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Many kiruv/outreach Rabbis, in an attempt to prove the veracity of the Torah, will base their claim on the concept of National Revelation. Part of that proof, they say, is that the Torah states that no other people will claim a national revelation and live. I'm not asking if that statement is true or not, but I'm wondering if the Torah really says that. The verse they cite is Deuteronomy 4:32:

כִּ֣י שְׁאַל־נָא֩ לְיָמִ֨ים רִֽאשֹׁנִ֜ים אֲשֶׁר־הָי֣וּ לְפָנֶ֗יךָ לְמִן־הַיּוֹם֙ אֲשֶׁר֩ בָּרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים ׀ אָדָם֙ עַל־הָאָ֔רֶץ וּלְמִקְצֵ֥ה הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְעַד־קְצֵ֣ה הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם הֲנִֽהְיָ֗ה כַּדָּבָ֤ר הַגָּדוֹל֙ הַזֶּ֔ה א֖וֹ הֲנִשְׁמַ֥ע כָּמֹֽהוּ׃

You have but to inquire about bygone ages that came before you, ever since God created man on earth, from one end of heaven to the other: has anything as grand as this ever happened, or has its like ever been known?

Now, this verse is explicitly talking about the past. Never before the Jewish people was there a claim of national revelation. Fine. But where is it evident this verse is also talking about the future? Is it something that is perforce somewhere in the verse, with regards to its wording or grammar? Do any of the commentaries point this out?

I'm interested in a demonstration from the verse itself, as this verse is supposed to convince the non-believer.

Note: I once asked one of these outreach Rabbis where they saw it in the verse. They said it's obvious that it's included in the verse, because otherwise there's no reason for the Torah to say it. Meaning, there isn't a novelty in the verse unless it includes the future as well. This was very unconvincing, especially if we're using this verse to convince someone who doesn't believe there is nothing extra or redundant in the Torah.

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  • related question
    – robev
    Jul 5, 2021 at 20:28
  • Why does it matter for the argument if the promise is for the future?
    – Double AA
    Jul 5, 2021 at 21:30
  • @DoubleAA you're correct that the argument that national revelation is better than personal one doesn't need Judaism to be unique. However, the argument is extended that it's such a strong argument that there aught to have been other cases of it. The reason there hasn't been is because you can't fabricate such an event, thus proving the veracity of the Torah. A different usage of this verse is that no one would dare make such a bold claim unless they could know it would prove true, ie through prophecy. Either way...
    – robev
    Jul 6, 2021 at 5:34
  • 1
    I heard that the National Revelation sounds less strong when the whole generation dies in the wilderness.
    – Al Berko
    Jul 7, 2021 at 19:08
  • 1
    @AlBerko You are correct that National Revelation is less strong when the whole generation died in the wilderness. I have never heard someone make that argument. It proves the kuzari argument fails. A better argument for the divinity of the Torah is that it works.
    – Turk Hill
    Mar 29, 2023 at 1:00

3 Answers 3

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As is understood from the verses beforehand, this parsha is talking to future generations when Klal Yisroel will be in exile. Therefore, the verse is clearly stating, that even in 2021 (or any time in the future for that matter) this verse will still ring true. So, in essence the verse is saying that nobody will ever make such a claim and people will always be able to verify the verse no matter how far into the future of history they live.

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  • Hello Chatzkel and welcome to Mi Yodeya. Numbers 10:33, one of thousands of verses, may be true but that doesn't mean it's referring to the future. It's a historical statement about something in the past. It's not talking about today. So too in our verse. Moshe was talking to the people about the past. What justification is there to say he was referring to the future?
    – robev
    Jul 6, 2021 at 6:28
  • Of course there are many such verses, the entire episode of yetzias mitzraim would be ample proof for that. However, in this parsha, starting from Deuteronomy 4:25 is referring to future generations when they are in galus. Therefore this passuk must be understood by future generations and be able to be verified as such.
    – Chatzkel
    Jul 6, 2021 at 14:10
  • So then that's your answer, context. None of this living Torah business...I suggest you edit your answer.
    – robev
    Jul 6, 2021 at 15:26
  • OK, thank you for helping clarify.
    – Chatzkel
    Jul 6, 2021 at 16:04
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Look two verses earlier:

בַּצַּ֣ר לְךָ֔ וּמְצָא֕וּךָ כֹּ֖ל הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֑לֶּה בְּאַחֲרִית֙ הַיָּמִ֔ים וְשַׁבְתָּ֙ עַד־יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ וְשָׁמַעְתָּ֖ בְּקֹלֽוֹ׃

when you are in distress because all these things have befallen you and, in the end, return to the LORD your God and obey Him.

Perhaps one could argue that the verse in between breaks the futuristic voice, but this seems like a strong indication that the exclusivity is eternal.

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The point is that if everyone in an entire nation sees the revelation (several million people), then it would be not probable that one individual invented it and convinced the entire nation to testify about that occurrence. Once that happened, everyone maintained exact copies of that document in sufficient duplicates to maintain everything exactly as it was for three thousand years. None of the first born objected to the priesthood being set up. Nor did anyone object to commandments that would not be logical restrictions nor did they object to sudden restrictions (such as shaatnez or kashrus) which would (supposedly) never have existed before. Only a direct command of Hashem to the entire generation suffice. Indeed, the other nations (at that time) never objected or claimed that it never happened.

As an example, consider many of the conspiracy theories that we have floating around the world.

Chabad.org How Do We Know That We Heard G‑d at Sinai? discusses this.

I think most historians will agree that history as it is practiced in academic circles can be defined as follows: The search for the most likely sequence of events to explain whatever remnants have endured till today.

Following this paradigm, let us examine our case. The evidence is as follows: Universally, there is a single account of how the Jewish people received the Torah. It states that on the sixth day of the third month of the year 2448 from Creation, an entire nation full of dissidents and skeptics gathered at the foot of a mountain in the Sinai Desert and witnessed how G‑d spoke with Moses. Rather overwhelmed by the experience, they asked Moses to kindly fetch all the details of what exactly G‑d would like from them and report on it. Which he did, over a period of forty years wandering in the desert. Moses also charged the people to keep multiple copies of the written record, which they did, and so we have many copies of that record to this day.

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  • But does the Torah say that it no one will claim a mass revelation in the future?
    – Alex
    Jul 5, 2021 at 23:38
  • I second Alex's comment. This is more of a comment which I have difficulty following than an answer. The point is that a national revelation would be known by everyone else in the world, who says? National revelation does not equal global revelation. Thus, any time in the future would be seen and known, that's a nonsensical statement.
    – robev
    Jul 6, 2021 at 6:32
  • @robev I will rewrite it so that it is more easily understood. Consider as an example if everyone in the United States saw it rather than one individual claiming a revelation. Jul 6, 2021 at 16:56
  • Thank you for your efforts but I don't understand why you rewrote this considering it in no way answers my question...as pointed out by @Alex and I
    – robev
    Jul 6, 2021 at 17:53

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