“Prove to me that G–d exists” is a challenge as old as religion itself. Religion is defined as a belief in the existence of a superhuman controlling power, and when we give Judaism as our religion our belief in G–d is axiomatic. Yet so many Jews still question this very foundation.
It is still more difficult to articulate a convincing response. Furthermore, any answer is usually followed by a torrent of protest questioning such a belief, like the questions, “if there is a G–d, where was He during the Holocaust?”, and, “why do bad things happen to good people?” In this chapter, we shall focus on the core issue.
Before doing so, we shall state briefly the Jewish belief in G–d. Many Jews recite daily the Thirteen Principles of Faith, based on the commentary of Maimonides to Mishnah Sanhedrin 10:1. The first four principles are:
1. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, is the Creator and Guide of all the created beings, and that He alone has made, does make, and will make all things.
2. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, is One and Alone; that there is no oneness in any way like Him; and that He alone is our G–d – was, is, and will be.
3. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, is incorporeal; that He is free from all anthropomorphic properties; and that He has no likeness at all.
4. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, is the first and the last.
Prove the existence of G–d? In truth we must analyse the question before we attempt an answer. What is considered a proof? How does one prove that anything exists? Take, for example, a blind man. Does colour exist for the blind man? He cannot see colour yet it still exists. That fact is established by others who can see. The blind man believes and trusts that his fellow men can see that colour does exist although it is beyond his personal experience.
For a further example, take electricity. When we turn on a light can we see electricity? The answer is no, we see only its effect. Take gravity. When an object falls we cannot see, hear, feel, taste or smell gravity – we see only its effect. All agree that gravity is an undisputed fact of nature – since we see its effect. Scientists today are still baffled as to exactly what is the “stuff” of gravity.
In short, the proof of existence of any matter does not necessarily mean that we have to sense it in any way. It exists because we see its effect or, as in the case of the blind man, we believe others who can see it. G–d, we believe, does not have a body or form of body. He is everywhere and creates time and space. By definition, we cannot transcribe any physical description to G–d. By definition, man cannot actually see G–d. In order, therefore, to prove the existence of G–d we must rely either on seeing His effect ourselves, or on others who have seen His effect (like the blind man).
To summarise, proving the existence of G–d may be done in two ways. First, by examining whether anyone has actually witnessed something Divine or, secondly, by extrapolating proof of existence from His effect. To express it slightly differently, by tradition or by metaphysical proof. We shall also examine proof of existence by studying Jewish history and the fulfilment of prophecy.
Before we examine all these avenues it must be mentioned that the great Jewish philosophers disagreed as to which is the strongest proof. Rabbi Yehuda Halevi in his book Kuzari (2:26) argues that, “the highest faith is that derived through tradition alone, in which case metaphysical proof should only be used as a last resort to preclude disbelief.” Maimonides (Moreh Nevuchim 3:51) disagrees. He argues that, “our faith begins with the traditions that have been transmitted to us by our ancestors and in our sacred literature. This is alluded to in the verse, ‘Hear O Israel, G–d is our L–rd, G–d is one.’ However, the highest level of faith comes from philosophical proof, and those who have the ability are required to prove the foundations of our faith.”
In this essay we shall examine all avenues. Our approach is that, through a combination of traditional, philosophical and historical proofs, any thinking Jew will be led to a firm faith in the existence of G–d.
The traditional proof
In a court of law the strongest proof that something happened or existed is a witness statement. Seeing is believing. You cannot compare something seen to something heard.
Any historical fact is proven by those who witnessed and recorded the event. It follows that the more witnesses to that event, the more bona fide the fact.
One of the most celebrated holidays in the Jewish calendar is Passover. On Seder night Jews all over the world gather in family groups to recall the Exodus from Egypt. The evening is full of ritual and the Haggadah is our guide. One thing common to all is the eating of matzah – the bread of affliction. The Zohar (an early Kabbalistic work) calls matzah the bread of faith. It reminds us that the Jews ate matzah upon leaving Egypt. Although customs may differ, the basic story of the Exodus remains the same. Jews from Bombay, Birmingham or Belarus all tell the same story.
Ask any Jew how many plagues there were in Egypt and his answer would be 10. If anyone suggested there were 11, he would immediately be contradicted, not just by the historical detail, as presented in the Torah, but primarily because of the yearly re-enactment of the Ten Plagues at the Seder. We have a custom of spilling some of the wine at the mention of each plague. We would have remembered if there were 11 plagues. No, there were 10.
