Don't miss an episode! Subscribe to the Madlik podcast: Spotify | Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts
and Join Madlik on Clubhouse every Thursday at 8:00pm Eastern so you can participate in our weekly live discussion of the Parsha
Author: Yehuda Halevi
Composed: c.1120 - c.1140 CE
The Kuzari [The Kuzari, full title Book of Refutation and Proof on Behalf of the Despised Religion] was written by Yehuda Halevi (Spain, 1075 – 1141). Originally written in Arabic, it describes how the king of the Khazars (an Asian tribe that converted to Judaism in the eighth century), in an attempt to determine which is the true religion, invites representatives of each of the three major religions to come and explain his beliefs. The group includes a Muslim imam, a Christian priest and a rabbi. The king is won over by the rabbi's arguments, and during the ensuing dialogue, the rabbi demonstrates the superiority of his faith by bringing clear proof to the biblical account of the giving of the Torah at Sinai, and explaining the commandments in rational terms. Instead of using complicated philosophical ideas, he bases his arguments on history, tradition, and common sense. In the introduction, the author states that the purpose of his work is to reply to the attacks of those who wish to denigrate Judaism. The Kuzari is considered one of the most important works of Jewish apologetica and has been reprinted many times in several languages. Sefaria Intro to The Kuzari
וְאָמַר לוֹ: "אֲנִי מַאֲמִין ....
וּכְלָלוֹ שֶׁל דָּבָר בְּכָל מַה שֶׁבָּא בַּתּוֹרָה וּבְסִפְרֵי בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר אֵין סָפֵק בַּאֲמִתָּתָם, בַּעֲבוּר פִּרְסוּמָם וְהַתְמָדָתָם וְהִגָּלוֹתָם בַּהֲמוֹנִים גְּדוֹלִים.
The Scholastic (Christian) replied: ...
In short [I believe] in all that is written in the Torah and the records of the Children of Israel, which are undisputed, because they are generally known as lasting, and have been revealed before a vast multitude.
וְאָמַר לוֹ: ...
כִּי סֵפֶר תּוֹרָתֵנוּ דִבְרֵי אֱלֹהִים, וְהוּא בְעַצְמוֹ מוֹפֵת, הִתְחַיַּבְנוּ בְקִבּוּלוֹ בַּעֲבוּר עַצְמוֹ, מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֵין אָדָם יָכוֹל לְחַבֵּר סֵפֶר אַחֵר כָּמוֹהוּ,
The Doctor (Muslim) said: ...
we maintain that our Book is the Speech of God, being a miracle which we are bound to accept for its own sake, since no one is able to bring anything similar to it, or to one of its verses.
(ח) אָמַר הַכּוּזָרִי: אֵין הַדַּעַת נוֹחָה לְהוֹדוֹת שֶׁיֵּשׁ לַבּוֹרֵא חֶבְרָה עִם בָּשָׂר וָדָם, כִּי אִם בְּמוֹפֵת שֶׁמְּהַפֵּךְ בּוֹ טֶבַע הַדְּבָרִים, כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּוָּדַע כִּי זֶה לֹא יוּכלַ עָלָיו אֶלָּא מִי שֶׁבָּרָא הַדְּבָרִים מֵאַיִן, וְשֶׁיִּהְיֶה הָעִנְיָן הַהוּא לִפְנֵי הֲמוֹנִים, יִרְאוּהוּ בְעֵינֵיהֶם וְלֹא יַגִּיעֵם בְּסִפּוּר וּבְקַבָּלָה, וְשֶׁיַּחְקְרוּ עַל הַדָּבָר וְיִבְחָנוּהוּ בְחִינָה אַחַר בְּחִינָה, עַד שֶׁלֹּא יִפֹּל בְּלֵב אָדָם סָפֵק כִּי יֶשׁ־בּוֹ צַד דִּמְיוֹן אוֹ צַד כְּשָׁפִים, וְיוֹתֵר רָאוּי שֶׁתְּקַבֵּלְנָה הַנְּפָשׁוֹת הַדָּבָר הַגָּדוֹל הַזֶּה, שֶׁבּוֹרֵא הָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה וְהָעוֹלָם הַבָּא וְהַשָּׁמַיִם וְהַמְּאוֹרִים יִתְחַבֵּר אֶל הַחֹמֶר הַנִּבְזֶה הַזֶּה, רְצוֹנִי לוֹמַר: הָאָדָם, וְשֶׁיְּדַבֵּר עִמּוֹ וִימַלֵּא מִשְׁאֲלוֹתָיו וְיַעֲשֶׂה בַקָּשׁוֹתָיו.
