I was asked to explain "AMOS 3:1-2 Hear this word that the L-RD hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up out of the land of Egypt, saying: You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will visit upon you all your iniquities. WHO is speaking in the verse number 1? WHO says that "L-RD hath spoken " ....and "I brought up.." ??? "
Let's read the Judaica Press Translation: "Hearken to this word which the L-rd spoke about you, O children of Israel, about the entire family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying: Only you did I love above all the families of the earth; therefore, I will visit upon you all your iniquities. Will two walk together unless they agreed?" Amos 3:1 - 3.
Amos 3:1 - 3 (in Christian bibles, 3:1 -2 in the T'nach (Jewish bible) speaks of Israel.
So the first question to answer is "which Israel?"
יִשְׂרָאֵל / Y'srael / Israel can refer to:
So one must ask the question: to which יִשְׂרָאֵל / Y'srael / Israel. is the prophet referring?
To understand one must read the entire book of Amos -- this is the only way to understand Amos' context. Although the questioner began with chapter 3 -- the fact is that chapters are a Christian invention (they began primarily in the 13th century -- created by an archbishop and cardinal). To understand Amos we must begin with chapter 1.
Amos was a wealthy shepherd from יְהוּדָה / Y'hudah / Judah (the southern Kingdom). before G-d called upon him to prophesy to the northern kingdom of יִשְׂרָאֵל / Y'srael / Israel. in 621 BCE. The image of Amos by the artist Chagall is shown in this post.
Amos spoke of the need to be good people -- and that G-d was far more concerned with good people than sacrifices or prayer. Amos demand fair treatment of the poor and sincere repentance. This made Amos an unpopular man in יִשְׂרָאֵל / Y'srael / Israel -- with many demanding he be banished.
The prophet begins by speaking of many peoples whom G-d forgave for three sins -- but would not forgive the fourth sin. Speaking for Hashem Amos speaks of one nation after another with the infamous rebuke of, “For the three sins of [name of nation] I can forgive but for the fourth sin I cannot forgive.”
Amos begins by rebuking Damascus, the people of Aram (who would be exiled). Next comes Gaza, a city of Philistines, who would be exiled and lost, the people of Tzor (Tyre), Edom and Ammon. This is all discussed in chapter 1.
Chapter 2 continues the theme with Moab.
Next Amos speaks of the southern Jewish kingdom of יְהוּדָה / Y'hudah / Judah (the southern Kingdom).. He says that their fourth sin was rejecting the Torah and not keeping the mitzvot. They followed false prophets -- and Amos says that G-d will send fire into Judah to consume Jerusalem.
Finally Amos speaks of the northern kingdom of יִשְׂרָאֵל / Y'srael / Israel. Their fourth sin was unjust courts. The northern kingdom's courts accepted bribes to condemn the innocent. They conspired to cheat the poor out of their few possessions. They defiled girls, too -- and all in the service of false gods / idols.
Amos is telling בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל / Bnei Y'srael / children of Israel to repent and turn to G-d.
Amos, speaking for G-d, makes the point that all eight peoples with the fourth and unforgivable sins share one great sin -- and that greatest sin is אכזריות -- out of control , inhumane, cruelty. G-d can forgive almost anything in His infinite mercy -- excepting cruelty of man against man.
Inhumanity -- savagery -- threatens the entire world -- and it cannot be ignored.
Hashem is willing to forgive the worst of sins, but when it comes to אכזריות, Hashem cannot forgive, hence: “But for the fourth, I cannot forgive.”
Chapter 3 is a continuation of chapter 1 and chapter 2.
Having castigated many peoples for a fourth, unforgivable sin of unimaginable cruelty to other humans -- including the Jewish lands of Judah and Israel (the southern and northern kingdoms) Amos again addresses the Jewish people. G-d has singled out the Jews to be a nation of priests, a light to the other nations of the earth. . . thus cruelty by the Jews is worse than it is with other peoples.
Amos says "Hearken to this word which the L-rd spoke about you,
Amos then speaks for G-d "O children of Israel, about the entire family which I (G-d) brought up from the land of Egypt, (out of slavery) saying Only you did I love above all the families of the earth; therefore, I will visit upon you all your iniquities.." Amos 3:1 - 2.
Amos then asks a series of rhetorical questions which show cause-and-effect:
"Will two walk together unless they agreed?
"Will a lion roar in the forest if he has no prey? Will a young lion let out a cry from his den unless he has taken something?
"Will a bird fall on a net upon the ground unless it has a snare? Will a net ascend from the ground and have taken nothing?
"Will a shofar (ram's horn) be sounded in the city and the people not quake? Will there be evil in the city if the L-rd has not done it?" Amos 3:3 - 6.
Having sinned and not reversed their cruelty to others the people must be punished: cause and effect.
Amos then declares that G-d has revealed the message to him as G-d's prophet: "For the L-rd G-d does nothing unless He has revealed His secret to His servants, the prophets." Amos 3:7.
Remember: negative prophecies (in this case the punishment including exile) is a warning. All negative prophecies can be reversed through heeding the words of the prophet to cease the evil and returning to G-d by being Torah observant (which includes being just and humane). . .
Amos warns יְהוּדָה / Y'hudah / Judah (the southern Kingdom). to heed the warning of the destruction of the northern kingdom of יִשְׂרָאֵל / Y'srael / Israel.
"Hearken and warn the house of Jacob, says the L-rd G-d, the G-d of the Hosts. For on the day I visit the transgressions of Israel (the northern kingdom of יִשְׂרָאֵל / Y'srael / Israel) upon them, I will visit upon the altars of Bethel, and the horns of the altar shall be cut off and shall fall to the earth." Amos 3:13-14.
The people of Israel will have some remnant survive. In this case, it will be those who are bedridden, either with illness or fear. They will not go to battle and the enemy won’t care about them. In chapter 5 Amos states that the northern kingdom of יִשְׂרָאֵל / Y'srael / Israel. will fall and they will never have their own king again. Eventually יְהוּדָה / Y'hudah / Judah will also fall for similar reasons. . .
But do not despair.
"I will not destroy the house of Jacob, says the L-rd." Amos 9:8.
"I will scatter the house of Israel among all the nations. . . " Amos 9:9. Exile.
But one day: "I will raise up the fallen Tabernacle of David, and I will close up their breaches, and I will raise up its ruins, and build it up as in the days of yore. . ." Amos 9:11.
Amos is speaking of the messianic age, when the Jewish exiles (did not happen in Jesus' lifetime) will be returned from exile: "And I will return the captivity of My people Israel, and they shall rebuild desolate cities and inhabit [them], and they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their produce. And I will plant them on their land, and they shall no longer be uprooted from upon their land, that I have given them, said the L-rd your G-d." Amos 9:14 - 15.
So ends the prophecies of Amos. The exile and punishment of the Jewish people will end, the Jews will return to their land.
Judaism is a very small religion -- and the T'nach told us this would be so. "G-d will scatter you among the nations, and only a small number will remain among the nations to which G-d will lead you." D'varim / Deuteronomy 4:27.
This is saying that many Jews will fall about into idolatry or in other ways leave Judaism, but a small number will remain observant and faithful to G-d. Jews refer to this minority as the "righteous remnant."
But, still, observant (so called "Orthodox") Judaism is growing, while Christianity is in decline.
People are leaving Christianity "en mass." From 2010 - 2015 Christian deaths in Europe outnumbered births by nearly 6 million (Pew Research). A study in 2017 shows Christianity declining in the United States. Just 43% of the U. S. population said they were white Christians. To put that in perspective, in 1976, eight in 10 Americans were identified as such, and a full 55% were white Protestants. Even as recently as 1996, white Christians were two-thirds of the population. Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) concluded that white Christians are now a minority in the US population.
"Much of the decline has occurred in the last few decades. As recently as 1996, white Christians still made up nearly two-thirds (65%) of the public. By 2006, that number dropped to 54%, but white Christians still constituted a majority. But over the last decade, the proportion of white Christians in the U.S. has slipped below majority. Today, only 43% of Americans identify as white and Christian—and only 30% as white and Protestant." Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) .
"In the United States, Christians will decline from more than three-quarters of the population in 2010 to two-thirds in 2050. . . Christians are projected to decline from 78% of the U.S. population in 2010 to 66% in 2050, while the unaffiliated are expected to rise from 16% to 26%." Pew Research.
"The number of countries with Christian majorities is expected to decline from 159 to 151, as Christians are projected to drop below 50% of the population in Australia, Benin, Bosnia-Herzegovina, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Republic of Macedonia and the United Kingdom." Pew Research.
Orthodox Judaism has quadrupled in size in the last 3 generations (grandparent to grandchild). Pew Research.
Judaism was never intended to be a large people -- our role is to be teachers to the nations. . . We do know that in the messianic era all people will know the one true G-d, and idolatry will vanish. The decline in Christianity may well be a move in that direction.
In the T'nach (bible) Zechariah prophesied "So said the L-rd of Hosts: In those days (the messianic era), when ten men of all the languages of the nations shall take hold of the skirt of a Jewish man, saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that G-d is with you." Zechariah 8:23.
Who was Paul?
The Ebionites (early Christians) claimed that Paul was not a learned Jew at all. Epiphanius (4th century CE) wrote: "They declare that he (Paul) was a Greek (not a Jew)...
"He went up to Jerusalem, they say, and when he had spent some time there, he was seized with a passion to marry the daughter of the (Jewish) priest. For this reason he became a proselyte (convert) and was circumcised. Then, when he failed to get the girl, he flew into a rage and wrote against circumcision and against the sabbath and the Torah (bible / Five Books of Moses)" (Epiphanius, Panarion, 30.16. 6- 9).
I do not know if Paul was the Jew he claimed to be, or the bitter man Epiphanius claimed him to be in the 4th century CE. We do know that the information he presents about the T'nach (in the Christian bible) is often the exact opposite of what the T'nach truly says.
From the Encyclopedia Judaica: "Whatever the physiological or psychological analysis of Paul's temperament may be, his conception of life was not Jewish.
Nor can his unparalleled animosity and hostility to Judaism as voiced in the Epistles be accounted for except upon the assumption that, while born a Jew, he was never in sympathy or in touch with the doctrines of the rabbinical schools.
For even his Jewish teachings came to him through Hellenistic channels, as is indicated by the great emphasis laid upon "the day of the divine wrath" (Rom. i. 18; ii. 5, 8; iii. 5; iv. 15; v. 9; ix. 22; xii. 19; I Thess. i. 10; Col. iii. 6; comp. Sibyllines, iii. 309 et seq., 332; iv. 159, 161 et seq.; and elsewhere), as well as by his ethical monitions, which are rather inconsistently taken over from Jewish codes of law for proselytes, the Didache and Didascalia.
It is quite natural, then, that not only the Jews (Acts xxi. 21), but also the Judo-Christians, regarded Paul as an "apostate from the Law" (see Eusebius (3rd century Greek historian of Christianity, exegete, and Christian polemicist), l.c. iii. 27; Irenus (2nd century Christian, Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul), "Adversus Hreses," i. 26, 2; Origen (2nd century Christian and Greek scholar) "Contra Celsum," v. 65; Clement of Rome (Christian pope, 1st century), "Recognitiones," i. 70. 73)."
Paul boasts of pretending to be one thing to Jew and another to non-Jew... Whoever this man, who never met Jesus, might have been he was not who he claimed to be in the Christian bible.
The late Hyam Maccoby wrote a book entitled "The Mythmaker" about this topic.
A missionary wrote "is it true that in the Dead Sea Scrolls it is attested that the family of Jacob arrived in Egypt with 75 people (where the Torah says 70) and that the LXX (Septuagint) also has 75? Is the Torah wrong when it says "70"?"
In the Torah, there are three places where we learn that 70 people went to Egypt with Jacob -
Yet, in the LXX / Septuagint both Genesis 46:27 & Exodus 1:5 mention 75 descendants -- although Deuteronomy 10:22 in the LXX has 70.
Ergo in two places the LXX says 75, but in one it agrees with the Torah and says 70.
Which is right and which is wrong?
The Septuagint (LXX) was an early translation of the Torah (Five Books of Moses) into Greek. The LXX / Septuagint is first mentioned in the 2nd century BCE in the Letter of Aristeas. The letter states that King Ptolemy II Philadelphus (reigned 281-246 BCE) wrote to the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem demanding that a delegation of Rabbinic experts be sent to Alexandria in order to translates the five books of the Torah into Greek for inclusion in his library. The story eventually found its way into the Talmud (folio 9a of treatise M'gillah).
Ergo the ancient translation of the Torah into Greek was only that of the Torah (Prophets and Writings were not translated) -- and all three of mentions of Jacob's 70 descendants are found in the Torah.
Learned Jews have always studied the Torah in Hebrew, not in Greek. Translations might be used as study aids, or for people in exile who were less learned. . . Over time the Greek translations (which came to include the other books of the bible, but translations varied in good or poor quality and were by persons unknown) became corrupt. Jews stopped using them, although Christians continued to use them much longer.
What is today called the Septuagint (which is the entire Jewish bible in Greek) are translations into Greek from persons unknown at times unknown. There was no quality assurance and as a result they became heavily corrupted over time. By the 5th century the Christians gave up on the LXX / Septuagint because it was so corrupt -- so why people now are debating this is really interesting. The term "self-serving" comes to mind. Origen, an early church father (died 232 CE) tried to piece together a decent translation by putting 6 different versions side by side (called the Hexapla). Here is what HE says about how bad the Septuagint had become "we are forthwith to reject as spurious the copies in use in our Churches, and enjoin the brotherhood to put away the sacred books current among them, and to coax the Jews, and persuade them to give us copies which shall be untampered with, and free from forgery." Origen, A Letter from Origen to Africanus, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 4.
There is also St. Jerome (early 5th century) who decided to re-translate from the Hebrew rather than rely on the Septuagint saying: "I was stimulated to undertake the task by the zeal of Origen, who blended (the Septuagint) with the old edition Theodotions translation."
But. . . . what of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) -- they are 2000 years old and both 4QExodb and 4QGen-Exoda-Exoda say "75" and not "70."
Wouldn't the DSS attest to the fact that the Torah is wrong?
Just because something appears in a Dead Sea Scroll (DSS) copy does not mean it is perfect -- and that the Jews changed it some time after 2000 years ago. Jews have a mesorah, a method of transmission, of the Torah which has amazing accuracy for Torot (plural of Torah) from around the world.
It is far more likely that some scribe wrote a note in a margin about Ephraim and Menashe's descendants and that note made its way into some copies along the way (Greek and Hebrew). It seems likely that some (if not all) of the scrolls found in Qumran (DSS) were destined for burial (when a Jewish holy work cannot be repaired it must be buried ceremoniously). Often such documents were stored in a repository called a גְּנִיזָה (g'nizah) -- a word which comes from the Hebrew verb גנז meaning to hide away.