In fact, had there been “Chinese whispers”, a distortion of the story over generations, we would have ended up with different versions of the story. All agree, however, that the Jews left Egypt and, forty-nine days later, stood before Mount Sinai and heard the Ten Commandments from G–d.
This is known, not just because a book (the Torah) tells us so, but simply by tradition – by the fact that generation after generation of Jews have transmitted this story, and that it is based on the actual experience of an entire nation. It therefore remains an undisputed historical fact. The Jews who left Egypt witnessed the Ten Plagues, the Exodus, and revelation at Sinai, and transmitted these events down the generations.
Throughout Jewish history there were never less than approximately a million Jews who transmitted this tradition, and the basic story remained the same even when the Jews were dispersed and scattered to the four corners of the earth. At Sinai, 600,000 men between the ages of 20 and 60, plus women and children (and men under the age of 20 and over the age of 60) – a total of approximately three million people – heard the Ten Commandments from G–d Himself. This event, recorded in the Torah, is, at the same time, a witnessed event of history and therefore an undisputed historical fact. To discredit it is highly unscientific.
It must be stressed that the revelation at Sinai was unlike any other revelation claimed by any other religion. In Christianity, revelation is assigned to one man or to a small group of disciples, and the same is true in Islam (to Mohammed) and Buddhism (to an ancient Hindu sage, the Buddha – enlightened one – whose followers adopted his teachings and doctrines and called themselves Buddhists after him). Not so in Judaism – the revelation was to an entire nation.
In fact, a great rabbi, Rabbi Shlomo Ben Aderet (Rashba), explains that the stand at Sinai was necessary because if revelation had been only to one man – Moshe – it would have been disputed. He explains: imagine Moshe coming to Egypt and telling the Jews that the time for their redemption had arrived. At first they doubt him, but once he begins to bring about the Ten Plagues they realise that there are supernatural powers at work. Moshe outwits the Egyptian magicians and performs plagues they cannot reproduce. Even they admit that this is the “finger of G–d” at work. Moshe, in the name of G–d, constantly gives a warning followed by a plague. After the Ten Plagues and the Exodus, and especially after the splitting of the sea, the Torah attests to the fact that the people “believed in G–d and in Moshe His servant.”
However, there would be one problem. The Jews had been told by a creature of flesh and blood that G–d had sent him with a message. There was still room for the sceptic – particularly in a later generation – to doubt. Thus, says Rashba, the stand at Sinai was necessary. Witnessed by an entire nation, G–d revealed Himself on Mount Sinai and gave the Ten Commandments. Each Jew experienced the same level of communication that Moshe received. Thereafter, the Jews were fully convinced that when Moshe transmitted the word of G–d it was truly Divine in origin.
It must be mentioned that the Children of Israel at that time were not uneducated slaves who could easily be fooled. Among them were great sages, priests, architects and builders, professionals who built pyramids and other structures – wonders of the world – whose architecture still baffles modern builders. They were a knowledgeable generation – and certainly argumentative and stiff necked as was displayed on many occasions. If part of the nation had “dreamt up” a story it would certainly have been rejected by the others.
The Exodus and revelation at Sinai remain undisputed historical facts. As previously mentioned, witnesses are the greatest proof in a court of law – how much more so, the eye witness account of an entire nation! That is certainly a most scientific proof of the existence of G–d. Although we cannot see Him – like the blind man who can’t see colour – our ancestors witnessed this revelation and transmitted the fact as both an oral and a written tradition. It may be for this reason that in the first commandment G–d says, “I am the L–rd your G–d who brought you forth from the land of Egypt.” The creation of the world is a much more complex and amazing phenomenon than the Exodus from Egypt, so why didn’t G–d say, “I am the L–rd your G–d who created heaven and earth”? One possible answer is that scientists today still question the origin of the cosmos and some ignore the G–d issue. When G–d communicated with the Jews, he made the communication very personal. “I am the G–d you have witnessed taking you out of Egypt, and who now is talking to you.” The people did not need any philosophical proofs. Their own eyes saw and their own ears heard. They were witnesses to the stand at Sinai. That is the greatest proof!
