This Being, or God, like a loving parent, shared with His children guidance for living via an immense literature that we call the Torah.
I know this sounds hard to believe, perhaps fantastical, maybe even crazy. How do we even picture this? Do you remember the 1956 Charlton Heston "The Ten Commandments"? For a long time, it was broadcast on TV every year right around Passover time. Sometime, I doubt they do this anymore. Anyway, you can find the clips on youtube. Here's the one where Moses Gets the Ten Commandments .
Great film-making. I think one can find that inspiring whether or not he or she believes it. So how do we believe it?
Well think about the many occasions in life where we rely on instincts and mysterious inspiration. You hear this all the time with songwriters and inventors. You can watch whole documentaries about where ideas for songs like "Will He Still Love Me Tomorrow?" came from. If you watch the "Locked Up Abroad" series - on youtube - you'll see endless references to people regretting not listening to their instincts which warned them to stay away from dangerous situations.
What are these instincts and ideas? Don't they feel like messages from another world? Certainly, that's how many songwriters and other creative people talk about them.
The revelation of Torah was similar but on a much larger direct scale. It was a one time even in history, a grand scale prophecy. If you are not familiar with prophecy, well it is a communication with the divine that is similar to intuition, only much more direct. It's not something that happens anymore as life has changed in a sense over the millennia and become more prosaic, less mystical. So the belief across TOJ is that anyone who claims today to be a prophet is delusional or lying. I have never met anyone in the TOJ world who claims this about himself or anyone else. But we all believe it happened in the olden days, ie 3,000 years ago.
Now so much hinges on the revelation of Torah that it stands as a topic that needs much investigation and discussion. Fortunately, many intelligent people write about the topic so you don't have to make do with my meager thoughts on the matter. I'll try to find a few articles on the web and link to them.
It helps as I said earlier to picture the scene. The Hebrews had recently left Egypt in a hurry. They had been slaves there for hundreds of years and God freed them via miracles. What are miracles? Those are supernatural events. God breaks the laws of nature for brief moments to make a point. This also is not something we see anymore, not on that level. We see it more subtly today.
The purpose of the experience of slavery was to ready the Hebrews for this moment, to soften them up so to speak. Oftentimes, we need the hard knocks of life to shake us up so we are willing to hear something different.
So the Hebrews were ready and their leader Moses gathered them around Mt. Sinai and God spoke to them, revealing some parts of the Torah. The experience was intense and they asked Moses to take it from there, ie receive the full transmission on their behalf going forward.
Sounds like a fairy tale I'm sure. So would the Internet or X-Ray machines to Thomas Jefferson but that's because it's an idea he's not used to. I want to put it out there for something to mull over. It's not likely to seem real right now.
So how does one makes this real? It's probably different for each person. Yehuda HaLevi, a Medieval scholar, put forth the argument that the revelation was too public an event to make up. Many religions claim that their founder had a private revelation. How can you prove or disprove? But the Jewish claim to revelation is national. I believe this is unique. How could one person make up a lie that millions of people witnessed an event that those same millions of people confirmed through changing their lives and taking on a religious practice?
This would be particularly difficult to pull off with Jews as they tend to be tough minded and intelligent people. Can you imagine telling Alan Dershowitz or Ed Koch that they had taken part in a national revelation from God and need to take on a new religious practice when indeed they had not? They wouldn't fall for that for a second. So how would the entire Jewish nation (and there's plenty of evidence that the overwhelming majority of Jews have been observant for thousands of years) take on a religious practice that was initiated by their collectively hearing a communication from God if they had not actually heard that communication? You can say that Moslems took on Islam in even bigger numbers but nobody claims that was due to national revelation but rather through personal inspiration after hearing of one man's experience of revelation. Mull over this for a bit. It's an interesting idea.
But you have to suspend any voices in your head which automatically discount religious approaches to life. Many of us grow up with these voices. I did. I see even now when I speak to old friends about religion, they look at me like I'm nuts. I'm pretty confident that the nearly all of them have never even given the topic any real thought. The mechanism is automatic and closed-minded. Religious ideas are kooky so don't even think about them. This even though Sir Isaac Newton, the inventor of Calculus and developer of the theory of gravity, spent half his time studying the Bible. Not exactly a dumb guy or a fool.
So what helps also on this topic is simply studying and practicing the Torah. The experience of truth gives the idea of revelation greater credibility. This takes time and effort.
It's similar to belief in God, which in my experience works something like parking a car. You don't park a car simply by driving forward. You inch forward, you inch bank. Forward, back. Religious belief is similar. It is the culmination of numerous actions in different directions. No one article will get you there, certainly not one from me. But let me point you to a few by some other people.
Brief Chronology of the Revelation
A Rational Approach to the Torah’s Divine Origin
Historical Approaches for Providing Evidence for National Revelation
Did God Speak at Sinai