I am going to write a few long posts so I hope you will "bear with me." The Talmud is often misunderstood and disparaged. Many a non-Jew will say they don't "believe in it" without even understanding what "it" really is. Anti-semites will accuse the Talmud of racism, homicide and even child molestation (for example they will say the Talmud authorizes sex with a three year old child).
Other non-Jewish sources say that Jews revere the Talmud "above" the Torah, holding it as holier.
In other words, there are many lies, distortions and just plain ignorance among non-Jews and less educated Jews about the oral mitzvot and the Talmud.
The Talmud is a law book. Jews are a nation governed by 613 mitzvot (commandments) which comprise halacha -- Jewish law. Moses himself instituted courts and judges to try legal cases based on the mitzvot and laws given to us by G-d. D'varim / Deuteronomy 17:
"you shall come to the Levitic kohanim (priests) and to the judge who will be in those days, and you shall inquire, and they will tell you the words of judgment. And you shall do according to the word they tell you, from the place the Lord will choose, and you shall observe to do according to all they instruct you. According to the law they instruct you and according to the judgment they say to you, you shall do; you shall not divert from the word they tell you, either right or left."
If missionaries were right and "all you need" is the written bible, why did G-d command us IN THE WRITTEN TORAH to appoint judges and listen to them?
Rabbis are judges (they still are today). While we have no Sanhedrin (great courts) we do have courts of law, and they are run by our judges (rabbis) -- according to the instructions in the written bible. The judges are learned in Torah and instruct us based on it. There have always been judges (from Moses to today). Currently there is no Great Sanhedrin, so our courts are limited in their rulings – basing them on the Torah and Talmud (oral Torah).
This statement in the Torah is actually the death knell to the Protestant concept of “Sola Scriptura” (relying only on the written Torah and personal interpretation, generally translations of the Torah which is even another step removed from the Torah itself! Yet to Torah tells us that we are to follow:
"According to the law that they shall teach you" (D’varim / Deuteronomy 17:2).
It does not say, that the Torah shall teach you," (Sola Scriptura) but that THEY shall teach you." (the judges / rabbis / teachers of the Torah)
"according to the judgment that you will try to figure out for yourself by reading translations of the Torah."
Originally G-d gave us instructions (which is what the word תּוֹרָה / "torah" means. The instructions were written in the Torah -- but many of the "how to" detailed information was not written down. The Torah is life's instruction manual. If you follow its guidelines you will grow spiritually. However, the Torah's set of instruction often tell us what to do but not HOW to do it.
Let me give you a few examples.
When the Bible tells us (Vayikra / Leviticus 20:14) to take together four species on the first day of Succot, which four species are meant, and what are we supposed to do with them?
[These words] shall [also] be a sign on your arm and an insignia in the center of your head. [All this] is because G-d brought us out of Egypt with a show of strength. (Sh'mot / Exodus 13:16). . . What kind of sign on the arm? What IS this? What kind of insignia in the center of your head? The written Torah does not tell us -- but the instructions were passed down orally (until written in the Talmud). Ancient תפילין / teffilin (called phylactery by non-Jews -- which is what these are) have been discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls in Israel -- meaning they date back 2000 - 2300 years. Link.
The example of tefillin being described in the Talmud, and commanded in the Torah, is one of hundreds of instructions found in the Jewish bible for Jews. The Torah often tells us to do something -- but it does not tell us HOW to do it.
Read Sh'mot (Exodus) 22:16 and tell me how much money is the dowry in this instance? In the Torah we are often told to do something, but not HOW to do it. That was passed orally.
G-d gave verbal instructions to Moshe Rabeinu as he traveled for 40 years. The oral instructions of "HOW" were passed down from generation to generation. This is the oral mitzvot (oral law).
Early in this post I gave some examples of how anti-semites denigrate the Talmud. I gave the example that they say the Talmud says it is permissable to rape a three year old child.
Does the Talmud say it is permissable to have sex with a three year old child? Of course not! Do people sometimes rape small children? Yes -- and countries have laws pertaining to the punishment and legal issues around such crimes. The Talmud, being a law book, discusses how to apply Jewish law even in cases of horrible crimes. The Talmud discusses what to do if a male child molests a female adult or if a male adult molests a yount female child (Ketuvot 11b). Remember that virginity was highly prized in ancient times -- is the raped 3 year old girl now considered a non-virgin for the purposes of a dowry later in her life? The Jewish judges wisely said that she is still considered a virgin for her sake and future.
Jewish law strictly forbids not only child molestation but all kinds of non-marital sexual relations are prohibited. The Rambam wrote in Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Ishut 1:4 "Whoever has licentious relations with a woman without marriage bonds is lashed by Torah law."
The next few posts I will discuss the oral mitzvot in more detail. It was never meant to be written down. It's teachings were relayed from teacher to student in such a way so that if the student had any questions he would be able to ask and thus avoid ambiguity. A written text, however, no matter how perfect, is always subject to misinterpretation. Talmud is actually still studied as the ancients studied it -- in yeshivot (schools) and also in דף יומי / Daf Yomi (a page a day). Daf Yomi takes seven and a half years to complete one cycle of the Talmud!
Why did the Talmud come to be written down (and how was it written down)? These are things to be discussed in the next few posts. As more and more Jews were dispersed and exiled, it was feared that the teachings would be lost.
First Israel broke into two countries: the northern kingdom and the southern. The northern was dispersed. Then comes the Babylonian exile where most Jews were sent away. The teachers (Rabbis are teachers) began to worry that the oral mitzvot would be lost because people were becoming dispersed literally around the world. They worried that the wisdom would die away.
So in Babylon and in Jerusalem men called the תנאים (Tannaim) began to write down in very cryptic form the "how to" part of the rules. This work is the first half of the Talmud and it is called the Mishna. The second half is called the Gemara and is the part that usually totally confuses Christians -- but first you must understand the Mishna. To be continued.
We are in the month of Elul, the last month of the Jewish year. It is the month proceeding Rosh HaShanah (one of four Jewish New Years) and the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). On Rosh Hashanah, each individual is judged on the merit of his deeds.
That is a scary thought isn't it? None of us are perfect. G-d is watching us always, but on Rosh HaShanah G-d determines our fate for the coming year.
And just before Rosh HaShanah is the month of Elul.
Elul is special for many reasons. As the month preceding the head of the year (Rosh HaShana), a time when G-d examines all of us and determines who shall live and who shall die in the coming year, we have time to reflect upon our lives. Although life continues. . . we go to work or school, we live as normally, we have an opportunity to examine our lives and think about the good and bad of our behavior.
We have the opportunity to seek out people we have wronged -- knowingly or unknowingly -- and ask for forgiveness. We can stop, take a moment, and change the entire course of our lives.
Jewish holidays have purpose -- we do not celebrate events (e.g. someone's birth or death). Each holy day, even happy and silly ones like Purim and Chanukah, are focused on G-d and His impact in our lives. His saving of the Jewish people (Passover, Purim, etc.) continue to save each Jew in a very real way. . . Look inside, and remember His words that He puts before us life and death, the blessing and the curse. . . choose life.
In Elul the R' Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad Chassidic movement, made a wonderful analogy that helps explain the power of this month. He explained that G-d is always available to us -- He is always open to our prayers -- listening. We often call G-d אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ / Aveinu Malcheinu (Our Father, Our King). While G-d IS our father, He is also our king. In R' Zalman's analogy, He explains that all year long we approach the King -- He is busy running the universe and we approach Him with awe. . .
In the month of Elul, continues R' Zalman, G-d figuratively leaves His palace and rather than waiting for us to go to Him, He comes to us. The analogy R' Zalman used was "The King is in the Field." He is very close to us, and He comes to us. "everyone who so desires is permitted to meet him, and he receives them all with a cheerful countenance and shows a smiling face to them all."
The four Hebrew letters of the word Elul (aleph-lamed-vav-lamed) are the first letters of the four Hebrew words אני לדודי ודודי לי / Ani l'dodi v'dodi lee – "I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine" (Shir Hashirim / Song of Songs 6:3). G-d loves us and we love Him.
In this month of Elul, open your heart. Look inside. Seek forgiveness from those you have wronged. If you are on the wrong path, consider your choices and make some changes. Remember that you are holy, for He is holy and He made you. In this month preceding Rosh Hashanah realize that G-d is reaching out to you with love. He wants you to know Him. He wants you to choose good over evil. He wants you to return to Him, as He comes to you in love. For more information about Elul, follow this link.
13th principle Judaism from of the Rambam Resurrection of the Dead.
Judaism teaches that we are not a body with a soul. We are also not a soul with a body. Soul and body are two halves of a whole. The 13th principle states that resurrection of the dead is one of the fundamental principles in the Torah of our master Moses. The Rambam strongly believed that anyone who denies the concept of resurrection of the dead forfeit their share in Olam HaBa - the world to come (Mishneh Torah Hilkhot Teshuvah 3:6).
Most Christians believe that Jesus resurrected from the dead and ascended to Heaven in a material body, although some believe it was spiritual and not physical. There are also stories in the Christian bible of Jesus bringing a few dead people back to life. The Christian bible even says that after Jesus’ resurrection many dead came out of their graves and walked around. (You’d think something so dramatic might have made Roman records, but the only record of it is in Matthew).
The Christian bible states “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1 Corinthians 15:14) which would make it appear that resurrection means Jesus’ resurrection makes him a a part of the triune god and worthy of worship.
Yet the T’nach tells us that resurrection has already happened – and that in the time of the real messiah all of the righteous will be resurrected (it says nothing about the messiah dying and being resurrected. Indeed if the messiah dies prior to fulfilling the messianic prophecies he can’t be the messiah). . . 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). It does not prove he was the messiah, and it certainly doesn’t show he was part of G-d.
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.
There was a disagreement between the Rambam (Maimonides) and the Ramban (Nachmonides) on the existence of the resurrected. The Rambam says no one will eat, drink or sleep after the resurrection In essence, the Rambam believed that after resurrection, the body will cease to be a body as we know it, having become so holy that it transcends the physical limitations of the current world (in the world to come, Olam HaBa). The resurrected to retain their sense of individuality – the sense of being (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Teshuvah 8:2).
The Ramban disagreed with the Rambam that the resurrected body ceases to exist in a physical sense. He believed that the resurrected person will have its physical limitations as it did in this life.
Eventually we’ll find out which one was correct.
What about people who are alive at the time of the resurrection of the dead? One school says that people who are alive will momentarily die, and then promptly be resurrected. This is in fulfillment of the verse (B’reshit / Genesis 3:19), "For you are dust and to dust you shall return." Also, this short death serves a spiritual purpose—it will cleanse the souls of all traces of the imperfect and tainted world it inhabited. They will then rise with a clean and pure slate.
Bottom line? Judaism definitely believes in resurrection of the dead -- but the details are up for debate. They don't really matter (this is another one of "we know what will happen, just not exactly how!).
Principle 13: The dead will be resurrected to life in the world to come.
The hijacking of the term "messianic Judaism" by Christians has always struck me as ironic as observant Jews ARE messianic Jews and always have been. Judaism believes that one day a special HUMAN king, descended from Kings David and Solomon, will help usher in an age of global peace, global knowledge of the one true G-d, the return of the Jewish people from exile to our land, and so forth.
12th of the 13 Principles of Judaism – Belief in the Messiah and the messianic age.
“We believe and affirm that the Messiah will come and usher in an age of global peace (the messianic age). [One must also] believe that [the Messiah] will surpass all the kings who have ever ruled in terms of his grandeur, his greatness, and his honor. Included within this Principle is [the idea] that the king of Israel must come from the House of David and the seed of Solomon. Anyone who opposes this dynasty defies the Almighty and the words of His prophets.”
The Jewish concept of the messiah is very different from the Christian concept. Again – remember that with thousands of iterations of Christianity one will say Jesus was a human while another will say he was G-d in human form (G-d forbid). Jesus was never a moshiach (messiah) -- and he did not have the "birth right" to be a rightful king of the Jews.
To be a Jewish messiah a king must be anointed with the שֶֽׁמֶן מִשְׁחַת קֹֽדֶשׁ / shĕmĕn mish'ḥat kōdĕsh (“anointment-of-holiness oil”). This is a very special type of anointment with a particular oil for kings. The Hebrew word is inseparable with the concept of the special oil and the messiah.
The shĕmĕn mish'ḥat kōdĕsh (“anointment-of-holiness oil”) was a special mixture of spice and olive oil that was used for “anointing” of kings and priests. It is mentioned in the passage of Sh'mot / Exodus 30:22-33 which gives the formula for making it and how to properly use it. . .
"G-d spoke to Moses, saying: You (Moses) must take the finest fragrances, 500 [shekels] of distilled myrrh, [two] half portions, each consisting of 250 [shekels] of fragrant cinnamon and 250 [shekels] of fragrant cane, and 500 shekels of cassia, all measured by the sanctuary standard, along with a gallon of olive oil. Make it into sacred anointing oil. It shall be a blended compound, as made by a skilled perfumer, [made especially for] the sacred anointing oil. Then use it to anoint the Communion Tent, the Ark of Testimony, the table and all its utensils, the menorah and its utensils, the incense altar, the sacrificial altar and all its utensils, the washstand and its base. You will thus sanctify them, making them holy of holies, so that anything touching them becomes sanctified. You must also anoint Aaron and his sons, sanctifying them as priests to Me. Speak to the Israelites and tell them, 'This shall be the sacred anointing oil to Me for all generations. Do not pour it on the skin of any [unauthorized] person, and do not duplicate it with a similar formula. It is holy, and it must remain sacred to you. If a person blends a similar formula, or places it on an unauthorized person, he shall be cut off [spiritually] from his people." Sh'mot / Exodus 30:22-33.
Did the Christian bible ever claim that Jesus was anointed by the only oil the bible allows for anointing kings?
Did the Christian bible claim that Jesus was descended from Kings David and Solomon?
Yes, it does – but it gives two conflicting lineages for Joseph which would disqualify any of Joseph’s children from being a messiah. One excludes Solomon (which is a requirement) and the other lineage goes through a cursed line (Jeconiah) which has been cut off from kingship in the bible.
But a far bigger mistake is the virgin birth. Tribal rights only pass from having a Jewish mother and a Jewish father (who is married to the mother). The biological father passes the tribal status and if Jesus were a “virgin birth” then Joseph was not his father and he was not of the tribe of Judah. It doesn’t matter what tribe Mary might have had – that is immaterial.
In fact the whole lineage argument for Jesus is a bit silly. The right parentage is just “table stakes.” It is a requirement – but there are men from the tribe of Judah through David and Solomon who are alive today and none are the messiah.
The true messiah will build the Sanctuary (Jesus lived during the time of the Second Temple and it was destroyed within 40 years of his death – so this is the opposite of the prophecy).
The messiah gather the dispersed of Israel and return them to the land. Jesus did not do this – and within 100 years of his death the Jews were exiled from the land by the Romans – again the opposite of the prophecy.
Jewish law (Halacha) will be re-instituted in his days. Many Christians think that Jesus removed all the mitzvot – so again we have the opposite of the prophecy occurring – his followers deserted Halacha. Jews were under Roman law during Jesus’ lifetime. . .
The messiah will resume sacrifices and will bring a sin sacrifice (see Yechezkel / Ezekiel). Most Christians believe that Jesus was the "last and final sacrifice." Yet the T'nach (bible) tells us that the messiah (called the prince in Yechezkel / Ezekiel) will bring sacrifices in the messianic era -- including a sin sacrifice for himself (Christians believe Jesus was "without sin" -- he never brought a sin sacrifice).
"the burnt-offerings and the meal-offerings and the libations on the Festivals and on the New Moons and on the Sabbaths, and on all the times fixed for meetings of the House of Israel shall devolve on the prince (the messiah); he shall prepare the sin-offering and the meal-offering and the burnt offering and the peace-offering, to effect atonement for the House of Israel. . . And the prince shall make on that day for himself and for all the people of Israel a bull for a sin-offering." Yechezkel / Ezekiel 45:17-22.
Within 40 years of Jesus’ death the Temple was destroyed and sacrifices ceased. Again we have the opposite of the ture messianic prophecies with Jesus. The messiah will build the Temple as described in Yechezkel / Ezekiel 43 (the Second Temple, existing during the time of Jesus, had been built hundreds of years prior to his birth -- ergo he did not build it. The Second Temple was not built to the prophecy of Yechezkel / Ezekiel in chapter 43, more proof that Jesus was not the messiah and that the Second Temple was not the Temple of the messiah). Chapters 40-48 of Ezekiel gives a very detailed directions for building the messianic era Temple -- and again this Temple did not exist 2000 years ago (meaning Jesus was not "the" messiah).
The Second Temple (the one standing 2000 years ago) was specifically NOT built to Yechezkel / Ezekiel's prophecy because the prophets alive when it was constructed were told by G-d that it was not to be the messianic Temple. When it came time to rebuild the second Temple, G‑d commanded through his prophets Chaggai, Zechariah and Malachi not to build it according to the specifications in Ezekiel.
When missionaries use the term “messiah” or “christ” (Greek) they mean Jesus and only Jesus – if they think of what the word means they probably assume it means “king” (it can refer to kings, but it refers to any anointed one and is often used to speak of Jewish priests).
