Rabbi Label Lam
Parshas Balak - Why Should I Just Believe?
A few years ago I was in a mini-mart in Lancaster Pennsylvania with one of
my boys when a man walked in and having spotted me, shouted across the
store, "Hey, you're a Jew!" I looked up from where I was engrossed in
picking out a kosher brand of potato chips, nodded my head in agreement and
went back to my business. Then the big question came flying at me across
the aisles of the busy store from the same fellow, "Hey, do you believe in
Jesus?" I hadn't planned on entering into a public diatribe there in the
I only really wanted to get a few cold drinks and something for the other
kids to munch on for the ride home but since he asked me publicly I felt
obligated to answer him resoundingly, "No!!"
The guy just didn't let up and he followed with a question, "Why
"It's funny," I told him across the store as everyone listened in
while pretending to be busy purchasing, "My son just asked me the same
question when he asked me for a certain candy and I refused to buy it for
him. He asked me, 'Why not?' and I told him that it is not up to me to
prove to you 'why not?'. You have to demonstrate to me 'Why?'"
Then he let loose with the answer I could have predicted and I was
ready. He said, "You've got to believe!"
"That's not what the Bible
says." I retorted. "It says; 'You should know it today and return it to your
heart that Hashem is G-d of the heavens above and the earth below and there
is no other!'" (Deut. 4:39) That ended our conversation there. That is the
beginning of our discussion here.
The Torah says the following amazing thing in this week's portion; "When
you will inquire about the earliest days that were before you, from the
time that G-d created man on the earth and from one end of the heavens to
the other end of the heavens, was there anything so great as this or has
anything like it been claimed!? Has a nation heard the voice of G-d
speaking from the midst of the fire like you have heard, you, and
survived?" (Deut. 4:32-33)
The Torah makes an outrageous claim that never in history was there or will
there ever be a claim to the experience we had when we stood as a nation by
Mt. Sinai. The mitzvah "know" that there is a G-d is based upon the verse
that was spoken to the entire nation 600,000 adult males between the ages
of 20 and 60 an estimated 3 and ½ million people, "I am Hashem your G-d
that took you out from the land of Egypt!" The A-lmighty introduces Himself
in the context of an historical event we all experienced. That's how we know!
How do we know it today? Maybe we're guilty of proving the book from the
book! If it happened once in history, then it could conceivably happen
again. Who would feel confident to write in the same book and expect it to
be true 3313 years later that nothing like it in quality or magnitude would
ever happen or be claimed?
"Check out the historical record" says the Torah, as it were. Did anyone
else say "you" as opposed to "I" experienced? Do any of the texts of the
major faiths quote G-d speaking to anyone? Was anyone else ever there at
the moment of epiphany? Elaborate doormats have been placed before the
edifice of our claim, but history demonstrates nothing nearly comparable
has ever been offered.
So when someone approaches me and asks me to believe in something. I need
not leave my head in the parking lot and follow him blindly. If it's
something I can know through deeper investigation, then why should I just
Text Copyright © 2000 Rabbi Dovid Green and
Project Genesis, Inc.