The following is an excerpt from the sefer
Fundamentals and Faith, by HaRav Weinberg, edited by Rabbi
Mordechai Blumenfeld. The sefer is about the 13 Principles of
Faith. This section discusses the seventh principle.
The Unchanging Torah
In essence, this principle establishes the fact that the
Torah cannot be altered. In order for man to be able to serve
G-d, it is necessary to know His Will in absolute, unchanging
terms and to recognize it as such. Any room for change will
create the opportunity for man to inject his own values. When
the possibility of change exists, man's priorities and
convenience dominate, making him a servant of himself rather
than his Creator.
Fortunately, the authority of the Torah itself prevents man
from tampering with it. The unparalleled circumstances and
content of the prophecy of Moshe Rabbeinu, together with the
historically unique revelation of the Torah on Sinai, provide
the basis for that authority. One of the laws revealed there
through Moshe states that nothing can ever be added or
subtracted from the Torah that G-d gave, word for word, to
Moshe Rabbeinu. Even a prophet cannot claim the right to
innovate anything in the Torah. He can never carry an
authentic message from G-d proposing revision of any detail
in the Torah.
Father of Prophets
To begin to understand the limitations of the other prophets,
we must appreciate the difference between their revelations
and those of Moshe Rabbeinu. The Rambam begins this Principle
by starting, "Moshe Rabbeinu is the father of all the
prophets before and after him." What does he mean? How can
Moshe be the father of Avrohom, who lived hundreds of years
before him? Although the Rambam elaborates upon the various
differences between the prophecies of Moshe Rabbeinu and the
other prophets, these differences are not the essence of the
Principle. The essence, that which must be realized by each
Jew, is that Moshe Rabbeinu is the "father of all the
prophets," which means that he is the source of the authority
for all prophecy.
The Rambam can only be understood through appreciating the
uniqueness of the Sinaitic experience, that which
differentiates the Jewish faith from all others. All the
religions in the world, except for Judaism, have one thing in
common. They all require one to surrender his mind, to take a
leap of faith in order to adhere to their beliefs. As long as
one is thinking critically, he might well come to reject
these religions, for every religion that mankind has invented
is dependent upon the testimony of no more than a few
individuals. In terms of the pursuit of truth, such evidence
is far from satisfactory. The literature of these religions
frequently describes a leap of faith, a nice way of saying
that one may only progress through ignoring his critical,
The difference between the revelations and major prophets of
other religions and those of Judaism may be illustrated by a
story the Jews have told for hundreds of years:
A great Rebbe died, survived by his two sons. However, he
left no instructions as to which son was to inherit the
mantel of leadership in the community. The congregation
itself was equally divided between the two. Some insisted
that one son was more qualified while others were sure that
the other son would be the better rebbe. After weeks,
the conflict finally came to a standstill, since the elders
of the community could not decide who should be their new
Then, one day, one of the sons approached the Council of
Elders and told them an amazing story. He insisted that his
father, the Rebbe, had come to him in a dream the night
before, and had told him to convey to the elders his command
that this son become their new rebbe.
Upon hearing this story, a hush fell over the Council. Would
this new development settle at last the dispute that had
occupied the minds and mouths of the whole community for so
long? Was this what they had been waiting for?
As the suspense grew, a little old man who was sitting in the
corner, amused at what he had heard, softly decided the
matter: "Young man, if your father, the Rebbe, had wanted you
to be the new leader of our community, he should have come to
us in our dreams, not to you in yours."
In the same way, logically, if G-d wanted to appoint a
prophet to communicate His Will to a people, He would not
reveal Himself to the prophet alone, instructing him to tell
the people that he had been chosen by G-d as their prophet.
Instead, He would reveal directly to the people His desire
that this individual be His prophet.
Of all the religions that have been started throughout
history, there exists only one where this situation occurred.
Only in giving the Torah on Mount Sinai did G-d appear to an
entire nation. The revelation at Sinai was experienced
neither by an individual nor by a chosen group of
individuals, but by an entire nation--men, women and
children. The Almighty, so to speak, begs man: "Ask, now: of
the earliest days that were before you, since the day that G-
d created man upon the earth, and from one end of the heaven
to the other end, has there ever been such a great thing as
this or was there ever heard anything like it? Has a nation
heard the voice of G-d. . . ?"
