The Quest for Truth
Quest for Truth
(Note: Rabbi Spero replies to Rabbi Shalman's Kol Shaarey Zedek article in the Forum)
last week’s portion (Va’eschanan), and in this week’s portion, there is a
lot of mention of the events that took place in the desert.
take heed for yourself and your soul, lest you forget the things that your eyes
saw and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And you
shall impart them to your children and your children’s children, on the day
when you stood before G-d at Chorev (Mt. Sinai; referring to the receiving of
the Torah)” (Deut. Ch.4 v.9-10). “And G-d spoke to you from the midst of the
fire” (ibid. v.12). “Face to face did G-d speak with you on the mountain”
(Deut. Ch.5 v.4).
and other verses recapitulate the event of the Exodus, slavery in Egypt, and the
events in the desert.
is the purpose of all these (seemingly) repetitious statements?
Talmud says in Tractate Shabbos, the seal of G-d is emes—truth. This does not
merely mean telling the truth; rather, this points to a much deeper idea: the
idea that we must govern our lives according to the truth. That we must not make
life decisions, or any decisions for that matter, by a “feeling”, or by the
contemporary social climate.
we make a decision it must be based on truth. That is how we know what is right.
what makes us as Jews keep our traditions? Is it because we are born as Jews?
According to that line of thinking, if one is born to a child sacrifice cult,
one must sacrifice children (obviously being born of a Jewish mother makes one
Jewish regardless; the question here is what makes one identify as a Jew, i.e.,
keep Jewish law). Why don’t we believe in Mohammed or Jesus? Why not Buddha?
G-d’s continued emphasis in the Torah of our heritage, His commandment to
remember what happened when we received the Torah (that G-d spoke to us
directly), and by His statement that this is a covenant that shall never be broken, He is letting us know
that the Sinai experience was an experience unique in the history of mankind.
Never before had a nation spoken directly to G-d. We know we received the Torah
from him, not only because it says so in the Torah, but because we heard from
our parents, who heard from their parents, who heard from theirs, about our
receiving the Torah from G-d
other religion started with a man claiming he had a revelation or a prophecy
direct from G-d. Judaism says all
the people heard it directly from Him. This historical distinction is evidence
alone not only that G-d give us the Torah, but that our way of keeping it—from
generation to generation— has remained the same for 3300 years. Within the
strictures of the Torah we find the room for our cherished rule of eilu
v’eilu divrei Elokim c.haim—these and these opinions are the words of
the Living G-d*—but never have we deviated from the beauty and truth of the
obviously opens up the door to the question: “if there are so many differences
of opinion in the Talmud, why do the Orthodox not tolerate difference of opinion
from other “movements” of Judaism?
answer to this is simple. Any argument stated in the Talmud is based on the
belief that G-d gave the written and oral law at Sinai, the question being how
do we decide practically. The Talmud relates
(Tractate Eruvin) that every law taught at Sinai had many different ways
of being learned. Thus G-d gave the Torah in such a fashion that it has
multifaceted aspects within it to be learnt. However, if we look at the area of
disagreement within the Talmud we see it is relatively small. For example orders
of certain prayers, whether there are certain Rabbinical restrictions regarding
Shabbos or not, etc. There is no disagreement on the fundamentals. There is no
opinion which states one can light a candle or perform an act of combustion on
Shabbos. There is no opinion which states that conversion may be performed for
the sake of a marriage, or may be performed without acceptance of written and
oral law. There is no opinion which states we do not have to follow the Rabbinic
restriction regarding cheese or wine made by a non-Jew, or any other Rabbinic
decree for that matter.