Weekly Letter: Matan Torah and Other Religions
In this weeks letter the Rebbe shares some interesting insights into the question of the validity of the Revelation at Sinai, and as it relates to other religions. As well as the doing of mitzvos (na’asse) before the study (nishma) which then, significantly, brings to new insights and better understanding of the Torah and mitzovs. The letter, written originally in English, is from the archives of the Rebbe’s trusted secretary Rabbi Nissan Mindel.
By the Grace of G-d
16th of Adar I, 5725
Sydney, N.S.W. Australia
Greeting and Blessing:
I am in receipt of your letter, in which you ask a number of religious questions, etc,
Generally speaking a letter is not the proper medium to discuss such questions in due detail. Actually there is no need for this, because you have in your community a fine Rabbi and scholar, Rabbi … with whom you could discuss all these questions personally. You may also mention to him that I referred you to him.
However, inasmuch as you have already written, I will make some observations relating to your questions.
You ask how to avoid various temptations or undesirable habits, etc. The answer to this and similar questions has already been given by our Sages of blessed memory a long time ago, namely “Try hard and you will succeed’. In other words the only way to overcome these things is by a real effort and with a determined will. On the other hand human nature is such that a radical and complete transformation should not be expected all at once. It is necessary to proceed steadily step by step.
You also ask how the validity of the Revelation at Sinai could be proved, and how our religion is different from others who also claim validity on the basis of tradition. This question in particular should be discussed at length personally, rather than in a letter. However to put it very briefly, the difference lies in the fact that our tradition goes back uninterruptedly to the Revelation at Sinai, which was witnessed by hundreds of thousands of adult Jews, several millions of men women and children altogether. These eyewitnesses transmitted what they saw and heard to their children and grandchildren in such an identical manner, that there is nothing in human history which has the strength of greater human evidence than this historic fact. However in regard to other religions, there are periods in their history where their whole religion was concentrated within one person, or a small group of persons. Incidentally, the Revelation at Sinai is a unanimous recognition also by the Christians and Moslems, although G-d forbid that we should have to rely on the support of external evidence or external sources.
Being satisfied with the truth of our own religion, we are not interested in disproving the validity of other religions based on claims of “miracles” etc. Even assuming that such miracles took place, they would not shake our faith and conviction, knowing that the Torah itself has warned us precisely against such situations, which should be regarded by us as nothing more than tests of our own faith.
Finally, the central aspect of the Revelation at Sinai was the giving of the Torah and particularly the Ten Commandments which begin with the very basic idea of pure monotheism. Any faith that accepts the Revelation, yet takes the liberty of changing such fundamental things as pure monotheism, or shifting the observance of the Shabbos to another day in the week, etc. – you have here a self contradiction.
In conclusion, let me say that it is a pity to waste time on some of the speculations and questions which you mention in your letter, for the essential thing is the daily life and conduct in accordance with the Torah and mitzvot, with simple faith and sincerity, realizing that the Divine commandments are essentially beyond the ken of the human mind, except insofar as G-d Himself chose to reveal. At the same time the very fulfillment of the mitzvot with sincerity and faith enlightens the mind, and gives one new insights to better understand and appreciate the deeper significance of the daily religious observances, simple as they seem to appear.
The above letter is from The Letter and the Spirit by Nissan Mindel Publications (NMP).
These letters were written originally in English and were prepared for publication by Rabbi Dr. Nissan Mindel, whose responsibility it was the Rebbe’s correspondence in English and several other languages.
We thank Rabbi Shalom Ber Schapiro, who was entrusted by his father-in-law Rabbi Mindel with his archives and who is Director of the Nissan Mindel Publications (NMP), for making the Rebbe’s letters available to the wider public. May the merit of the many stand him in good stead.