Most Christians think Jesus was the only messiah there ever was – and yet by the Torah requirement Jesus was never a moshiach -- and he did not have the "birth right" to be a rightful king of the Jews. Also, most Christian translations only translate “moshiach” as “messiah” once or twice in their English translations – doing so only where they think they can use it to “point” to Jesus. Generally speaking the one or two times the word “messiah” is used in their translations of the Jewish bible it is in Daniel 9. The other 37 instances are translated as “anointed one.” This is misleading to the average Christian who doesn’t know of the deceit. Even in Daniel 9 there is deceit as most versions say “the messiah” even though the word “the” is not in Daniel 9. Daniel 9 actually speaks of two anointed ones (messiahs), none of whom is called “the messiah.”
There have been many messiahs (Saul, David, Solomon and even Cyrus who was a non-Jewish messiah). See Shmuel I / I Samuel 26:11, Shmuel II / II Samuel 23:1,Yeshayahu / Isaiah 45:1, and T'hillim / Psalms 20:6. . . However when Jews speak of “the” messiah they are speaking of the specific King who will usher in the messianic age. The final Messiah will be a normal human being, born of human parents. It is thus possible that he is already born. In every age there is a man who could be the messiah – if we are ready for him and deserving of him.
Where does the Jewish concept of Messiah come from? Some of the prophecies are found in Yeshayahu / Isaiah 2:1-4; Tzefaniah / Zephaniah 3:9; Hoshea / Hosea 2:20-22; Amos 9:13-15; Yeshayahu / Isaiah 32:15-18, 60:15-18; Michah / Micah 4:1-4; Zechariah 8:23, 14:9; and Yirmiyahu / Jeremiah 31:33-34 (the renewed covenant between G-d and the Jews).
Many of these prophetic passages speak of a descendant of King David who will rule Israel during the age of perfection. (Yeshayahu / Isaiah 11:1-9; Yirmiyahu / Jeremiah 23:5-6, 30:7-10, 33:14-16; Yechezkel / Ezekiel 34:11-31, 37:21-28; Hoshea / Hosea 3:4-5).
Since every King is a Messiah, by convention, we refer to this future anointed king as The Messiah. The above is the only description in the T'nach of a Davidic descendant who is to come in the future. We will recognize the Messiah by seeing who the King of Israel is at the time of complete universal perfection.
Here are a few of those messianic prophecies with their sources listed:
A. Build the Third Temple (Yechezkel / Ezekiel 37:26-28).
B. Gather all Jews back to the Land of Israel (Yeshayahu / Isaiah 43:5-6).
C. Usher in an era of world peace, and end all hatred, oppression, suffering and disease. As it says: "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall man learn war anymore." (Yeshayahu / Isaiah 2:4)
D. Spread universal knowledge of the G-d of Israel, which will unite humanity as one. As it says: "G-d will be King over all the world -- on that day, G-d will be One and His Name will be One" (Zechariah 14:9).
If an individual fails to fulfill even one of these conditions, then he cannot be "The Messiah."
Christians reply that Jesus will do this the "next time" (e.g. the "second coming"). There is no mention of a second coming in the T'nach. The "second coming" was an attempt by Jesus' followers to explain why he failed to fulfill the messianic prophecies -- but it certainly does not constitute proof of messianic claims. Indeed, Jesus told his followers he would return in THEIR lifetimes (over 2000 years ago). The second coming "promise" is a failed promise. There is not one word about a second coming of the Messiah in any of those passages! Some missionaries point to Daniel 7:13(12) to support the idea of the second coming, but Daniel 7 is a vision (primarily of the kingdoms who follow Daniel). The term used in Daniel 7:13 is כְּבַר אֱנָשׁ k'var ĕnash, which means “something like a human being." It does not say the "son of man" is coming. . . And how would a Christian know if it referred to Jesus the first time (or the second)?
If Daniel 7 were speaking of someone as important as the messiah and a "second coming" why would the passage be a vague "possible" reference rather than a clear message that cannot be interpreted incorrectly?
As with most proof texting, the answer becomes clear when it is read IN CONTEXT. Don't stop at line 14 in Daniel 7. After Daniel has the vision he approaches an angel and asks for an explanation of all that he had seen (7:16). The angel tells Daniel that the four beasts represent four kingdoms, and the final dominion will be given to the “holy ones of the most high” (7:18) – a reference to the nation of Israel. The reference to the Jewish people (Israel) is repeated in verse 7:27. According to the angel, each of the beasts represents a different kingdom, while the son of man in Daniel’s vision represents Israel. The Christian assertion that this passage refers to the Messiah (let alone a second coming of a messiah) is plainly refuted by scripture itself.
So, no, Daniel 7 does not support the concept of a "second coming" of the messiah.
Bottom line, the messiah MUST fulfill the prophecies in his lifetime or he is not the messiah.
The Rambam "If he did not succeed to this degree or was killed, he surely is not the redeemer promised by the Torah. Rather, he should be considered as all the other proper and complete kings of the Davidic dynasty who died. G-d caused him to arise only to test the many, as Daniel 11:35 states: 'And some of the wise men will stumble, to try them, to refine, and to clarify until the appointed time, because the set time is in the future.' If the Messiah fulfilled some miracles but not all, before dying, we cannot regard him to be the Messiah, and instead view him as a test or our own will." Hilchot Melachim 11:4-5.
Jesus was not a Davidic king (he was not properly anointed as a king as already explained in this post, and he lacked the lineage to be a king).
Because no one has ever fulfilled the T’nach's description of this future King, Jews still await the coming of the Messiah. I don't want to overwhelm you with references -- but here are the messianic prophecies. Compare them to Jesus for yourself. Bamidbar / Numbers 24:14‑19, D'varim / Deuteronomy 4:30, 30:1‑10, 32:43, Yirmiyahu / Jeremiah 3:14‑18, 16:14,15,19, 23:3‑8, 30:3,7; Yechezkel / Ezekie 11:17‑20, 20:40‑44, 28:25‑26, 34:9‑16,22‑31, 36:6‑15,22‑38, 37:1‑28, 38:1‑48:35, Yeshayahu / Isaiah 1:26,27, 2:1‑4, 4:2‑6, 10:33‑12:6, 24:21‑25:9, 30:26, 34:1‑35:10, 40:1‑11, 41:8‑20, 43:1‑10, 44:1‑5 49:8‑26, 51:11,22‑52:12, 54:1‑55:5, 56:7, 60:1‑63:9, 65:17‑25, 66:10‑24, Hoshea / Hosea 2:1‑3,16‑25, Yoel / Joel 3:1‑4:21, Amos 9:11‑15, Ovadiah / Obadiah 1:17‑21, Michah / Micah 4:1‑7, 5:1‑13, 7:8‑20, Tzefaniah / Zephaniah 3:9‑20, Zechariah 2:9, 8:1‑8, 14:3‑21, Malachi 3:4,16‑24, T'hillim / Psalm 51:20,21, 69:36,37, 98:1‑3, 102:14‑23, 126:1‑6, Dannyiel / Daniel 2:44, 7:18,22,27, 12:2,3. Here is a link to the Judaica Press T'nach if you want to check the sources.
Principle #12: "Anyone who does not believe in the messiah, or whoever does not look forward to his coming, denies not the teachings of the prophets including those in the Torah. “G-d, your G-d, will return your captivity and have mercy on you. He will return and gather you [from all the nations whither G-d, your G-d, has scattered you]. If your banished shall be at the utmost end of the heavens [G-d, your G-d, will gather you from there]… and G-d, your G-d, will bring you [to the land that your fathers possessed, and you will possess it]." D’varim / Deuteronomy 30:3-5.
The 11th of the Rambam’s 13 Principles of Judaism is the belief in divine reward and retribution.
HaShem rewards one who lives up to the mitzvot of the Torah and punishes those who breaks the rules. The greatest reward is [experiencing] Olam HaBa -- the World to Come.
The greatest punishment is to be כרת / kareit -- cut off – from G-d and the Jewish people. Sh’mot / Exodus 32:32-33 tells us: “Now, if You would, please forgive their sin. If not, You can blot me out from the book that You have written.” Being blotted out is an allegory meaning, 'erase me from Your memory' (Moreh Nevukhim 2:47), or, 'blot me out from all creation' (Ralbag). G-d replied to Moses “I will blot out from My book those who have sinned against Me.” Those who are cut off from G-d are “blotted out.”
Reward and punishment does not equal the need to be perfect, or to perfectly observe all of the pertinent mitzvot. "there is no righteous man on earth who does good who never sins.” Kohelet / Ecclesiastics 7:20. Righteous people sin – everyone sins (makes mistakes, or even does bad things intentionally). The question is, do you learn from your mistakes, repent, seek forgiveness (from those you wronged and G-d) and try to be a better person?
To be כרת / kareit -- cut off from G-d, is very rare. It is even rarer in the world today as many people do not know what is expected of them. G-d judges us not only with mercy, but He judges us based on who we are (our personal abilities and limitations as well as our understanding of what He expects from us).
Can you reverse sins and wrongdoings by performing more mitzvot?
Torah says “no.” Performing an unrelated mitzvah will not correct our wrong in another area. “A mitzvah does not atone for a sin”. (Sh’mot / Exod. 32:33). If you’ve done something wrong – intentionally or not – you must atone for THAT wrongdoing. We cannot avert G-d’s punishments with unrelated activities, or even with unrelated mitzvot.
We study Torah for our own perfection, not for any worldly benefit we might derive from it. The purpose of the mitzvot are to make us a better and holier person – to grow spiritually. This is the reward! Learning the Torah is done for its own sake. It means that the end of studying wisdom should be for the sake of knowing it. The truth has no other purpose than knowing that it is the truth. Since the Torah is truth, the purpose of knowing it is to do it.
The Rambam goes on to say “Our sages have warned us about this. They said that one should not make the goal of one’s service of G-d or of performing the mitzvot anything in the world of things.” A person who does so serves G-d not out of love but out of duty. The Rambam then quotes the Talmud that the person who desires G-d’s mitzvot and not reward is the true servant of G-d.
In other words, the mitzvot are themselves a reward and to fulfill them out of trust and devotion to G-d is its reward. The true delight is spiritual. Such delight has no physical analogy, it is on a completely different dimension. Individuals who purify themselves in this world through Torah study and performing mitzvot achieve spiritual heights (the reward) and this is the entire purpose of our creation (to grow spiritually).
In Olam HaBa (the world to come) those who have grown spiritually are able to bask in the divine presence. To explain this I’ll use an analogy. Think of G-d and heaven in terms of music. G-d’s orchestra plays the finest symphonies ever created. To one who understands classical music it is the most beautiful sound they ever heard. They truly appreciate it and love it. But to one who has a tin ear, who has never liked music (or perhaps likes modern “rap” music) the sound of the symphony is painful to their ears. Both souls hear the same sound – but it is very different to each of them.
For the one who grows spiritually, the reward is, well, rewarding. To the one who has not earned the reward it may well be punishment. The very same existence.
The Rambam says that the reward of the righteous in Olam HaBa is the existence of the soul thanks to what it has learned in this world. The existence is blissful because it involves the cognition of G-d on a plane that most could never comprehend. The final end of humans consists of knowing G-d. This knowledge is the cause of the soul’s continued existence.
Reward in Olam HaBa is a consequence of achieving a level of holiness in this world.
If that is the reward, what is the punishment?
The cutting off of the soul so that it ceases to exist. There is no hell in Judaism (no eternal torment as in Christianity). Judaism is somewhat silent on what happens when we die – or when it happens (do people who die sleep until the messiah comes, or do they go to a place of reward (Gan Eden / Heaven), or do they go to a place of purification to learn what they did wrong (Gehenna) or do they become reincarnated to “try again” to get it right? There are various schools of thought.
To the worst possible sinner their individual soul (which is pure and cannot sin) returns to G-d who removes its individuality. It simply ceases to exist as an individual consciousness. The Talmud tells us this is very, very rare.
To summarize – Jews are obligated to fulfill the 613 mitzvot (and non-Jews the 7 mitzvot). It is good for us to do so, we grow spiritually through them. There is no direct “quid pro quo” compensation for fulfilling the mitzvot. The “compensation” is the spiritual growth we gain by fulfilling them out of love with no expectation of reward. Torah is its own reward. The mitzvot are preparations which enable us to achieve intellectual and spiritual growth which is fully realized in Olam HaBa (the world to come).
It is for this reason that humans are born with the potential to learn. We are born with a capacity to know G-d and by learning the truth (Torah) we become truly human – we have acquired our intellects, we have actualized our potential.
What about modern Jews who are raised secular, or in another religion? What about Jews who are raised unaware of their duties to the mitzvot who, G-d forbid, convert themselves to Christianity or another faith? The Rambam excludes them from those who deserve such punishment because they participated unwittingly in their denial of Torah and mitzvot. While they are indeed sinners, he declares them unintentional participants in their lack of adherence to Jewish law and belief, similar to the case of a tinok shenishba (like one kidnapped as a child and raised unaware of Torah). The Rambam states that we try to bring them back to Judaism and embrace them into the Jewish community, teaching them the mitzvot so they can become observant, pious members of community. Today’s Chabad and Aish HaTorah kiruv (outreach) programs are based on exactly this philosophy. (Read the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Mamrim 3:3 for more information).
10th Principle of Judaism by the Rambam: G-d is Omniscient (knows everything).
We’ve already discussed that G-d created everything, including time and space. As the creator He is not part of His creation, He is outside of time and space (for example). Since He is not constrained by time He knows everything, even though you have free will to choose behaviors (sin or not sinning, good or evil behavior) He knows what you did, what you will do, what you are doing right now.
Because time does not exist for Him.
With me so far?
The 10th principle states “I believe, with complete conviction, that the Creator knows all actions of humans, and all of their thoughts, as it is stated, “Who forms as one their hearts, Who understands all of their actions.” (T’hillim / Psalm 33:15).
Jesus (who many Christians believe is part of a triune god) is not omniscient. “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Mark 13:32. Some Christians say that Jesus became omniscient after his resurrection – but how can G-d NOT be omniscient at any time? He is either G-d (and omniscient) or he is not G-d! Is only PART of the Christian G-d omniscient? That doesn’t work! Either G-d is all knowing or He is not all knowing. It really is an either or situation.
Also, if only the father knows the day or hour that also means the Christian holy spirit is not omniscient.
Proving yet again that the triune god is not the G-d of the T’nach, not the G-d of Israel.
There are other examples of Jesus not being omniscient.
"And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before G-d and man." (Luke 2:52). If he advanced in wisdom there was a time he didn’t know things (not all knowing). Also, if he was G-d how did he gain in favor with G-d (himself)?
Discussing what Christianity believes or doesn’t believe is difficult, because with thousands of Christian denominations what one believes another disavows. Many modern Christians do not think that G-d is totally omniscient. Others may believe that He is omniscient but that He limits His abilities to know all (which means He is NOT omniscient). Some Christians believe G-d is omniscient, but then conclude that this means that man does not really have free will – and that everything is preordained (predestination). Predestination means that all events have been willed by G-d, including what happens to you when you die (your soul). This would mean no one has personal responsibility, and that G-d cavalierly set up certain people for hell, and nothing they could do would change it.
Not a very nice god in my opinion, but some believe it.
Again, the Rambam teaches that G-d is all knowing (omniscient) and that we do have free will. The two which might seem to contradict each other do not contradict because G-d is outside of time and space.
Because G-d exists outside of time He could very well have experienced what decision a person made (is making, will make) even before the person has even made the choice because the person WILL make (has made / is making) those decisions by his own choice. Just because G-d knows what that person does (has done / will do) does not make what is done any less of that person’s own choice. No one was forced into making those choices, nor was the decision "locked-in" by G-d's knowledge. Nothing was predestined.
Free will / choice does not mean that the choices we make will result in the outcome we want.
We make the choice, but He governs the outcome.
If man chooses evil, there are times when Hashem will allow those actions to come to fruition.
And there are times when He will not.
We trust in His ultimate wisdom.
There is a Midrash (story) which says that when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea the Egyptians followed and drowned. The angels burst out in a song of praise to G-d, and G-d stopped them saying “My creatures perish and you sing songs of praises?” From here we learn that that the joy of the salvation must be tempered by sorrow over the destruction of the enemy, as in the verse “Do not rejoice in the downfall of your enemy” (Mishlei / Prov. 24:17).
We are all G-d’s creation.
Principle #10: G-d is all knowing. "The Almighty knows the actions of people and does not ignore them. [It is] not like those who say (Yechezkel / Ezekiel 8:12), "G-d has abandoned the land," but rather like [the Scriptures that attest to His scrutiny], as it says (B'reshit / Genesis 6:5), "The Almighty saw that there was great evil perpetrated by man in the land..." and (B'reshit / Genesis 18:20), "The Almighty said, 'The cry of Sodom and Gemorrah is great...' " All this attests to this principle."
#9 of the 13 Principles of Judaism by the Rambam: The Torah is Unique and there will never be another like it.
Principle 8 (discussing Moses as the greatest of all prophets) explained that no prophet can change the Torah. If any prophet changes a mitzvah he is a false prophet. The Torah is the direct word of G-d, it is eternal and it cannot be changed through prophecy.