The best known prayer in Judaism is the Shema. In a Sefer Torah or Mezuzah the letter Ayin (ע) of the word Shema and the letter Dalet (ד) of the word Echad are written in large bold letters. Together they spell the Hebrew word Ed (ו) which means a witness. Whenever a Jew recites the Shema he bears witness to the existence of one G–d, an existence experienced by our forefathers and passed on to us through an unbroken line of tradition.
In addition to the traditional proof we may now go on to look at other philosophical proofs. Many proofs have been cited and we shall limit ourselves in this chapter to the better known and most frequently quoted ones.
1. The classic work Chovot Halevovot (1:6) quotes a beautiful parable. Once a rabbi entered a king’s palace and was granted an audience with the king. The king asked him the question, “how do you know of the existence of the Creator?” The rabbi respectfully asked the king to leave the room for a short while. On the table was a quill, an inkwell and some paper. While the king was out of the room, the rabbi wrote a beautiful poem on the paper. When the king returned he noticed the poem and was amazed at its poetic style. The ink was still wet and the king praised the rabbi for writing such a beautiful poem. The rabbi replied that he had not written the poem, rather, he had taken the inkwell, poured it onto the paper and the letters had formed themselves. The king ridiculed such a suggestion saying that it was impossible for the ink to arrange itself into a single letter, let alone a word, let alone a sentence, and certainly not into a beautiful poem! The rabbi replied, “there is your answer. If the ink in an inkwell cannot form a poem without the hand of a poet, then certainly the world, which is infinitely more complex than the poem, could not possibly form itself without the hand of a Master Creator!”
A similar fictional story – though more contemporary – is told about the Americans, Russians and Chinese who got together and decided to send a manned space ship to Mars. After spending billions of dollars, roubles and yen, and after years of preparation, a space ship finally blasts off heading for Mars. A while later an astronaut takes a small step for man but a large step for mankind and steps out onto the Martian surface. The cameras beam his every move back to earth. Suddenly, after taking a few steps, the world is stunned by the sight of a can of Coca Cola lying on a nearby rock. The astronaut picks up the can, sees it’s the real thing, for written on the can are the words “Coke trademark – made in the USA”. The Russians and Chinese are in uproar – the Americans had obviously deceived them and sent an earlier spaceship. The Americans deny this claim but are baffled by the appearance of the can of Coke. Finally, the press interviews a professor from Oxford University who explains the conundrum by suggesting that over billions and billions of years it is quite possible that, through evolution etc., a can of Coke was formed, even displaying the words “made in the USA”!
His comments are ridiculed. Even after billions of years the mathematical probability of these words forming by themselves is nil. How much more so the creation of this world which is amazingly complex? Even today, scientists agree that they have fathomed only the tip of the iceberg of the complexity of the universe. How could it possibly have formed by itself without a master architect and designer?
A similar story is told of a man who entered a fully automated car factory and, after seeing an entire car being produced by a machine from beginning to end, came to the conclusion that cars make themselves! How ridiculous to think that such a factory was not designed by a master mechanic and engineer!
2. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan writes (Handbook of Jewish Thought 1:1):
The existence of a purposeful Creator is indicated by the fact that the inorganic universe contains every ingredient needed to make organic life possible. The world exists as an arena for life, and the probability that this is entirely due to chance is infinitesimally small. The essence of the argument is that mathematically the more complex an ordered structure, the less the probability of its structure being due to chance. The chemistry of life is by far the most complex process in our experience, and yet we find that the inorganic matter of the universe can support this process. Since there is only one type of matter in the universe, the chances of its having all the chemical and physical properties needed to support life are remotely small, unless we take into account a purposeful Creator.
3. The Talmud states that man is a microcosm. Without even looking at the cosmos we see from the wonders of the human body that this is the work of a Master Creator, for, even over billions of years, nothing as complex as this could just have appeared.
Let us take an example from the human eye. A baby’s eyes, which begin to form in the embryo at nineteen days, will have more than twelve million screen points per square centimetre; the retina, or light sensitive portion of the eye, will have more than fifty billion such points. The composite picture the eyes record is homogeneous because these light sensitive points blend into a whole. Take a hand lens and examine any picture in a daily newspaper. You will find it made up of hundreds of points, each light or dark, which together make up the picture as you look at it from a greater distance. This is exactly what the eye does, only in much finer detail.
