Does Jewish History Prove God's Existence?
By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim
In the book of Exodus Moses beseeches God to forgive the Jewish People for the sin of the golden calf and to once again return His presence to the nation. God responds affirmatively and states “Behold I forge a covenant, before your entire nation I will do wonders that have never been formed in the entire land and within all the nations….” (Exodus 34: 10) Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehudah Berlin (1817-1893) explains the verse as follows: God made a covenant with the Jewish people regarding both the land of Israel and their unique nationhood. God promised a) that the Land would be repopulated after its total destruction, devastation and the exile of the Jewish people, and b) that the Jewish people would not be destroyed into the ashes of history.
The Torah portion we read at the end of Parshat Bechukotai predicts the exile, persecution and suffering of the Jewish people and the total devastation of their land, to which history certainly bares witness. Nonetheless God promises not to destroy the nation and to remember the land as it states: “. . . but when the time finally comes that their stubborn spirit is humbled, I will forgive their sin. I will remember my covenant with Jacob, as well as my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land . . . Thus, even when they are in their enemy’s land, I will not reject them or spurn them, bringing them to an end and breaking My covenant with them, because I am the Lord their God.” (Leviticus 26: 41-44).
Therefore Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehudah Berlin explains God’s promise to perform wonders as referring to the wonder/miracle of Jewish survival and the return of the Jewish people to their ancestral homeland. (Rabbi Berlin witnessed the former but passed away 55 years before the State of Israel was declared.)
The great mathematician and later Christian theologian Blaise Pascal wrote this: “It is certain that in certain parts of the world we can see a peculiar people, separated from the other peoples of the world, and this is called the Jewish people… This people is not only of remarkable antiquity but has also lasted for a singularly long time… For whereas the peoples of Greece and Italy, of Sparta, Athens and Rome, and others who came so much later have perished so long ago, these still exist, despite the efforts of so many powerful kings who have tried a hundred times to wipe them out, as their historians testify, and as can easily be judged by the natural order of things over such a long spell of years. They have always been preserved, however, and their preservation was foretold… My encounter with this people amazes me.”
Friends, both Jewish survival and the return of a nation after almost 2000 years to their homeland are the wonders we see in our time. These happenings may be naturally possible, but I would suggest that they are both highly improbable. The Bible itself predicts the Jewish people straying from God and their tradition, being exiled from their homeland, undergoing persecution, plagues and pogroms and yet predicts their survival and ultimate return to their homeland. Jewish history has clearly borne out the truth of this irrational prediction. I suggest therefore that Jewish history itself is a direct piece of evidence for the Divine nature of the Torah and by implication for God’s existence. Do you concur?