Remember that the Jews did not believe Moses simply because Moses told them G-d had spoken to him. They didn’t believe Moses because Moses performed miracles (miracles can be faked).
The Jews believed Moses because G-d spoke to THEM. G-d told 3 million Jewish men, women and children the ten utterances (commandments) and was with the Jews daily for over 40 years in the desert. IF Moses had made up even one mitzvah not given by G-d then Moses would have been removed as prophet. We know this clearly because when Moses failed to follow G-d’s instructions completely (striking a rock for water rather than speaking to it as G-d commanded) he was punished. . .
Remember when Moses spoke to the Jews (Israelites)?
“Moses summoned all Israel, and said to them: Listen, Israel, to the rules and laws that I am publicly declaring to you today. Learn them and safeguard them, so that you will be able to keep them. G-d your Lord made a covenant with you at Horeb (Sinai) It was not with your ancestors that G-d made this covenant, but with us - those of us who are still alive here today. On the mountain, G-d spoke to you face to face out of the fire. I stood between you and G-d at that time, to tell you God's words, since you were afraid of the fire, and did not go up on the mountain. G-d then] declared [the Ten Utterances / Commandments]. . . G-d spoke these words in a loud voice to your entire assembly from the mountain, out of the fire, cloud and mist, but He added no more. He wrote [these words] on two stone tablets, and [later] gave them to me.” D’varim / Deuteronomy 5:1-19.
Time and again the Torah tells us that it is eternal.
“Do not add to the word that I am commanding you, and do not subtract from it. You must keep all the mitzvot (commandments) of G-d your L-rd, which I am instructing you.” D’varim / Deuteronomy 4:2.
"The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our G-d will stand forever." Y'shayahu / Isaiah 40:8.
"Whatever G-d decrees *shall be forever*; nothing shall be added to it nothing shall be taken away." Kohelet / Ecclesiastes 3:4.
The Almighty Himself will never give another Torah, nor will He add or detract from the Torah we now possess. Thus the Christian bible, the Koran, the Book of Mormon are all false teachings. Parts of them are true (the parts taken from Torah), but there are also false teachings in each of them.
It is important to remember that we Jews are a “real people” – meaning that the Torah is our legal framework as (for example) the Constitution is to Americans. The “what to do” is in the written Torah. The “how to do it” is explained in the oral. Because we are a real people when something new happens our courts must decide how the law applies to a given situation (just as American courts must decide cases based on American law).
We are commanded to listen to our judges. "And you shall observe all that they shall instruct you" (D’varim / Deuteronomy 17:10).
Let's read a bit more of it:
"If a case is too difficult for you to decide…you shall go to the place that HaShem your G-d has chosen and you shall appear before the kohenim (priests) and the judge that is there in those days. You are to inquire, and they are to tell you the word of judgment. You are to do according to the judgment that they announce to you from that place that HaShem chose, observing scrupulously all their instructions to you. You shall act according to the law they shall teach you and according to the judgment that they shall tell you; do not deviate from the judgment that they announce to you either to the right or to the left" (D’varim / Deuteronomy 17:8-11).
The judges are learned in Torah and instruct us based on it. There have always been judges (from Moses to today). Currently there is no Great Sanhedrin, so our courts are limited in their rulings – basing them on the Torah and Talmud (oral Torah).
This statement in the Torah is actually the death knell to the Protestant concept of “Sola Scriptura” (relying only on the written Torah and personal interpretation, generally translations of the Torah which is even another step removed from the Torah itself! Yet to Torah tells us that we are to follow:
"According to the law that they shall teach you" (D’varim / Deuteronomy 17:2).
It does not say, that the written Torah shall teach you," --- or that you can read it in translatino (where someone else determined meaning) and make up your own mind based on no history or no knowledge (Sola Scriptura). The Torah says they opposite. It says that we should listen to our teachers (the judges / rabbis / teachers of the Torah). "According to the law that they shall teach you" (D’varim / Deuteronomy 17:2).
"that THEY shall tell you."
"according to the judgment that you shall guess or misunderstand based on someone else's (mis)translation."
The Rabbis (judges) do not change the Torah – that is forbidden in the Torah itself. They rule based on the Torah, following its mitzvot and principles. When there is a disagreement (generally something minor) it was discussed and a legal ruling given based on the majority decision. Some good articles to read to further understand that Jews do NOT change the Torah:
Haven't Rabbis Changed the Laws?
Why Can't Jewish Law be Altered?
Has Judaism Changed?
Understanding the absolute, unchangeable nature of Torah grants us insight into the necessity and essence of the Oral Law and the Jewish courts.
Principle Number 9: "I believe with perfect faith that the Torah will not be changed, and that there will never be another Torah given by G-d.”
Take, for example, the story of the man in the Torah who was put to death for carrying wood on Shabbat. "And the Children of Israel were in the desert, and they found a man who collected wood on the Shabbat day. And those who found him collecting wood bought him [close] to Moses and to Aaron and to all the congregation. And they placed him in the jail, because it was not explained what should be done to him" (Bamidbar / Numbers 15:32-34).
Why didn’t they know what to do with him? After all “Therefore] keep the Sabbath as something sacred to you. Anyone doing work [on the Sabbath] shall be cut off spiritually from his people, and therefore, anyone violating it shall be put to death.” Sh’mot / Exodus 31:14.
So the penalty was death. Why didn’t they put him to death?
Because HOW to do excecute the man had not been explained. The "how to" was given orally.
Now, how many people do you suppose have been put to death for carrying wood on Shabbat? Probably just this one case – one must remember that the people in question were those rescued from Egypt, who had stood at Sinai and promised to keep Torah. . . this generation was very unique. This man knew what G-d expected and his true crime was defying G-d. People are judged based on their understanding and knoweldge. . .
The 9th Principle: This Torah that Moses transcribed from the Almighty is unique and there will never be another. One must neither add to it nor subtract from it, be it the Written Law or the Oral Law. As it stated: "Neither add to it nor subtract from it" (D'varim / Deuteronomy 13:1).
Many missionaries think that "blood" is critical to the making of one. Wrong. The Hebrew word בְּרִית b'rit means an agreement or a pact or a treaty - and the term occurs frequently in the T'nach... here are some examples of it in the text:
...so they said: ". . .Let us make a treaty with you," (B'reshit / Genesis 26:28)
"Now come! Let's make a treaty - you and I. Let there be a tangible evidence of it between you and me." (B'reshit / Genesis 31:44)
"So HaShem gave wisdom to Solomon as He had promised him, and there was peace betweeen Hiram and Solomon because they had made a treaty between the two of them" (M'lachim Alef / 1 Kings 5:26).
Next point: in the Hebrew language, the verb that is used for "making" a b'rit is כרת, which literally means "to cut".
In English you sign a contract - in Hebrew you "cut" one. This doesn't mean you alwyas have to cut something to make a contract. The term is analogous to someone in English "cutting a deal." The T'nach describes many ways of "cutting" a contract:
"Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redemption and exchange, to confirm anything, one would remove his shoe and give [it] to his fellow, and this was the attestation in Israel." (Rut / Ruth 4:7).
Using a shoe could seal a covenant, no "blood" being required.
Another example is Jacob and Lavan formalizing their treaty by building a cairn of rocks and sharing a meal together on top it it. "Now come! Let's make a treaty - you and I. Let there be a tangible evidence of it between you and me.' Jacob took a boulder and raised it as a pillar." (B'reshit / Genesis 31:44-45)
There are many covenants -- and each one builds on the previous. G-d makes a promise to Noah that He will never again destroy mankind with a flood -- this is the promise of the Noachide covenant. G-d makes a series of promises to Abraham including בְּרִית בֵּין הַבְּתָרִים -- the covenant between the parts. This was the first of a series of promises G-d made to Abraham which culminated in the בְּרִית מִילָה (brit milah) found in B'reshit / Genesis 17 -- where we are told that בְּרִית מִילָה will be an eternal agreement between G-d and the Jews that Jews will show via the covenant of circumcision.
Christians who wish to argue that בְּרִית מִילָה is not included in G-d's covenantal promises to Jews ignore the Jewish bible itself.
As usual missionaries simply ignore the bits they don't like -- including the eternal covenant of בְּרִית מִילָה (brit milah -- circumcision).
G-d says He will never desert the Jews. NEVER. Judges 2:1: "I will not break my covenant with you FOREVER."
G-d promises to punish the Jews for our sins -- but NOT to reject us. Yirmiyahu / Jeremiah 46:27. "You fear not, O Jacob My servant, and be not dismayed, O Israel! for behold, I will redeem you from afar and your children from the land of their captivity, and Jacob shall return and be quiet and at ease, and there shall be none who disturb his rest. 28. You fear not, My servant Jacob, says the L-rd, for I am with you, for I will make a full end of all the nations where I have driven you, but of you I will not make a full end, but I will chastise you justly, and I will not completely destroy you."
T'hillim / Psalms 105:8-10: "He remembers His covenant forever, the word He had commanded to the thousandth generation, 9. Which He had made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac, 10. And He set it up to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an EVERLASTING COVENANT"
G-d repeatedly tells us that He will not break His covenant with Israel EVER. Here are just a few: Vayikra / Leviticus 26:44-45: "But despite all this, while they are in the land of their enemies, I will not despise them nor will I reject them to annihilate them, thereby breaking My covenant that is with them, for I am the L-rd their G-d. 45. I will remember for them the covenant [made with] the ancestors, whom I took out from the land of Egypt before the eyes of the nations, to be a G-d to them. I am the L-rd."
Y'chezkel / Ezekiel 16:59-60: "For so said the L-rd G-d: I have done with you as you did, that you despised an oath to violate a covenant. 60. But I shall remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I shall establish for you an EVERLASTING COVENANT."
Hebrews completely distorted what the prophet Jeremiah said. Hebrews says G-d will divorce the Jews -- but G-d disagrees!
"Behold I will gather them (the Jews) from all the lands where I have driven them with My anger and with My wrath and with great fury, and I will restore them to this place and I will cause them to dwell safely. And they shall be My people, and I will be their G-d. And I will give them one accord and one way to fear Me all the time, so that it be good for them and for their children after them. And I will form for them an EVERLASTING COVENANT, that I will not turn away from them to do them good, and My fear I will place in their heart, not to turn away from Me." (Y'rmiyahu / Jeremiah 32:37-40).
The 613 mitzvot are all found in the written Torah (follow the link to the list). The Talmud is a law book. The Mishna describes the "how to" perform many of the mitzvot in the written Torah (how do you slaughter a kosher animal?). The Gemara are legal discussions on those "how to" questions applied to specific instances, as well as stories. The oral law, written in the Talmud, is built on the written.
Christians have been lied to about this as they have about so much. The covenant with all of mankind is eternal. The covenant with the Jews is likewise eternal. No covenants are done away with -- G-d does not lie. Christianity does not and cannot replace the covenants G-d made with the Jews -- including its renewal (per Jeremiah) when the messiah comes.
“Moses announced, 'This shall demonstrate to you that G-d sent me to do all these deeds and I did not make up anything myself.” Bamidbar / Numbers 16:28.
The Torah we have today is the same Torah that G-d gave to Moses. Moses was His conduit for communicating it, or as a "scribe," as the Rambam himself describes him.
Remember, as we discussed in the last two principles, a prophet is one who communicates directly with G-d and relays that communication to his / her own generation. Moses communicated one on one with G-d, not through visions or dreams (as did other prophets), but clearly. The result of this communication were the written and oral torot.
The Torah is absolute.
There can be no choosing of what to follow and what to reject.
There can be no changes without destroying the very fiber of Torah, and without creating a situation where man will no longer be serving G-d.
I am speaking of traditional observant Judaism (and the Rambam’s 13 principles of Judaism) – not various “spin-off” groups who do not follow Torah but still call themselves Jewish. Just because a Jew does something does not make it “Jewish.” Consider the Jews who worshiped the false god Ba’al in the T’nach, or Karl Marx a Jew who founded Communism. . . do not confuse what a Jew (or Jews) may do with Judaism. Thus the missionary argument that Jesus and his followers were Jewish and thus this somehow makes it "legitimate" is erroneous. The Torah itself tells us that if anyone contradicts the Torah they are false.
A prophet must undergo the tests of D'varim / Deuteronomy 13. He can't just say things nilly-willyA prophet CANNOT undermine, change, or abolish a Torah commandment except in dire consequences (life threatening -- saving a life is the most important mitzvah of all).
 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 gods of others that you did not know (at Sinai) 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.
 And that prophet and that dreamer of a dream shall be put to death, for he had spoken perversion against HASHEM, your G-d Who takes you out of the land of Egypt, and Who redeems you from the house of slavery to make you stray from the path on which HASHEM, you G-d, has commanded you to go; and you shall destroy the evil from your midst. (Artscroll) Devarim / Deuteronomy 13) If someone adds to or subtracts from the Torah -- changing any of its lessons and mitzvot -- they are a false prophet. D'varim / Deuteronomy 13:2-6.
Jesus (as well as his followers) often contradicted the Torah. The age of prophecy had ended long before Jesus supposedly lived. Missionaries claim that Jesus was a prophet who spoke for G-d and did not change the Torah, add to that the missionary claim that Christianity is a "fulfillment" of Judaism, but D'varim / Deuteronomy 13 disproves both claims.
Consider Matthew 8:21-22(KJV) – (21) And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. (22) But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.
In Matthew 8 the man is asking to bury his father. Honoring one’s father (and mother) is a commandment broken by Jesus by the statement in Mathew 8:21-22 (See Sh'mot / Exodus 20:12) as well as the commandment to honor the dead and bury them. D'varim / Deuteronomy 21:23 – His body shall not remain all night upon the gallows, rather you shall surely bury him on that day, for he who is hanged is cursed by G-d, and you shall not defile your land, which the L-rd your G-d gives you for an inheritance.
If we are to do this for criminals – how much more so for the people we love – our families? Vayikra / Leviticus 10:19 tells us to mourn for our families (as Aaron mourned for his two sons who died). Yet Matthew 8 tells a man who is caring for his dying father to leave the man and not worry about even who buries him when he does die.
This is just one example of how Jesus taught his followers to disregard the commandments of G-d. The Torah, this 8th principle tells us, is from G-d and it is eternal.
Kohelet / (Ecclesiastics 3:14) "Whatever G-d decrees *shall be forever*; nothing shall be added to it nothing shall be taken away."
Contrast the 8th principle (that Torah is from G-d and does not change) with the thousands of iterations of Christianity – who do change their rules (e.g. Catholics could not eat meat on Fridays, now they can). The Protestants broke away from the Catholics and changed many of the instructions they followed. Consider the pope. Catholics consider the pope to be the head of their church and he can make pronouncements which are infallible. Protestants believe no human is infallible and Jesus alone heads up their churches.
Remember -- G-d sealed the covenant with the Jews by speaking directly to the entire Jewish nation (some 3 million people) at Sinai.
What of the "new" covenant spoken of by the prophet Jeremiah? This is a renewal of the existing covenants (all of the previous covenants are still in place -- from Noah, to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob and to the Jewish nation at Sinai). The translation of “new” for חֲדָשָׁה at the end of Jeremiah 31:30 is incorrect and ought to be “renewed”, because verse 32 clearly states that the “new” b'rit (covenant) is going to be G-d’s Torah, i.e. it will be the same as the previous covenants except for one thing -- in the past Jews (Israel) broke our part of the covenant and we will not do so in the future.
There are no changes in the mizvot of Moses compared and contrasted to the New Covenant. The Mosaic covenant is eternal – indeed all of the covenants are forever. The covenant G-d made with Noah still stands, so does the covenant made with Abraham, renewed with Jacob and renewed with Isaac. . . each covenant builds on the previous – none of them have been replaced. The so-called “new” covenant is actually a renewal of the covenants that went before it. It is a fundamental principle of Judaism that the Torah received at Sinai will never be changed nor become obsolete. This concept is mentioned in the Torah no less than 24 times, with the words: "This is an eternal law for all generations" (Sh'mot / Exodus 12:14, 12:17, 12:43, 27:21, 28:43, Vayikra / Leviticus 3:17, 7:36, 10:9, 16:29, 16:31, 16:34, 17:7, 23:14, 23:21, 23:31, 23:41, 24:3, Bamidbar / Numbers 10:8, 15:15, 19:10, 19:21, 18:23, 35:29, D'varim / Deuteronomy 29:28).
G-d promises to punish the Jews for our sins -- but NOT to reject us. Yirmiyahu / Jeremiah 46:27 ."You fear not, O Jacob My servant, and be not dismayed, O Israel! for behold, I will redeem you from afar and your children from the land of their captivity, and Jacob shall return and be quiet and at ease, and there shall be none who disturb his rest. 28. You fear not, My servant Jacob, says the Lord, for I am with you, for I will make a full end of all the nations where I have driven you, but of you I will not make a full end, but I will chastise you justly, and I will not completely destroy you."