Where do these billions of cells in the nervous system come from? From the fertilised ovum, which is still dividing after one month to form the tissues and organs that the child requires. It has been estimated that all two billion of the specific nerve cells which make any individual educable are located in the outer covering of the brain, its cortex, and that these two billion cells could be stored in a thimble. Development continues in certain parts of the brain, even after birth. By the end of the first month of embryonic development, none of these parts of the brain, spinal cord, nerves or sense organs is completely formed, but the foundation for them all has been laid.
The development of the brain and the nervous system, and its rule of the integration of all the systems remains one of the most profound mysteries of embryology.
The eyes alone display such intelligent planning as almost to stupefy anyone studying them. In the embryonic stage, the eyes are formed on the sides of the head and are ready for connection to the optic nerves growing out independently from the brain. The forces that ensure this integration have so far not been discovered but they must be formidable indeed since more than one million optic nerve fibres must mesh with each eye.
Think for a moment about what is considered to be a feat of human engineering – the drilling of tunnels from both sides of the Alps that must somehow meet precisely and merge into one continuous highway. Yet any one of the thousands of things the foetus must do as part of the routine of development is far more wondrous. (The Obvious Proof – CIS p.59)
The same could be said of the wonder of the baby’s first breath. After receiving oxygen for nine months through the umbilical cord, in a matter of moments the lungs miraculously open without any faults. Before the first breath the tubes were non-operative and yet a breath later all tubes are full systems go. This is truly phenomenal.
We have taken only two out of thousands of examples of the wonders of nature to demonstrate that these systems are so complicated it is almost impossible that they formed by themselves and were not designed by a Master Creator. No wonder the Kabbalists say that one may see the soul through the eyes, and King David writes in the Psalms that one must praise G–d for each breath.
This realisation is reinforced by the recent deciphering of the genome – the human DNA chain. The astounding amount of genetic information contained in these chains makes the mind boggle. Could these super complex chains just have made themselves?
We may conclude from the very existence of life and the complexity of the universe that it must have been designed and sustained by a Master Creator. It was our patriarch Abraham who, through such logical deduction, came to the monotheistic conclusion – the belief in one G–d; one unified force that creates a most diverse universe. Abraham converted half of civilisation in his days to this belief and he transmitted that belief to his offspring. Seven generations later his children stood as a nation at Sinai where they received the Torah directly from G–d. The undisputed historical fact of the Exodus from Egypt and the stand at Sinai, coupled with the necessity for a master designer and architect of the cosmos, “prove” the existence of G–d.
The historical proof
There is one final proof that we must examine. This is neither tradition, nor philosophy; rather, proof of the existence of G–d as the G–d of history. The Jewish people are called the “Chosen People”. They were chosen by G–d to fulfil a specific purpose – adherence to Torah and mitzvot, thereby creating an abode for G–d in this world. An in-depth review of Jewish history will inevitably lead to faith in G–d as the Master of the World.
Rabbi Meir Simcha Sokolovsky writes in his book, Prophecy and Providence – The Fulfilment of Torah Prophecies in the Course of Jewish History (Feldheim Publications),
The Torah calls upon us to keep past events in mind and to study them. A study of the past will necessarily lead to the conviction that the direction of history was carefully programmed in advance and that the events of world and Jewish history have unfolded in accordance with a preconceived plan. Obviously, both the plan and its execution must be the work of the Creator who dominates history and directs its course.
At great length, he demonstrates in his book how,
1. The history of the Jewish nation up to the present time has corresponded in full with all the prophecies of the Torah.
2. According to the laws of nature Jewish history should have taken a different course from the one it actually followed. One is led to conclude that only a Creator, who alone controls the forces in the universe, could have determined beforehand what the future would hold.
3. The events of Jewish history are truly remarkable and extraordinary. Aside from having been predicted in advance, they serve as intrinsic proof of the unique and supernatural guidance which Jewry has always enjoyed as G–d’s Chosen People.
To do justice to the subject matter one must actually read the book. However we shall give here a brief review which will, hopefully, encourage the reader to study the subject in more depth.
Before we do so, by way of introduction, it is well worth citing the famous quote from Mark Twain, “Concerning the Jews”,
To conclude – If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one per cent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly the Jew ought hardly to be heard of; but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are always way out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvellous fight in this world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it. The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendour, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they all sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality? (Harper’s Magazine, June 1899)
One of the Principles of Jewish faith is that G–d grants prophecy to man. When a prophet foretells the future, and everything he predicts takes place with amazing accuracy, we can be sure that this was the word of G–d. Nowhere else is this so remarkably demonstrated than in the Five Books of Moses. There are three passages in particular in which Moshe tells the Children of Israel what will happen to them in the future. In Prophecy and Providence, Rabbi Sokolovsky shows at great length how each and every prophecy was accurate and how it took place in the course of Jewish history. In this chapter we shall seek to précis his thesis.