There are scroll fragments from Masada (contemporary with the DSS) and from (early 2nd century CE) that are even closer to the Masoretic Text (MT) -- today's bible -- than the DSS - virtually identical; thus, proving the antiquity of the MT.
The Dead Sea Scrolls should not sidetrack you -- much of what was found was stored in a "graveyard." There are scroll fragments from Masada (contemporary with the DSS) and from Wadi Murabit (early 2nd C. CE) that are even closer to the MT than the DSS - virtually identical; thus, proving the antiquity of the Hebrew bible we use today. Actually most of the DSS supports the MT, not the Septuagint - this includes the Great Isaiah Scroll.
We have another ancient witness to the number of 70 (not 75) -- and that is found in the history by Josephus entitled "The Antiquities of the Jews." Written in the 1st century CE it bears witness to the number in the Torah: 70.
"Jacob, encouraged by this dream, went on more cheerfully for Egypt, with his sons, and all belonging to them. Now they were in all seventy. . . If we add these, which are sixteen, to the fifty four, the aforementioned number  is completed"
"As for Jacob, he became well known to strangers also, by the greatness of that prosperity in which he lived, and left to his sons; who came into Egypt with no more than seventy souls; while you are now become above six hundred thousand.. . "
Josephus, writing 2000 years ago (about the same age as the DSS 4QExodb and 4QGen-Exoda, wrote 70 -- although 4QExodb and 4QGen-Exoda have 75. `Both are 2000 years old, yet Josephus agrees with the Torah while 4QExodb and 4QGen-Exoda don't.
Most of the DSS do in fact "match" our modern texts. Those that don't follow the Hebrew (these would be the 4 Greek manuscript fragments that date to around 200 CE), come from cave 4.
Cave 4 is where the texts were not preserved carefully in jars indicating they were not considered as important. Archeologists have surmised that they were damaged texts or simply not important and thus weren't stored in jars.
Both 4QExodb and 4QGen-Exoda were found in Cave 4.
Given the amazing accuracy of Torah transmission, the reference from Josephus of 2000 years ago, and what we know of Cave 4 it seems highly likely that the Torah is accurate and 4QExodb and 4QGen-Exoda both contained errors.
The Torah tells us time and time and time again that He is one -- not a plurality. People like Craig are grasping at straws and using false analogies (because in human terms love means giving of oneself this same definition applies to G-d is a fallacy -- G-d is not a man).
I'm pasting a post I made in March that may better explain this to you. It's important to realize that although the Torah tells us (for example) that G-d loves Jacob and hates Esau (meaning G-d loves the Jews and hates the descendants of Esau, Malachi 1) this does not mean G-d literally has the emotions of love and hate.
The Torah speaks in the language of man. G-d does not have emotions as we know them -- we are simply trying to use language we as humans understand to put into perspective something we experience of G-d. The following was written by Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro on the forum "Jews with Questions"
G-d has no emotions. Zero. Nada. G-d is totally Simple. An emotional reaction - love, hate, loneliness, excitement - would mean, chas v’sholom, that…
When we say G-d “loves us” it means that G-d caused things to happen in such a way that it feels like He loves us. If someone else would have done that to us, it would be driven by love.
Hashem has no accidental attributes at all, meaning that there’s no such thing as anything being part of Hashem. There is no such thing as “G-d's knowledge”, “G-d's strength”, or “G-d's love” - all of those things would mean that He has components, which is not true.
The Rabbi was asked: "So when we ask G-d to have mercy on us, compassion, etc, we are asking for him to deal with us in a way that we define as mercy, compassion, etc? (It’s very hard to understand this because we think like humans and G-d can’t be defined in human terms, like you said.) But what I don’t understand is that, when G-d acts with mercy towards us, isn’t He having mercy, so doesn’t that mean He has mercy?"
G-d has no mercy in the emotional sense. He does, however, act in such a way that the results are the same as if He would have had mercy.
That’s what we mean when we ask G-d for mercy. We mean He should act in a way that seems merciful to us, although what we think of as human mercy is not His motivation.
When we say Hashem has “mercy” for instance, we do not mean that Hashem chas v’sholom has an emotion. We mean that Hashem at times acts in such a way that it feels to us as if He was merciful.
It's like, for instance, when you put the wrong software in your computer and it acts up. You may say, as a figure of speech, that the “computer doesn’t like the software” or even “the computer got angry”. The computer doesn’t really have any emotions or likes, but it acted in a way that metaphorically can be described as “anger”.
So too, when we say Hashem gets “angry” we mean that Hashem acts in a way that seems to us angry. But there was no emotion of anger involved.
So if we had a real Loshon Hakodesh dictionary there would be an entry like this:
an•ger n. - Hashem's actions toward us that seem as if He would have a strong feeling of displeasure or hostility.
“Anger”, when it refers to Hashem, is only a figure of speech.
"The Rabbi was asked: So if our actions can’t be compared to Hashem’s at all, how can the Torah say that our Midos (character traits.) should emulates G-d’s – ma hu rachum, af ata rachum? If all these Midos (character traits). in regard to Hashem are only a Moshol (a short parable with a moral lesson), then how can we “emulate” Hashem by us having real Midos (character traits),
You are asking that if our midos have nothing to do with Hashem's, and are merely homonyms, then how can we ever “resemble” Hashem in our Midos (character traits.?).
The answer is that when we say Hashem is “strong” it means He does not need strength because even without the attribute of strength He is never weak; when we say He is wise it means He does not need the thing we call wisdom because He is never ignorant, even without it; when we say Hashem is merciful it means that He does not need the emotion of mercy - even without it, He is not cruel. It is Hashem's perfection that causes Him not to have any of these traits; He is so perfect that He does not need any of them. Traits such as wisdom, mercy, and the like are only positive things if you need them. We do. Hashem does not.
So when we are commanded to be like Hashem, we are expected to use those traits that Hashem does not need, in order to mimic the actions that Hashem performs without them.
If fact, if you examine the way the Rambam quotes the Halachah (Jewish law) of ma-hu-af-ata ("Just as Hashem is merciful and compassionate, so too, you [i.e., man] should be merciful and compassionate." - Shabbat 133b)., you will see this idea explicitly. The exact wording of the Rambam is: .מה הוא נקרא רחום אף אתה היה רחום
In other words, Hashem is merely “called” merciful, but we are commanded to actually be merciful.
The Rabbi was asked: One more thing: if G-d doesn't experience emotion, then He must either be incapable of emotion or chose not to experience it. Surely G-d would choose to love His own people if it were a possibility, so then, is He incapable of love? If so, wouldn't that be placing boundaries on a limitless G-d? And either way, what is the purpose of davening (prayer) and fulfilling all sorts of requirements if not to please G-d?
G-d is incapable of emotion since He is incapable of change, since He is beyond time, and to change means to be a “victim” of time; and He cannot have emotions for various other reasons - it would contradict His simplicity and His perfection.
And no, this is not a limitation to G-d. Thinking so is just a trick of the mind. You ask: “If G-d is perfect, then can He make Himself imperfect? No?... Aha! The He can’t do everything!”
G-d cannot scratch His nose; He cannot kill Himself; He cannot be weak. No, no, no. The answer is a simple “No”. And no, it’s not a limitation to be always limitless and it’s not a weakness if you can’t be weak.
"The Rabbi was asked: So let me get this straight....everything that's said about "G-d's love" isn't literal at all? So G-d's feelings about us are totally neutral, or don't really exist? Sorry, it’s just kind of a weird realization to think that...but if G-d didn't really "love" us, and if He doesn't "need" or "want" anything, then what would be His motivation to create the world?"
Right. G-d's “love” isn’t literal. Neither is His anger, or any other emotion. (But it's not that "G-d's feelings are totally neutral." It's that the whole concept of physical, subconscious, unconscious, brain-released-chemical-induced emotional changes.)
And your question that if G-d has no emotions and does not “love” us, then why did G-d make the world, is a wonderful one. By asking it you have uncovered one of the greatest teachings of Creation:
G-d created the world for our benefit, with nothing for Him to gain at all.
That is the difference between “generosity” as it applies to us and “generosity” as it applies to Hashem. For us, there is always a reason why we want to be generous. We always have something to gain - a mitzvah, a feeling of satisfaction, a little recognition, whatever. For Hashem, there was none of this.
He wanted to create us and give us Gan Eden - eternal, infinite happiness - only for our sake. He gains nothing. He did it because He wanted to. For us. With absolutely zero benefit for Himself.
The topic you brought up – the Purpose of Creation – is an important one indeed, but as you have just discovered, it can only be understood properly after we establish that Hashem’s actions do not have the same “reasons” as our actions. Our actions bring benefit to ourselves. Even “selfless” acts provide a sense of satisfaction and garner us reward for having done a Mitzvah. When Hashem acts, He does not get any benefit at all. He cannot benefit – that would imply a change, and some kind of gain. What is outside of time cannot change, and what is Kulo Poshut (perfectly simple, no characteristics, no qualities) cannot “gain” anything at all.
"The Rabbi was asked: When you say such things like "Hashem is One”, "He just is, He never began nor ever will end,” "Hashem is Kulo Pushut (that means perfectly simple, no characteristics, no qualities)" etc. - do you fully understand what these terms mean or are you just referring us to different places where Hashem is described? Honestly, can we really comprehend what this truly means?"
The meanings of these terms are easily understood; but visualizing someone or something with these characteristics is impossible - not only for us but for Moshe Rabbeinu, too. When Moshe asked Hashem “show me your glory”, what he wanted to understand was the essence of Hashem, to which Hashem answered: “No living being can see Me.” This means that as long as we are physical beings, we cannot conceptualize these things.
This is so because the human mind does not generate its own knowledge; rather, it absorbs information from the outside and rearranges it in the mind. So someone, let’s say, who was born blind, can never understand the difference between blue and red. There’s absolutely no way you can explain it to him.
Someone who never experienced infinity cannot imagine what he himself means when he says “space never ends”. And neither can he understand what it would mean if he’d say that space does end. Because we have experienced neither infinity nor anything outside of space, we cannot conceptualize those thoughts. Yet the infiniteness of space - or its having an end - can be understood “on paper,” even if our mind’s eye is not sharp enough to picture it.
So too, the things we know about G-d can definitely be understood “on paper,” but we will not be able to imagine them in our minds.
There is a great difference between “impossible” and “unable to be visualized.” There is no reason to say that a Muchrach HaMetzius (the first cause) is impossible. There is no logic that negates the possibility of such an existence. But just because something is real does not mean we can visualize it.
Visualization is possible only if we experienced the reality that we want to visualize. Since we never experienced a Muchrach HaMetzius (the first cause) we cannot visualize it.
However, an infinite regression of causes, for example, is not merely impossible to visualize. It is impossible to exist. Because infinity never ends, the amount of causes in the past cannot be infinite, because those causes have already ended. Logic precludes the existence of an infinite regression of anything in the past. Therefore, when faced with the choice of an infinite regression of causes, which is impossible, or a Muchrach HaMetzius (the first cause) which is not impossible, we conclude that a Muchrach HaMetzius must have been the First Cause.
Y'shayahu / Isaiah 34:5-6 has the prophet foretelling that before the messianic age Jerusalem will rejoice over the downfall of Edom (Y'shayahu / Isaiah 34:5-6).
First a little background.
In the Torah Abraham's son Isaac had two sons: Esau and Jacob. Esau was the elder of twins, but he was said to be unworth: a womanizing idler with little interest in G-d or Torah, while Jacob was a kind, Torah observant man who loved G-d.
Esau was "in line" to inherit from Isaac, but in B'reshit / Genesis 25 he says: “I'm going to die anyway. What do I care about the birthright. Take it and give me the stew. And Jacob said, "Swear to me as of this day"; so he swore to him, and he sold his birthright to Jacob." (B'reshit / Genesis 25:31-34).
Esau was the ancestor of a nation called Edom, which tradition identifies with Rome. (Edom means red, like the color of blood or of Jacob's stew.)
Isaiah foretells the doom of Edom as does Bamidbar / Numbers 24:18-19. Y'shayahu / Isaiah 34:5-6 says: “Edom shall be possessed, and Seir shall become the possession of his enemies, and Israel shall triumph. A ruler shall come out of Jacob, and destroy the remnant of the city."
Edom (the nation from Esau, Jacob's brother) has long been an enemy to the Jewish nation. Our sages stated that Edom = Rome, and when the Roman Empire became the Christian empire it remained "Edom."
Why? Why do so many Jewish sages equate Edom with Christianity (Rome)?
Kimchi, Ibn-Ezra, the Rambam (with an "m"), the Ramban (with an "n") and Abarbanel to name but a few say that Edom = Christianity. The Ramban wrote in “Gate of Redemption” (written circa 1263 C.E.) "We...believe that we are presently in the exile of Edom (Rome) and that we shall have no respite from it until the coming of the Messiah. … The Edomites [the nation around Mount Seir, descended from Esau] were the first to mistakenly follow after the man who claimed that he was the Messiah.
"They also ascribed godliness to him. When they came to the land of Italy, their error spread to the nearby city of Rome. There in the days of Constantine who ruled over Rome …, the council under the authority of the bishop [of the city] of Rome determined their belief in (Jesus) and established it [as the religion of the empire].
"This, above all else, is the main cause and reason that Rome and Edom are considered as one kingdom although they are different nations. In spite of that [difference], they are related because of their uniformity of belief which makes them one people and one nation. … [The Sages of the Targum] thus explained that Rome is in Grecian Italy and that many of the Edomite people are contained therein. Hence, [Rome] is called “O daughter of Edom,” (Eicah / Lamentations 4:22)."
Interesting enough the Christian bible itself states that some of Jesus' followers came from Edom. Mark 3:8 states that Jesus' disciples came from the lands populated by the Edomites. "When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea (Edom), and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon." Mark 3:8.
Does this mean that Ishmael and Esau are somehow doomed?
Of course not. Everyone alive can turn to G-d at any time. We can choose to sin or do good. . . So while the prophet Malachai in 1:3 says "And I hated Esau, and I made his mountains desolate and his heritage into [a habitat for] the jackals of the desert" this does not mean that G-d hates all of Esau's descendants. R' Kook (1865 - 1935) wrote "Noteworthy in this respect is the statement of Rabbi Elijah Gaon on the verse, “But Esau I hated” – “this refers to the peripheral part of Esau, but the essential part of him, his head, was interred with the patriarchs.” It is for this reason that the man of truth and integrity, Jacob, said [on his reunion with Esau], “I have seen you, and it is like seeing the face of G-d” (Gen. 33: 10). His word shall not go down as a vain utterance. The brotherly love of Esau and Jacob, Isaac and Ishmael, will assert itself above all the confusion that the evil brought on by our bodily nature has engendered. It will overcome them and transform them into eternal light and compassion." (Letters, 1, 112).