Every word in the Torah has wisdom and wondrous insights. As King David, G-d's Messiah, prayed, "Open my eyes that I may behold the wonders of Your Torah" (T’hillim / Psalms 119:18). The eighth principle states that the Torah (written and oral) was handed down by G-d to Moses. Every generation has faithfully maintained the Torah l'dor v'dor (from generation to generation) in an unbroken chain of transmission from Sinai until today. No additions or changes were made at any time.
Sanhedrin 99a tells us that the denial of the divine origin of a single word of the Torah is a rejection of the entire Torah. "The authoritative explanation of the Torah was communicated by G-d, and the way we observe the mitzvot exactly as G-d instructed Moses. He [Moses] was the faithful conduit [Torah]."
Many Protestants claim to rely on sola scriptura (the bible only). They mean the written bible – and so they reject half of the Torah (the oral half). The problem is that the written Torah tells us:
“But you shall choose out of the entire nation men of substance, G-d fearers, men of truth, who hate monetary gain, and you shall appoint over them [Israel] leaders over thousands, leaders over hundreds, leaders over fifties, and leaders over tens. 22. And they shall judge the people at all times, and it shall be that any big matter they shall bring to you, and they themselves shall judge every small matter, thereby making it easier for you, and they shall bear [the burden] with you.” Sh’mot / Exodus 18:21.
If people individually can read the bible and make up their own interpretation, and understand the bible based on that understanding, why do we need judges? The Protestant claims that any pedestrian knows the Law simply by reading the Bible. Why is there a need to have lower courts and higher courts, with the latter getting the more difficult cases? Why is there a need for judges to be "wise and understanding" if knowledge of the bible requires no special training?
One thing to clear up before moving on is that some think that Jews today do not observe the mitzvot. They may point to the lack of a Temple and say “you are not bringing sacrifices, ergo you are not observing the mitzvot.” Yet the Torah does not say “you must always bring sacrifices, even without a Temple.” Instead the Torah says: “there will be a site that G-d will choose as the place dedicated to His name. It is there that you will have to bring all that I am prescribing to you as your burnt offerings, eaten sacrifices, [special] tithes, hand-delivered elevated gifts, and the choice general pledges that you may pledge to G-d.” D’varim / Deuteronomy 12:10-11.
The last place G-d chose to bring sacrifices was the Temple in Jerusalem. Sacrifices cannot be brought anywhere else (showing yet again that Jesus’ death was not a sacrifice). Jews are observing this mitzvah by not bringing sacrifices anywhere else. . .
We’ve discussed Torah accuracy previously. 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, none of which change the meaning in any way. Contrast this with the over 5000 variants just in early Christian papyri.
But, what of נְבִיאִים / Nevi'im (Prophets) and כְּתוּבִים / Ketuvim (Writings) which comprise the rest of the Jewish bible? If the Torah is not to be added to or subtracted from (changed) -- why do we have the rest of the T'nach (bible)? Neither changes the Torah -- if they did they would not be part of our heritage. The prophets who were immortalized in the Books of the Prophets were re-enforcing to the people the need to follow hte Torah. Writings consists of stories, histories and even poetry -- again none of which contradicts the Torah. Some missionaries wonder why Jews spend so much time on the Torah and seem to "neglect" studying the rest of the 'nach -- and this is why. Our focus is on observing the 613 mitzvot commanded by G-d in His divine book of instructions -- the Torah.
Principle #8: The Rambam stresses that both the written and oral torot are divine.
Number 7 on the list of 13 principles of Judaism given by the Rambam (based on the Torah of course). #7: Moses is the greatest of all the prophets, no prophet ever was or will be greater than Moses.
Let’s define prophecy again. The Hebrew word for prophecy is נְבוּאָה / navua (a feminine noun). A נָבִיא / navi (prophet) had direct communication with G-d (through dreams and / or visions with the exception of Moses who spoke directly with G-d), and who relayed G-d’s message to his or her own generation. Although a prophet might give a future prediction (positive or negative) these were given as either a warning to improve the behavior of the people (e.g. “if you don’t follow the mitzvot then the following bad thing will happen) or a positive vision, usually to convince the listeners that the prophet was indeed communicating with G-d (think of Isaiah 7 and the message Isaiah gave to King Ahaz that the two kings he was afraid of would be defeated before very long). . .
Some messages had meaning for the current and future generations, but all prophecy must have a message for the current generation (of that prophet), be direct from G-d (not through an angel or intermediary) and cannot contradict the Torah. Readers may want to revisit the post "Prophecy is always based on Plain Meaning."
Christians think that Jesus was the greatest prophet, and Muslims think the greatest prophet was Mohamad. As discussed in #6 (the post on prophecy) neither Mohamad nor Jesus were prophets, and prophecy was actually gone by the time either one lived. Prophecy is in abeyance until the time of the messiah. . . Readers may want to revisit the post "Examining 'Proof Texts' to see if there are Prophecies about Jesus in the T'nach."
Number 7 of the Rambam's principles speaks to the fact that the greatest of all prophets was Moses. The Rambam begins this Principle by stating, "Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses our teacher) is the father of all the prophets before and after him."
G-d not only spoke “face to face” (one on one) to Moses, but He also spoke to the entire Jewish nation to convince us not only of who He is, but to recognize the unique relationship He had with Moses.
"Ask, now: of the earliest days that were before you, since the day that G-d created man upon the earth, and from one end of the heaven to the other end, has there ever been such a great thing as this or was there ever heard anything like it? Has a nation heard the voice of G-d...?" (D’varim / Deuteronomy 4:32).
The Jews heard G-d speak the ten utterances (commandments) to every single Jew (some 3 million people). The people saw the fire on the mountain. They heard His voice. He fed them in the wilderness for 40 years. This was not some instantaneous or “one time” thing – no G-d was a daily part of the Jewish nation’s life for those 40 years.
In looking at the pages of history, one sees that the story of Sinai was original and has never been repeated. Not only has it never happened again, but no one has even tried to create and tell such a story. It might be possible to fake such a story if it were about “someone else.” If someone were to say “G-d spoke to the long dead Aztec people, the entire nation” it could be faked. But we Jews claim that G-d spoke to us – to our ancestors. Each generation in turn told the story to the next, l’dor v’dor (from generation to generation). If it was a lie would 3 million people all know the same lie? Wouldn’t someone have said “hey, that isn’t what my grandfather told ME?”
Most recently DNA and archeology is supporting what we Jews have said for 3300 years. The kohenim (priests) who we say are descended from Aaron, Moses’ brother, do have a common ancestor dating back 3300 years ago.
The Jewish Nation thus knew and experienced G-d personally. Judaism is based on the evidence of our ancestors testimony of what happened to three million eyewitnesses.
Think about that for a moment. Although the Christian bible claims that thousands heard Jesus speak at the Sermon on the Mount – where are those eye witnesses? Did your ancestor hear Jesus speak? Christianity makes no such claim. Those thousands are just a number, and could well be fictional (like the eye witnesses to Harry Potter’s fight with Voldemort). The source is in a book by some anonymous authors about anonymous people. Islam is the same. You have to believe what someone else says yet another third or fourth party saw. . . it could be real or it could be made up. There is no way to tell.
Judaism does not need to demand a leap of faith. Just as the Almighty gave our hearts and our emotions to use in order to serve Him, He also gave us our minds. In contrast, a leap of faith demands that an individual not use his intellect in serving God; rather, he should "just have faith." Our own ancestors, some 3 million of them, not only heard Him speak, but they received the manna in the desert. . . for forty years!
In the same way that we have the words of our own ancestors of what they lived through, what they heard, what they saw – so too Moses is the prophet in history whose authenticity was attested to, publicly, by G-d Himself. He is the only prophet appointed in the presence of an entire nation by G-d. The entire Jewish nation heard G-d say:
"I, G-d, am to be your G-d, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slaves." (Sh’mot / Exodus 20:3).
Moses had just led them from Egypt – they had seen the miracles Moses used to convince the Pharaoh to let the Jews leave that land. Hearing G-d speak to them they know now that it is the one and only G-d, the G-d of their fathers, who freed them from Egypt with a mighty hand and who appointed Moses as prophet and leader.
Moses was the only prophet who was made known as a prophet by G-d Himself to the Jewish nation. This was not true of Isaiah, Ezekiel, or any other prophet. Subsequently, any other prophet merits credibility only through the authority of Moses and the Torah. The validity of their prophecies is based upon the definition which Moshe told the Jewish people G-d provided as to when an individual should be accepted by a nation as a prophet (read D’varim / Deuteronomy 13 on how to tell a false from a true prophet).
There are other unique aspects to Moses as the greatest prophet:
1) G-d spoke to Moses “face to face” (meaning directly, as if in conversation). All other prophets communicated with G-d through dreams and visions. (e.g. "in a nighttime dream" (Br’eshit / Genesis 31:24), "in a nighttime dream-vision" (Iyov / Job 33:15). "if he were one of your prophets I, G-d, would revealed Myself to him in a vision, in a dream would I speak to him. Not so My servant Moses: in the whole of My house he is trustworthy. Mouth to mouth I speak to him..." (Baimdbar / Numbers 12:6-8)
2) With other prophets their visions came to them at night while they were asleep in a dream as it says, “in a dream of the night” and only after a deep sleep-like state came over them, and all their senses were shut off except their thoughts. Moses could receive communication from G-d at any time.
3) Prophets were overwhelmed by the intense effect and they might even shake physically. Moses was not affected physically by his communication with G-d.
4) All other prophets received prophecy only when G-d desired it. Some would go months or years or even never again without communication from G-d. Moses, peace be upon him, received prophecy whenever he wanted, as it says, “Stand here and listen to what G-d will tell you what to do.”
Yet, as great as Moses was, Jews do not pray to Moses, or through Moses. When we retell the story of the Exodus at Passover his name is not even mentioned! Moses was simply a messenger of G-d, just as the real messiah will be G-d’s servant. As we’ve already discussed – there is only one G-d!
False prophets are easy to spot. No prophet may change any law of the Torah. “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor shall you subtract from it, to observe the commandments of HaShem, your G-d, that I command you.” (D’varim / Deuteronomy 4:2). All of the prophets after Moses re-enforced the words of the Torah and their roles were to bring people back to Torah observance.
The difference between Moshe's prophecy, the Torah, and other prophecy is based upon this seventh Principle, that the Torah cannot be changed. D’varim / Deuteronomy 13:1-4 states that all mitzvot (commands) remain binding forever, and anyone coming to change the Torah is immediately identified as a false prophet. Throughout the Christian bible, Jesus contradicts the Torah and states its commandments are no longer applicable. (John 1:45 and 9:16, Acts 3:22 and 7:37). Mohamad does the same in the Koran. Non-Jews don’t have to keep kosher, but for Jews the camel is not kosher. In the Koran Mohamad allows anyone to eat camels. Again, for a non-Jew it would be permissible, but it is not for a Jew. This is yet another way that we know that both Jesus and Mohamad were false prophets – both told their followers they could change the mitzvot.
As great as Moses was, remember that it is G-d who made him great. Moses stuttered. Moses considered himself to be shy and unassuming. Moses did not seek leadership, it was given to him despite his protests. And perhaps, most important to remember, Moses was a human being – not a god.
A recent troll to the comments section of one of my posts stated that "Psalms are prophecy." No. They are not. I discuss prophecy in the post Prophecy (is) Always based on plain meaning.
The תַּנַ"ךְ / T'nach (Jewish bible) is comprised of three main sections. The first section is the תּוֹרָה / Torah (translation: instructions not law) -- the Five Books of Moses.
Much of the Torah / תּוֹרָה is prophecy, not only prophecy -- but the highest form of prophecy. Prophecy is not "fortune telling" -- it is direct communication between G-d and human(s) to relay a message which is to be told to the then living people. The message may or may not have meaning for future generations -- but it MUST have meaning for (and be communicated to) the living people or it is not prophecy. The תּוֹרָה / Torah is a book of instructions (613 for Jews) from G-d on how to live as a Jew.
In תּוֹרָה / Torah G-d spoke to the entire Jewish nation directly and He also spoke directly to Moses. Future prophets communicated to G-d through dreams and visions (a step away as it were).
The second part of the T'nach is נְבִיאִים / Nevi'im -- which translates to "Prophets." Now, keep in mind that the Christian bible moves the books around willy nilly (see the image) -- so the books in a T'nach are ordered differently than a Christian bible which may be why so many missionaries are misled. At any rate, Nevi'im are the histories of the Jewish people along with prophecies which were important to the then living people and often have message of importance to those of us alive today. Not everything in Nevi'im (Prophets) IS prophecy for us -- some of it has already been fulfilled and passed --but the message is still important.
Prophecy is also very straightforward and based on the plain meaning -- the Hebrew term is P'shat (פְּשָׁט).
Jews understand the T'nach using PaRDeS. For those unfamiliar with the term has to do with the levels of understanding Torah:
P'shat (פְּשָׁט) - the "plain" ("simple") meaning of a passage
Remez (רֶמֶז) - "hints" implied in the text but not explicit
Drash (דְּרַשׁ) - which is a deeper or even midrashic meaning -- often inferred from other scripture
Sod (סוֹד) - "secret" ("mystery") meanings
PaRDeS should not even be considered by most, who should focus on the p'shat. They can mistake allegory for literal meaning (this happens a lot, particularly in Christianity). Aspects of PaRDeS have been applied to the T'nach (think Midrash Aggadah -- stories meant to make a moral point), but the primary focus isn on Torah. When thinking of visions of the future (positive or negative) the plain meaning (p'shat) is always the one to be used: “Scripture never departs from its plain meaning” (Shabbat 63a, Y'vamot11b, 24a).It is inappropriate for non-Jews to even consider studying PaRDeS as they don't have the level of understanding at a ps'hat level to undertake such a journey. R' Moshe Isserles in hagahah to Shulhan Arukh, Yore De'ah 246:4 wrote "One may not dally in PARDES until he has first filled himself with the meat and wine , by which I mean knwoledge of what is permitted and what is forbidden and diney hamitzvot (the mitzvot)."
The final part of the T'nach is כְּתוּבִים / Ketuvim -- Writings. Ketuvim consists of histories, poetry, stoires -- but NOT PROPHECY. The Book of Daniel is in כְּתוּבִים / Ketuvim So the comment that Psalms are prophecy is flat out false and incorrect. The word in Ketuvim, translated as "Psalms" is תהלים / T'hillim -- and this means "praises." תהלים / T'hillim (Psalms) were poems primarily written by King David which were song in the Temple by the Levites as praises to G-d. Some of them are highly personal to the king and speak of his past life (his childhood, his mistakes, etc.). The whole range of human emotions is expressed in Psalms -- it is a beautiful book -- and it is NOT prophecy.
The T'nach (Jewish bible) was codified by the אַנְשֵׁי כְּנֶסֶת הַגְּדוֹלָה / Anshei Knesset HaGedolah / Men of the Great Assembly. This was a special Sanhedrin (combination of Government / Judicial court) founded by Ezra the prophet upon his return from Babylonian Exile in approximately 520 B.C.E. It was called the Great Assembly because most Sanhedrins consisted of 70 elders (going back to the time of Moses), but this Sanhedrin was 120 men. It led the Jewish People at the beginning of the Second Temple Era (ca. 520 B.C.E. – 70 C.E.). It included Mordechai (from the Book of Esther) and the last of the prophets Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi and others including Daniel, Y'hoshua (a high priest), Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah, Nehemiah b. Hachaliah (chief architect of rebuilding Jerusalem), Shimon HaTzaddik (also a High Priest), and Zerubabel ben Shaaltiel.
Among the accomplishments of the Men of the Great Assembly were finalizing the contents of the “Tanach,” the 24-Book Hebrew Bible, instituting the Silent Prayer (recited at least three times daily, and ultimately to serve as a substitute for the Temple Sacrifices), and the enacting of many Laws to protect and bolster the observance of the Torah Commands.
According to פרקי אבות / Prikei / Avot -- "Ethics of the Fathers" [a collection of proverbs and idioms from Temple time Sages] (1:1), the Men of the Great Assembly are the fifth link in the Chain of Jewish Tradition: 1) Moses receives it from G-d on Sinai and teaches it to 2) Joshua and to the 3) Elders who taught it to the 4) Prophets and them to the 5) Men of the Great Assembly, at the end of the Biblical Period (ca. 520 B.C.E.). Ethics of the Fathers, (1:2) also identifies Shimon HaTzaddik, as “among the last of the Men of the Great Assembly,” at the beginning of the Talmudic Period (ca. 200 B.C.E.). One of his frequently used statements is quoted in the Mishnah cited in Avot, “The world depends on three things: on study of the Torah, on Service of HaShem and on the performance of kind deeds.” It is known that he was the “Kohen Gadol,” the High Priest of the Jewish People, during the reign of Alexander the Great, the world-conquering Greek Emperor.
The Men of the Great Assembly existed for 320 years. During that time we went from a time of open, revealed miracles, observed by the entire Jewish People [the miracles of the Exodus from Egypt including G-d speaking to the entire nation at Sinai, the giving of mana in the wilderness, the splitting of the Sea, the Miracle performed by Elijah the Prophrt in his contest with the false prophets of Baal] to the Period of more modest and hidden, concealed miracles. [the Miracle of the Oil and the “hidden” miracles of Purim]. From the period of Prophecy, to the Period of Wisdom (the age we are still living in).
