Rabbi Oury Cherki

Shavuot - Torah from Heaven

Translated from Hebrew. Published at the Noahide World Center website and in Shabbat B'Shabbato.

Two proofs are given to show that there is a Divine source for the Torah. But they must be understood in depth and not simply in accord with the folk approach – that millions of people would not lie about the description of an event, especially not to their children. This approach will not withstand objective criticism, and the only thing it can accomplish is to strengthen the conviction those who were already convinced beforehand. We will be able to find satisfactory answers by delving more deeply into the matter.

First of all, we must note that revelation is a formative event in the history of a nation. A national identity is not the result of a willful choice. Rather, it is born within the nation and it is in fact an element that is forced on the people. Every national identity is built up on a basis of collective psychology which stems from powerful events that leave a deep impression within the nation. If the event took place before the era of history began, it is clouded in doubt, and it may well be a myth spawned by imagination. This is not true of an event that took place after the national identity was formed, such as the story of the wars of Troy or the Exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah. In such cases we can verify that the event did indeed take place – not because there are witnesses but as a result of the strong impression it left on the public awareness.

In addition, the character of a story can by itself be an indication of the truth. This is especially true for a story that is beyond the limits of human imagination. While it is true that there are stories of individual or collective revelation in all cultures, such that they might indeed be the fruits of imagination, these stories always, without exception, involve an "immanent" deity who is internal to the world and not transcendental revelation by a G-d who created the world and is external to it. The only story where the revealed one is the Creator Himself is the one that is told by the Children of Israel. And in fact the written description of the event emphasizes that the people who experienced the revelation were wary of participating. Clearly, the interference of the Creator in the natural course of events can interfere with the spiritual stability of man, and it would never occur to mankind to invent such a story even with the goal of establishing a new religion. All others who developed a new religion spoke only of revelation by an entity that is part of creation, such that it did not undermine the foundation of existence.

We must also try to refine the concept of a Divine Torah, from heaven. Rav A.Y. Kook explains, a man can admit that the Torah came from heaven, but he might be referring to a very low level of heaven. This paints the one who gave the Torah as a pedantic accountant collecting the relative weights of mitzvot as compared to sins. And there are others who feel that they deny the Divine origin of the Torah while at the same time they search for a source of the Torah among the highest levels of human wisdom and morality. Such an approach is in fact very close to the true definition of Torah from heaven.