8. Al Khazari: Exactly so; but the human mind cannot believe that God has intercourse with man, except by a miracle which changes the nature of things. He then recognizes that to do so He alone is capable who created them from nought. It must also have taken place in the presence of great multitudes, who saw it distinctly, and did not learn it from reports and traditions. Even then they must examine the matter carefully and repeatedly, so that no suspicion of imagination or magic can enter their minds. Then it is possible that the mind may grasp this extraordinary matter, viz. that the Creator of this world and the next, of the heavens and lights, should hold intercourse with this contemptible piece of clay, I mean man, speak to him, and fulfill his wishes and desires.
(י) אָמַר הַכּוּזָרִי: אֲנִי רוֹאֶה שֶׁצָּרִיךְ אֲנִי לִשְׁאֹל לַיְּהוּדִים, מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהֵם שְׁאֵרִית בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֲנִי רוֹאֶה שֶׁהֵם הַטְּעָנָה כִּי יֵשׁ לַבּוֹרֵא תּוֹרָה בָאָרֶץ. אַחַר כֵּן קָרָא חָכָם מֵחַכְמֵי הַיְּהוּדִים וְשָׁאַל אוֹתוֹ עַל אֱמוּנָתוֹ.
10. Al Khazari: Indeed, I see myself compelled to ask the Jews, because they are the relic of the Children of Israel. For I see that they constitute in themselves the evidence for the divine law on earth. He then invited a Jewish Rabbi, and asked him about his belief.
(נג) (מז) אָמַר הֶחָבֵר: אַרְבַּעַת אֲלָפִים וַחֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת. וּפְרָטָם מְבֹאָר מִימוֹת אָדָם וְשֵׁת וֶאֱנוֹש עַד נֹחַ, עַד שֵׁם וְעֵבֶר אֶל אַבְרָהָם יִצְחָק וְיַעֲקֹב עַד משֶׁה. וְאֵלֶּה מִפְּנֵי הִתְחַבְּרוּתָם הָיוּ לֵב אָדָם וּסְגֻלָּתוֹ, וּלְכָל אֶחָד מֵהֶם הָיוּ בָנִים כַּקְּלִיּפוֹת, אֵינָם דּוֹמִים לָאָבוֹת וְלֹא הִתְחַבֵּר בָּהֶם הָעִנְיָן הָאֱלֹהִי, וְנִמְנָה הַמִּנְיָן לְאֵלֶּה הָאֱלֹהִיִּים וְהָיוּ יְחִידִים וְלֹא רַבִּים, עַד שֶׁהוֹלִיד יַעֲקֹב אָבִינוּ שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר שְׁבָטִים כֻּלָּם רְאוּיִים לָעִנְיָן הָאֱלֹהִי, וְשָׁבָה הָאֱלֹהוּת בְּקָהָל רַב וּבָהֶם הָיָה הַמִּנְין. וַאֲנַחְנוּ קִבַּלְנוּ מִנְיַן שְׁנֵי הַקַּדְמוֹנִים מִמּשֶׁה, וְנֵדַע מַה שֶּׁיֵשׁ מִמּשֶׁה וְעַד עָתָּה.
(נד) (מח) אָמַר הַכּוּזָרִי: זֶה הַפְּרָט מַרְחִיק הַמַּחֲשָׁבָה הָרָעָה מִן הַלֵּב מֵהַכָּזָב וְהַהַסְכָּמָה. כִּי דָבָר כָּזֶה אִי אֶפְשָׁר שֶׁיַּסְכִּימוּ עָלָיו עֲשָׂרָה מִבְּלִי שֶׁיִּתְבַּלְבְּלוּ וִיגַלּוּ סוֹד הַסְכָּמָתָם אוֹ יִדְחוּ דִבְרֵי מִי שֶׁיִּרְצֶה לְבָרֵר אֶצְלָם דָּבָר כָּזֶה, כָּל שֶׁכֵּן הֲמוֹנִים רַבִּים, וְהַמִּנְיָן קָרוֹב, אֵין הַכָּזָב וְהַשֶּׁקֶר יָכוֹל לְהִכָּנֵס עָלָיו.
(53) 47. The Rabbi: Four thousand and nine hundred years. The details can be demonstrated from the lives of Adam, Seth and Enōsh to Noah; then Shem and Eber to Abraham; then Isaac and Jacob to Moses. All of them represented the essence and purity of Adam on account of their intimacy with God. Each of them had children only to be compared to them outwardly, but not really like them, and, therefore, without direct union with the divine influence. The chronology was established through the medium of those sainted persons who were only single individuals, and not a crowd, until Jacob begat the Twelve Tribes, who were all under this divine influence. Thus the divine element reached a multitude of persons who carried the records further. The chronology of those who lived before these has been handed down to us by Moses.