This is the history and the background of the T'nach -- the Jewish bible. The book of Daniel is not prophecy, it is in Writings. Psalms are not prophecy either (although King David himself was a prophet).
We're up to number 6 on the list of 13 principles of Judaism given by the Rambam (based on the Torah of course). #6: The belief that G-d communicates with man through prophecy.
On the face of it most people might think that this is one area Jew and Christian would agree upon, but it isn’t. Christians use the term to mean "predicting the future." This is not the meaning of the Hebrew. The Hebrew word for prophecy is נְבוּאָה / navua (a feminine noun). A נָבִיא / navi (prophet) had direct communication with G-d (through dreams and / or visions with the exception of Moses who spoke directly with G-d), and who relayed G-d’s message to his or her own generation.
The way a Christian uses the term "prophet" or "prophecy" would be a רֹאֶה Ro'eh (“Seer”) not a נָבִיא Navi (“Prophet”).
Samuel is called a רֹאֶה Ro'eh (“Seer”) in Divrei Hayamim Alef / 1 Chronicles 9:22, 26:28 and 29:29, but he is also called a נָבִיא Navi (“Prophet”) in Divrei Hayamim Beit / 2 Chronicles 35:18, showing that the two terms are not identical. There is also the word חֹזֶה Ḥozeh (“Visionary”). This word describes someone who experiences “visions."
Some messages had meaning for the current and future generations, but all prophecy must have a message for the current generation (of that prophet), be direct from G-d (not through an angel or intermediary) and cannot contradict the Torah.
Thus prophecy is a personal relationship and contact between a tzedak (righteous person) and G-d. This is usually through dreams although Moses had communication with G-d while he was awake. Navua doesn’t mean fortune telling or predicting the future, although sometimes these are present.
The word is based on niv sefatayim meaning "fruit of the lips," which emphasizes the navi's role as a speaker. A navi is really a spokesperson for G-d – one who speaks to his or her generation on behalf of G-d.
The greatest navi to ever live was Moses. He could hear G-d clearly and directly (as if “face to face”). “When Moses came into the Tent of Meeting to speak to Him, he heard the Voice speaking to him." (Bamidbar / Numbers 7:89).
Most other navi’s heard from G-d as if through a prism, or a fog – through dreams and visions “I make Myself known to him (other prophets than Moses) in a vision. I speak to him in a dream." (Bamidbar / Numbers 12:6).
The Rambam wrote that to be a prophet one must be wise, have a clear mind, be; of impeccable character, and totally in control of their emotions. A prophet is mature, of a calm nature and full of joy. A prophet is not interested in material things or the frivolities of life. A prophet’s desire is to devote themselves entirely to knowing and serving G-d.
At the height of prophecy all Jews were prophets – and prophecy existed in Israel because having all the Jews together in the holy land made for a holy enough link for it to exist and thrive. There were Yeshivot (schools) dedicated to training people to be navis – because one must be very much a tzedak (righteous person) to have that kind of a link to G-d.
Not all prophets were Jews (though most were) and there were women as well as men prophets.
Even if a person meets all the criteria G-d may not give them prophecy (and for now we are not in an age of prophecy so there are no prophets. Jesus and Mohamad could not have been prophets, because prophecy was gone by then).
If a prophet did tell of what would happen in the future such a statement was given either as a promise or a warning. Promises always come to pass. Warnings from prophets (of potential calamities) may or may not happen. Any negative prophetic warning can always be prevented through prayer and repentance. Think of the story of Jonah and the people of Nineveh who were able to avoid the curse by heeding the prophet’s warning. . .
The Book of Daniel is not found in Prophets in the T’nach and is not considered prophecy. Christians upon hearing this are usually outraged – but consider the definition you’ve been given. Daniel did not communicate directly with G-d. Daniel communicated with an angel. Also, a prophet has a message for his or her own generation (which may also be pertinent to future generations). Daniel's message was pertinent only to future generations, not to his own. Thus the information in Sefer Daniel (the Book of Daniel) is not prophecy. This does not lessen its value or importance. Was Daniel a prophet? That was a debate among our sages, some say yes and some say no. We do know that the information we have from him is not prophecy (for the reasons just given).
The T’nach itself gives us a stern warning against listening to soothsayers and diviners. Vayikra / Leviticus 19:26-31 “you shall not indulge in sorcery, and you shall not believe in lucky times. . . You shall not turn to the mediums, nor shall you seek after the wizards, [and thereby] be defiled by them; I am the L-rd your G-d.”
This creates problems for Christians. The Christian bible is full of stories of Jesus talking to the dead, demons, the "devil", etc. are all forbidden. (D'varim / Deuteronomy 18:11 and 19:31).
We are warned not to follow false prophets – including those who show us miracles. Miracles do not “prove” a prophet (let alone a messiah). "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 gods of others that you did not know (at Sinai) 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. And that prophet and that dreamer of a dream shall be put to death, for he had spoken perversion against HASHEM, your G-d Who takes you out of the land of Egypt, and Who redeems you from the house of slavery to make you stray from the path on which HASHEM, you G-d, has commanded you to go; and you shall destroy the evil from your midst." (Artscroll) D’varim / Deuteronomy 13:2-6).
If someone adds to or subtracts from the Torah -- changing any of its lessons and mitzvot -- they are a false prophet. D'varim / Deuteronomy 18 says there will be prophets after Moses -- and that these prophets will not change or "add to" Torah. Both Jesus and Mohamad changed the unchangeable rules of the Torah, thus they would have been false prophets.
By the time of Jesus (and later Mohamad) prophecy had been gone for hundreds of years. As Israel was destroyed and holiness declined (with the encroachment of Hellenism) prophecy became more and more sporadic. The last prophets realized that it was declining and that we were entering a period when there would be no more prophecy for a long time. Therefore Ezra, a prophet, called a Sanhedrin which came to be known as the Men of the Great Assembly. There were 120 members rather than 70. They codified the T’nach and Siddur (prayer book) and prepared the Jews for the move from the era of Prophecy to the era of Knowledge . . .the era we are still in today.
The T’nach tells us of the end of prophecy. We have not seen our signs; there is no longer a prophet, and no one with us knows how long. (T'hillim / Psalms 74:9).
Two things converged to bring prophecy to an end. One is the Diaspora -- the dispersal of Jews from the land of Judah (Israel). The majority of Jews did not return to Israel from the Babylonian (Iranian) exile, and without a majority of Jews in Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel aka the land of the living) prophecy is limited.
The second reason prophecy ended is because the Men of the Great Assembly appealed to G-d to remove the desire for idolatry and with it went the gift of prophecy (Talmud, Yoma 69b).
With the end of prophecy came the "Age of Wisdom." We still have the spirit of G-d in our midst and we have His Torah, along with His sages. The instructions had been given, now it is up to us to implement them. This is why the last of the prophets implemented the T'nach (Jewish bible, including Prophets and Writings) as well as the Siddur (Jewish prayer book).
Thus we know for certain that Jesus was not a prophet. For one thing, the age of prophecy had been gone for hundreds of years. For another, there is proof within the Christian bible itself that Jesus was not a prophet (or rather that he was a false prophet).
According to the Christian bible, Jesus “prophesied” the following: Matthew 16:28 (NIV) “"Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." The generation that Jesus addressed died 20 centuries ago, ergo this was a false prediction.
Jesus also predicted the time he will spend in the tomb (the “Sign of Jonah”): Matthew 12:40 (NIV) “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
According to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus died on Friday afternoon and “rose” on Sunday before dawn – a total of some 36 hours. The Gospel of Matthew says that Jesus remained in the tomb from Friday afternoon until Saturday evening at nightfall - a total of some 26 hours (Matthew 28:1). Neither equal three days. Again, false prophecy.
Conclusion: If Jesus was a prophet at all, he was a false one. But it is immaterial as prophecy ended with the last of the prophets in the T'nach (Ezra and the other prophets in the Great Assembly).
Princple 6: "A person should know that among human beings there are found individuals endowed with character traits that are extremely refined and high in caliber to a great degree of perfection. Their souls are primed to receive pure intellectual form. Consequencly their human intellect merges with the Active intellect from which profound emanation flows. Such people are prophets, and this is the phenominom of prophecy." The Rambam.
You should incline your prayers, your thoughts and your actions only to G-d. This is the fifth principle and it warns against idolatry (עבודה זרה / avodah zarah -- literally "strange worship"). Do not pray to or through any intermediary. Do not pray to an angel. Do not pray through a human (e.g. a deceased relative). Do not pray to or through anyone or anything but G-d Himself.
It is inappropriate to pray to anyone but G-d Himself.
Worship of any three-part god by a Jew is nothing less than a form of idolatry. (Whether Christianity is idolatry for a non-Jew is debatable). The Rambam certainly saw it as idolatry, but many others opine that for a non-Jew Christianity is שִׁתּוּף / shituf. Shituf is the heretical idea of some sort of co-mingling of something with G-d -- the worship or belief of other gods (e.g. Jesus and the holy ghost) in addition to the G-d Himself In the case of Christianity this is the idea of a G-d in human form being worshiped (Jesus) and even the “holy spirit” being worshiped.
Whether Christianity is שִׁתּוּף / Shituf or עבודה זרה /avodah zarah for a non-Jew, it is definitely עבודה זרה / avodah zarah / idolatry for a Jew -- and forbidden. Some posit that today’s non-Jewish Christians cannot be considered idol-worshipers since they are merely following in the tradition of their parents. Still, most agree that Christianity is idolatry for Jew and non-Jew since it does involve praying to or through an intermediary (Jesus, and in the case of some Christians praying to or through saints, Mary, etc.).
Nissim ben Reuven, The Ran, (14th century) wrote “...even the Christian saints, and even the...leader of the Ishmaelites, even though their followers do not consider them gods, nevertheless, since they bow to them to acknowledge that they are human incarnation of their divinities, they all have the halachic status of avodah zarah...”
Idolatry does not necessarily mean worshiping a god of stone or wood. Even if a Jew worships the highest angel, it is also a form of idolatry. G-d is the infinite One, Creator of all things. Anyone who worships anything else is guilty of idolatry even for a non-Jew.
We have already discussed the unity of G-d. The three-part god of Christianity is not the G-d of Judaism.
Therefore, in the Jewish view, Christianity may very well be a variation of idolatry even for a non-Jew. The Christian bible teaches its followers that the only way to G-d is through the son (Jesus). John 14:6 “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
This is in direct violation of the Torah precept to worship only G-d. Sh’mot / Exodus 20:2-3: “I am G-d your L-rd, who brought you out of Egypt, from the place of slavery. 20:3 Do not have any other gods before Me.”
By saying "before Me" G-d is stressing that no one should believe in any other deity, even if you believe in Him, too. By praying to or through Jesus a Christian is putting that other entity between themselves and G-d. If you believe in G-d, why do you need Jesus? Why do you need to pray to or through anyone but the Holy One?
G-d gave man absolute free will. Man can choose good or evil, the blessing or the curse. The choice to honor G-d and pray only to Him is an expression of our free will. So that such a choice can exist, G-d created a world where both good and evil can freely operate. He thus said, "I form light and create darkness; I make peace and create evil; I am G-d. I do all these things" (Y'shayahu / Isaiah 45:7).
G-d created it in order that man should overcome it. It is written, "Behold, the fear of G-d, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil, that is understanding" (Iyov / Job 28:28).
So humans have absolute free will, with the ability to choose between good and evil. The Torah says: "I call heaven and earth to bear witness this day, for I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore, choose life, so that you and our children may live" (D’varim / Deuteronomy 30:19).
It is evil and a curse to pray to false gods or intermediaries.
People, upon hearing the word “idolatry” picture people bowing and praying to statues. This is not the Jewish definition of idolatry. The term for idolatry in Hebrew is עבודה זרה / avodah zarah / idolatry – and it translates to “strange worship.”
What about Jews who say prayers at the gravesides of famous Jews? There are Jews who visit the graves of our patriarchs and leave prayers. There are Jews who visit the grave of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem M. Schneerson. Would this not be considered שִׁתּוּף / Shituf or עבודה זרה /avodah zarah?
No, because Jews do not pray to the dead. When a Jew visits the gravesite of a sage, they are not praying to or through that person. They are not asking the dead person to "intercede" on their behalf. 128:13 in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch says "the place of the burial of righteous people is holy and pure, and prayer is accepted there more [readily], since the person is on holy ground. And the blessed holy one will do kindness in the merit of the righteous people. However, the person parying should not face the graves (literally: corpses who dwell there) as they pray, because the matter is close to being in the category of "you shall not. . . communicate with the dead." D'varim / Deuteronomy 18:10-11. Rather, he should request from the blessed G-d that He have mercy on him in the merit of the righteous people, the dwellers of the dust."
G-d describes avodah zarah (idolatry -- literally "strange worship") in D’varim / Deuteronomy 13:7-9 – and it is the death knell to Christianity – even to those who do not “worship” Jesus but claim to only “pray in his name.” -- it is still a clear violation of the Rambam’s 5th principle against worshiping any other than G-d.
Even Christians who say Jesus is G-d are violating the precept since no one at Sinai knew or prayed to or through Jesus. The Torah says: “[This is what you must do] if your blood brother, your son, your daughter, your bosom wife, or your closest friend secretly tries to act as a missionary among you, and says, 'If your brother, the son of your mother, tempts you in secret or your son, or your daughter, or the wife of your embrace, or your friend, who is as your own soul saying, "Let us go and worship other gods, which neither you, nor your forefathers have known."' 13:8 [He may be enticing you with] the gods of the nations around you, far or near, or those that are found at one end of the world or another. 13:9 Do not agree with him, and do not listen to him." D’varim / Deuteronomy 13:7-9.
The key phrase here is "WHICH NEITHER YOU OR YOUR FOREFATHERS HAVE KNOWN."
Jesus supposedly lived 2000 years ago, 1300 years after our fathers heard G-d speak at Mount Sinai. Thus the worship of Jesus is an experience that we did not know (at Mount Sinai when we accepted the Torah) -- and thus is worhsiping Jesus (or praying "through" him is idolatry for a Jew.
Line 19 of that same passage (D'varim / Deuteronomy 13) tells us "For you shall hearken to the voice of the L-rd your G-d, to keep all His mitzvot which I command you this day, to do that which is proper in the eyes of the L-rd, your G-d."
Those mitzvot are the same ones NOT observed by Christians. Christians (non-Jews) are only bound to 7 mitzvot, but one of those is to worship only G-d. While some Christians view Jesus as a human being, most worship him as a part of G-d (shituf at a minimum for a non-Jew).
Praying to or “through” Jesus was not a spiritual experience known to our ancestors at Mount Sinai – hence it is forbidden to a Jew. Again, the Rambam was simply stating a fact already well established in the Torah.
When did "our fathers", present at Sinai, have a spiritual experience with Jesus? Was Jesus "known" to them? Did they pray to Jesus or through Jesus? Of course not! Jesus was unknown to them.
G-d warned us against both Christianity and Islam -- any spiritual experience not known to us at Mount Sinai is false. It is not the Rabbis who have "changed" or turned to avodah zarah -- it is those apostate Jews who pray to or through a man and put that man above the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Principle number 5: G-d is the exclusive object of worship. No one or thing is worthy of being worshiped.
G-d exists outside of time and space (which are part of His creation). G-d has always existed, He existed prior to everything and anything. He will always exist. G-d created the reality that we know (our universe, our world) from nothing [creation ex nihilo].
When one considers how “everything” became reality there are generally two schools of thought.
Early church fathers of the second century CE (Theophilus of Antiochus, Justin Martyr, and Origen) believed in the second option -- that matter already existed and G-d “used” it to create things, ordering the matter into the world as we know it. This is definitely not the Jewish or biblical answer. Most likely the church fathers took this idea from the Greeks (Plato). The Mormons are definitely in this second camp (creation from pre-existing matter).
Aristotle taught that the universe was not created from nothing (ex nihilo) or created anew (de novo). The universe – as it is now – was eternally this way. This has since been disproven (Big Bang theory). To Plato matter always existed.
Later Christians debated whether G-d created the world from nothing, or whether He created it from existing matter. This debate continues in the modern Christian world, although the majority seem to side with creation from nothing.
Because Jews know that G-d is One, He is inevitably primary. All that exists other than Him is not primary in relationship to Him. This is shown in D’varim / Deuteronomy 33:27): "G-d who preceded [all existence] is a refuge..."
We find the fact that G-d existed before anything (and will exist after) in many passages. “I am the first and I am the last; apart from Me there is no G-d.” Yeshayahu / Isaiah 44:6.
The debate continues with modern science. Stephen Hawking once said in his book “A Brief History of Time” that “In real time the universe was created ex nihilo (from nothing).”
Which raises the question “what is time?” and “what is space?” Both are His creations. Everything is His creation. Thus time does not exist for G-d (neither does space). The Rambam wrote in his book “The Guide to the Perplexed” (II.13 ) that "G-d's bringing the world into existence does not have a temporal beginning, for time is one of the created things."
There was nothing, no physicality at all, prior to G-d’s creation. When G-d did create, He began with primordial matter (no larger than a mustard seed). Not all the sages agree with the fourth principle (including Ibn Ezra).
