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I have read/heard myriad Rabbis1 cite Devarim 4:32-33:

הֲשָׁמַע עָם קוֹל אֱלֹהִים מְדַבֵּר מִתּוֹךְ־הָאֵשׁ
כַּאֲשֶׁר־שָׁמַעְתָּ אַתָּה וַיֶּחִי׃

Has any people heard the voice of God speaking out of a fire, as you have, and survived?

as a rational basis for Judaism's veracity. Rephrasing the verses, their argument goes something like this:

Premise 1: A national revelation myth is a most compelling way to found a religion

Premise 2: If so, we should find many religions throughout history based on national revelation

Premise 3: But, Judaism is the only religion based on national revelation

Conclusion: Judaism cannot have been fabricated

TLDR; Judaism is true; because, it is the only religion based on national revelation, which is the best way to found a religion.

I believe this is what's commonly referred to as the "Kuzari Principle/Argument".

My question is twofold:

1) This sounds to me like an argument from ignorance, which both our sources ("לא ראינו אינה ראיה") and philosophy reject. Is this indeed an argument from ignorance?

2) If so, why do these verses (and said Rabbis) appeal to such a fallacious argument?


1. R' Lawrence Kelemen, R' Dovid Gottlieb, R' Zamir Cohen, R' Jonathan Sacks, R' Tovia Singer, and more.

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I do not believe the Torah is putting forth a proof of its own truth. The passuk is telling us that we should consider these acts of God, which have not been claimed anywhere else, as a demonstration of God's greatness over all other forces. The miracles are assumed to be true, and we need a refresher of how to view them and appreciate what it means.

As a proof of Judaism I agree that it falls short of being a true proof, but it is definitely a very strong argument in favor of Judaism. Actually, even if we could prove 100% that no other society ever made such a claim of mass Revelation that would still not translate into a rigorous proof of the truth of Judaism. The weakness in this proof is not that it is an argument from ignorance, but that it does not logically follow from the preposition that Judaism must be true. Again, that does not take away from the value it does have as a strong argument in favor of Judaism, and it does not lose anything from its being an argument from ignorance.

Now, if we would find another claim of mass Revelation that would undermine a major claim for Judaism's veracity, since necessarily one of the claims of mass Revelation would be false. The fact that we have never seen such a claim highlights the uniqueness of the claims that Judaism makes of God's involvement in the world.

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(ECREE) - "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidences" (popularized by Carl Sagan).

Indeed the Torah makes a bold claim - G-d revealed Himself to millions of people. But let's trace how the Torah itself treats this monumental event (based on the text and some basic Midrashim):

  1. Judaism was found long before the revelation - actually it existed forever, from Adam, Shem, Avraham, Itzhak, Yakov, Jews studied Torah. We hold that all the forefathers also kept the whole Torah.

  2. Mt. Sinai is situated far away from the civilization - amidst a desert, not in the middle of the settled world. A revelation on the Moon would have a similar impact.

  3. No other nations were invited to witness. No messengers were sent to inform the world. No written extra-Jewish evidence of the revelation.

  4. The Jews themselves didn't like the experience so much, they wanted to distance themselves, as G-d forced it upon them ("כפה כליהם הר כגיגית").

  5. All the practical information they got from that revelation was two commandments they already knew from the Exodus. All the rest of the Torah was passed through Moses' prophecies.

  6. 40 days later the Jews forgot the experience completely (the Golden Calf)

  7. During their stay in the desert, they continuously behaved as if they didn't have that experience on Mt Sinai.

  8. All the generation of first-hand witnesses was killed during the next 40 years.

  9. Moses feels just right with reciting the whole Torah to the Dor Haaretz, with no additional revelations needed.

  10. (IIRC) G-d never ever reveals himself to a group of people, more than one person at a time.

So to your 1st question, I think, acc. to the Torah, G-d made it all very hard this event to disprove.


To your second Q., as Rambam doesn't see the importance of the event to include it in the 13 principles of our faith, in other words, believing literally in the authenticity of the event is not a requisite for being a Kosher Jew, I don't think we should use it.

But wait, why not? If it makes people believe and get closer to Judaism? This is not a white lie, just an unsupported claim, that actually has very little importance in Judaism. If there ware no physical gathering at Mt Sinai and Moses still gave us the Torah, it would be the same.

But again, while it IS a fallacious argument, claiming that the result has to be true, it doesn't make it a fallacious claim to start with.

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    I'm not sure this answers the question. It seems like you're showing that the argument in question is actually less rational than the questioner already thinks it is. – Alex Jun 30 at 1:53

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