Imagine if you were a reporter following the story of the Exodus of Jews from Egypt. You had been on site in Egypt witnessing the Ten Plagues and the splitting of the sea. You had travelled with the people throughout the forty years in the wilderness and you were now about to enter the Promised Land. You were granted an audience with Moshe – a press conference – in which Moshe, before he dies, is going to share his last will and testament with the world. You are expecting that Moshe will bless his people with good fortune, wishing them well on their entry and conquest of the land. You would expect him perhaps to admonish them, rather like a father who reminds his children to keep to the correct path. However, what happens at this press conference is somewhat different. Moshe proceeds to unravel a document in which – in the name of G–d – he prophecies exactly what will happen to this nation from the moment it enters into the land until the End of Days. You are shocked – how could Moshe possibly know in such detail of the following three thousand years of Jewish History, particularly when he unravels a tale so foreboding that one would consider his account a nightmarish tangle of falsehood that could not possibly occur in real life? How could a human being, standing on the plains of Moab, have such intimate insight into the future chronicles of this people? As a sceptic, you may have dismissed Moshe’s predictions as fantasy.
However, standing today with the advantage of hindsight you look back at that first press conference and see that Moshe is true and his Torah is true. Everything that Moshe said came to pass. How could that be?
There is only one answer and only one conclusion. Moshe was a true prophet and he received and transmitted the word of G–d. Only the Master Creator could know of this tale and only He could weave the fabric of history to make it happen. An honest review of Jewish history points inexorably to the existence of G–d.
One final point before we start briefly examining those prophecies. At its inception as a nation the Jewish People experienced the guidance of Divine Providence. Divine intervention in human affairs was manifest and tangible. The whole nation clearly saw that there was a G–d in Israel. But, when the Jews began to stray from the ways of Torah, the Divine guidance of their fate changed into a different mode; it became hidden and covert – as the Torah tells us (Deuteronomy 31:17), “And My wrath will be aroused against them on that day and I shall abandon them and conceal My face from them.” When “that day” arrived the miraculous aspect of G–d’s overt intervention in our history ceased, to be replaced by a covert intervention in man’s destiny. This covert Providence leaves room for error and doubt, for it sometimes makes it appear as if, G–d forbid, He has abandoned His people.
Thus there began the two oscillating modes of G–d’s manifestation. Sometimes His presence would be manifest and at other times concealed. This is, in fact, one of the most striking points of the Jewish calendar and yearly cycle. On Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot we celebrate the fact that G–d delivered us from Egypt, gave us the Torah, and granted us Divine protection with the clouds of Glory. On Chanukah we celebrate the victory over the Greeks and light the Menorah to symbolise the spiritual victory over the assimilative forces of Hellenism. On Purim, we celebrate the frustrating of Haman’s “Final Solution”.
On all these days G–d’s presence is clear. And yet on Tisha B’Av we weep and mourn the destruction of the Temples. On the other national fast days we lament the events which led to that destruction and other catastrophes of Jewish history. In this generation we are all still numbed by the graveyard of Jewish history, the Holocaust. At these times, G–d’s presence was covert.
Yet the Jew celebrates and mourns simultaneously. He knows that his destiny stands far beyond the rules of nature and that the trials and tribulations of covert Providence are not merely due to chance, but rather to a meticulous realisation of G–d’s premeditated and pre-calculated will. It is this very faith that allows the Jew to surf the waves of anti-semitism and mock our enemies. The Jew knows that he is eternal – he knows his secret of immortality. G–d has promised him (Jeremiah 5:18), “Even in those devastating days, says G–d, I will not make a full finish of you”, and (Leviticus 26:44), “I will not reject them, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly.”
Let us now have a closer look at those prophecies. In two passages of the Torah, Moshe gives us a Tochachah (an admonition) Leviticus Ch.26 and Deuteronomy Ch.28. Nachmanides, in his commentary on the Bible, explains that these two passages were both fulfilled consecutively. Leviticus Ch.26 by the destruction of the first Temple and Deuteronomy Ch.28 by the destruction of the second Temple and the following arduous exile. A third passage in Deuteronomy Ch.30 speaks of the eventual repentance and redemption of the Jewish People.