Writing for Aish Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried wrote:
"In most translations, the first verse of (B'reshit) Genesis reads something like this: “In the beginning G-d created heaven and earth, and the earth was astonishingly empty…” This translation, which alludes to G-d creating heaven and earth directly and as a complete entity as you mentioned, is a flawed translation.
"The correct translation, as explained by Rashi, the most classical of commentaries, is “In the beginning of G-d’s creating of the heaven and the earth…” The difference is a great one; it is simply introducing the story, not referring to anything yet created.
"The continuing statement, “and the earth was astonishingly empty,” also loses its meaning in translation. Another classical commentary, Nachmanides (13th century) points out the difficulty implicit in the words “tohu vavohu,” which do not literally form the phrase “astonishingly empty.” Tohu indeed means astonishing. Bohu, however, means “all is in it.” Nachmanides (the Ramban) explains as follows:
"We see from Nachmanides (the Ramban) that the verse from (B'reshit) Genesis is precisely in line with Big Bang! For the past 700 or more years, we were not able to understand the meaning of Nachmanides in physical terms. It defied human understanding to imagine all the vast mass of the universe compressed into an infinitesimally small speck of matter which could not even be observed. One could not even imagine compressing a cup of water into a smaller cup! Only after Einstein discovered relativity and the relationship between matter and energy, could we understand this in physical terms."
It is interesting to note that Arno Penzias, who won the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation, which supported the Big Bang theory of the creation of the Universe. is Jewish said “The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted, had I had nothing to go on but the five books of Moses (the Torah), the Psalms (T'hillim), the Bible as a whole.” (Penzias, as cited in Bergman 1994, 183; see also Brian 1995, 163).
Principle number 4: G-d is eternal, and He created everything from nothing.
After posting the Rambam's third principle -- that G-d has no form, no physicality at all -- I received a few comments from Christians arguing that the T'nach will sometimes say that G-d has a "face" or that man was created "in G-d's image."
When Torah says Moses and G-d spoke "face to face" it means that G-d communicated directly with Moses, not through dreams or visions as He did with all other prophets. For the missionary who wishes to insist that the word "face" must mean a literal human face (even though Torah also tells us G-d is not a man) and that no one can see Him and live -- yet these passages are never quoted to me by missionaries!
They also over look Zechariah 4:10 which says that G-d has seven eyes that come out of their sockets and wander through the earth. Why is Zechariah not used as proof that G-d has seven eyes that leave the sockets (presumambly of his "face") and wander the earth.
The Torah speaks in the language of man -- using terms and images we can relate to and understand. This does not mean that G-d looks like humans. He does not have wings of an eagle/vulture based on Sh'mot / Exodus 19:4 either.
What about B'reshit / Genesis 1:27 which says that G-d (singular, ONE) created man "in His image"? This translation has caused thousands of years of misunderstanding. We are told time and again that no one can see G-d and live -- that we never see any form of Him (because there is no form). So what does B'reshit / Genesis mean when it speaks of man being created in G-d's image? Two things -- that G-d created man using an image of His creation (think "blueprint") "G-d [thus] created man with His image (blueprint). In the image of G-d, He created him, male and female He created them." B'reshit / Genesis 1:27. "His image" also means that we were given the ability to think and reason logically -- a gift from G-d not given to other creatures.
G-d is not a man, and G-d never appears in "human form" in the Torah. Ever. The Torah tells us that G-d appeared to the patriarchs -- but HOW he appeared is never addressed. Take Sh'mot / Exodus 33:18-20 which says that none can see G-d and live: "Moses said, “Show me your glory." GLORY folks -- not "body."
In Sh'mot / Exodus 33:11, the Hebrew expression פנים אל פנים / "panim el panim" (face to face) is an idiomatic expression (not literal) -- it means that two entities had a close relationship -- such as Moses had with G-d. The Torah tells us that G-d communicated with Moses directly, whereas all other prophets had visions and dreams which conveyed messages from G-d. In speaking to Moses 'face-to-face" it does not mean they stood with "faces" inches apart -- indeed G-d tells Moses that Moses cannot "see" G-d and live -- ergo Moses never saw any "face" of G-d.
This same expression, פנים אל פנים / "panim el panim" is repeated in Yechezkel / Ezekiel 20:35 - "And I will bring you to the Wilderness of the Nations, and I will contend with you there face to face." Yet we know that after Moses no other prophet communicated directly with G-d (including Ezekiel) -- ergo this is another example of it simply being an expression of closeness.
Do the missionaries think that G-d brought us Jews into the wilderness and then physically fought with each and every one of us "face to face"? Or do you suppose they are willing to admit that in Ezekiel it doesn't mean literally G-d's "face" to the face of every Jew then alive?
It is an expression -- G-d has no "face."
Translating the Hebrew word פָּנִים / panim as “face” loses some of the meaning (although English lacks any more suitable translation). פָּנִים / panim is another of those nouns that have a plural form (and are treated grammatically as plural) in Hebrew even though they are singular in meaning; and, also, the word לִפְנֵי־ / lifnei...(which means “in front of...”, although those who prefer archaisms translate it as “before...”) literally means “to the panim (‘face’) of...”
Sh'mot / Exodus 24:17 says that "the appearance of the glory of Hashem was like a consuming fire on the mountaintop before the eyes of the Children of Israel." Meaning, the Children of Israel witnessed the glory of the L-rd. Yet constantly Moses says that they saw no form or likeness.
In Sh'mot / Exodus 24:20 we are told "And He said, "You will not be able to see My face, for man shall not see Me and live."
Yet the missionaries want to think that G-d lied and it IS possible to see G-d and live???
Now -- we've already been told that G-d spoke to Moses "face to face" yet here we are told that no one can look at G-d's face and live. This apparent contradiction has to do with people's unfamiliarity with Hebrew.
The Hebrew expression "panim el panim", which literally means 'face-to-face', is used to express a relationship of 'intimate familiarity' such as Moses had with G-d; this is a common Hebrew idiom. In speaking to Moses 'face-to-face', the context in Hebrew is clear and doesn't imply any direct viewing of G-d. All that it means is that the Creator spoke to Moses as a friend would [note the phrase that immediately follows, as a man would speak to his companion.], and that the message was direct, in the form of self-luminous thought and complete self-consciousness and not in dreams of visions.
This same expression, "panim el panim" is repeated at the end of D'varim /Deuteronomy 34:10 in the same context - showing the closeness that existed between Moses and G-d. With this in mind, the rest of that passage isnt problematic at all.
I think their argument sinks right here, doesn't it?
When Torah says Moses and G-d spoke "face to face" it means that G-d communicated directly with Moses, not through dreams or visions as He did with all other prophets. Constantly Moses says throughout the Torah that there was no form, that the Children of Israel saw no form or likeness, etc. He warned them NOT to use any images -- and yet that is what the missionary insists we should do -- ignore G-d and listen to them!
Rambam in Guide for the Perplexed 1:37 writes – “It is also a term denoting the presence and station of an individual…. In this sense it is said: And the lord spoke unto Moshe face to face – which means, as a presence to another presence without an intermediary, as is said: Come let us look one another in the face.”
The Rambam continues: “Thus Scripture says: HaShem spoke to you face to face. In another passage, it explains, saying: You heard the voice of words but you saw no figure, only a voice. Hence, this kind of speaking and hearing are described as being face to face.”
There is no physical “face” – there was no figure only a voice.
“Similarly the words, And HaShem spoke to Moshe face to face, describe His speaking as being in the form of an address [to Moshe]. Accordingly, it is said: Then he heard the voice speaking to him. It has accordingly been made clear to you that the hearing of a speech without the intermediary of an angel is described as being face to face. . .
“In this sense it is also said: But my face shall not be seen, meaning that the true reality of My existence as it veritably is cannot be grasped.”
One would think that if G-d was going to manifest Himself in human form somewhere the Torah would have mentioned it -- instead the Torah makes it clear that Moses never asked to actually "see" G-d. Moses said "' "Show me, now, Your glory!" -- not "your body" or "your form" -- your glory! Or, 'Let me comprehend Your unique nature' (Yad, Yesodey HaTorah 1:10). G-d replied "'You cannot have a vision of My Presence. A man cannot have a vision of Me and live." (Sh'mot / Exodus 33:18 - 20).
When Torah says Moses and G-d spoke "face to face" it means that G-d communicated directly with Moses, not through dreams or visions as He did with all other prophets. For the missionary who wishes to insist that the word "face" must mean a literal human face (even though Torah also tells us G-d is not a man) I quote R' Yisroel Blumenthal:
"I wonder if you believe that G-d has seven eyes that come out of their sockets and wander through the earth – based on Zechariah 4:10 – and that God has wings of an eagle/vulture based on Exodus 19:4 – G-d rides on a cloud based on Isaiah 19:1 – and sometimes he rides on horses – based on Habakuk 3:8" - Rabbi Yisroel Blumenthal.
The third principle of Judaism is that G-d has absolutely no physicality. He is incorporeal – without any physical body or form. In his magnum opus, the Mishne Torah, the Rambam asserts that anyone who believes that G-d is corporeal is a heretic.
Most Christians believe that G-d had a body, namely that of Jesus of Nazareth who was born as a baby, grew in knowledge, had human bodily functions, breathed, ate, defecated, slept. . . a human. They believe that the word became flesh (John 1:1).
Many other Christians believe that G-d earlier took human forms (they reference B’reshit / Genesis 18) and other forms such as a burning bush, a cloud. . . although for some reason they don’t pray to any of the physical manifestations they think were G-d except for Jesus. You’d have to ask them why this one manifestation deserves worship when the others don’t (something about “only to the father through the son even though they are both supposedly the same god). . . .
The Torah tells us G-d is incorporeal (has no physicality) time and time again.
"You did not see any image on the day that G‑d spoke to you at Horeb [Sinai]."-- D’varim / Deuteronomy 4:15.
G-d has no physical manifestation, thus theophanies are not part of Judaism, PERIOD. There is not one passage in the Jewish bible that says G-d Himself appeared in the form of a man. G-d did not manifest Himself as a burning bush or a pillar of fire. (D'varim) Deuteronomy 4:15 clearly tells us that the Israelites did not see G-d in any form. Ergo G-d was NOT the pillar or the cloud
R’ Aryeh Kaplan (Z”L) wrote “G-d is totally nonphysical. “We believe that this Unity (which we call G-d) is not a body or a physical force. “Nothing associated with the physical can apply to Him in any way. We thus cannot say that G-d moves, rests or exists in a given way. Things such as this can neither happen to Him, nor be part of His intrinsic nature.
“When our sages speak of G-d, they therefore teach that such concepts as combination and separation do not apply to Him. They say in the Talmud (Chagigah 15a), “On high, there is neither sitting nor standing, neither combination nor separation.”
“The Prophet says (Yeshayahu / Isaiah 40:25), “To whom will you liken Me? To what am I equal?’ says the Holy One.” If G-d were physical then He would resemble other physical things.
“In many places, however, our holy scriptures do speak of G-d in physical terms. Thus, we find such concepts as walking, standing, and speaking used in relation to G-d. In all these cases, though, scripture is only speaking metaphorically. Our sages teach us scripture is only speaking metaphorically. Our sages teach us (Berachot 31b), “The Torah speaks in the language of man.”
But doesn’t Moses ask to “see” G-d?
Moses says to HaShem “show me your glory” (Sh’mot / Exodus 33). Moses wanted to understand the essence of Hashem.
HaShem answered: “No living being can see Me.” This means that as long as we are physical beings, we cannot conceptualize these things.
Moses asked G-d, "Let me behold Your Glory" (not a physical form). This is found in Sh’mot / Exodus 33:18. In making this request, Moses did not ask to see G-d, since that would be impossible. No, Moses was merely requesting that G-d grant him a prophetic comprehension of His greatness (his glory).
G-d replied that this is impossible for any living creature, saying, "You cannot see My Face, for man cannot see Me and live" (Sh'mot / Exodus 33:20). He did allow Moses the greatest comprehension of G-d ever granted to any human being, but even this was not a perfect understanding. This is what G-d meant when He allegorically told Moses, "You shall see My back, but My Face shall not be seen" (Sh'mot / Exodus 33:23). The same was true of the other "visions" of G-d experienced by the prophets.
Earlier, Sh'mot / Exodus 24:17, told us “the appearance of the glory of HaShem was like a consuming fire on the mountaintop before the eyes of the Children of Israel."
Was G-d’s glory a back? A fire?
This is an article by R' Aryeh Kaplan (Z"L) which is worth reading. The Creator of space and time is unique from all existence.
I'm going to quote some pertinent parts from this article, note he speaks of Exodus 33:20-23 towards the end of this quotation:
"Since G-d is the Creator of all matter, it is obvious that He does not consist of matter. . . "
As Creator of all things, G-d is also the Creator of space and time. He therefore does not exist in space and time.
It is therefore taught that G-d is given the appellation "Place," Makom in Hebrew. The universe of space and time is a creation of G-d, and does not contain Him.
The human mind can only deal with physical concepts, and it is therefore virtually impossible for it to picture any existence outside of space and time. This is but another reason that G-d's Essence is unknowable.
Body, shape and form are all attributes of space. It is therefore obvious that G-d has neither body, shape nor form.
It is a foundation of our faith to believe that G-d is absolutely incorporeal. The Torah therefore states,
"Take good heed of yourselves, for you saw no manner of form on that day that G-d spoke to you at Horeb." (D'varim / Deut. 4:15).
G-d is therefore not to be compared to any of His creatures, even to the highest angels. The prophet thus declared,
"To whom will you then liken G-d? To what likeness will you compare Him?" (Isaiah 40:18).
It is likewise written, "There is none like You, O G-d" (Yirmiyahu / Jeremiah 10:6).
The Psalmist similarly said,
"There are none like You among the powers (angels), O G-d, and there are no words like Yours" (T'hillim / Psalms 86:8).
In many places, the Torah speaks of G-d as though He had a human body, using anthropomorphisms such as, "the hand of G-d" (Sh'mot / Exodus 9:15), and "the eyes of G-d" (D'varim / Deut. 11:12). In doing so, the Torah is in no way asserting that G-d has a body, shape or form. Rather, it borrows terms from G-d's creatures allegorically to express His relation to His creation.
Similarly, when the Torah states that G-d created man in His image (B'reshit / Genesis 1:27), it by no means implies that G-d looks like man. What it means is that man partakes of the same attributes that G-d uses when He interacts with His world. It also implies that G-d gave man the ability to use the same logic with which He created the universe.
Moses asked G-d, "Let me behold Your Glory" (Sh'mot / Exodus 33:18). In making this request, he did not actually wish to see G-d, since that would be impossible. In an allegorical manner, he was merely requesting that G-d grant him a prophetic comprehension of His greatness. G-d replied that this is impossible for any living creature, saying, "You cannot see My Face, for man cannot see Me and live" (Sh’mot / Exodus 33:20). He did allow Moses the greatest comprehension of G-d ever granted to any human being, but even this was not a perfect understanding. This is what G-d meant when He allegorically told Moses, "You shall see My back, but My Face shall not be seen" (Sh'mot / Exodus 33:23). The same was true of the other "visions" of G-d experienced by the prophets.
If Trinitarians are going to insist that the "image" of G-d is somehow plural then explain why humans don't have wings like vultures ( as G-d is described in Sh’mot / Exodus 19:4) or why don't humans have seven eyes which come out of their sockets and wander through the earth – based on Zechariah 4:10?
G-d has no physicality. Time and again the Torah warns us not to worship anything that we might see: “G-d spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no image; there was only a voice." D'varim / Deuteronomy 4:15
The fire was NOT a manifestation of G-d. Torah says it clearly. The burning bush was not G-d. It was simply a media that G-d used through which G-d chose to communicate with Moses (and later with the Jewish nation). Think “telephone” – you are not a telephone even though you use that medium to communicate over distances.
The Torah states: "You will not be able to see My face, for no human can see my face and live" (Sh'mot / Exodus 33:18-20). If Jesus had been G-d no human could have seen him and lived.
The Torah tells us many things about G-d. It tells us that He is not a man. It tells us that He is one (not three). It tells us that He has no form, no physical being.
“G-d is not a man.” Bamidbar / Numbers 23:19. (The full quote is "G-d is not a man who lies" -- but the meaning is the same since G-d tells us time and again that He does not change, is not a "man of war" and “And, what’s more, Israel's Eternal One will not lie and will not feel regret, for He is not a man to feel regret!” (Shmuel Alef / 1 Samuel 15:29)
Principle number 3: G-d has no physical body.
The vast majority of anthropomorphisms used by scripture can in no way be interpreted literally. The outstretched arm of the exodus (Sh'mot / Exodus 6:6, D'varim / Deuteronomy 4:34, 5:15, 26:8, Melachim 2 / 2 Kings 17:36), the heavens as G-d’s throne (Yeshayahu / Isaiah 66:1,T'hillim / Psalms 11:4, 103:19), the eyes of G-d (D'varim / Deuteronomy 11:12, Amos 9:8, Zechariah 4:10, Ps. 34:16, Mishlei / Proverbs 5:21, 15:3, 22:12) are just some of the expressions scripture uses to describe G-d’s actions – and cannot be understood as a description of His being.
