Afterword by Michael Dallen
Beyond the history that’s so clearly set out here, what I love most about this book is the last section, Part IV, and the author’s sharp exploration of atheistis belief.
He quotes a revered scientist,
“There are only two possiblities as to how life arose. One is spontaneous generation … the other is a supernatural created act of God. There is no third possibility. Spontaneous generation was scientifically disproved… That leaves us with the only possible conclusion that life arose as a supernatural creative act of God. I will not accept that because I do not want to believe in God. Thereford, I choose to believe in that which I know is scientifically impossible: spontaneous generation….”
“But human reason,” the author says, should conclude “that it is impossible that there is no God… It’s impossible that God does not exist.” “This isn’t religious faith, he says. “It doesn’t require blind (or any) belief.”
Then we have this data point: the Bible’s overall plan. It’s simple enough: the Jewish People, starting with the sons of Noah, were created by the God of Abraham to function as a sort of elder brother to the nations of the Earth (Exodus 4:22), to serve God and man (and woman) as a sort of “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). T
The main idea here is that God “chose” the Jews for a vocation, not for privilege, to help light up the world as “a light to [all] the nations” (Isaiah 42:6, 49:6).
A big part of the mission is to show that God did and can communicate with us, human beings, and that the Torah – the “Instruction,” or “Teaching,” starting with the Bible’s first Five Books – must have supernatural origins given the reality of Jewish history, the elevating power of God’s statutes, in the Torah, and the endlessly unfolding fulfillment of those unambiguous ancient prophecies.
As the author says, nothing – nothing whatsoever - in other philosophies or religions “can compare to the Torah’s simple and clear ideas: respect for the Creator; respect for other people, their life, family, property, and good; respect for life and Creation in general (no cruelty to animals, the Sabbath and the Jubilee years).”
Speaking of the Torah, the black-letter Written, Sciptural part and the “Oral” Mishnah, Talmud [which aren’t so oral anymore, having been written out), etc., come, I think, from pretty much the same source. Besides Godly inspiration, the Fathers who transmitted these things and put them together had at hand a vast trove of even more ancient written and oral traditional teachings, a treasury accumulated over epochs. These teachings are so important that seems to me impossible that God would have refrained from helping bring them into human consciousness.
As for the Noahide Law and the ‘7M” or Seven Mitzvot - the “Commandments” or “Connections” between God and man – and the universal moral law, I wish the author had given more space to it. Every single one of the Torah’s moral laws, or “higher laws,” applies to Jew and non-Jew alike, and these are all Divine Teachings for non-Jews or Noahides (descendants of Noah). The 7M in all their details are the “outpatient department” of the Torah, intended for all flesh.
That the 7M all come from the same source as the Golden Rule, the Universal Revelation that God made man (and woman) in His image – remembering, naturally, that God HAS no visible image. ‘Do unto others’ follows directly from that and the 7M go into seven categories of good morality and conduct – don’t murder, don’t rob, etc. – from there.
It’s up to each nation or society to determine the details of their own Noahide laws for themselves, but whatever they may be, they must be just, equitable and fair, lest they pollute the world with oppression and injustice. Further, since the 7M are all negative, “you shall not” laws, it’s important morally and philosophically that no man (or woman) is righteous and just unless he or she does the very opposite of what the 7M forbid. It’s not enough to refrain from committing crimes, in other words. Beyond refraining from murder, for instance, one should affirmatively try to save the endangered. Beyond merely refraining from pathological, obviously vile false worship – sacrificing children, for instance – one should consciously, assiduously worship the One true God.
So, that’s what I wanted to add to this elevating little jewel of a book. May you read and enjoy it - and may it change all our lives, to some extent, for the better, making us better, more conscious servants of God – happily and in good health.
Erev Pesach, 13 Nisan 5779
18 April 2019