“And I will scatter you among the nations.” – the first exile to Babylon.
“And I will bring the land into desolation.” – the ruination of the Land of Israel.
“And I will bring your sanctuaries into desolation.” – the destruction of the First Temple.
“And I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours.” – the cessation of sacrifice in the first Temple.
“Then shall the land be paid her Sabbaths.” – the duration of the first exile – 70 years – was commensurate with the number of Sabbatical years, which were not previously correctly observed.
“And you shall eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters.” – a prophecy fulfilled, as described by Jeremiah in the book of Lamentations (2:20), at the destruction of the first Temple.
One can ask, How was it possible for Moshe to know that, over eight hundred years after the Jews entered the Land of Israel under Joshua, the Babylonians would come and destroy the first Temple and exile the people for 70 years? How did he know about the cessation of offerings and the eating of the flesh? Only cognitive dissonance will allow the sceptic to deny that this was prophecy from the true G–d; the living G–d who creates, sustains and directs the course of the world.
“And you shall be plucked off the land.” – the second exile.
“Your sons and daughters shall be given unto another nation … and you shall serve your enemy … in famine and thirst.” – before the exile.
“The Lord will bring upon you a nation from afar, from the end of the earth.” – a reference to Rome.
“… who will swoop down like an eagle.” – a reference to the Roman legions whose standard bearers carried the sign of an eagle.
“And it will lay siege to all your gates, until your high and fortified walls … are toppled.” – the land is conquered, there is siege, and the walls fall.
“The stranger that is in your midst shall mount up above you higher and higher.” – a reference to Herod.
“You shall betroth a wife, and another man shall lie with her.” – a Roman decree.
“And G–d shall scatter you among all the peoples from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth.” – the Jew is exiled to all four corners of the earth.
“And among these nations you shall have no repose, and there shall be no rest for the sole of your foot … and you shall fear night and day.” – the situation of Jews in exile.
“Your life shall hang in doubt before you.” – no financial security.
“And as for them who are left of you, I will send a faintness into their hearts … and you shall have no power to stand before your enemies.” – the Jews are easily subdued.
“Each day’s curse will surpass that of the day before.” – events will happen so rapidly, the Jew will hardly be able to recover from one incident before another calamity befalls him.
“You will be beset by illnesses and plagues not even mentioned in the Torah.” – the many sufferings of exile.
“You shall serve gods … wood and stone there.” – a reference to the fact that, throughout their long exile, the Jew will be subjected to the god of wood – the cross – burnt at the stake with forced conversions; and to the god of stone of Mecca and Medina.
“I will draw out the sword after you … and you shall perish among the nations and the land of your enemies will devour you.” (see Leviticus 26:33,38) – decrees of forced conversion and pogroms.
“And you shall be left few in number among the nations whither G–d shall lead you away.” – in fact it is quite amazing that, particularly during the Dark Ages, the Jew did not disappear totally.
“And you shall become an astonishment.” – the Jews will become a topic of discussion for all.
“… a proverb and a byword.” – the wandering Jew shall be the symbol of suffering and persecution.
“And they shall be upon you for a sign and for a wonder.” – the badges we were often forced to wear identified us as the Jew.
In graphic detail Moshe prophesies the destruction of the second Temple and the following exile with amazing accuracy. He was talking about events that took place 1,500 years after he passed on. How could he possibly have known?
And yet the Jew still survives – and thrives.
“For I am G–d, I do not change, therefore you sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6) – the eternity of the Jewish people.
“Only if the sun, moon and stars disappear, the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation.” (Jeremiah 31:35)
Amidst great persecution, suffering and exile, Torah study flourished. There were always Talmudic academies producing Torah scholars who carried the baton of Torah learning and transmitted it to the next generation. This fulfils the prophecy, “For it, the Torah shall not be forgotten from the mouth of their seed.” (Isaiah 59:20-21)
Throughout, the Jew kept Shabbat.
“The Shabbat will be an everlasting covenant between G–d and Israel.”(Numbers 31:16)
“It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel.” (Ibid.)
Isn’t it fascinating that, when the other two main religions picked a day for their day of rest, one picked Sunday and the other Friday, but Shabbat remained the day of rest for the Jew? Was this not prophesied?