The Torah tells us that Jacob and Esau as well as Isaac and Ishmael, were eventually reconciled, In the messianic age former Christians and Muslims will all be united, along with Jews, in their love for G-d and their fellow man.
Remember that Esau was Jacob's brother -- just as Ishmael (Islam) was Isaac's brother. We are all related at a very important level and the destruction of Edom does not mean the deaths of Christians, but rather the realization will come to them (as we are told in the T'nach) that there is only one G-d and they will reject the false quasi-paganism that put a veneer on the T'nach to discover the one true G-d.
Zechariah 8 "So said the L-rd: I will return to Zion, and I will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; and Jerusalem shall be called the city of truth, and the mount of the L-rd of Hosts [shall be called] the holy mountain. . .
"So said the L-rd of Hosts: As it will be wonderful in the eyes of the remnant of this people in those days, it will also be wonderful in My eyes, says the L-rd of Hosts. . .
"So said the L-rd of Hosts: Behold I will save My people from the land of the east and from the land of the west (Christianity and Islam). . .
"And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; and they shall be My people, and I shall be their G-d, in truth and in righteousness. . .
"And many peoples and powerful nations shall come to entreat the L-rd of Hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord. . .
"So said the L-rd of Hosts: In those days, when ten men of all the languages of the nations shall take hold of the skirt of a Jewish man, saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that G-d is with you."
It is very frustrating that some "internet trolls" will visit my Facebook page and make stupid, inflammatory accusations about Judaism.
The most recent was a troll who "spammed" multiple threads with the accusation that in D'varim / Deuteronomy 22 the Torah (and thus Judaism) puts rape victims to death.
D'varim / Deuteronomy 22:22 - 29 deals with the question of both adultery and rape. Rape is never condoned, and the Torah (which discusses laws and legal punishments for those who break them) discusses different situations for various crimes. In this chapter a distinction is made between seemingly willing immoral sexual activities (both adultery and suspected rape) and unwilling sexual activities.
In the case of rape this distinction is made by whether or not a woman cries out during the act. In a city if a woman were to scream for help someone would come to help her. In the country if a woman screams out for help there is no one around to hear her and help her. . .
Therefor the Torah differentiates between whether a woman raped in the city cries out or not. If she does not cry out for help it is perceived that she was willing, and not a victim.
If a man and a woman engage in extra-marital sex both of them were liable to the justice system up to and including the death penalty.
This necessitates understanding how Jewish law works.
How likely was it for an adulterer or anyone else for that matter to be put to death?
More than one death penalty in 70 years was considered rare and the court was called a "bloody Sanhedrin."
This is because the rules around passing the death penalty set a very high bar.
One witness must not testify against a person to inflict any punishment or penalty for a crime that he may have committed. A case must be established through the testimony of [at least] two or three witnesses. (D'varim (Deuteronomy) 19:15).
There would have to have been two eye witnesses to the rape.
The witnesses could not be associated with either person.
This is what you must do] if a corrupt witness acts to testify falsely against a person. Two men who have testimony to refute [the false witnesses] shall stand before G-d, before the priests and judges who are involved in that case. The judges shall carefully interrogate [the refuting witnesses], and if the [first] two witnesses are found to have testified falsely against their brother you must do the same to them as they plotted to do to their brother, thus removing evil from your midst. (D'varim (Deuteronomy) 19:15-19)
Jewish courts do not use a jury system, but rather a group of judges, to decide legal decisions. The smallest Jewish court consists of three judges, and these courts still exist today. In ancient times appeals could be made to courts with 23 judges, all the way "up" to the great court which had 71 judges (this number is fixed in the Torah).
A three judge court could, for example, rule on theft cases. A capital punishment case (for example) required a court of 23 judges (a small Sanhedrin), but false prophets had to be adjudicated by the great Sanhedrin of 71 judges (the Great Sanhedrin). (Mishna, Sanhedrin 1:1-6).
The number (23) is derived from Bambidar (Numbers) 35:24-25 as discussed in the Rambam's Mishna Torah: "What is the source which teaches that capital cases may be judged only by a court of 23? Although this is a matter conveyed by the Oral Tradition, there is an allusion to it in the Torah. Bamidbar / Numbers 35:24-25 states: "And the congregation shall judge... and the congregation shall save...." Implied is that there must be the possibility of a congregation judging - and condemning him to death - and a congregation saving - and seeking his acquittal. Now a congregation is no less than ten. Thus there are at least 20 judges. We add three judges so that there not be an equally balanced court and to allow the possibility of "following after the inclination of the majority."
The number (71) for the Great Sanhedrin is also discussed in the Mishna Torah: "Great Sanhedrin. It was composed of 71 judges. This is derived from Bamidbar / Numbers 11:16 which states: "Gather for Me seventy men from the elders of Israel." And Moses presided over them, as the verse continues: "And they shall stand there with you." Thus there are 71."
A death penalty could be appealed to the "supreme court" of the land -- the "Great Sanhedrin."
The Great Sanhedrin was the supreme court of the land, the court which met in the Temple in the Chamber of Hewn / Carved Stone. It was comprised of priests, scribes and judges -- normally 71 judges. This number is taken from Bambidbar (Numbers) 11:16 "Gather for Me seventy men from the elders of Israel." Moses was the 71st in the very first Great Sanhedrin.
In minor and Great Sanhedrin, the judges selected among them a prosecutor and defense "attorney." After hearing the testimony of the witnesses, the judges align with the prosecution or defense and debate would ensue where a judge would give his view of the evidence and try to convince his fellow judges to rule according to his view. The Sanhedrin would then vote. If all the judges voted "guilty" or even all but one voted "guilty" the accused was set free. There had to be at least two judges voting for innocent for a man to actually be condemned to death. This is one reason the death penalty was so rare (one in 70 years was rare).
As there is no Sanhedrin in existence today, and the precise location of the lishkat hagazit is not even known for sure, capital punishment would not be lawful at the present time.
There has been no death penalty since 30 CE (prior to the date given for Jesus' supposed death), and even when it existed it was very hard to achieve the ultimate penalty.
Anti-Semites love to hate Jews. They will take something they do not understand completely out of context (as this troll did about D'varim / Deuteronomy 22) and make outlandish accusations.
"And if (Jesus) has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith." 1 Corinthians 15:14.
Did you know that the earliest gospel (Mark) did not have any stories about Jesus being resurrected? This central theme of Christianity (and why Christians celebrate Easter) does not appear in the gospels until well after the 4th century CE!
"And if (Jesus) has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith." 1 Corinthians 15:14.
Prior to the Council of Nicea (in 325 CE), when the trinity was made a religious concept, there was a great deal of disagreement in Christians as to whether Jesus was part of G-d, if there were two "parts" of G-d or a trinity. Early church fathers also recognized that the pagans had resurrection themes similar to their own. Justin Martyr (100 - 165 CE) wrote "when we say ... Jesus Christ, our teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propose nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you consider sons of Zeus." (1 Apologies 21).
Resurrected gods (dying and resurrecting) was a common theme in pagan religions. The Greek god Asclepius often resurrected people from the dead. Zeus (the main Greek god) killed him, but later resurrected Asclepius himself.
There are three resurrections in the T’nach:
The prophet Eliyahu (Elijah) prays and G-d raises a young boy from death (1 Kings 17:17-24);
The prophet Elisha raises a boy whose birth he had prophesied (2 Kings 4:8-16 and 32-37);
A dead man's body thrown into Elisha's tomb is resurrected when the body touches Elisha's bones (2 Kings 13:21).
In other words, what many Christians see as the very reason for believing in Christianity (the resurrection of Jesus) is not unique to Jesus. Neither it is a messianic requirement for the messiah to be resurrected. The messiah IS required to resurrect the righteous dead (all of them) -- and this is something Jesus did not do.
As shown above there are examples of Elijah and Elisha raising the dead in the T’nach – and we know that all the righteous will be resurrected in the messianic age.
A Jew would say “so what?” to the resurrection of Jesus (if it ever happened). His resurrection certainly would not make him worthy of worship. . . It does not prove he was the messiah, and it certainly doesn’t show he was part of G-d.
But interesting enough the earliest copies of the gospel of Mark (said to be the earliest gospel) do not have Jesus being resurrected at all.
The resurrection of Jesus appears to be a later insertion -- later than the 4th century CE (when these early texts date).
The gospel of Mark ended with the verse 8: "Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid."
No resurrected Jesus.
Eusebius (an early church father who lived from 264 CE to 340) CE, wrote in Ad Marinum 1 that "in the accurate manuscripts Mark ended with the words 'for they were afraid'[Mark 16:8].'"
The oldest copies of the Christian bible all end at Mark 16:8 (no resurrection).
Codex Vaticanus (dated by handwriting analysis called palaeography to the 4th century CE) = Mark ends at 16:8.
Codex Sinaiticus (dated by handwriting analysis called palaeography to the 4th century CE) = Mark ends at 16:8.
Codex Syriacus ( (dated by handwriting analysis called palaeography to the early 5th century CE) = Mark ends at 16:8.
No resurrection story in Mark in any of them.
So was the resurrection part of the early belief of all of Christianity -- or just "some"?
Is it possible (even probable) that the resurrection stories (all conflicting with one another) found in the four gospels and Acts were the result of the pro-resurrection Christians "winning" the theological battle of early Christianity? Today around 90% of Christians worldwide believe in the trinity (3 gods in 1 -- the father, the son and the holy ghost), but this concept was once controversial.
In the first century of Christianity the Gnostics believed that Jesus was G-d, but not man. An early adherent was Valentinus (100 CE to 160 CE) who believe that Joseph was Jesus' biological father, but when John baptized he physically died and resurrected as G-d. Jesus he was "born" as a G-d and no longer what he had been (100% human from human parents). The human Jesus is joined to the Savior.in Valentinus' version of Christianity.
A little later came the Arian sect, founded by Arius (250 CE - 336 CE). The Arians believed that Jesus was a man, and not G-d. The Arians did not believe in the trinity. They also thought that Jesus was not equal to G-d. Arius wrote "We are persecuted because we say that the Son has a beginning but that G-d is without beginning." Arius's Letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia.
Prior to the Council of Nicea (325 CE) t the Arians and Gnostics were only two differing "schools of thought" as to whether Jesus was a normal human being, a part of a trinity or part of a duality. . .. There were other Christian sects also differing from modern Christianity. The Council of Nicea condemned Arius's doctrine and formulated the original Nicene Creed of 325.
Resurrection (תְּחִיַּת הַמֵּתִים) is a part of Judaism, and indeed it is one of the Rambam’s 13 Principles of Judaism. "My corpses shall rise; awaken and sing, you who dwell in the dust, for a dew of lights is your dew, and [to the] earth You shall cast the slackers." Y'shayahu / Isaiah 26:19.
When the messiah comes the righteous will be resurrected and the soul reunited with body; this is why Jews do not believe in cremation or embalming (Isaiah 26). The T'nach seems to tell us that only the righteous will be resurrected (Daniel 12). Yet, there is a school of thought that every Jewish soul that ever lived will be resurrected. “Even the empty ones amongst you [Israel] are filled with mitzvot as a pomegranate [is filled with seeds]"—Talmud, Berachot 57a and The soul of every Jew is a "veritable portion of G‑d," and as such is eternal and indestructible.
If the resurrection of the messiah were so special why is it that all righteous people will be resurrected?
Many missionaries insist that Jesus is the "paschal lamb" -- saying Jesus' crucifixion echoes the ritual sacrifice of the Passover lamb.
Not even close.
The annual sacrifice of the paschal goat or lamb (not just "lamb" -- and goats were more common) was a celebratory offer made and eaten every Passover while the Temple stood. It was a festival -- a happy time, which had nothing to do with the murder of Jesus in a violent manner.
It also had nothing to do with sin.
When we have a Temple, and can bring sacrifices, we are commanded to keep the goat or lamb for four days (Sh'mot / Exodus 12:3 - 6) from Nisan 10 to Nisan 14. It was slaughtered on the 14th, roasted and then eaten that same night (which was now the 15th of Nisan as days begin at Sundown).
The Passover aka paschal goat or lamb -- usually a goat -- (the פֶּ֛סַח / pesach) offer is mentioned in D'varim (Deuteronomy) 16:2: "You shall slaughter the (פֶּ֛סַח) paschal sacrifice to HaShem, your G-d, [of the] flock, and [the Festival sacrifices of the] cattle, in the place which HaShem will choose to establish His Name therein."
We do not bring the sacrifices now because we do not have the place which HaShem will choose. That "place" was the Temple, and we do not have a Temple thus we are forbidden from bringing sacrifices for now.
But note that the Passover sacrifice had to be kept for four days, slaughtered, roasted and eaten. . . as part of the festival.
Yes, Passover is a festival as in CELEBRATION. The festival sacrifices are mentioned in the verses in Numbers (Bambidar / Numbers 28:16 - 17 "The 14th day of the first month (Nisan) is G-d's Passover. Then, on the 15th day, a festival shall begin, when matzo (unleavened bread) shall be eaten for seven days." ).
A festival shall begin.
Not a sad time.
Not a time of sin and repentance and atonement.
The paschal lamb was not a sin sacrifice (other wise called a חַטָּ֖את -- a chatat -- is an offering for a "missing of the mark" or accidental sin.
Torah tells us clearly that the sacrifice is part of a CELEBRATION, a festival -- a rejoicing -- to remember our freedom from slavery.
Sh'mot / Exodus 12:14 "This day must be one that you will remember. You must keep it as a festival to G-d for all generations. It is a law for all time that you must celebrate it."
There it is again: festival.
Showing all of this to a missionary they may actually admit that the Passover offer was not for sins -- hard to deny given that the bible says so very clearly.
But (the will insist) the FIRST paschal offer mirrors Jesus' death and it was all about blood, blood, blood.
Sorry -- also wrong.
Moses clearly tells Pharaoh (and us) that the animal to be sacrificed by the Jews is sacred (e.g. a G-d) to the Egyptians. The paschal lamb (or sheep) has nothing whatsoever to do with atoning for sins. In Egypt it was an affront to the Egyptians -- the slaughtering of their ram god. After the Exodus it was a remembrance and celebration.
