As quoted in this answer:

On the fiftieth day after they began counting the Omer--that is, fifty-one days after the Exodus, all of the Children of Israel, men, women and children, over two million people, stood at Mount Sinai and received the Torah amidst great miracles and heavenly fire. They saw no form or picture of G-d, but they saw many miracles that proved that G-d is the Creator of heaven and earth. They heard G-d's voice speak and command Moses to instruct the Children of Israel on how to prepare to receive the Torah. Then they heard G-d speaking directly to them, the Children of Israel, and commanding them to keep the Torah. The Children of Israel accepted the Torah and all its Commandments, and they said: "We agree to obey, even before we hear the actual Commandments."

We are told not to believe in miracles; how do we know that the voice of God at Sinai wasn't some magician's ploy to convert the masses and how do we know that the miracles that took place at Sinai were done by God and not some magician?

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    So it was a magician who said 'Kill all magicians'?
    – Double AA
    Jun 5, 2015 at 14:50
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    When a person has a Yeitzer Hara to not believe something, the Yeitzer Hara comes up with many far-fetched possibilities to say "maybe not that", but has no such motivation to reject what it successfully made the null-hypothesis - this is the most powerful trick as hidden assumptions are the most persuasive. In other words I believe X until you so totally prove to me that X is impossible, rather than evaluating which of X or Y is the more plausible understanding of the situation. This exists in many areas, not just matters of fundamentals of faith ...
    – Yishai
    Jun 5, 2015 at 14:55
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    "some magician"?!?This is all theoretical musing, of course--but the idea comes to mind of who/what/why...alias a MOTIVATION for writing such a composition. There were no Nobel Prizes for Literature, so..in my mind "some magician" needs to be replaced with "some group of priests". What better motivation than to be able to answer "why am I giving you and your extended family precious metal and the best cuts of meat?" by holding up a Holy Book and pointing and saying "because HaShem SAYS SO - RIGHT HERE!!"
    – Gary
    Jun 5, 2015 at 16:34
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    @AniYodea: I find it funny to question whether it was the voice of God or the voice of a magician, why not question the historical record of anyone hearing any voice?
    – intuit
    Jun 5, 2015 at 16:44
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    @intuit because he is asking a much more powerful question - even if you accept that such a historical account could not be faked, and you couldn't make up that a whole nation had a revelation, maybe the revelation itself was a trick and they were fooled. Jun 5, 2015 at 17:41

2 Answers 2


Two approaches:

The Unmistakable Nature of Divine Experience

The Jewish people themselves heard Hashem speak at Har Sinai, on some level of prophecy. The Ramchal writes in Derech Hashem 3:3:3 that an experience of revelation, on whatever level, is unmistakable:

אמנם בכלן תהיה ההשפעה בדרך שירגיש בה המשפע בברור

In all of [the levels of revelation] the spiritual influence comes in a way in which it is clear to the recipient.

So if they heard it themselves, they would know unmistakably that it was a true Revelation - authentic revelation cannot be faked.

The Nature of Direct and Indirect Proof

The Malbim's commentary to Shemos 19:9 cites the Sefer HaIkarim's explanation of this distinction with an analogy. If two people say they can make triak (an ancient mythical panacea), and the first shows you as he makes it that he has all of the ingredients and lets you watch as he puts them together. Or, he makes it and then tests it and you see that it is effective. The other person does all kinds of wonderous things like walks through fire and the like, and tells you that as he can do wonderous things, he clearly has some power and you should believe him. In other words, the second person is asking you to transfer your belief from his wonders to his claims. The same is true of any prophet viz-a-viz Moshe. Moshe did not do wonders and, based thereon, ask us to rely on him. He showed us that Hashem speaks to him. There is no request for us to transfer our belief from him to his claims. This direct belief is what distinguishes Moshe from any other prophet, and it is these kinds of indirect beliefs which are subject to doubt.

In this type of demonstration, the doubt would not be on Moshe's word, but rather on the reliability of our own experiences. This is the superiority of demonstration which is present in Moshe's credentials as messenger from Hashem.

  • Regarding your first approach, do you mean that they felt that it was authentic?
    – Ani Yodea
    Jun 5, 2015 at 19:25
  • @AniYodea Yessir. Well, no. More than just felt. They unmistakably recognized it through the experience. Jun 5, 2015 at 19:27
  • Is there anything comparable to such an experience in our days they might help one understand the experience?
    – Ani Yodea
    Jun 5, 2015 at 19:29
  • Probably not - otherwise it would be another revelation...
    – Ani Yodea
    Jun 5, 2015 at 19:30
  • @AniYodea Any experience of prophecy would include this, as well as any experience of ruach hakodesh. Jun 5, 2015 at 19:36

In order to pose such a possibility we would need an example of magic being done in such magnitude. The voice of Hashem was heard by all. It's source couldn't be traced to any one side, according to the Medrash. The mountain was smoking and yet Moshe Rabbeinu stood there, and Hashem spoke before he even got there.

This was after the plagues and splitting of the sea. Following this was the precise Hashgacha Pratis in the wilderness, where Korach, Dassan and Aviram died for going against the Torah. They had these large scale, foretold miracles that their lives depended on.

Less than a thousand years later was the Galus Bavel, where we ceased to be a unified people. And yet, we held to the Torah. I couldn't make up a large scale story about the main history of the crusades, the Spanish wars and unification and the Magna Carta because they are relatively recent history, within a thousand years.

There were no parallel Judaisms having their own story of origin, although there were two kingdoms in Israel from pretty early on, and after not having a king at all.

If you want to know what a man-made religion would look like you have examples to compare. Murky foundations, lots of self-praise, threatening those who didn't make the leap. The Torah does not have that.

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    drashas haran says this was the purpose of the 10 plagues.
    – ray
    Jun 6, 2015 at 20:33
  • When you say "by all" are you referring to all that were present or the entire planet? I heard something similar before but please provide a source.
    – Ani Yodea
    Jun 7, 2015 at 18:27

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