    [2] Beyond Idols: The True Nature of God
    The second command contains the prohibition of the worship of other gods, or the association of any being with Him, the prohibition to represent Him in statues, forms and images, or any personification of Him. How should we not deem him exalted above personification, since we do so with many of His creations, e.g. the human soul, which represents man's true essence.
    [3] The Divine Essence: Unveiling the Incorporeal Soul
    For that part of Moses which spoke to us, taught and guided us, was not his tongue, or heart, or brain. Those were only organs, whilst Moses himself is the intellectual, discriminating, incorporeal soul, not limited by place, neither too large, nor too small for any space in order to contain the images of all creatures. If we ascribe spiritual elements to it, how much more must we do so to the Creator of all?
    [4] The Power of Creation: From Thought to Reality
    We must not, however, endeavour to reject the conclusions to be drawn from revelation. We say, then, that we do not know how the intention became corporealised and the speech evolved which struck our ear, nor what new thing God created from nought, nor what existing thing He employed. He does not lack the power.
    [5] The Tablets of Testimony: Divine Will Made Manifest
    We say that He created the two tables, engraved a text on them, in the same way as He created the heaven and the stars by His will alone. God desired it, and they became concrete as He wished it, engraved with the text of the Ten Words.
    [6] Divine Intervention: Splitting the Sea and Shaping the Elements
    We also say that He divided the sea and formed it into two walls, which He caused to stand on the right and on the left of the people, for whom He made easy wide roads and a smooth ground for them to walk on without fear and trouble. This rending, constructing and arranging, are attributed to God, who required no tool or intermediary, as would be necessary for human toil.
    [7] Divine Communication: Shaping the Air for Spoken Words
    As the water stood at His command, shaped itself at His will, so the air which touched the prophet's ear, assumed the form of sounds, which conveyed the matters to be communicated by God to the prophet and the people. 
  11. Al Khazari: This representation is satisfactory. 

    A New Creation:
    The Sinai Revelation and the Certainty of Divine Action
  12. The Rabbi: I do not maintain that this is exactly how these things occurred; the problem is no doubt too deep for me to fathom. But the result was that every one who was present at the time became convinced that the matter proceeded from God direct. It is to be compared to the first act of creation. The belief in the law connected with those scenes is as firmly established in the mind as the belief in the creation of the world, and that He created it in the same manner in which He--as is known--created the two tablets, the manna, and other things. Thus disappear from the soul of the believer the doubts of philosophers and materialists.

Questions to sharpen understanding of the Text above:

  • What is the main argument presented by the Rabbi to explain the origin and spread of Judaism?
  • What specific miracles does the Rabbi cite as evidence of divine intervention in the history of the Israelites?
  • How does Al Khazari respond to the Rabbi's account of the Israelites' exodus?
  • What is the significance of the Ten Commandments in the Rabbi's argument?
  • According to the Rabbi, how did the Israelites' experience at Mount Sinai differ from other forms of prophecy?
  •  

    More questions

    1. To what extent does the Rabbi's account of the Israelites' exodus rely on eyewitness testimony? What are the strengths and limitations of this type of evidence?
    2. How does the Rabbi's argument address the challenge of explaining miraculous events in a rational and scientific worldview?
    1. What is the main argument presented by the Rabbi to explain the origin and spread of Judaism?
    2. What specific miracles does the Rabbi cite as evidence of divine intervention in the history of the Israelites?
    3. How does Al Khazari respond to the Rabbi's account of the Israelites' exodus?
    4. What is the significance of the Ten Commandments in the Rabbi's argument?
    5. According to the Rabbi, how did the Israelites' experience at Mount Sinai differ from other forms of prophecy?

     

    Insights of this class from the Chavruta program group Zoom session: 

    Beyond Righteousness: The Unexpected Choice of Abraham
    The Chosen Messenger: Why Who Matters More Than What
    Our first encounter with Noah portrays him as a righteous man:

    "Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation." (Genesis 6:9)

    One might immediately assume:

    Of course, the Creator would choose a righteous man to carry on humanity.

    However, a few generations later, we meet Abraham, the father of the Israelite nation.

    The text does not explicitly state that Abraham was chosen because of his righteousness.
    (It is evident that the Torah later reveals Abraham's righteousness and unwavering faith through numerous trials and tribulations. However, despite this, the Torah does not explicitly state that his righteousness was the reason for his selection.)

    This presents a profound message:

    The selection of the message bearer, the one tasked with blessing all the families of the earth, is not a mere detail. It is a significant event that precedes the message itself, highlighting the importance of the message carrier.

    This same principle is evident in the Kuzari:

    Before Rabbi Judah Halevi delves into the details of the giving of the Torah, a revelation that occurred abruptly rather than gradually, he emphasizes the importance of understanding the message's recipient: who is the nation of Israel?

    Only then are we prepared to truly grasp how we received the Torah.

     

     [part 1]

     

    [part 2]

      Unlocking UnderstandingA Step-by-Step Guide to Mastering Texts

      1. Listen and Engage: The first step is actively listening to the Text during your initial read-through. Try to understand the main topics discussed in it.

      2. Comprehend the Text: After your initial read-through, try to understand the author's main ideas. Try to capture the spirit of the Text and its underlying purpose.

      3. Imagination and Connection: Use your understanding of the Text to relate it to familiar scenarios or phenomena you know about. How do the topics discussed in the Text compare to real-life situations?

      4. Delve Deeper into the Text: Once you've grasped the essential components of the Text, revisit it. Try comprehending finer details such as numerical data, examples, and analyses that help you understand the subject matter more deeply.

      5. Reread with Purpose: After delving deeper into the Text, reread it. This time, try to understand the point at which the Text was written without focusing solely on the details. Concentrate on the main ideas and central purpose of the Text.

      With dedication and perseverance, you can unlock the secrets of any text and gain invaluable insights that will enrich your understanding of the world around you. Active engagement is crucial for achieving success in your reading endeavors. Listening attentively, understanding deeply, and connecting the Text to your experiences is essential. Take the time to delve into the finer details, and don't be afraid to ask questions or seek help when needed.

      Embrace the power of knowledge and embark on a transformative learning adventure!

      Enjoying the content? are you reading it on your own?

      "The Rabbi: The faculty of speech is to transmit the idea of the speaker into the soul of the hearer. Such intention, however, can only be carried out to perfection by means of oral communication. This is better than writing. The proverb is: 'From the mouths of scholars, but not from the mouth of books.'" (Kuzari)


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