A manual of Jewish belief (a guide to real Judaism) for the thinking individual.
Copyright © 1977 by R' Avi Shafran
[Web Page Last Revised: Sunday, June 19, 2005 07:45 PM ]
Chapter 3. Why Judaism?
R. Yehudah Halevi, explained why Judaism is the true religion in one shot while arguing for G~d's presence. As the reader will recall, R. Yehudah Halevi based G~d on experience. Part of the experience of the forefathers of the Jews was the giving of the Torah, the body of law which is the strict governing force of religious Jews to this day. Therefore it is obvious that Judaism is the religion for all Jews to observe. Since Orthodox Judaism alone practices the laws of the Torah as it was given (in two parts: the written law, known as the Pentateuch, and the oral law, which was not written down until much later in the form of the Mishna and Talmud) it follows that this is G~d's religion.
The philosophers will use similar arguments. Judaism is the oldest monotheistic religion and since it has been logically proven that G~d is One, the religion that introduced this concept to the world must retain a position of eminence over all other faiths, including its own illegitimate outbranchings and the various denominations of Christianity and Islam.
These last two religions are the main alternatives to Judaism, one being based upon a false G~d, the other upon a false prophet. Both rely heavily on and admit to the primacy and holiness of the Torah. They merely wish to add to and/or subtract from it. The problem is that the Torah itself clearly points out these very religions as false: "All this which I am commanding you, THOU SHALT NOT ADD THERETO NOR DIMINISH FROM IT. If there arise from among thee a prophet or dreamer of dreams ... THOU SHALT NOT LISTEN TO THE WORDS OF THAT PROPHET ... for G~d putteth you to test . . ." (Deuteronomy, chapter 13)
Yeshu (also known as Jesus) wanted to add to the Torah, subtract from it, and change its laws, which is precisely what the Torah itself forbids, immediately prior to concerning itself with the law of the false prophet. It is all there openly, in Deuteronomy which these religions claim they do not deny but merely wish to add onto. Talk about contradictions in terms. As regards Yeshu's supposed statement, "I come not to change ... but to fulfill ... " please note how many Christians you know who keep the Torah's dietary laws, for example. Or even the second Commandment, for that matter.
The Moslems, on the other hand, are not as far off the right path as are the Christians, for Islam has added a false prophet to the roster of holy men but preserved the Unity of G~d, unlike the Christians, who prefer their creator in triplicate. But, it would be unfair to unequivocally censure the Christian faith for being polytheistic, for the status of the trinity which they esteem is not clear at all, even to them, and is the subject of much controversy. It is quite likely that they are no different from the Moslems. But my topic here is not so much the status of the mistaken faiths as it is the status of the true faith.
"Proofs" from the Torah to validate the man-written "testament" which the Christians accept, and "predictions" in the Bible of Yeshu's or of Mohammed's birth, are balder-dash. These "proofs" are all based on misreadings, mistranslations and misunderstandings of the text. The [Hebrew] word alma in Isaiah 7 means a young woman, not a virgin; no sexual status is ever implied in the word. The 53rd chapter of Isaiah is speaking of a past event and not a future one. The first words in Psalm 2, verse 12, are translated "do homage in purity" and not "kiss the son". Etc.
The only references to Yeshu and Mohammed in the Torah are in Deuteronomy 13, as quoted above, and in Daniel 11:14 and 7:25 where it states: ". . . the children of the immoral will get up to establish a vision but they shall stumble" and ". . . and he shall think to change the festivals and the law and they shall be given into his hand until a time . . . when his dominion shall be taken away to be destroyed . . " respectively.
Today Far Eastern religion also has made its impact on Western man, and this genre of religion constitutes the only real challenge to Judaism, now that we've disposed of Christianity and Islam. Regarding these religions we can make two statements in certainty.
1) If the religion is a G~dless one, or recognizes two or more governing powers, if it worships nature (any or all of G~d's creations), it is very likely to be classified as idol-worship according to Jewish law. This applies if the "G~d" worshipped lacks even one of the attributes essential to Jewish belief (i.e. Unity, Incorporality, Omniscience, etc.). If the religion is a G~dless one, it may be considered minus (see chapter 15).
2) If the religion's followers recognize a Creator of all, who is One, Omniscient, etc., they are fulfilling their requirement. As non-Jewish believers, they are esteemed by the Torah as doers of G~d's will by believing in Him, regardless of what name He is given. In addition, these people are obligated to keep the seven basic commandments of non-Jews. Judaism, unlike other religions is universal; one need not be a Jew to be "saved".
One should obviously ask that, according to the second statement, a person in doubt should have no preference for Judaism over such a believing foreign religion. The answer, to a limited extent, is "true". Limited, because as only Torah is Ultimate Truth, it would be to any non-jew's advantage to believe in its teachings, even if he remains a non-Jew. A born Jew however cannot excuse himself from his more numerous obligations by becoming even a good non-Jew (believing in G~d and keeping the seven basic commandments). The fact that G~d entered him into the world as a Jew reveals G~d's intention that he be a Jew. He therefore must fill the obligations that are bound up with being a Jew. G~d does not mind a person striving to live on a level which obligates him more heavily than his original one, but to refuse one's inborn obligations is unwarranted, wrong, and a shirking of Divine duty.
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