(54) 48. Al Khazari: An arrangement of this kind removes any suspicion of untruth or common plot. Not ten people could discuss such a thing without disagreeing, and disclosing their secret understanding; nor could they refute any one who tried to establish the truth of a matter like this. How is it possible where such a mass of people is concerned? Finally, the period involved is not large enough to admit untruth and fiction.
(נה) אָמַר הֶחָבֵר: הֲרָאִיתָ בּוֹדֶה לָשׁוֹן מִלִּבּוֹ, אוֹ שָׁמַעְתָּ עָלָיו.
[55. The Rabbi: Didst thou ever see any one who contrived a language, or didst thou hear of him?]
(נז) אָמַר הֶחָבֵר: הֲשָׁמַעְתָּ עַל אֻמָּה שֶׁחוֹלֶקֶת בַּשָּׁבוּעַ הַיָּדוּעַ, שֶׁהַתְחָלָתוֹ מִיּוֹם רִאשׁוֹן וְהַשְׁלָמָתוֹ בַשַּׁבָּת? הֲיִתָּכֵן שֶׁיִּשְׁווּ בָזֶה אַנְשֵׁי הַצִּין עִם אַנְשֵׁי אִיֵּי הַמַּעֲרָב מִבְּלִי הַתְחָלָה וְהַקְהֵל וְהַסְכָּמָה?
57. The Rabbi: Didst thou ever hear of a nation which possessed different traditions with regard to the generally acknowledged week which begins with the Sunday and ends with the Sabbath? How is it possible that the people of China could agree with those of the western islands without common beginning, agreement and convention?
(נט) אָמַר הֶחָבֵר: זֶה רָצִיתִי. וְכֵן מִנְיַן הָעֲשָׂרָה, הִסְכִּים כָּל אָדָם עָלָיו בַּמִּזְרָח וּבַמַּעֲרָב, אֵי זֶה טֶבַע יָבִיא לַעֲמֹד בָּעֲשָׂרָה, אֶלָּא שֶׁהוּא מְקֻבָּל מִמַּתְחִיל בּוֹ.
59. The Rabbi: That is what I meant. East and West agree on the decimal system. What instinct induced them to keep to the number ten, unless it was a tradition handed down by the first one who did so?
(פו) אָמַר הַכּוּזָרִי: גַּם אֵלֶּה אֵין בָּהֶם מִדְחֶה, מַה שֶּׁמַּתְמִיד אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה לְשֵׁשׁ מֵאוֹת אֶלֶף אִישׁ וְהַנִּלְוִים אֲלֵיהֶם, יֵרֵד שִׁשָּׁה יָמִים וְיִסְתַּלֵּק יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת, אִם כֵּן חוֹבָה לְקַבֵּל הַשַּׁבָּת מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהָיָה הָעִנְיָן הָאֱלֹהִי כְּמוֹ נִדְבָּק בּוֹ.
86. Al Khazari: This also is irrefutable, viz. a thing which occurred to six hundred thousand people for forty years. Six days in the week the Manna came down, but on the Sabbath it stopped. This makes the observance of the Sabbath obligatory, since divine ordination is visible in it.
"The fact of revelation, recongnized in ancient times and in their own day, is the proof of the belief in God."
"This historical phenomenom of religion"
"A religious lifew is to be regarded in the first place as a fact of experience..."
"The testiomony of History"
Jehuda Halevi: Kuzari. Abridged edition with an introduction and a commentary by Isaak Heinemann Hardcover – January 1, 1947
The Kuzari Principle famously argues that the revelation at Sinai had to have happened, since it would have been too difficult to spread such a story, after the fact, if it hadn’t really happened. How does a story about a mass revelation, a story which includes the claim that the memory of the event was transmitted from generation to generation without break, come to be accepted if it wasn’t true?
See: Modern Faith in Sinai, Dr. Rabbi Samuel Lebens https://www.thetorah.com/article/modern-faith-in-sinai
St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury first set forth the Ontological Argument in the eleventh century.
A. If God is a being greater than which none can be conceived
B. And since it is greater to exist in the mind and in reality than in the mind alone
C. Then God must exist both in the mind and in reality;
D. In short, God must be. God is not merely an intra-mental concept but an extra-mental reality as well.
Rene Descartes, 1596 - 1650, is also credited with formulating a version of the ontological argument. One possible presentation of the Cartesian argument is as follows:
1. If there is a God it is a perfect being;
2. A perfect being possesses all possible perfections;
3. Existence is a perfection;
4.Therefore, God necessarily possesses the quality of existence. Simply, God exists.