Some say that the Egyptian Kevatim would worship the Zodiac sign of the sheep (what today we call Aries). To this end, they banned the slaughter of sheep and despised sheep traders and shepherds (Sh'mot / Ex.8:22, B'reshit / Genesis 46:34) .... By sacrificing their "god" (sheep / goat) the Jews were insulting the Egyptians and proving they trusted that G-d would protect them from the Egyptians as they insulted them. . .
There are other offers brought during the Passover holiday . They are mentioned in Bambidar (Numbers) 28:18-25. In addition to the various celebratory offerings—every festive occasion also had completely separate “atonement” offerings (sacrifices). These other sacrifices are all public, communal offerings that were made throughout the year for “atonement."
Not ONE of them was ever a lamb.
Nope, no lamb for "forgiveness of sins."
All holy days had a list of sacrifices some of which were sin, some guilt, some the daily offering, etc. The list of sacrifices also re-enforces the fact that atonement to G-d is an ONGOING process not a one time "last and final" sacrifice. That concept makes no sense since people make mistakes every day and mistakes often = accidental sins, or even perhaps more serious errors.
Examine the story of G-d's command to Moses regarding the first paschal offer. It is found in Sh'mot / Exodus 12. "On the tenth of this month, every man must take a שֶׂה (seh) for each extended family, a lamb for each household. 12:4 If the household is too small for a שֶׂה (seh), then he and a close neighbor can obtain a [ שֶׂה (seh) together], as long as it is for specifically designated individuals. Individuals shall be designated for a lamb according to how much each one will eat. 12:5 You must have a flawless young animal, a one-year-old male. You can take it from the sheep or from the goats. 12:6 Hold it in safekeeping until the fourteenth day of this month." Sh'mot / Exodus 12:3 - 6.
Drinking blood is forbidden because blood is identified with life - it is the "life force" in all living creations. Some of our Sages (e.g., in the Talmud and also the commentator Sforno) explain that there was a belief that, through eating blood, one could cultivate the companionship of demons (the demons are invisible beings who get their sustenance from consuming blood). Thus pagan religions often drank blood as part of their religious observance -- but it is strictly forbidden in the T'nach (Jewish bible). Vayikra / Leviticus 17:10-11.
Torah tells us that a proper sacrifice must be of a kosher, domestic animal (the animal is often identified as a bull, a seh (goat or lamb), etc (see Sh'mot / Exodus 13:13; Vayikra / Leviticus 22). Jesus, being a human (or even a demi-god) was obviously not a kosher animal and thus was unacceptable as a sacrifice.
The blood of the שֶׂה (seh) was a sign -- it did not "save" let alone save the Jews from the wrath of the Egyptians. The Paschal animal was not an atonement offering -- it had nothing to do with "saving" the Jews -- either the physical lives or the souls.
What kind of sign was the blood of the שֶׂה (seh)?
The blood was on the inside of the doors, where the Jews were to be able to see the blood painted on the door-frames but the Egyptians were not to see it. The sign was for the Jewish people, not for the Egyptians. How do we know the blood was on the inside of the doors (and not the outside, where the Egyptians would see it)? The text! It clearly says the sign is for "you" -- for the Jews, and not for the Egyptians. As Rashi opined"
[The blood will be] for you a sign but not a sign for others. From here, it is derived that they put the blood only on the inside. — [from Mechilta 11].
The sign meant that the Jews believed enough that G-d would free them that they risked being killed by the Egyptians who worshiped goats and sheep by keeping the animals close for four days, slaughtering them (which was obvious to the Egyptians), painting the animal's blood as a sign of their trust in G-d and then EATING the Egyptian gods. All of these actions (not just one little thing) was an act of defiance of their slave masters, and showed G-d that they trusted in Him, and Him alone.
"The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are staying. I will see the blood and pass you by (pasach). There will not be any deadly plague among you when I strike Egypt." Sh'mot / Exodus 12:13.
THE BLOOD WAS A SIGN.
Not an atonement.
Not somehow magic.
Who was the blood a sign FOR?
Well, it was painted on the inside of the houses -- not the outside. The sign of the blood was not for an angel (wouldn't an angel know who to kill or not kill?), or the Egyptians -- no the sign was for the Jews.
Keeping the animal INSIDE 9yuch) for four days, living with the smell and filth, then killing it and putting its blood inside the houses -- every single action was one of bravery by the Jews and showed trust in G-d to save them.
You see, Egyptians worshiped the animals -- so the Jews were defying the Egyptians by killing and eating the Egyptian god.
Torah also says that the Passover sacrifice be a male-goat, be offered on an individual (per household) basis (Bamidbar / Numbers 28:22), not as a communal offering. According to the Christian Bible, Jesus’ death (termed a “sin sacrifice”) expiated the sins of mankind (Romans 6:10; Hebrews 9:12, 10:10, 10:18 ). In previous posts the חַטָּאת / cḥattat / sin sacrifice has been discussed. The חַטָּאת / cḥattat (accidental sins) and אָשָׁם / asham sacrifices were PRIVATE offerings brought by INDIVIDUALS, not “atonement” offerings on behalf of the entire nation. The חַטָּאת / cḥattat / sin sacrifice was only for mistakes -- when someone tried to do the right thing and "missed" -- thus if Jesus died for sin it would only have been for a "missing of the mark" -- an accidental mistake (and again, human sacrifices were forbidden, PERIOD).
Also, no individual sacrifice could be brought for someone else or in advance. The type of offering was specified (female goat or lamb being the most common, but sometimes a bull, birds or flour) -- only domesticated (not wild) kosher animals were fit for sacrifice. Human sacrifices (Jesus anyone?) are totally forbidden by the Torah. Read Vayikra / Leviticus chapter 5 to learn about the אָשָׁם / asham (guilt / tresspass) qorbanot (sacrifices) and the very few things they covered:
No one can die for the sins of another.
Many people who read the T'nach (Jewish bible) only in translation think that G-d has "a" name. They usually think that His name is comprised of four Hebrew letters. This name is sometimes called tetragrammaton. Over the years people have taken the four Hebrew letters (non-Jewish people) and tried to make up vowel sounds for it. One of the earliest iterations was "Jehovah" -- a very strange pronunciation indeed since Hebrew has no words with a "j" sound!
In reality G-d has many "names," not just one. His holiest name, the tetragrammaton or "four letter" name was never to be spoken outside of prayer, and those prayers where this holiest of name was used was only in the holiest of places -- first the מִשְׁכַּן / Mishkan / Tabernacle (portable Temple) and later in the Temples in Jerusalem (the "j" is an Anglicized pronunciation for יְרוּשָׁלַיִם / Y'rushalayim.
How do we know that His holiest name is not to be said except in these holiest of places? “Whoever utters the (four letter holiest) Name (Tetragrammaton) must be put to death—the entire congregation has to take part in his execution; the same applies to a foreigner as to a citizen: he must die for his uttering of the Name” (Vayikra / Leviticus 24:16).
The Talmud (Gemara, Sh'vuot 35a) lists nine specific names (really descriptions or titles) for G-d that “may not be erased”, and eleven names / descriptions for G-d may “be erased." The mere utterance of the Tetragrammaton is explicitly prohibited in the Torah. And make no mistake, it is explicitly prohibited in the Torah, this isn’t just “an invention of the Rabbis.
Why does G-d have so many names?
Why do Jews not use any of His names outside of prayer?
Even in translations it is easy to see that in the bible names are not just labels. Names have meanings. G-d changes Jacob's name to "Israel." "Your name will no longer be said to be Jacob, but Israel (Yisra'el). You have become great (sar) before G-d and man." Br'eshit / Genesis 32:29. The "j" again as an Anglicized version of his Hebrew name which is יַעֲקֹב / Yaakov. There is no "j" sound in Hebrew.
However, G-d also says: "G-d said to him, 'Your name is Jacob. But your name will not be only Jacob; you will also have Israel as a name.' [G-d thus] named him Israel." Br'eshit / Genesis 35:10.
This means that at times Abraham's son will be called Jacob and at other times Israel.
Bahya ben Asher put it this way. "we may detect a distinct pattern in the Torah sometimes choosing to refer to Jacob by his original name and sometimes by his additional name. The name Jacob applies to the physical part of Yaakov’s personality, matters connected to his terrestrial existence, whereas the name Israel refers to spiritual aspects of his personality, matters connected to his eternal existence in celestial regions.”
Names are not merely "labels" -- they have meaning.
Which brings us back to the topic: G-d has many names in the bible.
Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) speaks of 72 names for G-d.
Yet, not one of them is really a name.
G‑d has no name. He is infinite and does not have a name -- or a title or a description for that matter. You could say that by definition, G-d has no definition.
What we call His name(s) are simply our attempt at describing the indescribable.
The terms we most often associate with Him from the T'nach are אֱלֹהִים / elohim, a word used to speak not only of G-d but of false gods, angels and even powerful humans in the bible. The word אֱלֹהִים / elohim really translates to "powerful judge" and it describes an entity in a position of authority and power, such as a ruler. This is why G-d tells Moses that He will make Moses an אֱלֹהִים / elohim (powerful ruler) to Pharaoh. . . When we use this term to speak of G-d we are referring to His majesty and His position as our ultimate ruler.
The other common term associated with G-d is אֲדֹ-נָי / Adonai. The Hebrew word אָדוֹן / adon is a masculine noun (all nouns in Hebrew are either masculine or feminine) meaning a lord or master. אֲדֹ-נָי / Adonai is used to speak of G-d as a merciful master. When the tetragrammaton (four letter name for G-d) appears in prayer or in the T'nach we verbally say אֲדֹ-נָי / Adonai. The dashes are not found in the word, I am using them here to avoid spelling the name outside of prayer. . .
אֲדֹ-נָי / Adonai is only used to speak of G-d, but similar words such as אָדוֹן / adon and אֲדֹנִי / adoni which is singular and has the possessive suffix “my” (my master) and אֲדֹנַי / adonai is used to speak of some men and it means "Gentlemen!"
Again, we use these descriptions of G-d only in prayer. Outside of prayer we refer to G-d as הַשֵּׁם / HaShem (The Name) out of respect. In D'varim / Deuteronomy 28:58 we are told "fear this glorious and awesome הַשֵּׁם / HaShem / the name, the L-rd, your G-d,"
Using the term הַשֵּׁם / HaShem (The Name) is a way of referring to G-d with respect as it is not a holy name / description. It is the name of a name. . . Think of הַשֵּׁם / HaShem (The Name) as a place holder -- a way of referring to G-d without accidentally defaming one of His holy names in every day speech.
Missionaries, who are usually ignorant as to what the Talmud is and is not, often cite things out of context and claim the Jews have changed Judaism based on their ignorance. By misusing Jewish sources they do not understand missionaries will "paint the picture" that:
One such "proof" given by the missionaries is to reference Bava Metzia 59a and 59b, also known as "the oven of Akhnai" or the rabbis doing something opposite to what G-d wants them to do (and the missionaries will quote "my sons have defeated me"). Michael Brown, an apostate Jew who became a Christian as a teenager, but who presents himself as an expert on all things Jewish, wrote: "In many cases, the Talmudic interpretation of the Scriptures contradicts the plain sense of the Torah. For a famous example, see B. Bava Metzia 59b, which changes the meaning of the end of Exodus 23:2. If you are a student of the Talmud, you know that this is common, even in legal interpretations."
Brown even has a video where he repeats the same claim regarding Bava Metzia 59a and 59b. The video is entitled Bava Metzia: Can a majority of rabbis overrule the voice of G-d?
Brown is totally distorting the facts. What he claims is a total distortion and fabrication of the facts.
Brown (and other missionaries) present this story as if it were the rabbis believe they can overrule G-d -- as if the rabbis are so arrogant that they believe they can ignore and even reverse the bible. Re-read Brown's quote if you find this hard to believe.
Now, given that Brown turned to Christianity after a drug and crime filled youth (from the age 14 per his "personal testimony") perhaps Brown is simply ignornant of the basics of Torah and Talmudic studies and is innocently misleading his readers -- or possibly Brown set out to deceive innocent Christians -- I neither know or care if he is innocent or not, but his quote is as wrong as wrong can be.
Odds are for Brown it is a lack of Jewish education. In his personal testimony Brown says he grew up in a Conservative Jewish home, but "In 1969, at the age of fourteen, when I was asked if I wanted to try smoking pot, I was only too happy to oblige. Soon I tried smoking hash too. But neither one had any effect on me. So I tried harder drugs until I started using ups, downs, and LSD. “But I’ll never do anything worse than that,” I thought. Yet I was deceived. Soon I starting using speed, then I started shooting speed. (Of course, I had been sure I would never put a needle in my arm!). Then, I got the opportunity to try heroin. I loved it! I was fifteen years old. , ,
"For fun, my friends and I even broke into some homes and a doctor’s office. We experimented with the drugs we found and almost killed ourselves."
One year later (age 16) he was a Christian.
So when did Michael Brown, as a Jew, become learned in Judaism?
Brown had a very limited Jewish education, very likely no Talmudic study (rare in Conservative Judaism, especially with children) let alone his drug filled teen years. His education is all at the hands of Christians and secular studies (languages, not Talmud). . . R' Moshe Shulman has debated Brown and has written about his lack of Jewish understanding -- a good article to begin with is his Who is Dr. Brown and Why Spend so Much Time on Him?
This post is not about Brown, but he is a perfect example of how uneducated missionaries misuse Jewish sources, in this case Bava Metzia 59a and 59b. His assertions regarding Bava Metzia are found on numerous missionary cites, quoted as "fact" -- including on the Chosen Peoples Ministry site, so this distortion is no small thing to be ignored.
Bava Metzia 59a and 59b is referenced by Brown (and other missionaries) without being quoted, or it is partially quoted without the surrounding context. Without the quote -- or even worse, only partially quoted, the passage is meaningless as missionaries portray it.
First one must know what the Talmud "is" and what part of the Talmud one can find this story (and it IS a story, not fact or law). The Talmud (there are actually two Talmuds -- Jerusalem and Babylonian) consists of two main concepts: the מִשְׁנָה / Mishna -- which was created to be a "cheat sheat" for a learned person -- the writing was kept to a minimum and meant only to serve as a aid to faltering memories who were taught to memorize the oral mitzvot.
The second part of the Talmud are discussions around the Mishna's teachings. These discussions may discuss the finer points of Jewish law (מִדְךְשׁי הֲלָכָה / Midrash Halacha), but there are also stories and humor as well. This מִדְרַשׁ־אַגָּדָה / Midrash Aggadah -- which means telling a story. מִדְרַשׁ־אַגָּדָה / Midrash Aggadah is not prophecy or meant to be taken literally. . . a word or sentence is lifted from the bible to make a moral point. However, prophecy is NEVER based on these flights of fancy.
You guessed it, Bava Metzia 59a and 59b, also known as תנור של עכנאי / "the oven of Akhnai", was a story -- מִדְרַשׁ־אַגָּדָה / Midrash Aggadah -- not something to be taken literally -- which is how the missionaries present it to their unlearned (in Torah and Talmud) audience. This is wrong, and it is deceitful. Whether or not the missionaries misusing this passage realize they are distorting it is open to question. Most of them probably do not know anything about the Talmud or Judaism let alone מִדְרַשׁ־אַגָּדָה / Midrash Aggadah.
G-d has told us in the Torah to establish courts and to listen to the decisions made by the judges.
G-d put the authority of deciding legal issues in the hands of mortal man -- judges because the Torah was made for us in this world and we are co-creators -- that is the entire reason G-d created us.
In Bava Metzia 59b G-d is speaking (in מִדְרַשׁ־אַגָּדָה / Midrash Aggadah, so not meant to be taken literally) and saying proudly ‘My sons have defeated Me, My sons have defeated Me." -- the judges He put in place are not afraid of making decisions.
In the story (and it IS a story) G-d agrees with R' Eliezer on the halacha (law) -- but the majority of the Rabbis have a different ruling.
The Rabbis argue that in a court of law "majority rules" -- and this is G-d's own ruling. Far from showing the Jews are more powerful than G-d, the Rabbis prove to G-d that they are obeying His mitzvot by coming to a majority judicial ruling as He decreed. The missionaries distort the idea that to follow G-d we must use the brains He gave us -- not to disobey Him, but to follow His instructions. Remember that Michael Brown (the apostate Jew missionary) said "which changes the meaning of the end of Exodus 23:2."? The opposite is true. Sh'mot / Exodus 23:2 in the bible tells us that we are to rule according to the majority, and be carefull: "Do not follow the majority to do evil. Do not speak up in a trial to pervert justice. A case must be decided on the basis of the majority." Two judges are not enough to have a majority (one might have a "tie"). This is why all Jewish courts (including the minor Sanhedrins and Great Sanhedrin) were uneven numbers of 23 and 71. . .
Jewish courts do not use juries -- each court has multiple judges. The smallest courts have three judges, and our sages tell us that, a Jewish court can not rule against a defendant by a majority created by one judge. In death penalty cases a court had to have at least 23 Judges, sitting in the לִשְׁכַּת הַגָּזִית lishkat hagazit (“Chamber of Carved Stone”) in the Temple. If all the judges voted "guilty" or even all but one voted "guilty" the accused was set free. There had to be at least two judges voting for innocent for a man to actually be condemned to death. (again, referencing back to Sh'mot / Exodus 23:2). Missionaries make claims that are simply unsupportable based both on Jewish law and Jewish history. Michael Brown's claim that "which changes the meaning of the end of Exodus 23:2" is completely false.
That in itself is explicit proof that in the case of the oven the law was in accordance with the consensus of Sages.
Missionaries often distort (even reversing) Jewish teaching. The Greek Orthodox "father" cited by the Shabbat spammer had many mistakes on his website -- and I discussed two on my last post (a "different" aleph-bet and needing vowels). The missionary also wrote: "the Masorites themselves felt they had received a partly corrupted text" which is as false a statement as is possible to make. Again this may be from his ignorance (he seems pretty ill-educated) or on purpose. . . hard to say. But totally wrong!
The "father" misunderstood the concept of תיקוני סופרים / Tikkun Soferim (corrections of the scribes) and assumed that it meant that Jewish scribes changed parts of the bible. The term Tikkun Soferim is often translated as “Scribal Emendations."
The Mechilta says that there are eleven instances where the T'nach uses a euphemism (kinah hakatuv) -- not actually a scribe (sofer) changing the actual verses. The T'nach, in these few places, uses euphenisms out of respect for G-d -- and some people uneducated on these matters jump to the conclusion that scribes actually changed passages. In other words -- the original text was written with a euphemism -- no one "changed" it later. (BTW, other sources say 18, some say 11 and some say 7 -- so the exact number is debatable, but it is no more than 18).
Now is where it gets confusing.
In Sh'mot / Exodus Rabbah (midrash aggadot -- allegory, not literal meaning) R' Yehoshua ben Levi reference the SAME passage (in this case Zechariah) and instead of calling it a euphenism (kinah hakatuv) he called it a tinnuk seforim (scribal correction).
And then people began to think that scribes changed the passages, whereas others said that, no, the original passages used euphenisms. R' Yosef Albo in Sefer HaIkkarim wrote "The meaning is not that any person changed anything in the Torah, G-d forbid, because no one would forge a book and then say "I forged this" or "I changed this." How could they say that the Scribes changed it? Rather, the meaning is that... [the Torah spoke] like a scribe who changes his words out of respect for G-d."
Missionaries, trying to support their Greek mistranslations (which they erroneously call the Septuagint or LXX) such as virgin in Isaiah 7:14 not only take the worst possible conclusion (the texts are corrupted).
They also do not tell their unsuspecting audience WHEN these scribal emendations were made.
Which was before the bible was closed.
Or by whom.
The prophets -- many the authors of the texts themselves.
Who was responsible for identifying these verses (and potentially slightly modifying them)? The prophets themselves: the Men of the Great Assembly who codified the T'nach (Jewish bible), which included the prophets Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi (who is Ezra), Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah, Nehemiah b. Hachaliah, Mordechai and Zerubabel b. Shaaltiel, among others.
If one wants to believe that these prophets did slightly alter parts of the bible (which many sages say is NOT what happened) -- then know the facts.
Not a single meaning was changed in any of the texts referenced.
The only alterations (say the sages who have this opinion) were those where the honor of God was involved (such as the idea of G-d standing before Abraham rather than the reverse). The sages who state that the prophets themselves altered the text further state that often it was the original author who changed it himself. There is a verse from Zechariah 2:12 which says "Whoever touches you touches the pupil of his own eye." The sages who state this was changed say it was the author himself who changed it from “Whoever touches you touches the pupil of My (G-d's) eye" to "his own eye (the human)."
But remember, there are other sages who say no changes were made and that the term only referred to places in the T'nach where euphanisms were used.
The Sofrim were the scribes who lived at the close of the prophetic era -- the very prophets who wrote what is IN the bible -- including Ezra. So, no. . . no "rabbis" changed the bible (although one can state that the great prophets were all rabbis themselves: teachers and judges). . .
The missionary assumes that Jews willy nilly changed the bible -- and this slander actually began over 700 years ago. The original source for this slander was the infamous Raymond Martini -- an anti-semite. Raymundus Martin (Raymond Martini) was an anti-Jewish Dominican priest from the 13th century CE. Pugio Fidei (Dagger of the Faith) was an anti-Jewish diatribe he wrote (amongst others).
The Rashba (13th century) wrote "Tikkun Soferm does not mean that (the sages) changed (the text) by erasing and writing. Whatever Moses wrote in the Torah, and the other prophets in the other books (of the bible), they, a priori, wrote euphemistically. There was no addition or deletion from the books, but those things which should have been written euphemistically were written in such a way."
Jews don’t “change” the bible. In the few cases where the sages discuss tikkun soferim (whether changes were made or not) nothing in the meaning is changed at all -- and the changes (the sages state) were by the original authors -- not the later "rabbis" who carelessy modified the bible. IF a few verses were changed they were changed by the prophets before the bible was closed -- and not by later rabbis. And please keep in mind that many of our sages do not believe that even minor modifications were made by the original authors even -- but that language was "softened" in the original to avoid misinterpretation. . .
Jews do NOT change the bible.
Don’t believe me?
Here is something written 2000 yers ago by a source nearly contemporaneous to Jesus (Josephus, 37CE – 100CE).
Josephus wrote that the Jewish bible was unchanged not only in his time, but for a long time before him: “For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another, [as the Greeks have,] but only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine; and of them five belong to Moses, which contain his mitzvot and the traditions of the origin of mankind till his death. . . (and) the prophets, who were after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to G-d, and precepts for the conduct of human life. . . we firmly give credit to these books of our own nation is evident by what we do; for during so many ages as have already passed, no one has been so bold as either to add anything to them, to take anything from them, or to make any change in them.” Against Apion, Josephus.
2000 years ago.
"no one has been so bold as either to add anything to them, to take anything from them, or to change them."
2000 years ago.
Torot (plural of Torah) from around the world are remarkably identical. The "Koren Edition" T'nach has a list of חִלּוּפֵי נֻסְחָאוֹת / hillufei nus'ha'ot ("variant readings") and there are just THREE entries for the five Torah books...
(1) B'reshit / Genesis 9:29... in the place of וַֽיְהִי֙ va-y'hi ("and it was") some copies have וַיִּהְיוּ֙ va-yih'yu ("and they were") [and I have one printed חוּמָשׁ that has the yod of וַיִּֽהְיוּ֙ pointed with a meteg (an optional stress mark)].
(2) D'varim / Deuteronomy 23:2... in the place of דַּכָּ֛ה dakkah ("crushed" or "bruised") some copies have דַּכָּ֛א dakka (an alternative spelling which doesn't even change the pronunciation)
(3) Vayikra / Leviticus 7:28... in some copies, the פַּרָשָׁה פְתוּחָה (open paragraph break) occurs instead at Vayikra 7:22.
None of these minor variations makes the slightest difference in the meaning of the text.
The Torah and the 'nach are amazingly similar througout the world. Emmanuel Tov, emeritus Professor in the Department of Bible at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, wrote "It should be remembered that the number of differences between the various editions is very small. Moreover, all of them concern minimal, even minute details of the text, and most affect the meaning of the text in only a very limited way." (page 3, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible).
There are ancient copies, particularly of Prophets and Writings, that may vary from the Jewish mesorah (T’nach). How do we know that what we have today is correct? Shouldn’t we assume that a more ancient version is “right” and that along the way the Jewish scribes changed words (no real meaning has changed – again see Tov). . .
Some ancient copies are of questionable accuracy – I’m not speaking of translations into Greek or Aramaic as a translation is always interpretive on the part of the translator and thus word choices may vary. . . I’m speaking of ancient Hebrew witnesses to compare to what we have today.
Again, there is very little difference – and when there is a difference it tends to be the ancient version that is of questionable accuracy. How could that possibly be??? Well, compare the ancient Dead Sea Scroll version to the Masada papyri. Masada fell approximately 73 CE (common era) – so the documents date to the same timeframe as the Dead Sea Scrolls found in Qumran. Yet the fragments from Masada are identical in their text to the Masoretic Text (MT) that we have today per Lawrence H. Schiffman in “Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Volume 2”, page 492.
From Qumran (Dead Sea Scrolls) to Aleppo: A Discussion with Emanuel Tov about the Textual Integrity of the Bible”, page 12: “The 6000 medieval manuscripts of the MT (Masoretic text) differed only slightly in all. . .details. It is a miracle, albeit a man-made one, that the MT remained unchanged over the past 2000 years. This lack of textual intervention is visible when one compares the fragments found at Masada, Nahal Hever, and Nahal Marabba’at with manuscripts from the Middle Ages. There are almost no dfferences in consonants between the codex Leningradensis or the Aleppo codex from the early Middle Ages and the texts from Masada (66-73 CE), Nahal Hever (132-135 CE), and Nahal Murabba’at (132-135 CE); the level of variation between them is no higher than that among the medieval texts themselves. (Footnote: For precise statistics see I. Young, “The Stabilization of the Biblical Text in Light of Qumran and Masada: A Challenge for Conventional Qumran Chronology?” DSD 9 (2002) 364-90).
Missionaries will often try to argue that the bible we have today (Masoretic Text) is not the same as the ancient bible -- that Jews corrupted it. This flies in the face of not only Jewish history, blackens Jewish honor -- but it also is refuted by the experts. The facts support the Jewish T'nach's accuracy, and refutes that of the various Greek translations along the way. . . Link.
Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, begins at Sundown (Jewish days begin at sundown). This holy day is misunderstood by many a missionary who seem to think that only on this day can Jews be forgiven for our sins. Missionaries often think that without blood there is no remission of sin. More than once I have been asked "How do Jews atone for sin without sacrifices?"
Sacrifices have never been necessary to atone for sin -- it was only one way to atone for some very specific sins (mostly minor). One can atone and repent at any time. The purpose of Yom Kippur is G-d's gift to us -- a day which atones whether we seek forgiveness or not. It is the day G-d comes to US rather than waiting for us to come to Him.
"For on this day G-d shall effect atonement for you to cleanse you. Before the L-rd, you shall be cleansed from all your sins.” Vayikra / Leviticus 16:30.
G-d shall effect atonement.
The day itself atones.
Rabbi [Y’udah HaNassi] says: Yom Kippur atones whether one repents or one does not repent. Talmud, Shevuot 13a.
The key to understanding the difference between Yom Kippur and every other day of the year is that we can turn to G-d at any time. On Yom Kippur G-d comes to us. Normally we bring sacrifices, or prayers, or acts of charity to G-d. We go to Him and we thank Him, or ask Him to forgive some wrong we did. We can do this at any time, all through the year. This is the difference between the Yom Kippur sacrifices and those mentioned in Vayikra / Leviticus 5-6 (4, too). All of those are about us going to Him. On Yom Kippur He comes to us.
The difference with Yom Kippur and all other days of the year is that instead of US asking Him for forgiveness -- He seeks us out and in His infinite kindness and mercy forgives us -- the day itself is the atonement.
Even in the days of the two Temples the various blood sacrifices did not atone for major sins and wrongdoings of the Jewish people. There are two major categories of sacrifices -- communal (those for the nation) and individual (for each person's wrong doings). . .
There was no sacrifice on Yom Kippur where an animal was sacrificed and this cleansed the Israelites sins. The offer brought on Yom Kippur that cleansed sins was the one where the scapegoat was not sacrificed. It was sent ALIVE into the wilderness.
The key to understanding the difference between Yom Kippur and every other day of the year is that we can turn to G-d at any time. On Yom Kippur G-d comes to us. Normally we bring sacrifices, or prayers, or acts of charity to G-d. We go to Him and we thank Him, or ask Him to forgive some wrong we did. We can do this at any time, all through the year. You asked about the difference between the sacrifices mentioned in Vayikra / Leviticus 5-6 (4, too) -- this is the difference. All of those are about us going to Him. On Yom Kippur He comes to us.
The difference with Yom Kippur and all other days of the year is that instead of US asking Him for forgiveness -- He seeks us out and in His infinite kindness and mercy forgives us -- the day itself is the atonement.
"On Yom Kippur, the day itself atones... as it is written, For on this day, it shall atone for you." Mishneh Torah, Laws of Repentance 1:3
It isn't the sacrifices which atone on Yom Kippur -- or even our prayers. It is the day itself which atones -- and this is what makes Yom Kippur so special. This is the day G-d comes seeking us (rather than the other way around).
There were individual and communal sacrifices on Yom Kippur described in Vayikra (Leviticus) 16 that atoned for very specific things -- but not for the sins of all of Israel. There was a sacrifice brought by the kohein gadol (high priest) for himself and his family. One for the kohein gadol and the other priests. . .The חַטָּאת cḥattat (accidental sins) and אָשָׁם asham sacrifices were PRIVATE offerings brought by INDIVIDUALS, not “atonement” offerings on behalf of the entire nation. The חַטָּאת chatat (sin sacrifice) was for a missing of the mark (you tried to do good but missed) and the אָשָׁם asham (guilt / tresspass sacrifice) was for three different types of violations:
1. unintentionally taking and using something from the holy Temple. The person must return the items, add 1/5th in restitution and bring an asham;
2. asham taluy is for when you aren't sure if you sinned or not, so just to be sure you bring an asham taluy. If later you discover that you did commit a cheit (accidental sin) you bring a chatat (sin offer);
3. asham g'zelot if you lied under oath defrauding someone of his things or money. In this case again you have to return the stolen things and add 1/5th to it as well as bring the asham g'zelot.The communal Yom Kippur (“Atonement Day”) ceremonies are detailed in chapter 16 of Vayikra (Leviticus), wher AN OX was offered for the kohein gadol (high priest) and all the other priests (verses 3, 6, 11) and two GOATS were offered for the nation (verses 5, 7-10, 15). As I already mentioned, the one sent away into the desert, and NOT killed was the one who symbolically “carryied away” the nation's sins.
Missionaries seem think there was some "magic" in blood sacrifices and this is not supported by the Jewish bible. Indeed sacrifices were not so much for G-d as they were a gift from G-d.
The Rambam explained this when he told us that G-d doesn't need sacrifices.
In other words, the Jews were used to bringing sacrifices and this is why G-d permitted them. Qorban gave man a way to feel closer to G-d by giving Him something of value (be it money, flour, an animal, etc.).
In pagan religions the gods were bloodthirsty and needed blood to be satisfied. In Judaism G-d permitted man to bring sacrifices because man needed them -- He needs nothing.
Maimonides, aka the Rambam, suggested that qorban (sacrifice) was ordained as an accommodation of man's primitive desires. In his Guide to the Perplexed (3:46), the Rambam explains that the nations of the world that worshiped animals generally worshipped one of three domestic animals: either sheep (as did the Egyptians, Targum Onkeles Sh'mot / Exodus 8:22), goats (as in Vayikra / Leviticus 17:7) or cows (as in India, until today).
In order to remove any reverent thoughts for these animals from Jewish minds, Hashem commanded us to take specifically these three animals, and to slaughter them and burn them on the Mizbe'ach. (In ch. 3:32 of the Guide, the Rambam offers yet another approach to the matter of sacrifices).
This whole fixation on blood, blood, blood by missionaries is not supported by the Jewish bible. The missionaries take the statement that blood can atone for SOME sins and somehow morph it into "you need blood for sins to be forgiven." This is akin to eating a slice of pizza because you are hungry and then insisting that the only type of food that exists in the world is pizza. How crazy is that?
The key to understanding Yom Kippur is that man may atone for sins at any time -- through various means (prayer, repentance, kindness, charity. . .). On Yom Kippur G-d, in His infinite mercy, forgives us without our even asking. On Yom Kippur it is the day itself that atones (not goats, bulls, etc.).
Vayikra / Leviticus 16 speaks of the various sacrifices brought on Yom Kippur.
Vayikra / Leviticus 16:16 speaks of a specific sacrifice made for accidental defilement of the Temple (not general sins let alone "all" sins). Notice the use of the the word "unclean."
"He (the high priest) shall then slaughter the people's sin offering goat, and bring its blood into [the inner sanctuary] beyond the cloth partition. He shall do the same with this blood as he did with the bull's blood, sprinkling it both above the ark cover and directly toward the ark cover. With this, he will make atonement for the Israelites' defilement, as well as for their rebellious acts and all their inadvertent misdeeds." Vayikra / Leviticus 16:15-16.
The Torah says לְכָל־חַטֹּאתָ֑ם, חַטָּאַת which means in regards to their unintentional sins. Here is Rashi's commentary:
"from the defilements of the children of Israel-. [i.e., atoning] for those who, while in [a state of] uncleanness, had entered the Sanctuary, and it never became known to them [that they had been unclean], for it says: לְכָלחַטֹּאתָם, חַטָּאַת denotes an unintentional sin. - [Torath Kohanim 16:42; Shev. 17b]and from their rebellions. [i.e., atoning] also [for] those who, in a state of uncleanness, willfully entered [the Sanctuary, thereby defiling it]. - [Torath Kohanim16:42; Shev. 17b]He shall do likewise to the Tent of Meeting.i.e., just as he had sprinkled from [the blood of] both [the bull and the he-goat] inside [the Holy of Holies, with] one sprinkling above and seven below, so shall he sprinkle from [the blood of] both [the bull and the he-goat] on the dividing curtain from the outside once above and seven times below. - [Torath Kohanim16:43; Yoma 56b]which dwells with them, [even] amidst their defilements. Although they are unclean, the Divine Presence is among them. - [Torat Kohanim 16:43; Yoma 56b]."
Lkewise the priest sacrificed a bull for himself and his own household for the very same reason:
"When Aaron (the first high priest) enters [this inner] sanctuary, it must be with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. Aaron shall present his sin offering bull, and make atonement for himself and his (fellow priests)." Vayikra / Leviticus 16:3-11.
Most missionaries fail to mention the BULL's BLOOD that is sprinkled on the ark cover to atone for the priests' sins. If the goats blood covers "all" of the Jews then why do the priests have to bring this sacrifice?
Doesn't that blow the idea that somehow the goat sacrifice atoned for "all sins?" After all it is the blood of the bull which atones for any unintentional sins by the priests. It seems that most missionaries are skimming the chapter rather than reading it for the details.
They also miss the far from minor detail that it is the LIVE goat which carries away sins big and small: "Aaron (the first high priest) shall press both his hands on the live goat's head, and he shall confess on it all the Israelites' sins, rebellious acts and inadvertent misdeeds. When he has thus placed them on the goat's head, he shall send it to the desert with a specially prepared man. The goat will thus carry all the sins away to a desolate area when it is sent to the desert." Vayikra / Leviticus 16:21-22.
No blood sacrifice!
Here is a link to R' Aryeh Kaplan's translation of Vayikra / Leviticus 16 (link).
Hopefully you've noticed that although there are indeed blood sacrifices brought on Yom Kippur when a Temple is standing (this is the only place G-d designated for sacrifices) -- the "big" sins did not have a sacrifice, even in the days of the Temple itself. The "scapegoat" was sent alive into the desert per the Torah. (The Talmud tells us that this goat was sent off of a cliff to its death to avoid it wandering back into town bringing back all the sins! But, this is NOT a "sacrifice" -- it is one of those rabbinical fences missionaries do not "believe" in).
From Rambam's "The Laws of Repentence":
"If a person violates any mitzvot of the Torah, willingly or unintentionally. . .he must repent. . .Similarly, people who are sentenced by the Rabbinical court to be executed, or to be lashed, do not attain atonement through their death or lashing unless they repent and confess. . .
"1:2] The goat that is sent to Azazel is (likened to a sacrifice) for forgiveness for all Israel;therefore, the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) recites a verbal confession that includes all Israel, as it is written, "And he shall confess on it, all the transgressions of Israel." (Leviticus 16:21).
"This goat atones for all transgressions in the Torah: both those punishable by death and not punishable by death; intentional sins and unintentional sins; those the transgressor is aware of, and those of which he is unaware. This applies only if one repents. If one does not repent, the goat atones only for the light sins
"Now that the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple) is not standing, and there is no sacrificial altar for atonement, we are only left with repentance. Through repentance, G-d forgives our sins, and no mention is made of these sins even if one sinned one's whole life and repented only in his final moments. As it is written, "The wickedness of the wicked will not cause him to stumble when be turns back from his wickedness." (Ychezkiel / Ezekiel 33:12)."
Sacrifices were not magic -- they were a gift of G-d to help us truly atone by giving up something of value to Him. G-d forbids and abhors human sacrifice. The death of Jesus (if he ever even lived) couldn't have atoned for the sins of anyone -- he was simply murdered by the Romans as were tens of thousands of Jews. The Day of Atonement is not the "only" day sins could be forgiven -- sins can be forgiven at any time. It is a special day when G-d comes to us, and when the day itself atones.
Among the many annoying emails and messages received from missionaries are those trying to convert me with such pithy comments as: "Jewish sounding name" (usually claimed to be a Rabbi or Orthodox Jew) became a Christian, so shouldn't you become a Christian, too?"
Why is it that missionaries think that "testimonies" by various formerly secular Jews would be persuasive in convincing Jews that they "know something" hidden from the rest of us Jews? Jews who become Christians tend to do so for one of a few reasons:
Furthermore, the Jews who of their own volition who become Christians tend to do so based on some personal "revelation" -- which the T'nach itself warns us time and time again to beware of! Personal revelations of "seeing" Jesus or Mohammad or whomever are a test from G-d, and He tells us this in the Torah. This warning is found in many places, but is shouted loud and clear in D'varim / Deuteronomy 13: "The entire word that I command you, that shall you observe to do; you shall not add to it and you shall not subtract from it.  If there should stand up in your midst a prophet or a dreamer of a dream, and he will produce to you a sign or a wonder,  and the sign or the wonder comes about, of which he spoke to you, saying "Let us follow G-ds of others that you did not know and we shall worship them!"  do not hearken to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of a dream, for HASHEM, your G-d, is testing you to know whether you love HASHEM, your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul.  HASHEM, your G-d, shall you follow and Him shall you fear; His commandments shall you observe and to His voice shall you hearken; Him shall you serve and to Him shall you cleave."
Yesterday a Catholic began trolling me on my Gmail account -- bringing up first Rabbi Israel Zolli who was chief Rabbi of Rome (originally from Poland / Ukraine area) who became a Catholic after World War II. After Mussolini’s fall in 1943 the Nazis took over Rome, Zolli and his family went into hiding with a Catholic family saving his own skin, but leaving the Jews he supposedly led to the fate of the Nazis. The Jewish community of Rome was about 10,000 in 1943. The Germans deported 8,564 Jews from Italy, Italian-occupied France, and the islands of Rhodes and Kos, most of them to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Of the 8,564 deported only 1,009 survived.
Zolli and his family were safe -- they had run away to the safety of the Vatican, leaving the Jews to fend for themselves -- to live or die at the hands of the Nazis.
To make matters so much worse, Zolli didn't even destroy the synagogue registers making it easy for the Nazis to get a list of all the Jews in Rome! The Wikipedia article about Zolli says that “this list was used when they were gathered, deported, and murdered”.
In other words Zolli was not only an apostate but an immoral man who saved his own skin but did nothing to save his "flock."
It would have been easy for him to destroy the Synagogue records (or even take them with him into the Vatican) but he left the Jews of Rome to rot, to be deported to Nazi concentration camps. When the war ended Zolli tried to reclaim his position as the leader of the Jews of Rome. . . Needless to say he was rejected, and that is when he became a Catholic, claiming to have had a vision of Jesus on Yom Kippur no less!
Then the troll emailed me about a relative "new comer" to Catholicism named Jean-Marie Élie Setbon.
Setbon seems to fall into the first category -- a Jew raised without a Jewish education. Setbon (French) did not grow up in an observant home. From his own book (Amazon) "Jean-Marie Élie Setbon, the son of non-observant French Jews, was first attracted to Jesus when he saw a crucifix at a young age. He hid a crucifix in his room and contemplated it often, even though he knew his family would be hurt and angry if they ever caught him.
"Seeing the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur from his apartment window, he was drawn to the church, where he found himself powerfully pulled toward Jesus in the Eucharist. After several years of surreptitiously attending Mass, he resolved to convert to Catholicism in spite of the scandal it would cause, but G-d had other plans. . .
"My mother never celebrated Jewish feasts and fed us ham and pasta like any other French mother. At home, there was not a single Jewish book or object."
Note a few things. Seton says he was:
So he says he went from being non-observant to an "ultra-orthodox" Jew. No observant Jew would EVER use the term "ultra-orthodox" ergo he played at being observant but had little to no education. Uneducated is uneducated even if he played at being observant.
Per his own story he moved to Israel (Kibbutz) became observant (but it seems, not educated) but was still fascinated by Christianity. He married, had seven children, his wife died and then he falls into the trap G-d uses to test to see if people will truly be faithful to Him. "G-d, is testing you to know whether you love HASHEM, your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul.  HASHEM, your G-d, shall you follow and Him shall you fear; His commandments shall you observe and to His voice shall you hearken; Him shall you serve and to Him shall you cleave." D'varim / Deuteronomy 13:4.
Seton failed this very basic test of his faith. Per a book where he discusses his life and conversion to Catholicism Seton says that he had a mystical experience -- a vision of a deceased Catholic Cardinal (Lustiger). He goes so far as to say “I was illuminated. At last! In one instant I had become ready to throw away the Jewish Law.”
Return to D'varim / Deuteronomy 13:2-5: "[This is what you must do] when a prophet or a person who has visions in a dream arises among you. He may present you with a sign or miracle, and on the basis of that sign or miracle, say to you, 'Let us try out a different god. Let us serve it and have a new spiritual experience.' Do not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. G-d your L-rd is testing you to see if you are truly able to love G-d your L-rd with all your heart and all your soul. Follow G-d your L-rd, remain in awe of Him, keep His commandments, obey Him and serve Him, and you will then be able to have a true spiritual experience through Him."
Interesting engouh, Zolli (the rabbi from Rome) also claimed to have had a personal revelation. In 1917, when he was 36 years old, Zolli had the first in a series of mystical visions of Jesus. He claims to have based his conversion to Catholicism on these personal visions of Jesus. . . Again - a bit crazy perhaps, or perhaps being tested by G-d (as per D'varim / Deuteronomy 13:2-5:) and failing that test?
Folks -- people from all religions claim personal revelations. Mohammed claimed to have them. Joseph Smith claimed to have them. Insane people in mental hospitals claim to have them. Jerusalem in modern times is full of people who think they are Jesus (it is called "Jerusalem Syndrome"). Don't believe me that people of ALL religions (and some they make up on their own) are based on personal revelations? Just do a quick "Google" search.
Personal revelations mean NOTHING.
Again -- read D'varim / Deuteronomy 13:2-5: -- G-d is TESTING you to see if you are going to be led by your own heart to idolatry or if you will follow His Torah.
If only Seton had read the words of the Torah and observed them, rather than leaping from secular Judaism into (as he says) one form of Jewish observant life to only drop it for yet another. . . to then reject both not truly understanding Judaism at all for the idolatry of Catholicism.
Amazing how Jewish so many converts to Christianity have limited to no true Jewish education and always have some sort of individual "rapture" like emotional experience. The Torah warns us to not be swayed by personal visions and revelations -- all religions except for Judaism are based on personal revelations, yet converts like Setbon all desert G-d for their own personal visions. He claims to been given a semicha by a French yeshiva (thus making him a rabbi) but how could he claim that and make a statement such as this: "Jewish prayers are so codified that there is no place for spontaneous prayer. . . There is no filial relationship, no simple heart-to-heart with G-d."
This is totally false!
Totally, completely and utterly false!
D'varim / Deuteronomy 11:3 tells us to serve Him with all our heart!
How can Seton claim to have been a religious Jew, a rabbi no less, and not know this very basis of Judaism???
As the Chabad website puts it so well "Anytime you share whatever is on your heart with your Creator—whether praising, blessing, kvetching or requesting—you are davening. It could happen at any time, at any place, as long as it comes from the heart’s genuine concerns and the mind’s awareness of a higher presence."
Jews speak to G-d from our hearts constantly -- for Seton to deny this shows a complete ignorance of the most basic parts of Judaism! This man who apparently jumped from secularism to one form of Judaism to another and then to Catholicism (apparently always having been attracted to Christianity per his own words) knew absolutely nothing about the religion he decided to leave behind for his emotional "vision" of a dead cardinal.
Mental illness perhaps? Ignorance, surely -- ignorance of the Torah, the very heart of Judaism.
Why are people led to desert Judaism, swayed by their own emotions? The Torah tells us that G-d tests us all, and that we are tested to see if we will follow our own hearts, our own inclinations -- or will we remain faithful and loyal to G-d?
D'varim / Deuteronomy 11:16: "Be careful that your heart not be tempted to go astray and worship other G-ds, bowing down to them."
D'varim / Deuteronomy 29: "Perhaps there is among you a man, woman, family, or tribe, whose heart strays this day from HaShem, our G-d, to go and worship the deities of those nations. Perhaps there is among you a root that produces hemlock and wormwood. 18. And it will be, when he [such a person] hears the words of this oath, that he will bless himself in his heart, saying, "I will have peace, even if I follow my heart's desires,". . .19. HaShem will not be willing to forgive him; rather, then, HaShem's fury and His zeal will fume against that man, and the entire curse written in this book will rest upon him, and HaShem will obliterate his name from beneath the heavens. 20. And HaShem will separate him for evil. . ."
and perhaps most important of all D'varim / Deuteronomy 13: "The entire word that I command you, that shall you observe to do; you shall not add to it and you shall not subtract from it.  If there should stand up in your midst a prophet or a dreamer of a dream, and he will produce to you a sign or a wonder,  and the sign or the wonder comes about, of which he spoke to you, saying "Let us follow G-ds of others that you did not know and we shall worship them!"  do not hearken to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of a dream, for HASHEM, your G-d, is testing you to know whether you love HASHEM, your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul.  HASHEM, your G-d, shall you follow and Him shall you fear; His commandments shall you observe and to His voice shall you hearken; Him shall you serve and to Him shall you cleave."
Seton seems to have been a secular Jew who jumped in the deep end without ever truly understanding Judaism. As the prophet Hosea wrote "My people has been eliminated for lack of knowledge; for you have spurned knowledge and I will spurn you from serving Me; and as you have forgotten the Torah of your G-d, I too, will forget your children." Hosea 4:6.
The stories of Christians who left it behind to convert to Judaism are the opposite of the Jews who join the church. I listed quite a few former priests, nuns, ministers, etc. who chose Judaism in this blog post.
To the trolls out there: please do not bombard me with stories of those who desert Judaism as if it is some kind of "proof" that Christianity is true. Either do some research on your own, or ask me questions about them -- but those who "preach" at me will be blocked. Judaism is the only religion based not on personal revelations, but on national revelation. G-d spoke to the entire nation (3 million people) and made a contract with us Jews -- warning us that any other religious experience we did not know at Sinai was false and not to be fooled by them. D'varim / Deuteronomy 4:32-33 "You might inquire about times long past, from the day that G-d created man on earth, [exploring] one end of heaven to the other. Has there ever been anything like this great thing or has anything like it been heard? Has a people ever heard the voice of G-d speaking from the midst of the fires as you have heard, and survived?"
The bible tells us clearly that no one can die for our sins. We are each responsible for our own actions. Read D'varim / Deuteronomy 24:16 "Fathers shall not die [through the testimony] of their sons, and sons shall not die [through the testimony] of their fathers, since [in any case] every man shall die for his sins."
G-d's judging of us is done as a father correcting his child -- in the hope that the child learns and becomes a better person.
"The wicked shall give up his way, and the man of iniquity his thoughts, and he shall return to HaShem, Who shall have mercy upon him, and to our G-d, for He will freely pardon." Y'shayahu / Isaiah 55:7.
"Do I desire the death of the wicked? says HaShem G-d. Is it not rather in his repenting of his ways that he may live?" Y'chezkel / Ezekiel 18:23.
When G-d judges us, He does so with mercy. As King David once said "let us fall now into the hand of HaShem; for His mercies are great; but into the hand of man let me not fall." Shmuel 2 / 2 Samuel 24:14.
Yet many missionaries will grasp onto the Jewish concept that "the death of the righteous atones" and try to equate this concept to "Jesus dying for your sins." For example, Michael Brown's Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus Volume 2, page 156 - 157 goes to great pains to equate the death of the righteous atoning with Jesus' death being an atoning sacrifice.
Since the bible forbids anyone dying as a sacrifice for the sins of another (again, note D'varim / Deuteronomy 24:16) what does it mean when Jews say that "the death of the righteous atones"?
It certainly does not mean, as Christians insist with Jesus, that G-d required (let alone wanted) the death of Jesus to somehow wipe out the sins of OTHER people! Read T'hillim / Psalm 116:15 "Grievous in the eyes of the L-rd is the death of His pious ones."
The Christian concept of vicarious atonement is completely foreign to Judaism. Yet, it is at the very heart of Christianity which says there is no atonement without believing in Jesus. While some Christians think repentance is part of their atonement (not all do), the primary requirement is to "believe" in Jesus as dying for your sins.
Jews say that repentance (being truly sorry for what you did) is at the heart of atonement. G-d forgives those who turn to Him and seek forgiveness (both from those they wrong and G-d) and to try to not repeat the sins. Atonement is an ongoing process througout our lives -- and it is for a reason. Only through making mistakes, getting up and learning from them, do we grow in knowledge, wisdom and holiness.
Do you see why no one else can do it for you?
When man repents, G-d forgives.
Read Bamidbar / Numbers 35:33 "And you shall not corrupt the land in which you live, for the blood corrupts the land, and the blood which is shed in the land cannot be atoned for except through the blood of the one who shed it."
Thus Jesus' blood could not atone for anything -- human blood corrupts the land!
Read D'varim / Deuteronomy 24:16 "Fathers shall not be put to death because of sons, nor shall sons be put to death because of fathers; each man shall be put to death for his own transgression." and M'lachim / II Kgs 14:6 "But the sons of the assassins he did not execute, as it is written in the book of the Torah of Moses, which the Lord commanded saying: "Fathers shall not be put to death for sons, nor shall sons be put to death for fathers, but each man shall be put to death for his own sin." and Yirmiyahu / Jeremiah 31:29 [30 in Christian Bibles] "But each man shall die for his iniquity; whoever eats the unripe grapes- his teeth shall be set on edge." Along with these read Y'chezkel / Ezekiel 18 and T'hillim / Psalm Ps 49:7 -- all state clearly that we are responsible for our own sins, no one can die for your sins and human blood (sacrifice) is forbidden -- human blood corrupts the land.
Which brings us back to -- if no one can die for your sins and vicarious atonement is forbidden what DO Jews mean when we say that the death of the righteous atones? The Talmud, Moed Katan 28a, says: "The death of the righteous atones [for the generation]”.
The examples of B'reshit / Genesis 9:5-6 and Y'shayahu / Isaiah 53:5 show that a key belief of Christianity -- that you have to have faith in Jesus to have your sins forgiven -- are rejected by those two examples, and so many others. There is no concept of "belief" in the T'nach or rabbinical writings that even comes close to a core belief of Christianity -- belief in Jesus for atonement.
To read more on this topic Mesora has an interesting article entitled "Atonement: Jesus Dying for Sins vs Death of the Pious Atoning." Also read "The Rabbinic Concept of the Death of the Righteous Atones" by R' Moshe Shulman. In the latter the Rabbi makes one more excellent point on which I will close this blog post: "There is another issue of significance that needs to be kept in mind when looking at the Rabbinic teachings. This is the distinction between ‘national’ sin and individual sin. The idea of national sin appears throughout the prophets and the basis for it is found in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 where God says that he will punish the nation if they sin and do not follow His commandments. This involves the suffering of the nation and eventual exile from the land of Israel. Individual sin, on the other hand, effects the individual alone in this world and also the next.
What I believe will become obvious after examining these passages is that with regards to individuals and the death of the righteous, we are dealing with atonement, in the normally understood manner, which is type 1 above; and that under specific circumstances an individual’s sins are atoned for. With regards to Israel and its national sin, it is atonement as in the 2nd type, where it has to do with the suffering of Israel as a community."
Online (free) English translations of the T'nach (Jewish bible).
Avoid the 1917 JPS (Jewish Publication Society) translation as it is only a lightly modified King James Version translation and not a true Hebrew translation. The 1917 is found throughout the internet including Mechon Mamre. AVOID IT.
Judaica Press T'nach Hebrew and English translation with Rashi's commentary. This is the recommended online T'nach.
The Living Torah Hebrew and English translation of the Torah and Haftarah by R' Aryeh Kaplan (Z"L). Excellent, but it is not the complete T'nach. Also available in Russian and Spanish. Trope (chanting) files, and Divrei Torah (A summary of each portion with kind permission from Ohr Somayach International) also available.
Jewish Publication Society 1985 English translation (not recommended).
Sefaria.org offers the 1985 Jewish Publication Society translation, The Rashi Chumash by Rabbi Shraga Silverstein, and others (use the drop down menu to see the complete list).
Hard copy (books) T'nach the following are recommended:
Artscroll Stone Edition T'nach
Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash (Same translation as the Tanach, but far more footnotes). A Chumash is not the entire T'nach, it is the Five Books of Moses and the Haftarah.
The Judaica Press T'nach
The Koren Jerusalem Bible
Apps the following are recommended:
The Artscroll Digital Library Android
The Artscroll Digital Library Apple
Counter-Missionary Online Resources
Missionaries target Jews for conversion to Christianity. Unfortunately many Jews are raised with a very limited (or no) Jewish education and are easy prey. In reality Christianity is a bit like the children's story "The Emperor has no Clothes." When its theology is placed under the light of the Jewish bible it falls apart. Blood is not needed to atone for sins -- it never was. Blood was only one way to atone for some very specific and generally minor sins. Human sacrifice is forbidden. No one can die for your sins. G-d is not a man. . .
Yet missionaries claim their religion is the "fulfillment" of the Jewish bible and for one who does not know the answers to hear a missionary misquote Isaiah 53, or Isaiah 7 (about virgin births of gods) or Isaiah 9 or Daniel 9 or Psalm 110 one might be lured into "seeing" Jesus where he is not found at all. The Christian "proof texts" are almost always mistranslations (there is no "virgin" in Isaiah 7) or taking a word or sentence out of context -- this is called "proof texting."
To combat this missionary threat this forum exists to answer questions and help educate people. There is also a wealth of information online -- some of which we will identify in this thread.
The Jewish Home (Professor Uri Yosef)
Jews for Judaism (Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz, Rabbi Yisroel Blumenthal, Rabbi Eli Cohen, Rabbi Michael Skobac). Locations in Toronto, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Sydney (Australia).
Outreach Judaism (Rabbi Tovia Singer)
Judaism's Answer (Rabbi Moshe Shulman}
Simple to Remember
A few days ago I posted a study of #145 on the list of missionary claims that Jesus fulfilled 365 prophecies. This claim is tied to a missionary favorite: T'hillim / Psalm 110:4 has "The L-rd has sworn, and He will not relent, you are a priest forever, a rightful king (מַלְכִּי־צֶ֙דֶק֙) by my decree."
In that post I explained that "Melchizedek" is not a name, but it is rather a description (a king of righteousness). Many Jewish names in the T'nach are descriptions -- indeed when G-d changes Jacob's name from Jacob (which means "holder of the heel, i.e. a follower" -- Jacob was born the second twin, holding the heel of his brother Esau) to Israel. The name Israel -- implying a שָׂר / sar – a cheif, prince or ruler -- a leader of others: “for you have striven with an angel and with men and you have persevered” (B'reshit / Genesis 32:29). אֵל / El means mighty or powerful, but אֵל / El is often translated as "G-d", and אֵל / El is often used as a name (description) of G-d by itself or as part of other words (e.g. elohim). The name Israel means a prince of G-d or a divine master. . . but G-d does not actually "change" Jacob's name to Israel -- he is called by both names, because each name defines a different aspect of the man. . .
Thus "names" in the bible are descriptions not mere "labels."
Yet in B'reshit / Genesis we are told "מַלְכִּי־צֶ֙דֶק֙ / Malkhi-tzedek / a king of righteousness, king of Salem brought forth bread and wine. He was a priest to God, the Most High."
The missionary posted a message on my Facebook stating that "the rabbis even say this is about the messiah" (that Melchizedek is a name and is a prophecy about the messiah). I do not allow misleading missionizing on my page, but do want to explain the error of this statement.
This blog has spent some time discussing the Missionary Misuse of Jewish Sources. Most missionaries have been lied to themselves and they repeat these lies, through ignorance. There are modern missionaries, such as Michael L. Brown (an apostate Jew who was a secular Jew who, as a teenager, got into drug use and worse. He became a Christian in his teens, but because he was born a Jew many Christians think he is knowledgable. To compound this error Brown himself has written many books as if he is an expert, with titles often begining "Answering Jewish Objections").
The missionary on Facebook stated that the Talmud states that "Melchizedek is about the messiah." The msisionary did not cite a passage, but that is immaterial.
This claim stems from missionaries quoting a source they do not understand -- midrash aggadah. The Talmud explains how to perform various mitzvot (commands). For example, the Torah tells us that we must butcher animals as G-d explained to us -- but the how is not mentioned. The "how" is explained in the Mishna, which is where the explanations were written down. The second part of the Talmud is called the Gemara. The second half of the Talmud is the Gemara. (So Mishna + Gemara = Talmud). For a 300 year period ending in 500CE the Amoraim in Babylon and Jerusalem set about analyzing and commenting on Mishna. But Gemara is not limited to just analyzing Mishna. It goes into some oral law that was not included in the Mishna (Tosefta).
Missionaries will take quotes from the Gemara -- which includes discussions, humor, legal debate, and even stories (tall tales). Quoting these to prove something is beyond ridiculous. The Ramban explained to the King of Aragon in the 12th century: "We have a third book called Midrash, meaning sermons. It is just as if the bishop would rise and deliver a sermon, and one of the listeners whom the sermon pleased recorded it." (Disputation at Barcelona).
Missionaries are trying to take "sermons" and claim that they are somehow "proof" of some point.
Encyclopedia Judaica explains it well "The aggadah comprehends a great variety of forms and content. It includes narrative, legends, doctrines, admonitions to ethical conduct and good behavior, words of encouragement and comfort, and expressions of hope for future redemption. Its forms and modes of expression are as rich and colorful as its content. Parables and allegories, metaphors and terse maxims; lyrics, dirges, and prayers, biting satire and fierce polemic, idyllic tales and tense dramatic dialogues, hyperboles and plays on words, permutations of letters, calculations of their arithmetical values (gematria) or their employment as initials of other words (notarikon) – all are found in the aggadah. . .Systematic philosophies or theological doctrines are not to be found in the aggadah."
Prophecy, which is what missionaries claim "Melchizedek" as Jesus to be, must always be based on the plain meaning. אֵין מִקְרָא יוֹצֵא מִידֵי פְשׁוּטוֹ -- in English this would be "A verse cannot depart from its plain meaning." (Treatise Shabbat 63a, TreatiseY'vamot 11b, 24a; quoted by Rashi at B'réshıt / Genesis 15:10, 37:19, Sh'mot / Exodus 12:2).
Thus a missionary pointing to something some obsure rabbi said (speaking in homily or even poetry), or a funny discussion in the Talmud, and try to say it supports their prophetic concepts of Jesus are a non-starter. Prophecy is always based on the plain meaning, not on interpretation.
D'varim / Deuteronomy 17:15 "You shall set a king over you, one whom the L-rd, your G-d, chooses; from among your brothers, you shall set a king over yourself; you shall not appoint a foreigner over yourself, one who is not your brother."
G-d selected the human Jewish kings of the bible and gave the right to the kingship in perpetuity to King David and his son Solomon.
Sanhedrin 20b and Sotah 41b (Gemara in the Talmud) tell us that we Jews were obligated to appoint a king (it is one of three obligations when we came to the land of Israel). The other two mitzvot were to destroy Amalek; and to build a Mikdash. The Rambam even wrote that the mitzvah of appointing a king precedes and seems to be a prerequisite to the other two mitzvot.
If it is such a positive thing to appoint a king, why did the prophet Shmuel (Samuel) become angry when the people asked for a king (Shmuel Alef / 1 Samuel 8:5)?
Chazal (Radak, Rambam and Ralbag for three) said that Samuel was angry at the way they phrased their request. The people DEMANDED a king -- as if they can command G-d. They should have ASKED G-d to give them a king, not demand that one be appointed. This was disrespectful to G-d.
On top of that they did not ask for a Jewish king, but rather for a king ‘like all the nations."
A Jewish king is NOT like other kings. Thus this was also insulting to G-d.
Remember that non-Jewish kings were often worshiped as gods -- and the Radak says that some people wanted a king to lead them to serve idols – as was done for foreign rulers. . . Jewish humans are not worshiped (not David, Saul, Solomon or some non-king such as Jesus).
When Shmuel / Samuel the prophet anoints the first Jewish king (Shaul / Saul) he says: "And Samuel took the vial of oil, and poured it on his head, and kissed him. And he said, "Indeed, the L-rd has anointed you to be a ruler over His inheritance." Shmuel Alef / Samuel 1 10:1.
The L-rd anointed Saul to be king. G-d anointed Saul, through the Torah dictated method of his anointment with the שֶֽׁמֶן מִשְׁחַת קֹֽדֶשׁ shĕmĕn mish'ḥat kōdĕsh (“anointment-of-holiness oil”)— which is the only oil that can be used to anoint a Jewish king. It is mentioned in Sh'mot / Exodus 30:25 and again in Sh'mot / Exodus 30:31.
Consider Shmuel Alef / 1 Samuel 9:17 "When Samuel saw Saul, HaShem spoke up to him, "This is the man whom I said to you, This one will rule over my people. He will save My people from the hand of the Philistines, for I have looked upon My people, for their cry has come to Me.""
G-d selected Shaul / Saul as king. G-d is the 'king of kings" but you seem to be confusing that with earthly kings. Who ruled Israel before Samuel? Does the name Joshua ring a bell? How about the various Judges? In other words there were always rulers -- and G-d had said there would be an earthly king.
The Jews did not reject G-d as king (He is the eternal king), they simply wanted an earthly king to lead them since the multiple judges had become a fragmented government. There is a similarity in American history. The original form of American government did not have a strong central government and it was failing -- causing the United States to institute a constitution with a president (modern form of "king"), a congress (Sanhedrin) and court (Sanhedrin).
Israel did NOT reject G-d by wanting a human king, but indeed fulfilled what G-d said we would do -- and per our sages were commanded to do.
Some missionaries claim that Jews "made up" the Noahide "laws" (mitzvot). One recently claimed "Noah, I am pretty sure never heard of the 613 Torah precepts. How can a religion that began before Judaism be a subset of Judaism's laws? To me, the 613 Torah precepts are "add-ons" to the seven Noahide laws that prexisted Mt.Sinai - as a "gentile" religion, yes? No Jews then."
This missionary is somehow under the mistaken view that the "Noahide" mitzvot came AFTER the 613 mitzvot.
G-d gave seven mitzvot to all of mankind (these are what are called the Noahide mitzvot).
These seven are found IN the Torah preceding Sinai and what the missionary is calling "Jewish laws" are not laws, they are mitzvot -- a command.
Here are the seven mitzvot which apply to all humans. They are all found in B'reshit (Genesis) BEFORE there were any Jews.
1. Prohibition against murder - B'reshit / Genesis 4:23-24, 9:6
2. Probition against idolatry - B'reshit / Genesis 4:26
3. Prohibition against blasphemy - B'reshit / Genesis 4:26
4. Prohibition of sexual misconduct - B'reshit / Genesis 1:28, 4:22, 6:3, 6:12
5. Prohibition against failure to establish courts - B'reshit / Genesis 1:28, 9:6
6. Prohibition against theft - B'reshit / Genesis 6:11
7. Prohibition against eating live meat (e.g. tearing the limb off of a living animal and eating it) - B'reshit / Genesis 9:4
Let's revisit history (chronology -- the order in which things happened).
Which came first -- the Jewish covenant or the Noahide covenant?
Noah / נוֹחַ was not a Jew. Noah lived ten generations beforeAvraham, who is considered to be the first Jew.
The term “Noahide" just means “descendent of Noah” and hence includes every human being alive in the World today. The term has come to be used to speak of people who consciously follow the seven mitzvot given to mankind up until Noah's time as there are definitely people alive today who are idolaters, who murder, and so on. Thus the term is normally applied to non-Jews who have accepted the seven mitzvot which were given to humans up through Noah.
G-d LATER (time passing, aka "chronological order") gave an additiona 606 mitzvot to the Jews. The list of the seven can also be found in Sanhedrin 56a (the Talmud).
The common mistake seems to be (as with the missionary in the first sentence) that the Jews "added" up the seven mitzvot "later" -- but clearly they are all found in B'reshit / Genesis and they apply to all human beings -- Jew and gentile.
Jews do not proselytize -- we do not try to convert non-Jews to Judaism. The reason is simple: there is no need for a non-Jew to be a Jew. The Talmud tells us that there are 70 families (biblical nations) with 70 paths within humanity. The 70 nations of the world came from and are named after the 70 descendants of the three sons of Noah which are listed in B'rsheit / Genesis 10:1-32. During Sukkot, in the days of the Temple, 70 bull offerings were brought -- each sacrifice corresponding to each of the 70 nations of the world.
Each human being has his or her path within a path. Yet, there is one universal basis for us all. The role of a Jew is as a nation of priests to the other nations -- a "light unto the nations" leading by example and by teaching those who want to learn. . .
Many Christians are taught that the Torah was not written by Moses, but that it was written over an extensive period of time by multiple authors. This is called the JEDP theory (sometimes called the documentary hypothesis (DH) or the Graf - Wellhausen hypothesis) -- and many Christians are taught this theory as if it is fact.
This JEDP idea was the theory of one Julius Wellhausen (May 17, 1844 – January 7, 1918) -- a German, and son of a Protestant minister and Karl Heinrich Graf (February 28, 1815 – July 16, 1869), also a German Protestant. These men's education was at the hands of other Protestant theologians including Georg Heinrich August Ewald of the 19th century.
Graf and Wellhausen seemed to have been a product of their anti-Semitic 19th century German world. Graf - Wellhausen based their theory on the fact that because the bible uses two names for G-d (there are actually far more than two!) there must have been a "merging" of two gods / two religions. They thought that Moses could not have written the Torah (thus lessening its value) because the Torah uses the Tetragrammaton (holiest name) and "elohim" (which means a mighty judge / ruler and is used to speak of G-d, false gods, angels and even humans) to speak of G-d. They decided that since there were "two names" there had to be different authors. This theory divides the Torah into four separate sources:
"J". J is for "jehovah" (a made up name since there are no "j" sounds in Hebrew) -- but this would be G-d's holiest four letter name, the Tetragrammaton.
"E". E is where the title "elohim" is used to describe G-d. There is not much text from "E" in the JEDP and it supposedly comes from the northern kingdom of Israel (not the southern kingdom of Judah).
"D". D is Deuteronomy. "D" is thought to be composed during King Josiah's reign (640s - 600ish BCE). "D" is a pure legal code that exalts Jerusalem.
"P". P is the Priestly text. It was thought to be the latest, post-Exile (444 BCE forward) and focuses on Temple related, priestly rituals.
Did anyone bother to explain to Wellhausen that the "names" for G-d are really descriptions? For example, "elohim" / אֱלֹהִים (a word used to speak of humans, angels, false gods and G-d) means a mighty judge. The word "adon" / אדן means a lord or master and so on. . .
Although many Christians are taught the JEDP as if it is "fact" it has actually been disproved by archeology -- which shows that there is historical proof for the Torah (and 'nach) dating much farther back than there theories would contend.
"On Bible Criticism and its Counter Arguments" from Torah Emet: "Umberto Cassuto (1883-1951) and Yechezkel Kaufman (1889- 1963)further demolished the theory, showing that Wellhausen's observations contradicted his conclusions. Kaufman's main contribution lies in his thesis that monotheism was not, as Wellhausen and others had stated, a gradual departure from paganism, but an entirely new development. Israel's monotheism began with Moshe and was a complete revolution in religious thought. . .
"Special mention should be made of the famous archaeologist William F. Alright. He convincingly demonstrated that archaeological research did not support, and in fact often contradicted, this view of history. In many of his works, Albright destroyed the very foundations upon which Wellhausen's edifice had been erected. . .
"In his classic work Critique of Religion and Philosophy" (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978) p. 377, Walter Kaufmann discusses Wellhausen's as well as other forms of Higher Criticism and shows one of the major failures of these schools in the following observation: Imagine a Higher Critic analyzing Goethe's Faust, which was written by a single human being in the course of sixty years. The scenes in which the heroine of Part One is called Gretchen would be relegated to one author; the conflicting conceptions of the role of Mephistopheles would be taken to call for further divisions, and the Prologue in Heaven would be ascribed to a later editor, while the prelude on the stage would be referred to yet a different author. Our critic would have no doubt whatsoever that Part Two belongs to a different age and must be assigned to a great many writers with widely different ideas. The end of Act IV, for example, points to an anti-Catholic author who lampoons the church, while the end of Act V was written by a man, we should be told, who, though probably no orthodox Catholic, was deeply sympathetic to Catholicism. Where do we find more inconsistencies in style and thought and plan: in Goethe's Faust or in the Five Books of Moses?
. . .What can be said with certainty is that honest Bible scholars no longer maintain that the Torah is the result of different fragments edited and reedited. The Torah is now taken to be Mosaic in origin and content, and it has been acknowledged that much of this tradition was already well established in pro-Mosaic times. Although this position has moved considerably in the direction of the Jewish traditional view, it has definitely not thrown in the towel to the tradition concerning the verbal infallibility of the Torah. . .
One of Graf-Wellhausen's main points was that the Torah wasn't written until after the Babylonian Exile. Archelogical discoveries in Israel alone disprove this -- as does the discovery of the silver scrolls (shown in the image for this post) from כָּתֵף הִינוֹם which contain the priestly blessing from Bamidbar (Numbers). The silver scrolls have been dated to about 600 BCE and their very existence destroys a major contention of the JEDP theory.
Our מסורה (masorah) along with the written Torah tells us that we Jews have ransmitted the Torah and its history from generation to generation in an unbroken line. Unlike most religions where someone supposedly saw something, communicated one on one with G-d (with no witnesses) or passed on stories to anonymous followers Judaism is based on the 3 million eye and ear witnesses at Sinai who heard G-d speak and who then told their children and their children's children from that generation to this one.
In an unbroken line.
This is called national revelation. The Torah states (Deuteronomy 4:9-13): "(Moses told the Israelites:) Only beware for yourself and greatly beware for your soul, lest you forget the things that your eyes have beheld. Do not remove this memory from your heart all the days of your life. Teach your children and your children's children about the day that you stood before the Lord your G-d at Chorev (Sinai)..."
Here is a downloadable PDF of eight lectures by Prof. Moshe David (Umberto) Cassuto on the Documentary Hypothesis (JEDP). The author notes that some of the JEPD theorists may have had an anti-Jewish bent and so were trying to distance us Jews from our own bible. "Solomon Schechter famously equated “higher criticism” with “higher anti-Semitism." . . .one can indeed find anti-Jewish references. . . one example concerns. . .David’s efforts to procure mateirals for the construction of the First Temple under Solomon. . . Wellhausen writes, “1 Chr. 22-29 is a startling instance of that statistical phantasy of the Jews which revels in vast sums of money on paper.”
The author goes on to state that the underpinnings of Wellhausen’s hypothesis (JEPD) may be seen to have an affinity with Protestant theology.