In looking at the pages of history, one sees that the story
of Sinai was original and has never been repeated. Not only
has it never happened again, but no one has even tried to
create and tell such a story. The attempt has never been made
because it is impossible to make up a story of this
In examining great world literature, we find that every plot
has its parallels in the various cultures. Certainly, such a
story, one that has captured the minds and imaginations of so
many people, that serves as the basis of three major
religions, would have been copied if this were at all
possible. But just as the Rebbe's son did not dare tell the
Council of Elders that his father appeared to them in a
dream, humanity has never dared to tell of G-d appearing to
any nation other than the Jews. If the invention of such a
story would be possible, it would have been imitated many,
many times; one just can't invent such a story and get away
No Need to Make the Leap of Faith
The Jewish Nation did not only believe in G-d--it also knew
and experienced Him. For this reason, basing itself on
objective evidence--the testimony of three million
eyewitnesses--Judaism does not need to demand a leap of
faith. Just as the Almighty gave us our hearts and our
emotions to use in order to serve Him, He also gave us our
minds. In contrast, a leap of faith demands that an
individual not use his intellect in serving G-d; rather, he
should "just have faith."
In the same way, Moshe Rabbeinu is the only prophet in
history whose authenticity was attested to, publicly, by G-d
Himself. He is the only prophet appointed in the presence of
an entire nation. He is the only prophet who was made known
as such to his followers, rather than being accepted on
"blind faith." Subsequently, any other prophet merits
credibility only through the authority of Moshe Rabbeinu. The
validity of their prophecies is based upon the definition
which Moshe told the Jewish people G-d provided as to when an
individual should be accepted by the nation as a prophet.
Since a prophet's credibility is based upon the criteria
revealed through Moshe Rabbeinu, the Rambam refers to Moshe
as "the father of all prophets." Thus, the world knows that
Avrohom was a prophet only because Moshe Rabbeinu testified--
in the name of the Almighty, as it were--that G-d spoke to
the father of the Jewish People. The world knows that Yeshaya
was a prophet only because he fulfilled all of the
requirements that Moshe Rabbeinu communicated to the nation,
in the name of G-d, concerning the status of a prophet.
Therefore, all prophets are prophets only through the
testimony of Moshe Rabbeinu, the father of all prophets. It
would be absurd even to consider the words of anyone who
claims to be a prophet while proceeding to contradict
anything in the Torah, for he is clearly undermining the very
source of his supposed credibility.
In summation, the essence of this Principle is that awareness
of the uniqueness of the revelation of Moshe Rabbeinu
translates into the realization and law that Torah cannot and
will not under any circumstances be changed.
Different Types of Prophecy
The sixth Principle states that Torah is, word for
word, the words of the Almighty. All other prophecy, on
the other hand, is given to a prophet through a mental image,
a precise interpretation of which he is empowered and allowed
to transmit. The Torah explicitly states that there are
specific differences between the type of prophecy of Moshe
Rabbeinu and that of all other prophets. It is these
differences which distinguish Torah from the Prophets.
In order to further understand the difference between them,
it is helpful to elaborate upon this idea that the Torah not
only contains different material from a different period, it
also represents a significant difference in the very method
To begin with, it is important to note that the Torah
includes not only the prophecy of Moshe Rabbeinu but the
entire Jewish Nation's prophecy at Mount Sinai. At the moment
the Revelation began, the Jewish Nation achieved a level of
prophecy similar to that of Moshe Rabbeinu. The people
themselves heard the words: "I, G-d am to be your G-d, who
brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of
slaves." (Shemos 20,3). Every single member of the
People of Israel heard these words and experienced the
beginning of the prophecy that would prove to be unique to
Moshe Rabbeinu. None of the other prophets experienced
prophecy of this nature. No other prophet, other than Moshe
Rabbeinu, heard the prophecy he transmitted, word for word,
directly from the Almighty. Every single word, from "In the
beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth" until ". . .
before the eyes of all Israel," is the word of G-d. Moshe
Rabbeinu was a mere transcriber, the instrument through which
these words reached us.
The Sages tell us, "No two prophets have the same style"
(Sanhedrin 89a). One can refer to the "style" of the
prophets because they themselves worded the thoughts that
were communicated to them through the visions they saw.
Although an interpretation was included with their vision,
the words were the words of the prophets. Nonetheless, the
Almighty assured the Jews that they were receiving an
accurate interpretation of these visions.
There must exist a different mode of prophecy for
communicating word for word in comparison to the transmission
of concepts and thoughts. It is this difference that the
Torah itself postulates when it testifies to Moshe's
uniqueness as a prophet: "And no prophet arose since, in
Israel, like Moshe, whom the Almighty knew face to face."
