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Monday, 30 November 2015

Taking G-d for a Test Drive

Daf Yomi Sotah 34

Rabbi Immanuel Schochet was a great Canadian rabbi who was an expert in the New Testament and a very effective anti-missionary.   I once heard him give an excellent presentation to a room filled with Jews and Christians.  Quoting flawlessly from the Tanach and the New Testament, he demonstrated the truths of Judaism to the crowd.

Following his presentation he called for questions.  A Christian missionary stood up and began by saying, ‘Before I ask my question, I want to congratulate you on your incredible knowledge of the New Testament.  I find your open-mindedness admirable and if I may say so, it would be great if you could encourage your students to read the New Testament too.  They should know what it teaches and then be able to make their own informed decisions.’   He then proceeded with his query.

Rabbi Schochet listened to the questioner and then responded, ‘Before I answer your question, I want to acknowledge your praise regarding my knowledge of the New Testament.  I am sorry, however, that I cannot accede to your suggestion that I encourage my students to read the New Testament.  If I were to do that – in the interests of having them making an informed decision – I should likewise have them read the Koran, as well as the Book of Mormon and Hindu and Buddhist sacred texts.  If only they would devote more time to learning the Torah, I would be more than sufficiently pleased!’

Before Moshe sent the spies to Canaan, Hashem instructed him, “Send for yourself men.”
Reish Lakish taught: ‘Send for yourself’ means it is your decision.  For how could obeying Heaven lead to a bad outcome?
Rashi explains: Hashem was saying: I am not commanding you to send spies.  The Israelites are asking for it.  I shall not impede your decision.
That is the meaning of Moshe’s declaration, “The matter was good in my eyes.”
Reish Lakish explains: Moshe was saying, ‘in my eyes, but not in Hashem’s eyes.’
Tosfos Shantz elaborates: The Midrash explains that even Moshe thought it was a bad idea to send the spies.  Rather, it may be compared to a fellow who asks to buy his friend’s donkey.  He requests a ‘test drive’ to confirm that it can traverse mountains and valleys.  When his friend agrees to the test drive, he immediately agrees to purchase the donkey even without the test.  The acquiescence to the request is sufficient proof of the quality of the merchandise.   Similarly, Moshe reasoned that Israel would say that since he was prepared to accede to their request for spies, they would not actually need him to send the spies. 

When you trust a merchant, you don’t need to take a test drive.  When the Israelites insisted on taking the test drive of the Holy Land, Moshe was shocked.  He could not believe that after everything the Almighty had done for them, from the Exodus to the Red Sea to the revelation at Sinai, they were still lacking faith.  If you believe in G-d wholeheartedly, there is no need for a test drive.

And that was Rabbi Schochet’s message.  If you believe the Torah is true, there is no reason to test drive any other theological makes or models.   In his case, he had achieved incredible mastery of Torah before he looked at some other doctrines in order to prove their falsehood.  But as for the rest of us, most people don’t learn nearly enough Torah in our short lifetimes to have time to start looking elsewhere.  We haven’t even given ourselves the opportunity to discover the answers in our own religion; why would we go looking for answers elsewhere?

G-d has gotten you this far in history and in your personal life.  Why would you question Him?  May you stay focused on the truth He has blessed you with and never be tempted to test drive any inferior make or model!  

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