Project Genesis

Basics of Judaism

Is the Torah for Real?

Question: What really happened at Sinai? Did G-d actually speak? Did G-d really dictate every word of Torah verbatim? Please tell me what you think.

Answer: It is certainly a primary element of my Torah faith that G-d actually was heard by the entire nation (though among Midrashic sources there is a variety of opinions as to precisely how much was heard directly from G-d and how much through Moses) and that G-d really did dictate every word of the Five Books verbatim.

But that’s just my opinion. Why should it carry any weight? Why and on which logical basis do I believe it? For that, you might like to see a very tightly written free on-line book by a former professor of analytic philosophy at Johns Hopkins University – Rabbi David Gottlieb:

Nevertheless, one quick (and incomplete) answer to my own question involves observing that the Torah text itself clearly confirms these beliefs. If, in fact, G-d never actually spoke to our ancestors, then Exodus ch. 19 is a lie. Not just an error; an innocent myth that evolved from a primitive and superstitious time, but a willful scam. Someone who knew these events to have never occurred would have to have written them down with intent to defraud the entire world.

Similarly, had the entire text not been dictated by G-d to Moses and then committed to writing in his lifetime, then Deut. 31: 24 too would have been a complete fake. Every last ounce of the Torah’s credibility in every field – morality, history, jurisprudence – would be lost. If any part of it is demonstrably fraudulent, the rest is entirely worthless (beyond some inherent poetic value).

Of course it is theoretically possible that it’s a fake (although highly unlikely – see Rabbi Gottlieb’s book), but it’s not such a comfortable fit with the Torah’s greater context.

In a sense, then, the Torah itself allows no middle ground: either it’s all true or the greatest fraud in all history. I suppose it’s our job to assess the evidence and figure out which is the most probable.

With my very best wishes,
Rabbi Boruch Clinton

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