Former Rav-Shaliach, Bnei Akiva England

לגרסאת הPDF: יתרו 5780 אנגלית

Am Yisrael is a united and eternal entity. As such, the experience of one generation is transmitted into the collective memory of the nation as a whole, and becomes an essential part of our existence. The story of the Revelation at Sinai is no exception; it is a great moment in the history of humanity – and particularly in the history and continued presence of our nation.

There is a question that many of us have felt, and which is not easy to address. Having accepted that there is a Master to the universe, how can we be so sure that Judaism is in fact the correct form of worship? Though this is a deep and challenging question, Rav Yehudah HaLevi in his Sefer HaKuzari has an answer which incorporates an extremely important message.

Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi’s Sefer HaKuzari is based on the true story of the King of Kuzar who is seeking the true faith. Having approached the Philosopher, the Christian and the Muslim, he finally asks the Jew what it is that he believes in. His brief answer includes several of the principles of faith; yet it does not include Hashem being the Creator of the world! The king is disappointed, for he is seeking a divine truth and this answer seems to be lacking. However, he stands corrected when introduced to one of the most fundamental principles of Judaism[1].

We do not believe in Hashem because He created the world! We believe in Hashem because He revealed Himself to us through Yetziat Mitzrayim and the Revelation at Sinai. Only once we are certain that there is a God can we care about His actions before the Revelation, and believe that He did indeed create the world in six days. Rambam[2] goes so far as to argue that it was Sinai and Sinai alone which created the eternal faith of Am Yisrael; only once we heard Hashem speak to us, and had the collective experience of Revelation, could we be sure that Moshe was a genuine prophet acting on the word of Hashem.

At the point of Hashem’s revelation to an entire generation, Am Yisrael were elevated to a level where they ‘see the voices’[3]. At this point, any speculation about the existence of Hashem, whether He cares about humanity and whether expects anything of us all vanished. The experience of the Revelation was so clear that there was no longer any room for speculation.

When Hashem revealed Himself to the generation of Yetziat Mitzrayim, He was revealing Himself to all generations, past and future. Once Matan Torah, the giving of the Torah, took place it became part of our deeper collective memory as a nation. The Kuzari expresses this idea by stating that through receiving our tradition from previous generations, we connect directly to Har Sinai and the Revelation – for receiving is in fact seeing. While others base their religious beliefs on creation and the origins of their beliefs on individuals, we base ours on the Revelation and the experience of an entire generation. Once we understand this, Matan Torah can hardly be seen as a fictitious event, for an entire nation could not possibly see, believe and pass on something that never occurred.

The Kuzari concludes that a young Jewish child knows something that a great philosopher does not, for the latter has only his wits to depend on, but the former has our collective memory to connect him directly back to Har Sinai.

[1] The Kuzari 1:10-25
[2] Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 8
[3] Shemot 20:15