Aspects of the Difference
The Rambam elaborates upon several major aspects of the
uniqueness of Moshe Rabbeinu's prophecy in this Principle:
1) Every prophet [other than Moshe] experienced prophecy only
while sleeping, as it is said in various places: "in a
nighttime dream," "in a nighttime dream-vision," and many
other [quotes] such as these. Alternatively, [the experience
of prophecy was] during the day, after [the prophet] had
fallen into a deep trance, so that all his senses were
nullified and his thoughts remained free as in a dream. This
occurrence] is called a "vision" or a "revelation," as is
said, "in the revelations of G-d."
[However, concerning] Moshe, the word of the Almighty came to
him during the day, as he was standing between the two
cherubim, as G-d attested: "I will meet with you there
and I will speak to you from above the curtain, from between
the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the
testimony," and as He said, "if he were one of your prophets
I, G-d, would reveal Myself to him in a vision, in a dream
would I speak to him. No so My servant Moshe: in the whole of
My house he is trustworthy. Mouth to mouth I speak to him. .
2) When a prophet receives prophecy, even though it is
through a vision and an intermediary, his strength fails him,
his body becomes shattered, and an awesome fear falls upon
him, so that his soul almost departs from him... [but
concerning] Moshe, it was not so. The word came to him and he
was not overwhelmed with confusion or fear in any
3) With all the prophets, the presence of prophecy rested
upon them not whenever they chose but according to the Will
of the Almighty. The prophet could [therefore] wait many days
and years and not receive prophecy. He could ask the Almighty
to communicate a specific matter to him through prophecy, and
wait many days or months until he received it, or he could
never receive it. There were many groups of them [prophets]
who prepared themselves and purified their thoughts, as
Elisha did, as it says, "And now bring me a minstrel," and
then the prophecy came to him. [But they} would not
necessarily receive prophecy every time [they] prepared
themselves. But whenever Moshe Rabbeinu desired [to
communicate with G-d], he said [to the People of Israel]:
"Wait, and I will hear what G-d will command you."
Here, the Rambam has indicated significant qualitative
differences between the prophecies of Moshe Rabbeinu and of
all other prophets. His prophetic superiority has two
First of all, the man himself was truly greater than all
other prophets--they are secondary to him. Moshe was in
control of himself physically and emotionally during his
prophecies, while other prophets lost control in the presence
of G-d. Their physical function was suspended while in their
prophetic trance. It seems that they had to "leave their
bodies" in order for their minds and souls to receive G- d's
Moshe Rabbeinu, however, was able to function normally and
lucidly while in the presence of the Almighty. He was able to
hear words directly from G-d, whereas all other prophets
could only receive His messages in a metaphor or riddle.
True, they also received the interpretation of the metaphor,
but not in the actual words of G-d. Moshe's prophetic
superiority is, in itself, reason that his words cannot be
contradicted by any other prophet.
Second, the prophecy of Moshe Rabbeinu--which was validated
through a unique moment in history, the revelation to the
entire Nation of Israel--that prophecy is Torah. "Torah"
presents the absolute truths of the Almighty directly
communicated to man. Thus, learning Torah is the closest a
human can come to acquiring an intimate knowledge of G-d.
In contrast, the prophecy of all other prophets is not Torah.
Indeed, their prophecy is validated only through the criteria
established by Torah. However, since the revelation at Sinai
will never be repeated (see the ninth Principle), prophecy of
this type, for all of humanity other than the generation that
witnessed Sinai, represents the ultimate religious
Prophecy is the culmination of a lifetime of trying to come
close to G-d. In the vast majority of situations, it was a
gift from the Almighty, bestowed upon a righteous scholar who
had diligently toiled to become worthy of it. In certain
cases, prophecy was granted in order to deliver a message to
a community or the Nation. These messages served as a source
of insight or inspiration regarding the teachings of the
Torah, or else they shed light upon current events, or warned
of future happenings. However, these communications never
innovated any Torah commandment.
A prophet has no right to innovate or change any law of the
Torah. For this reason, the easiest way to spot a false
prophet is to examine whether the content of his
communication contradicts Torah. How could one accept any
other prophecy over Torah? As discussed, the prophecy of "the
father of all prophets" was unique, requiring no leap of
faith or trust in an individual.
