A Wise Student’s Questions

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

Student: 1) What use are mitzvos, if God does not speak to us anymore? 

2) Today, we can use lasers to duplicate the writing inside the Ten Commandments’ sapphire tablets. Why then did God make a miracle that can be duplicated by man? 

3) How can Christianity change Torah, when God said not to add to, or subtract from Torah?

Aharon F.

Rabbi: 1) I assume you mean that mitzvos seem purposeless if we don't receive a response from God. Meaning, if we don’t hear God saying we are doing things right, if He doesn’t reward us after doing mitzvos, what’s the use of doing the mitzvah? 

However, we benefit from mitzvos even without God’s response or immediate reward. For example, when we wave the lulav and esrog up and down, and then in all 4 horizontal directions, we think about what this represents. Up and down represents the heavens (what’s up) and Earth (what’s down), all creation. And the directions of north, south, east, and west represent man’s travels on Earth. This act of waving the lulav and esrog reminds us that God created everything: the heavens and Earth. And waving them in all four directions represents that God is aware and guides our travels on Earth. So, He is the creator, and He is also our governor, who guides us after His creation. Even without God responding to our mitzvah, the mitzvah itself reminds us of beautiful and important truths. Sustaining our awareness of these two truths through performing mitzvah, we come to understand what God wants for us in this life, in which He placed us and guides us for our own good. 

Mezuzah is believed by some foolish people to protect our bodies. If we put fire on a mezuzah, it will burn. If it cannot protect itself, how can it protect us?! But Maimonides says (Hil. Mezuza 5:4) such belief in mezuzah’s protection forfeits one’s Olam Haba: “Mezuzah is for the lofty purpose of guiding us towards profound ideas on the Unity of God, His love and His service.”  Gilyon Meharsha says, “If one affixes the mezuza for the reason of fulfilling the command, one may consider that as reward for doing so he will be watched by God. But, if one affixes the mezuza solely for protective reasons, it in fact has no guidance, and the mezuza will be as knives in his eyes” (Yoreh Daya 289). Even this metaphor of “knives in his eyes” has a lesson. It means this wrong idea, when seeing (eyes) the mezuzah, will destroy him (knives). It destroys him because it diminishes his concept of God, because now even physical objects have powers.  But God must be viewed as the only power in the universe. You must believe God is the sole cause of our good fortune, and no other object or being. Believing in powers other than God is idolatrous, and is the worst sin. 

Now we see that even without God responding to our mitzvos of lulav and mezuzah, we gain greatly by thinking into their purposes. The action, of course, must be performed, but the idea behind the mitzvah is the real benefit, and God does not have to respond in order that we benefit from mitzvah. The new idea is the benefit. 

Rabbi Chait said if we don't understand why we are performing a mitzvah, it is useless. And here we see that it can even be tragic. Meaning, it is the idea behind the mitzvah that is important, and not the physical action. The most important experiences are not physical actions, but the wisdom we gain through understanding the mitzvos. This is because the most important part of us is our soul, not our body. Our souls can see knowledge, our bodies cannot. Our souls are eternal, our bodies are not.  Read Maimonides’ reasons for the mitzvos found in book III of his “Guide for the Perplexed.” This will help you further appreciate how mitzvos benefit ourselves without God’s response or reward. 

2) By definition, miracles cannot be duplicated. If they could be duplicated, then God is not the only power. The created intelligent voice emanating from the fire on Mount Sinai can’t be duplicated. For no intelligent being can exist in fire. The tablets which had writing inside them also cannot be duplicated. Even though today we can use lasers to make that internal writing, we cannot duplicate the “natural formation” of the letters which grew inside the sapphire, starting in the 6 days of creation (Ethics 5:6) and forming over millions of years. Any writing inside a sapphire tablet today with a laser does not copy the process of “natural forming” letters through the sapphire’s growing grain, which only the original tablets had. Laser etching is a “subsequent” act of etching on stone, and not a genetic growth within sapphire’s grain. If someone would take sapphire and laser-cut Hebrew letters inside of it, we would see it was man-made and not natural. Thus, the sapphire tablets with naturally formed letters inside the sapphire grain cannot be duplicated. Only the creator of sapphire could have made these two tablets with the Torah written on the inside. God's message by doing so is that the physical world (sapphire) exists for Torah.

3) “Listen Israel: God is our God, God is one” (Deut. 6:4). This statement couldn't be any clearer: there is only one God. Yet, Christianity believes God to be the father, the son and the Holy Ghost and twisted the words in this verse, and said, “The word God is found 3 times here, proving a trinity.” The answer is, if a person distorts their mind due to their corrupt emotions, there is no limit to their nonsense, nor is there any loyalty to reason or to God's true intentions. Maimonides criticizes Christians: “This is like the doctrine of the Christians, who say that He is one and He is three, and that the three are one” (Guide, book I, chap. L).  So, based on Christianity’s distortion of reality, they distort Torah to attempt to validate their false views.