Most enlightening are the prophecies concerning the Land of Israel during the time when its people would be in exile:
“And your enemies that dwell in the Land of Israel shall be desolate in it.” (Leviticus 26:32) The land belongs to us even when we are in exile. In our prayers we say, “because of our sins we were exiled from our land.” Isn’t it fascinating that, before the destruction of the Temples, the land was populous and fertile, and, after the destruction, it became a desolate land, a land of swamps? Mark Twain on a visit to the land expressed his surprise – could it be said that this is the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey? The greatest number of people that inhabited the land from the time of the second exile until the turn of the twentieth century was 300,000 – in the times of the Turks – and even then the population dwindled due to earthquakes. Today, after the return of many Jews to the land, its population numbers in the millions. What was swamp has been reclaimed and is again green pasture. It was a land that was awaiting the return of its people.
Quite amazingly the only remaining wall of the second Temple, the Kotel Maaravi – the Western Wall – remained standing and was never destroyed. The rabbis stated that the Divine Presence never moved from the Wall.
And the story is not over yet. There is a passage in Deuteronomy Ch.30 that describes the full return and redemption of the Jewish nation.
It will be that when all these things come upon you – the blessing and the curse that I have presented before you – then you will take it to your heart among all the nations where the Lord your G–d has dispersed you; and you will return unto the Lord your G–d, and listen to his voice, according to everything that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and all your soul. Then, the Lord your G–d will bring back your captivity, and have mercy upon you, and He will gather you in from all the peoples to which the Lord your G–d has scattered you. If your dispersed will be at the ends of the heaven, from there, the Lord your G–d will gather you in, and from there He will take you. The Lord your G–d will bring you to the land that your forefathers possessed and you shall possess it; He will do good to you and make you more numerous than your forefathers. The Lord your G–d will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, to love the Lord your G–d, with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
The Lord your G–d will place all these curses upon your enemies and those who hate you, who pursued you. You shall return and listen to the voice of G–d, and perform all His commandments that I command you today. G–d will make you abundant in all your handiwork – in the fruit of your womb, the fruit of your animals, and the fruit of your land – for good, when the Lord will return to rejoice over you for good, as He rejoiced over your forefathers, when you listen to the voice of the Lord your G–d, to observe His commandments, and His decrees, that are written in this Book of the Torah, when you shall return to the Lord your G–d, with all your heart and all your soul.
For this commandment that I command you today – it is not hidden from you and it is not distant. It is not in the heaven, to say, “who can ascend to the heaven for us and take it for us, so that we can listen to it and perform it?” Nor is it across the sea for you to say, “who can cross to the other side of the sea for us and take it for us, so that we can listen to it and perform it?” Rather, the matter is very near to you – in your mouth and your heart to perform it.
See – I have placed before you today the life and the good, and the death and the evil, that which I command you today, to love the Lord your G–d, to walk in his ways, to observe His commandments, His decrees and His ordinances; then you will live and you will multiply, and the Lord your G–d will bless you in the land to which you come to possess it. But if your heart will stray and you will not listen, and you are led astray, and you prostrate yourself to strange gods and serve them, I tell you today that you will surely be lost; you will not lengthen your days upon the land that you cross the Jordan to come there, to possess it. I call heaven and earth today to bear witness against you; I have placed life and death before you, blessing and curse; AND YOU SHALL CHOOSE LIFE, so that you will live, you and your offspring – to love the Lord your G–d, to listen to His voice and to cleave to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days, to dwell upon the land that the Lord swore to your forefathers, to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, to give them.
The Talmud is full of amazing predictions that will take place at the End of Days. These are now fully documented for the English reader. We refer you to the book Mashiach by Rabbi J.I.Schochet. See also Chapter 12 below.
In this chapter we have proved the existence of G–d
1. through witnessing the revelation of G–d at Sinai,
2. by philosophical proof,
3. with a brief study of the fulfilment of Biblical prophecies.
The Talmud refers to Jews as “Believers, children of Believers”. It is almost as if belief in G–d is hereditary. In truth, however, innate belief stems from the very core of the Jewish soul. Job describes the soul as a “part of the Divine”. The simple faith of a Jew comes from that which he feels the very source of his soul – his very essence. That essence may often become oblique through the insensitivities and indulgences of the body. However, the quintessential point remains forever intact and, on those very special occasions when the soul shines forth, the Jew feels his true source, his very essence.