Furthermore, scripture uses the same figures of speech to describe the actions of entities other than G-d. Yeshayahu / Isaiah 55;12 has the trees “clapping their hands”, while T'hillim / Psalm 98:8 attributes the same action to the rivers. Shmuel 2 / 2 Samuel 12:11 speaks of the “eyes of the sun”, while Yirmiyahu / Jeremiah 30:18 describes a palace “sitting”.
Principle #3: "We believe that this Oneness is neither a body nor a bodily force, nor is He subject to any bodily characteristics -- movement, rest, or dwelling -- be they inherent or by chance."
Are there any sins in Judaism which can result in G-d not forgiving a person?
When a person sins against G-d and does not repent of those sins, they may not be forgiven by G-d. The worse the wrongdoing (murder, idolatry, willful disobedience (knowing disobedience) to G-d) may result in a Jew cutting himself off from G-d and the Jewish people. This is being כרת / kareit. There is a dispute among the Rishonim exactly what כרת / kareit [excision] entails. According to the Ramban - R' Moshe b. Nachman (1194-1270) there are different degrees of kareit. For someone who is righteous but gave into temptation, he will die young, but not lose his portion in the next world. If his sins outnumber his merits he will lose his portion in the next world but will not necessarily die young. Idolatry and blasphemy are punished by both early death and the loss of a share in the next world. Childlessness only applies in very specific cases. (Vayikra / Leviticus 18:29, Sha'ar Hagemul 3:3). . .
In Judaism one may be “cut off from the people” (כרת / kareit) if your sin is done on purpose and not repented. One may also be condemned for disobeying some mitzvot (e.g., picking on Shabbat). Will G-d get angry enough to condemn people to death in Judaism? Sure. Just ask the former residents of Sodom and Gomorrah as well as those who drowned in the flood while Noah sailed away.
A Jew who turns to apostasy is endangering his or her soul. That person is either in a state of כרת / kareit where they are cut off from G-d and the Jewish people or a תינוק שנשבה / tinok shenishba. The later is like a child who was kidnapped as a youth and never taught Torah and the responsibilities of being a Jew. A tinok shenishba never had the proper guidance and thus doesn't recognize their responsibilities to lead a Jewish life, following the mitzvot, he or she is "not held accountable for not living in accordance with the Torah until such time as they do become aware of their responsibilities. This is the very purpose for Jewish outreach.
Whether or not modern Jews becoming Christians would be kareit (cut off from G-d) or not 'depends.' Christianity for a Jew is idolatry so a Jew who believes that Jesus was G-d in a human body is an idolater. Idolatry in Judaism is defined in the Torah as worshiping any "god" unknown at Sinai. Jesus was unknown at Sinai, as was worshiping him -- ergo it is idolatry for a Jew. (It may or may not be idolatry for a non-Jew, it may be shituf for them. But that is a topic for another discussion).
Was the Jew who is now a Christian properly educated in Torah and what G-d expects of a Jew or not? If "not" then those children well may fall under the category of תינוק שנשבה - tinok shenishba (like one who was kidnapped as a child and raised in the wrong religion, Tractate Shabbat 68B and Shavuot 5a). This "works" only as long as a Christian remain ignorant that following Jesus is idolatry -- once they've been educated then they become responsible for their actions -- which might result in them being kareit if they do not repent of their apostasy and return to HaShem.
In writing about the Karaites, an apostate group founded around 800 CE, the Rambam wrote: ""However the children and the grandchildren of these errants, whose parents have misled them, those who have been born among the Karaites, who have reared them in their views; each is like a child who has been taken captive among them, who has been reared by them, and is not alacritous in seizing the paths of the commandments; his status is comparable to that of one who has been coerced. Even though he later learns that he is a Jew and becomes acquainted with Jews and [the Jewish] religion, he is nevertheless to be regarded as a person who is coerced, for he was reared in the erroneous ways [of his parents]. Thus it is of the children and grandchildren of the Karaites who adhere to the practices of their Karaite parents who have erred. Therefore it is proper to cause them to return in repentance and to draw them near with words of peace until they return to the strength-giving Torah." Hilchot Mamrim 3:3. The Karaites came under the heading of תינוק שנשבה / tinok shenishba.
In Judaism condemnation is not eternal. The purpose of this post is not to discuss the afterlife, but for more information on that topic follow this link "What Happens after We Die?".
Christianity’s lack of forgiveness seems to be eternal: one weeps. One gnashes one’s teeth. One burns in eternal torment. ETERNAL.
“Anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Matthew 5:22)
Continuing in the same vein in chapter 5: “You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery 28 But I tell you that .anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” (Matthew 5:27-29).
Eternal torment folks. The thought is as bad as the deed, folks. See the difference yet in the Christian versus Jewish view on repentance, forgiveness – and even the ramifications of the lack of repentance?
"He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. 31And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” (Matthew 12:30-32)
So it isn’t a question of forgiveness if one repents – the questions have to be asked:
Do you see the difference between repentance (or a lack thereof) in Judaism as compared to Christianity? What happens to those who do not WISH to be forgiven?
The question at hand is what are the differences in Judaism and Christianity when it comes to repentance? Some missionaries seem to think that the Jewish G-d is cruel or harsh, whereas Jesus is merciful and loving. How missionaries rectify their belief that it is the SAME G-d and yet have the thoughts that they are so different is their problem. . . but it IS an argument heard often enough from missionaries.
Yet examples of Hashem's mercy are found all over the Torah. Yes, G-d is our father and our judge -- but He tempers His judgment with far more mercy than we deserve (and that humans would ever consider). Consider:
"For Hashem is a merciful Power...." (D'varim / Deuteronomy 4:31);
"For he is merciful, He will atone sin, He will not destroy..." (T'hillim / Psalms 78:38);
"And he prayed to Hashem, and he said, Please, Hashem .... for I know that You are a merciful and compassionate Power, difficult to anger, and has much kindness, and forgives evil." (Yonah / Jonah 4:2);
"The wicked should forsake his ways, and the evil person should forsake his plans, and return to Hashem, Who will have mercy on him, for He forgives abundantly." (Yeshayahu / Isaiah 55:7);
"Hashem is merciful and compassionate, difficult to anger, and has much kindness." (T'hillim / Psalms 103:8);
"Tear your hearts, and not your clothes, and return to Hashem your G-d, for He is compassionate and merciful, difficult to anger, and has much kindness, and forgives evil." (Yoel / Joel 2:13);
"Hashem has made memorials of the miracles He performed for us; Hashem is full of compassion and mercy. Hashem is good to all, and His mercy is on all His creations." (T'hillim / Psalms 111:4-5).
What about sinners? What does the Torah tell us?
"He who hides his sin will not be successful, but he who confesses to Hashem and forsakes his sin, will receive mercy." (Mishlei / Proverbs 28:13).
Even after one of the worst sins of the Jewish nation (the making of the golden calf and the destroying of the first set of tablets) we are told "G-d passed by before [Moses] and proclaimed, 'G-d, G-d, Omnipotent, merciful and kind, slow to anger, with tremendous [resources of] love and truth. 34:7 He remembers deeds of love for thousands [of generations], forgiving sin, rebellion and error. He does not clear [those who do not repent], but keeps in mind the sins of the fathers to their children and grandchildren, to the third and fourth generation.'" (Sh'mot / Exodus 34:6-7).
What??? G-d forgives, but He punishes the children and grandchildren for the sins of the parents?
Not at all -- which is why the Torah must be read in context.
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."
So what does Sh'mot / Exodus 34:6-7 mean when it says that G-d "He does not clear [those who do not repent], but keeps in mind the sins of the fathers to their children and grandchildren. . .?" It means exactly what it says. . . He forgives sins, rebellion and error when we do the right thing (deeds of love) -- BUT when children do not do the right thing and continue in the same rebellious behavior as their parents and their grandparents then they receive the same punishments. . . . Consider that modern mental health professionals tell us that a child abuser is likely to have been abused as a child. . . the abuser knows the behavior is wrong, but they repeat the sin that was visited upon them. The child did not learn from the mistakes of the parent -- instead the child chooses to repeat the pattern. Thus the child is, himself a sinner, and this is what the Torah is telling us -- when a child does not learn from his parents' mistakes, but repeats them that child is also guilty. . .
The only reason a child would not be guilty by sinning as their parents sinned is, (as described earlier), if a child does not know they are sinning. The child may fall under the category of תינוק שנשבה - tinok shenishba (like one who was kidnapped as a child and raised in the wrong religion, Tractate Shabbat 68B and Shavuot 5a). Even so, a Jew may repent and be forgiven -- as Sh'mot / Exodus 34:6-7 clearly states.
Contrast this with Christianity (normative Christianity -- most of the iterations). The basic teaching of Christianity is that faith in Jesus is more important than "works" (not sinning, being a good person). "to the one who does not work but trusts G-d who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness." Romans 4:5 and "having been justified by faith, we have peace with G-d through (Jesus)” Romans 5:1.
What you believe is more important than what kind of a person you are -- in direct contradiction to the Torah. Indeed many iterations of Christianity teach that "believe in Jesus or be damned to hell."
This is loving? This is merciful?
“Anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Matthew 5:22)
Christianity’s lack of forgiveness seems to be eternal: one weeps. One gnashes one’s teeth. One burns in eternal torment. ETERNAL.
Do you see the difference between repentance (or a lack thereof) in Judaism as compared to Christianity? What happens to those who do not WISH to be forgiven?
“But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 8:12-13) Note that the Christian bible doesn’t say what these people would have to do to be forgiven even if they repent. It just says that they will be weeping and gnashing their teeth.
“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33).
Again, we are told that if people disown Jesus then Jesus will disown them. So apparently atoning and repenting aren’t enough here – you also have to be sure you don’t disown Jesus.
It gets even better. Also in Matthew 10: "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law-- 36 a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' 37 "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
Mercy? Kindness? Forgiving?
I am so happy to know that HaShem IS loving and forgiving. "Hashem, Hashem, G-d, Compassionate and Gracious, Slow to Anger, and Abundant in Kindness and Truth; Preserver of Kindness for thousands of generations, Forgiver of Iniquity, Willful Sin, and Error, and Who Cleanses..." [Sh'mot / Exodus 34:5-7].
The second principle of Judaism is that there is only one G-d. Again, many Christians will insist that they are monotheists and believe in only one G-d, but most Christians actually believe in a triune god – 3 persons that somehow (through what even they refer to as a “mystery”) equals one.
The concept of a triune god is completely foreign to the Torah and to Judaism. The word theophany is a GREEK word. There is no such concept in Judaism, it is the OPPOSITE of Judaism which teaches G-d is incorporeal. He has no body, now shape, no form.
G-d is outside of time and space. He has no physical attributes at all, and is completely unique. He is unconditionally independent of anything. His is a Oneness that knows no parallel. The emphasis on G-d's Unity rejects the subtle influences of polytheism which could exist even in a monotheistic system (such as the trinity). “I am the first and I am the last and besides Me there is no other.” (Yeshayahu / Isaiah 44:6).
The belief of G-d as One and unique is repeated time and again in the Torah. Jews recite it in the Sh’ma twice daily “Hear (Listen) O Israel, The L-rd our G-d, the L-rd is One.” (D’varim / Deuteronomy 6:4).”
While G-d communicates with us and uses various external ways to interface with humans (through angels, through a burning bush and a cloud) He Himself is none of these things. G-d’s essence itself is indivisible and we are forbidden from imagining any form associated with Him. Something that transcends both time and space cannot be described as consisting of three different aspects. The moment we attribute any such distinctions to G-d’s essence, we negate His absolute Oneness and unity.
Missionaries will point to times when human terms are used to describe G-d. It may speak of G-d’s arm (for example). Yet the T’nach also tells us that G-d has seven eyes that wander through the earth (no body, just eyes!) – based on Zechariah 4:10. Sh’mot / Exodus 19:4 describes G-d with wings like a vulture, and so on. . . Those terms are taken as not literal – although missionaries insist that descriptive terms that seem human must be literal – even though the T’nach tells us time and again that G-d has no form, that we never saw a form for Him and that no one can see Him and live. . .
"But beware and watch yourself very well throughout your life, in case you forget the things that your eyes saw, and in case these things depart from your mind; and you are also to make them known to your children and to your grandchildren, [about] the day you stood before HaShem your G-d at Horev (Sinai) . . . HaShem spoke to you (the entire nation, 3 million people) . . . you heard the sound of the words, but you saw no image - there was only a voice." (D'varim / Deuteronomy 4:9-12).
Trinitarians will go to great lengths to try to find triune gods in the T’nach. Even though time and time and time again the T’nach tells us G-d is one and there is no other.
Earlier I quoted D’varim / Deuteronomy 6:4 which clearly says “G-d is One” – and yet missionaries will take the Hebrew word for “one” (אֶחָד / ehad) and insist that it means more than one. They say that ehad can be a compound unity.
אֶחָד / ĕcḥad can be a compound unity (see B'reshit /Genesis 2:24 as an example) – but far more often it is an “absolute one” and not compound at all. It is NOT found in D'varim / Deuteronomy 6:4 – the Sh’ma, which says“Listen, O Israel – the L-rd your G-d, the L-rd is ONE”
The word "One" in this Deuteronomy 6:4 is an adjective, and it describes the proper noun "the L-rd" (SINGULAR), which rules out the possibility of a "compound unity" in this passage. It is an "absolute one."
Other examples of this “absolute one” can be found in 2 Samuel 13:30: "Absolom has slain all the king's sons, and there is not one of them left"and 2 Samuel 17:12:"And of all the men that are with him we will not leave so much as one."In Hebrew nouns are singular or plural – similar to English.
Some missionaries will latch on to the statement "Let us make man", found in B'reshit / Genesis 1:26 -- insisting that the "us" refers to the plurality of G-d.
Yet, B'reshit / Genesis 1:26 begins with the words "And G-d said." In Hebrew it begins with the word וַיֹּאמֶר / vayomer “and he said” -- HE -- singular.
Hence B'reshit /Genesis 1:26 begins “and G-d (SINGULAR) said let us make man." If G-d were a trinity it would be plural. But G-d is ONE, not three. If G-d were a plurality the sentence would begin with the plural וַיֹּאמְרוּ / vayom'ru “and they said.” It does not. It is singular. The plural term can be found as in B'réshıt / Genesis 11:3, 11:4; 18:5, 18:9 as well as throughout the Torah – but whenever G-d speaks it is singular “and He said.”
This is because G-d IS singular – one, not three.
Since G-d is one in the passage, who is the "us"? There are various opinions. Possibly G-d is speaking of Himself as a king refers to himself in the plural. Perhaps He is speaking to His royal heavenly court. . . The Ramban's explanation is the "us" refers to the planet earth itself -- because man is made of the earth (body) and of the soul (from G-d) -- so G-d is including the earth as being part of the "us" which created man.
Line 27 (the very next line) repeats over and over again that G-d is singular, G-d is one: "And G-d created man in His image; in the image of G-d He created him; male and female He created them."
Some missionaries will insist that the word in Hebrew for "one" (אֶחָד / ĕḥad) does not really MEAN one. This is patently ridiculous. The word for "one" in Hebrew works exactly as the word "one" does in English. Read the word אֶחָד / ĕḥad in verses like B'réshıt / Genesis 21:15 Hagar put her dying child, Ishmael, "she cast the child under one of the bushes". If this were a "compound unity" there would be many shurbs (a group of shrubs). Do Trinitarians imagine Hagar putting Ishmael under many different shrubs all at the same time (וַתַּשְׁלֵךְ אֶת־הַיֶּֽלֶד תַּֽחַת אַחַד הַשִּׂיחִם “she threw the boy under ĕḥad [one] of the shrubs”)?
B'réshıt / Genesis 22:2 says "take your son, your only one" and -- if אֶחָד / ĕḥad) does not really MEAN one would not the translation say something about taking Isaac up onto multiple different mountains? But it does not say that -- it says וְהַעֲלֵֽהוּ... עַל אַחַד הֶהָרִים אֲשֶׁר אֹמַר אֵלֶֽיךָ “take him up... onto ĕḥad [one] of the mountains that I will tell you about."
Obviously the word "one" in English (or אֶחָד / ĕḥad in Hebrew) can refer to a compound unity (like one ocean containing trillions of drops of water, or one bunch of grapes containing many individual grapes) or an absolute unity (e.g. one grape) -- and it is important to know which is which a true "one" or a compound unity by grammar and by context.
Torah is clear that G-d is one, and not a compound unity. G-d is not a trinity -- He is One.
D'varim / Deuteronomy 6:4 is very clear. G-d IS singular – one, not three.
Everytime trinitarians see the number three in the T'nach they tend to say it points to the triune god. But the T'nach is clear: G-d is one.
“That you will know that G-d, He (ה֣וּא – singular) is the (singular) Supreme Being and there is none besides Him." (singular) D'varim / Deuteronomy 4:35.
"Now, O L-rd our G-d, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that You ALONE, O L-rd, are G-d.” (T'hillim / Psalm 113:5).
