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Parshas Ki Sisa (5774)

The Big Question: Who wrote the Torah?

According to our ancient Jewish tradition, the basis of all the ethical teachings and moral insights that Judaism has to offer was the Revelation at Mount Sinai. This week's Torah portion describes how G-d Himself engraved the Ten Commandments in the Tablets of stone and handed them to Moses to give to the Jewish people.

Throughout the centuries, dedicated Jewish parents have passed on this story of the Revelation at Sinai to their children and grandchildren. In more recent times, however, this acknowledged and accepted account of how our ancestors received the word of G-d at Sinai has come under heavy fire and criticism from Bible critics and other scholars. This very crucial issue has been hotly debated for well over a century and a half.

The implications of an actual Divine Revelation and of our receiving His Torah as an instruction book for life are enormous. The stakes are high. There is even an entire seminar offered around the world called Discovery that is devoted almost entirely to the question of whether or not the Torah that the Jewish people have today was actually received from G-d at Sinai 3326 years ago. One of the many proofs offered to show how the Torah couldn't possibly have been written by man, comes from this week's Torah portion, Parshas Ki Sisa.

Imagine if you were sitting together with a bunch of scholars writing a Torah, or Book of Laws and Ethical Teachings, and you wanted this Torah to be accepted by the Jewish masses as if it had come from G-d Himself - what kinds of commandments would you put in?

I have a good idea! … How about making it a mitzvah for all Jewish men to abandon the border cities of tiny little Israel, (which, don't forget, was surrounded by very hostile neighbors) not once, but three times a year, to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Holidays? And if some wise guy should complain that by leaving the borders unmanned and unarmed, the security of the entire country would be jeopardized - no problem!- just write in your Torah, immediately following the commandment, your personal guarantee in the name of G-d, that no nation will try to conquer the land while the men are away in Jerusalem! Sounds like a great idea for a commandment, right? …. Not!

The fact is, though, that this strange commandment is in the Torah – in this week’s Torah portion. In Exodus 34:23 the Torah states, "Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord Hashem, the G-d of Israel. For I shall banish nations before you and broaden you boundary; no man will covet your land when you go up to appear before Hashem, your G-d, three times a year."

This is one of the 613 commandments in the Torah called Aliyah l'Regel in which G-d commands the Jewish men (with their families, when possible) to leave their cities three times a year, to go up to Jerusalem and celebrate the three major Jewish Festivals with G-d at the Temple.

Now, I ask you, would or could a human being have written such a seemingly suicidal commandment? Only G-d Himself could have written that, and stood behind His assurance that no nations would threaten the security of Israel as they performed this commandment.

This is but one of many fascinating proofs that the Torah that we read from every Shabbos and which many Jews study all week long and use as their “Instruction Book for Life” (as it was intended to be) was authored, not by human beings, but by The Only One Who Could Come Up With Such A Magnificent Torah – G-d Himself.

[To read one of the most compelling historical proofs that G-d spoke to the Jewish people at Sinai and gave us the Torah – originally formulated in the 12th Rabbi Judah Ha-Levi in his seminal work The Kuzari – click on:]

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