Shoftim 2:10 states that a generation arose which:

לא ידעו את ה' וגם את המעשה אשר עשה לישראל

knew not the L-rd, nor yet the work which he had done for Yisrael

This either means that we literally forgot the Torah, or if not, means that we simply refused to listen to it. If it means the former, does that make Kuzari as an argument (i.e. as an appeal to the chain of mesorah as a means of proving our religion) completely untenable?

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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya. It would greatly improve if you could quote what you mean with the Kuzari argument.
    – Shmuel
    Commented May 18, 2022 at 8:10
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    Doesn't it just mean they hadn't experienced it themselves?
    – Double AA
    Commented May 18, 2022 at 13:12
  • Thanks! What I mean by the Kuzari argument is the appeal to the chain of mesorah as a means of proving our religion. Commented May 18, 2022 at 14:17
  • How do you get "that we literally forgot the Torah" (emphasis mine) from the verse? The verse isn't talking about Yisrael forgetting the Torah, but about them not knowing the Lord, and what He had done.
    – Tamir Evan
    Commented May 19, 2022 at 6:37
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    Btw please note that I’m not saying any of this to suggest that the Torah isn’t true chas v’sholom. I’m asking this merely so I can find rational arguments to defend Judaism. Commented May 19, 2022 at 17:14

2 Answers 2


No, it does not refute the argument.

The expression לא ידעו ("they did not know") does not necessarily mean that they literally did not know, rather that they "chose" to not know, or that they didn't follow it.

This is examplified by Rashi on Exodus 1:8 (דה''מ אשר לא ידע), who brings the opinion that "the new king who did not know Joseph" actually was not a new king at all, but rather the same man who acted as though he forgot Joseph and all he did for Egypt.

Furthermore, a generation is defined by the majority rather than the minority; Noah's generation is described as wicked but we know that Noah was righteous. Surely in this generation mentioned here there were righteous individuals who knew of G-d and his Torah, but they were fewer than those who did not.

In every generation the knowledge of Torah was passed down, though there have been times when many forgot it.

  • For my own edification, would you mind showing me a time where chazal or the Torah itself says that the chain of mesorah has been un-ruptured? The way it was explained it to me, is that Kuzari as an argument is seamless because the chain of mesorah was not limited to a select group of Jews (in the sense of narration that the exodus and har Sinai happened which was ubiquitous knowledge for kal yisroel.) But if there was a time where this knowledge was limited to only a minority of Jews as opposed to Jews as a whole, I worry this created a problem for Kuzari. Commented May 18, 2022 at 22:33
  • @TatianaNikolaevna Surely you're aware of the opening to Pirkei Avos.
    – ezra
    Commented May 18, 2022 at 22:36
  • Well pirkei avos talks about transmission to only a select group of Jews. I’m asking if there’s ever any indication that the knowledge that matan Torah happened was universal knowledge for Jews at all times. Commented May 18, 2022 at 22:39
  • @TatianaNikolaevna No, there have been many times throughout history in which a large majority of Jews did not follow Torah, as is even the case today. There are Jews nowadays who have no knowledge of Matan Torah.
    – ezra
    Commented May 18, 2022 at 22:42
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    @ezra There are two separate chains. There is the chain of the Mesorah of Torah which at times became narrowed to a minority of individuals in their generation; and there is the chain of tradition of the story of Yetsias Mitzrayaim which was probably widely known most of the time. In your example of "Jewish nowadays who have no knowledge of Matan Torah" - but most of them have been to a Seder.
    – LFE
    Commented May 19, 2022 at 4:05

The Kuzari speaks about this in Maamar 3:54:

Al Khuzari says:

I only know that the people of the second Temple forgot the Tōrāh, and were ignorant of the law of Succāh till they found it written. A similar thing happened with the law that 'an Ammonite shall not enter the congregation of God' (Deut. xxiii. 3). With regard to these two points it is said: 'They found written.' (Neh. viii., 4; xiii. 1). This proves that they had lost the knowledge of the law.

Upon which the Rabbi answers this by saying:

If this be so we are to-day more learned and erudite than they, since we think we know the Tōrāh. [...] Should we be commanded to bring a sacrifice, would we know how and where to slaughter it, catch its blood, skin and dismember it, and into how many pieces, how to offer it up, how to sprinkle the blood, what to do with its meal and wine offering; with what songs to accompany it; what duties of holiness, purity, anointment, clothing, and demeanour the priests had to observe; how, when and where they should eat the holy meat, and other matters which it would lead us too far to commemorate?

The Gemara is teaching us something interesting (Sukkah 20a):

The Gemara notes: And Reish Lakish follows his line of reasoning stated elsewhere, as Reish Lakish said: I am the atonement for Rabbi Ḥiyya and his sons, as initially, when some of the Torah laws were forgotten from the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael, Ezra ascended from Babylonia and reestablished the forgotten laws. Parts of the Torah were again forgotten in Eretz Yisrael, and Hillel the Babylonian ascended and reestablished the forgotten sections. When parts of the Torah were again forgotten in Eretz Yisrael, Rabbi Ḥiyya and his sons ascended and reestablished the forgotten sections. This expression of deference toward Rabbi Ḥiyya introduces the halakha that Reish Lakish is citing in his name. And so said Rabbi Ḥiyya and his sons: Rabbi Dosa and the Rabbis did not disagree concerning the soft mats of Usha,

However, in footnote 16 in the commentary of Rashi to Yehoshua 15:15 (linked to Temurah 16a), it says:

A total of three thousand laws were forgotten during this period. Rav Avahu said, “Nevertheless they were brought back by Osniel, son of Kenaz through his dialectic scholarship, as it is said, “And Osniel, son of Kenaz, conquered it (Kiryas Seifer).” After Caleiv conquered Chevron he approached the scholars in the Beis Midrash who were called יוֹשְׁבֵי דְבִיר, those who sit in Devir, because they sat all day studying דִבְרֵי תוֹרָה, the words of Torah, and challenged them to rediscover the forgotten laws. He announced that the one who would overcome, וּלְכָדָה (conquer) these problems would be worthy to become his son-in-law.

According to this, there were some forgotten laws, but they were "re-learned". How? The Einei Shmuel brings the Hafla'ah to the Gemara in Makos 10a and says (brought by Rabbi Mordecai Kornfeld from Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Yerushalayim):

The Hafla'ah explains that every Jew has the ability to bring a unique part of Torah into the world through his learning. When a Rebbi teaches students, he becomes a "pipeline" through which this special portion of Torah is passed down to the student and subsequently brought into the world by the student. This gives the Rebbi a special merit, for he has enabled the student to bring this unique portion of Torah into the world. In this way, his own eyes are enlightened and he becomes "enriched."

See also here

So, to quote "When a Rebbi teaches students, he becomes a "pipeline" through which this special portion of Torah is passed down to the student and subsequently brought into the world by the student"- even if there were 3.000 halachos forgotten, they were re-established so to say because of the chain of tradition. When a teacher passes down something unto his student, the chain is strengthened and passed on.. Maybe, as LFE writes in his comment, the chain of Torah was forgotten, but the chain of the tradition was not. How could there be sacrifices if we would not know how to perform them according to the rabbinical interpretation?

  • It will be good if you summarize the answer
    – kouty
    Commented May 19, 2022 at 6:38

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