"Before Me (SINGULAR) no god was formed, nor will there be one after Me (SINGULAR). I (SINGULAR), even I (SINGULAR), am the L-rd, and besides Me (SINGULAR) there is no savior.” (Yeshayahu / Isaiah 43:11).
"So said the L-rd, your Redeemer, the ONE who formed you from the womb, “I am the Lord Who makes everything, Who stretched forth the heavens alone, Who spread out the earth ALONE (לְבַדִּ֔י).” (Yeshayahu / Isaiah 44:24).
"I am the L-rd, and there is no other; besides Me there is no G-d… I will strengthen you…I order that they know from the shining of the sun and from the west that there is no one besides Me; I am the L-rd and there is no other!” (Yeshayahu / Isaiah 45:5-6).
One last attempt by trinitarians to "prove" that even Jews believe in a "complex unity" G-d is the misuse of the Kabbalistic concept of the Sefirot. Jews for Jesus goes so far as to say "kabbalah teaches that G-d is indeed a compound unity." This is totally false.
קַבָּלָה / Kabbalah is the Jewish mystical doctrine. Kabbalah is complex and difficult to understand without years of Torah education. Far too many today are trying to "dabble" in the deep waters of Kabbalah without first learning how to swim (and understand the basics, and foundations of Judaism). At its heart Kabbalah explores G-d's interaction with the world, and the purpose of Creation.
At the heart of Judaism, as expressed in the Rambam's second principle is the complete and total unity of G-d. As the Rambam wrote “I believe with perfect faith that G-d is One. There is no unity that is in any way like His. He alone is our G-d He was, He is, and He will be."
Kabbalah accepts this principle. The error of trinitarians when considering the sefirot (the ten ways G-d interacts with the universe) is that they confuse how He interacts with His creation (the ten / שכינה /
Sefirot). The ten are:
חכמה / Chochmah - wisdom,
בינה / Binah - understanding,
דעת / Da'at - knowledge,
חסד / Chessed - kindness,
גבורה / Gevurah - strength,
תפארת / Tiferet - beauty,
נצח / Netzach - victory,
הוד / Hod - splendor,
יסוד / Yesod - foundation,
מלכות / Malchut - kingship.
In some lists כֶּתֶר / keter / crown may be found instead of דעת / Da'at - knowledge.
Kabbalah teaches that everything that happens in the spiritual worlds takes place through the Sefirot. but the Sefirot are not G-d. No Jew prays to or through any of the emanations -- they are simply our way of trying to describe how we perceive G-d's interactions -- it is forbidden to pray to anyone or anything other than the One G-d. To repeat: the Sefirot are not G-d, and the Kabbalists warn that one should not pray to them. The missionaries are simply misusing the concept of Kabbalah, as they misuse the meaning of the word for "one" and any other out of context concept they can find to give some credence that Jesus could have been a part of a triune G-d. 1 + 1 + 1 = 3, not 1.
Principle number 2: "We believe that this Primal Cause [G-d] is One. [His is] not like the oneness of a pair, nor like the oneness of a species, nor like man, whose complex oneness may be divided into many units, nor like the oneness of a simple body, which is one in number but may be divided and separated without end. Rather, He is One with a Oneness that knows no parallel in any manner. This is the Second Principle, as affirmed by the verse (D'varim / Deut. 6:4): "Hear O Israel, G-d is our L-rd, G-d is One."
First on the Rambam’s list of the 13 principles of Judaism is to know there is a G-d. You might think to yourself, that is no different from Christianity – but you would be wrong.
Christians have faith that there is a G-d. Faith is not ‘a firm and certain knowledge.’ Thomas Aquinas, a 13th century Christian, opined that faith is ‘the theoretical conviction that G-d exists’. Theory. Hope. Belief based on no real proof. Faith over reason. . .
Many Christians believe in G-d with a “blind faith.” The definition of blind faith is “belief without true understanding, perception, or discrimination.” Most Christians are taught to just believe because you just believe. No logic. No facts. No proof. Asking questions about G-d’s existence is considered a lack of faith. Many Christians are discouraged from asking too many questions – just “believe”. . .
“We walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)
This is not a principle of Judaism.
The Rambam and the Torah do not say that Jews have faith that there is a G-d.
No, he said Jews KNOW there is a G-d.
Knowledge, not faith.
Blind leaps of faith have nothing to do with knowledge. Blind faith is hoping for what you want and wish to be true, not what is in fact necessarily true.
The first of the ten utterances (called the ten commandments by many) is "I am the L-rd your G-d who brought you out of Egypt". I am God your Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, from the place of slavery. Do not represent [such] gods by any carved statue or picture of anything in the heaven above, on the earth below, or in the water below the land. Do not bow down to [such gods] or worship them. I am God your Lord, a God who demands exclusive worship. Where My enemies are concerned, I keep in mind the sin of the fathers for [their] descendants, to the third and fourth [generation]. But for those who love Me and keep My commandments, I show love for thousands [of generations]." (Sh’mot / Exodus 20:2-6). This is the source for the mitzvah (and the Rambam’s statement) to know there is a G-d.
G-d Himself spoke those words to the entire Jewish nation at Sinai – some 3 million people. He did not reveal Himself to only Moses, or only Abraham, or only Isaac, or only Jacob, or even only to the various prophets. He revealed Himself to every Jew alive. Everyone at Sinai heard Him speak.
Knowledge, not blind faith.
Why does the Torah (and the Rambam) tell us we must know there is a G-d?
Because it is the opposite of the Christian blind faith in G-d. We should not believe in G-d "on faith" alone. Investigate the evidence. Get knowledge. Research. Study. Analyze. It is a fundamental principle of Judaism: You have to know, not just believe.
"You shall know this day, and understand it in your heart, that the Almighty is G-d" (D’varim / Deuteronomy 4:39).
There is a word in Hebrew אֱמוּנָה / emunah -- a feminine noun (nouns in Hebrew are feminine or masculine, there is no "gender neutral"). אֱמוּנָה / emunah is often translated as “faith” – but this is a poor translation. In reality אֱמוּנָה / emunah more closely translates to trust and loyalty in G-d’s relationship with us (not in His existence which is not in question). Thus in B’reshit / Genesis when we are told that Abraham had emunah in G-d (B’reshit / Genesis 15:6) it doesn’t mean that he believed in G-d’s existence. After all Abraham spoke with G-d regularly, he knew that G-d existed. When Abraham says he has emunah in HaShem it means that he trusted in G-d’s nature.
Knowing in our minds that our Creator is there is the first step. However, in time and with repeated practice, אֱמוּנָה / emunah (trust in G-d) can melt into the heart. This is why it is so important to live a Jewish life. Judaism isn’t just a religion, it is literally a way of life. By following the mitzvot, by keeping Shabbat, kashrut and the rest the “doing’ imbues us with the love of G-d.
'We will do and we will hear.' Sh’mot / Exodus 24:7 is what our ancestors swore in the Sinai desert as we agreed to our contract with G-d. The statement "we will do, and we will hear," means that we agreed to the covenant (the contract) before even knowing what was required. We trusted in G-d.
Because we knew G-d. He was not only the G-d of our ancestors, each of whom knew Him (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). No, he was also the G-d who had freed us from Egypt. He was the G-d who accompanied us daily in the desert. He was the G-d who spoke to us, every single one of us, at Sinai. We knew G-d, and we agreed to trust Him..
Most religions are based upon a man having a revelation. Paul had a fit on a road to Damascus. Jesus was said to have had 12 apostles and crowds who followed him (and believed in him) -- but the truth is that no one alive today can point back 2000 years and say that their great-grandfather witnessed it. It is an anonymous story and could be fiction as well as fact (or fact heavily embelished with fiction). Mohamad, Joseph Smith -- the list gets longer and longer, but someone says they had a religious experience and they convince others to believe them. Faith -- that blind faith spoken of earlier in this post -- is the basis for all religions in the world.
One religion witnessed G-d for themselves.
A nation of 3 million heard Him speak. They were freed from slavery by Him, and witnessed His plagues upon Egypt. He fed them for forty years in the desert. That generation told their children, who told their children, who told their children down to this very day.
"G-d your L-rd is a merciful Power, and He will not abandon you or destroy you; He will not forget the oath He made upholding your fathers' covenant. You might inquire about times long past, going back to the time that G-d created man on earth, [exploring] one end of the heavens to the other. See if anything as great as this has ever happened, or if the like has ever been heard. Has any nation ever heard G-d speaking out of fire, as you have, and still survived? Has G-d ever done miracles bringing one nation out of another nation with such tremendous miracles, signs, wonders, war, a mighty hand and outstretched arm, and terrifying phenomena, as G-d did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? You are the ones who have been shown, so that you will know that G-d is the Supreme Being, and there is none besides Him. From the heavens, He let you hear His voice admonishing you, and on earth He showed you His great fire, so that you heard His words from the fire. It was because He loved your fathers, and chose their children after them, that [G-d] Himself brought you out of Egypt with His great power." D'varim / Deuteronomy 4:31-37.
In closing, “to know there is a G-d” is a very different thing than to have blind faith in something someone else told you to believe. To know G-d does not mean to never ask questions (one must always ask questions). Each of us must come to realize and know G-d for ourselves. If the national revelation of G-d to the entire Jewish nation does not persuade you, then you must question and seek and learn for yourself -- based not on emotion alone, but based on knowledge and education.
"The fool believes everything, the wise man understands." Mishlei / Proverbs 14:15, Shlomo HaMelech (King Solomon).
The Torah commands us to (each of us) to come to know there is a G-d. Each of us must find for ourselves the rational basis of knowing Him. To have blind faith is the opposite of what Judaism requires – and what both the Torah and the Rambam mean when they say we must “know there is a G-d.” You must come to know there is a G-d based on the facts, based on compelling arguments that lead you to conclude that G-d actually exists. Use your mind, not your heart.
You may have questions and doubts. To know there is a G-d does not mean you never question – in fact the opposite is true. . . you must always question! The mitzvah “to know there is a G-d” is telling us don’t be content with your belief. Challenge your queries, gain clarity and strengthen your basis of belief by getting more information and facts. Know there is a G-d; don’t just blindly assume it.
It wasn’t that long ago that many scientists believed that the universe had always existed and that it was constant. Today we know that the universe had a beginning (the big bang theory of the creation of the universe). That theory was proved by a religious Jew who won the Nobel Prize for his work. You see, the Big Bang theory fits the story of creation in the Torah. Scientists maintain that the universe began with the appearance of an enormous ball of light - the explosion of which is known as the Big Bang - which slots together perfectly with the Torah version of events in which G-d said "let there be light." "The creation of the light was the creation of the universe.”
Arno Penzias (the Jew who won the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation, which supported the Big Bang theory of the creation of the Universe) once said “I think as (T’hillim) Psalm 19, ‘the heavens proclaim the glory of G-d,’ that is, G-d reveals Himself in all there is. All reality, to a greater or lesser extent, reveals the purpose of G-d. There is some connection to the purpose and order of the world in all aspects of human experience. . . (Sinai where G-d spoke to the entire Jewish nation) was a place where G-d chose the Jews, but the Jews also chose G-d. It was a historical moment in which a spiritual connection was made.”
In connection with the Big Bang theory and the issue of the origin of our highly ordered universe, Arno Penzias told the New York Times: “The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted, had I had nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the Bible as a whole.”
Arno Penzias, scientist and Jew, knew he would find proof of the Big Bang theory because that is where the Torah led him.
Principle number 1: “To Know there is a G-d.”
The Rambam actually says “to know there is a first being.” The distinction is not to just have "faith" alone, but to investigate and learn – question and explore. To know there is a G-d a person must research, study and analyze the evidence for G-d (Moreh Nevuchim 3:51; Chovot HaLevavot 1:3). A first being means an entity -- a first cause -- not some creation of man (an old man with a white beard sitting on a throne).
To know G-d is both an intellectual knowledge that G-d is in charge of everything, and an emotional knowledge, in our hearts. The Rambam said something very similar to the words of Arno Penzias. We “know there is a First Cause [Being],” when we see all creation and recognize that they did not make themselves, but that the Creator made them, the “First Cause.” Penzias’ ability to recognize that there had to be a “Big Bang” was based on his knowledge of Torah and of G-d.
The knowledge of G‑d means to know that there is a First Being who brought every existing thing into being ... His true existence.
The Rambam was saying that a general belief in G-d's existence is not enough. A person must come to a detailed knowledge of G-d (Laws of the Foundation of Torah 1:1). We must come to appreciate the nature of His existence. This means that we appreciate how G-d's existence takes expression through our existence. "everything that exits is by virtue of the truth of His existence."
The Rambam quotes the Prophet Yeshayah / Isaiah : “For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the L‑rd as the waters cover the sea” (Laws of Kings and Wars 12:5). The connection is clearly in the realm of knowledge. Knowledge. Not “faith.”
One of the greatest Jewish sages who ever lived was משה בן-מימון / Moses ben Maimon (Moses, son of Maimon), also known as Maimonides and by Jews as the Rambam (an acronym of his name). This brilliant man lived in the 12th century CE. His profession was physician. The last few years of his life he was court physician to the sultan of Egypt. He wrote 10 medical books in Arabic on how to treat asthma, counteract poisons, improve digestion and so on.
Jew and Arab respected this learned man, and upon his death Egypt observed three days of mourning for his passing.
Aside from his contributions to medicine, the Rambam made some of the greatest contributions to Jewish thought in history. Among his contributions was his list of 13 principles which comprise the core of Jewish thinking.
In the next few posts I will address each of these 13 principles and contrast them to Christianity. It seems prudent to begin by giving the background of the great Rambam.
First of all, realize that no Jew is held out to be a saint or more than human. We are all too human, from Moses who was shy and stuttered to Moses ben Maimon, known as the Rambam, or Maimonides whom we will discuss here.
R' Moshe ben Maimon, Moses Maimonides the Rambam, [ca. 1135 or 8 - 1204] is a name respected by Jew, Christian and Muslim. He was the foremost medieval Jewish sage (and that is saying something, there were many giants in that era). In his life he worked as a rabbi, physician, and philosopher in Spain, Morocco and Egypt where he was physician to the sultan and his family.
The Rambam’s mother died giving birth to him. His father was a great rabbi in his own right. He was a scholar and judge in Cordoba. The Rambam was well educated in mathematics, philosophy, and astronomy. In 1148 (when he was about 11 – 13 years old) Cordoba was overtaken by the Almohads, a fanatical Muslim sect that forced the Jews to convert to Islam or be killed. The Rambam’s family fled to Spain, eventually setting in Fez, in North Africa.
It was in Fez that the Rambam began to study medicine, learning from many Muslim physicians. However the persecution continued and his family fled once again, this time to Israel. Times were bad for Jews in the holy land as the Christian Crusaders were very cruel to them. One more time the Rambam fled, this time to Egypt. The Rambam’s brother, David, was a jewel merchant. He supported the family while the Rambam continued to study. At this time his father, Maimon, died. In 1178 David died drowning.
The Rambam turned to medicine for his living, as rabbis of that era did not earn money for those services. The Rambam was appointed official leader (naggid) of Egyptian Jewry (1177) and court physician to Vizir Al-Fadhil, Regent of Egypt during the absence of Sultan Saladin the Great, who was off fighting the Crusaders (1185).
During this period the Rambam had to leave his house early in the morning to care for the sultan, his family (including the concubines), not returning home until late at night. He would find people at his home wanting to speak with him. In a letter he wrote “Then I am almost dying with hunger… I find the antechambers filled with people both Jews and Gentiles, nobles and common people, judges and police men, friends and foes – a mixed multitude, who await the time of my return. I dismount from my animal, wash my hands, go forth to my patients, and entreat them to bear with me while I partake of some light refreshments, the only meal I eat in twenty-four hours. Then I go forth to attend to my patients, and write prescriptions and directions for their various ailments. Patients go in and out until nightfall, and sometimes even … until two hours or more into the night. I converse with them and prescribe for them even while lying down from sheer fatigue; and when night falls, I am so exhausted that I can hardly speak.”
What of his writings on Judaism, one of which we’ve been discussing recently (the 13 Principles of Judaism)? The Rambam’s Comprehensive Commentary to the Mishnah was begun when he was only 23 years old. He completed it seven years later. This was the first of its kind and the earliest codex of classical rabbinic literature (3rd century CE). In his commentary he elaborates upon the development of Jewish law and deals with the fundamental principles of Judaism as formulated in his 13 Principles of Judaism.
In the years that followed focused on his greatest work, the מִשְׁנֵה תּוֹרָה / Mishneh Torah (literally, “Review of the Torah”). This was his “magnum opus” -- a describing all of the mitzvot mentioned in the Torah. It is a guide to the entire system of Jewish law.
His last major work is one of my personal favorites, מורה נבוכים / Moreh Nevukhim -- The Guide for the Perplexed. The Guide was for learned Jews who had also studied philosophy and had acquired knowledge outside Torah who might be puzzled at trying to reconcile them. For a student of today, it is a “must read.”
It is amazing that 800 years after his death the Rambam’s works still stand as some of the most respected in Judaism. Upon his death this saying was heard “From (the biblical) Moses to Moses (Maimonides), there arose no one like Moses.”
The Thirteen Principles of Jewish faith are as follows: