Opinions & Commentary

Who wrote the Torah?

By Rabbi Joel E. Hoffman


Rabbi Joel E. Hoffman is a science and special education teacher in the Boston area. Rabbi Joel E. Hoffman is a science and special education teacher in the Boston area. For over 3,000 years, there was not a doubt that God dictated the Torah to Moses during the 40 years that the Jewish people were in the Sinai Desert after leaving Egypt. In the modern era, however, with the development of the field of biblical criticism, the above assumption has come into question.

Is it possible to prove that the authenticity of the Torah is true? Yes it is, in part because the Torah (as well as the Talmud) makes dozens of scientific claims, guarantees and historical predictions that a human author could never make. Here are three examples.

First, the Torah states that in order for an animal to be kosher, it must have split hooves and chew its cud. The Torah goes on to warn there are three animals that chew their cud but do not have split hooves – camel, hyrax and hare – and one animal with split hooves that does not chew its cud, the pig (Leviticus 11). Amazingly, zoologists have identified over 5,400 species of animals unknown to humans over 3,000 years ago, and they have not found any animal with one characteristic but not the other, other than the four the Torah identified.

Second, the Torah instructs that on each of the three Pilgrimage festivals – Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot – every male should go to Jerusalem, thus leaving his country’s borders and their wives and children unprotected; not to worry, the Torah advises, because the enemy will never attack during one of these festivals (Numbers 34). In the 410 years that the First Temple stood, and the 420 years that the Second Temple stood, there is no record of any of Israel’s enemies ever attacking during one of the Pilgrimage festivals.

Third, the Torah instructs the Jewish people to let the land rest every seventh year, which means not to plant it. This mitzvah is called shmitah. But again, not to worry, because God will make sure the harvest of the sixth year will be a bumper crop, so there will be enough food for the sixth year, the seventh year and into the first year of the next seven-year cycle, until that year’s crop is harvested (Leviticus 25).

No human creating a religion would dare include these latter two commandments, because all it would take is for the promise not to come to fruition once for doubt to be cast upon the religion. Only a Divine author could fulfill these guarantees … and has!

After learning the above, an intellectually honest person realizing the Torah could be from God might spend time exploring Judaism. How to go about this?

Thousands of years ago, God offered every nation the Torah. In each case, they asked God, “What’s written in it?” However, when God offered the Jewish people the Torah, they said, “Na’aseh v’nishmah” – “we will do and then we will understand.”

This is still the ideal model to use when one explores the authenticity of the Torah and the relevance of Judaism as an adult. To be able to answer, “Who wrote the Torah?” one needs not only to study the Torah but also to engage in doing the Torah’s commandments, the mitzvot.

A few mitzvot to start with include saying the Shema every morning and evening; putting a coin in a tzedakah box every day; and for women to light Shabbat candles and for men to recite the Shabbat Kiddush over wine. Only after engaging in studying the Torah and doing mitzvot can one be in a position of knowing who wrote the Torah.



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