Cogito Ergo Sum - I Think Therefor I am
Emanual Kant: The categorical imperative (German: kategorischer Imperativ) is the central philosophical concept in the deontological moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Introduced in Kant's 1785 Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, it is a way of evaluating motivations for action. It is best known in its original formulation:
"Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law."
Escaping Judaism - Harry Austryn Wolfson (November 2, 1887 – September 19, 1974)
It is perhaps quite true that we all come into the physical world with a mind as blank as a tabula rasa, endowed only with potentialities which are vague and formless; but by the time we awaken to conscious membership in the world of men and society we discover that our blank mind is already impregnated with definite thoughts and ideas, that our vague potentialities are already charged with definite tendencies; and all this has come to pass through the medium of the very environment which sustains our life and by the agency of the same individuals who are responsible for our physical existence and our well-being. We can no more strip ourselves of our social inheritance than we can of our physical inheritance.
I imagine that the Jewish religious problem could be solved at once, for all Jews, and for all time, if we could start on a given day with a new generation of Jews and raise them in absolute freedom from all traces of Jewish influence.
But we cannot rid ourselves of our past without destroying our present and ruining our future. It is the crux of our Jewish as well as our general problems that to continue to be whatever we happen to be makes in the long run for the greatest human happiness—that our devotion and duties are as much an integral part of ourselves as our very life—that man does no more voluntarily change his mode of living than he takes his life—and that if wars to destroy life are unjustifiable then social revolutions to destroy established forms are likewise unjustifiable.
The solution of the religious problem for Jews to whom the problem is real, lies not in the complete elimination of this disturbing element or in impoverishing the content of that element by depriving it of any of its essential characteristics, but rather in the discovery of a new and more satisfactory means of adjustment of this religious interest to all the other interests.
All men are not born equal. Some are born blind, some deaf, some lame, and some are born Jews. The blind , the deaf, the lame all have to forego many a good thing of life. To be isolated, to be deprived of many social goods and advantages, is our common lot as Jews. Are we willing to submit to Fate, or shall we foolishly struggle against it?
Escaping Judaism, By Harry Austryn Wolfson · 1923
Emil Ludwig Fackenheim (22 June 1916 – 18 September 2003) God's Presence in History
The 614th Commandment:
Emil Fackenheim created this concept of the "614th commandment" (or "614th mitzvah.") The "614th Commandment" can be interpreted as a moral imperative that Jews not use the facts of the Holocaust to give up on God, Judaism or—in the case of secular Jews as well—on the continuing survival of the Jewish people, thereby giving Hitler a "posthumous victory". see
Auschwitz will forever resist religious explanations as well. … No purpose, religious or non-religious, will ever be found in Auschwitz. The very attempt to find one is blasphemous.
I confess that it took me twenty years until I was able to look at this scandal, but when at length I did, I made what to me was, and still is, a momentous discovery: that while religious thinkers were vainly struggling for a response to Auschwitz, Jews throughout the world— rich and poor, learned and ignorant, religious and non-religious—had to some degree been responding all along. For twelve long years Jews had been exposed to a murderous hate which was as groundless as it was implacable. For twelve long years the world had been lukewarm or indifferent, unconcerned over the prospect of a world without Jews. For twelve long years the whole world had conspired to make Jews wish to cease to be Jews wherever, whenever, and in whatever way they could. Yet to this unprecedented invitation to group-suicide Jews responded with an unexpected will-to-live—with, under the circumstances, an incredible commitment to Jewish group survival.
For in the age of Auschwitz a Jewish commitment to Jewish survival is in itself a monumental act of faithfulness, as well as a monumental, albeit as yet fragmentary, act of faith. ... the Jew after Auschwitz has a second Shema Yisrael:
What accounts for this commitment to Jewish existence when there might have been, and by every rule of human logic should have been, a terrified and demoralized flight from Jewish existence? Why, since Auschwitz, have all previous distinctions among Jews—between religious and secularist, Orthodox and liberal—diminished in importance, to be replaced by a new major distinction between Jews committed to Jewish survival, willing to be singled out and counted, and Jews in flight, who rationalize this flight as a rise to humanity-ingeneral? In my view, nothing less will do than to say that a commanding Voice speaks from Auschwitz, and that there are Jews who hear it and Jews who stop their ears.
Jewish Faith and the Holocaust: A Fragment, by Emil L. Fackenheim, AUGUST 1968 Commentary Magazine