The difference between Moshe's prophecy, the Torah, and other
prophecy is based upon this seventh Principle, that the Torah
cannot be changed. As stated, if it were possible to amend
the Torah, there would be "prophets" constantly seeking to
replace previous revelations with their own. Consequently,
there would be no way to maintain the Torah. It would not be
One can appreciate the importance of this Principle by
speculating: what would be the first commandment to be
affected if a later prophecy could change the Torah? Would it
be Shabbos or kashrus? The Sages, with their profound
understanding of the nature of man, suggested that those
commandments which are the most obviously necessary to
maintain society would be the first to be revised. Neither
Shabbos nor kashrus, but rather, murder, stealing and
adultery would perhaps be the first laws to be altered. How
do the Sages know that these fundamental laws would be the
Chazal tell us that before the Torah was given to the Jewish
People, it was offered to all the other nations of the world.
Upon receiving the offer, each nation wanted to know exactly
what was in this Torah. When they heard the answer, however,
when they were given an example of what they might expect,
they refused to accept it. Actually the very act of asking
what was written in the Torah was, in itself, a rejection of
G-d's offer. For when these nations questioned the contents
of the Torah, they were already stating that they would
accept it only if it suited them. They had no love for G-d,
no desire to fulfill His Will. Theirs was only a self-
centered, self-serving mentality. At any rate, the Torah was
incompatible with them, for it diametrically opposed their
Still, we are prompted to ask: which commandments did G-d
reveal to them? What scared them off?
He did not reveal the laws of Shabbos or kashrus.
Rather, He forbade murder, stealing and adultery. These
nations rejected commandments that are fundamental and
essential to humanity. It is upon these commandments that
man's attention would be focused if he were able to amend the
Torah. Since these commandments are the basis of society and
touch man's life in many sensitive and crucial ways, they are
the hardest to deal with as absolutes.
Yet aren't these very laws found in all civilized countries?
What nation did not or does not outlaw murder, theft and
adultery? Why did the nations of the world reject G-d's offer
if these laws are part of their own societies in any case?
G-d-Given Versus Man-Made
The answer lies in the fact that there is a world of
difference between a G-d-given law and a law that man accepts
upon himself. A G-d-given law is absolute; man does not have
the right or the authority to interpret it according to his
In contrast, a man-made law serves the needs of society.
Individuals in that society are willing to refrain from
certain behavior in order to receive the protection that the
law offers. For example, although an individual may be
tempted to steal, he is willing to control his temptations in
exchange for the security of knowing that others cannot steal
from him. Man-made laws give men the freedom to decide when
any given statute does and doesn't apply. These laws also
imply a potentially unlimited freedom: if one becomes so
strong and powerful that he no longer fears others, he can
cast off the burden of any restriction. Whether or not man
will ever achieve this feeling of security, the mere
awareness of such freedom serves his self-interest.
An absolute Law, however, cannot be molded to serve one's
needs. Man can't claim that, for example, this Law doesn't
apply to Jews or blacks. Since man did not create the Law, he
is not in control. It applies in all situations, in all
societies, and at all times. This absoluteness of the Torah,
when offered to the nations, precipitated their rejection.
They understood that the Torah demanded subordinating
themselves to their Creator, and, although they knew that
life guided by G-d's Torah offered them the best possible way
of life, these nations could not give up the freedom and
convenience of relative ethics.
A Torah that is changeable would provide relative rather than
absolute ethics. With relative ethics, man retains the right
to make his own judgments. For example, one day the killing
of an unborn infant is deemed the most horrible thing a
physician could do. His colleagues would look upon him with
disapproval and revulsion. He would be ostracized by society.
Even if the abortion were necessary for the health of the
mother, it would be looked upon with misgivings. However,
within one year, this same operation can become as casual as
drinking a glass of water.
Such shifts in attitude can occur amazingly quickly in a
society based on relative ethics, or on a Torah that could be
altered. This Torah would have neither permanence nor
meaning. In fact, it would not be a Torah in the first place.
It would be a mere ritual or a game, but not a way of life.
On the other hand, absolute ethics are by definition
A Covenant with the Nations
There is another question that can be asked about the
offering of the Torah to the nations of the world and their
refusal. The commandments they were given as examples of the
Torah, the laws pertaining to murder, stealing, and adultery,
are part of the seven Noachide laws. If these nations were
already obligated to keep these mitzvos, why should they now
The nations were offered the opportunity to accept a Torah
that would involve a bris, a covenant, in order to
establish a stronger relationship with the Almighty. A
covenant by definition entails the opportunity to either
accept or reject it. The nations rejected it. If they could
have, they would have rejected the seven Noachide laws as
well. However, since these laws are not part of any covenant,
there was never any possibility of rejecting them. The
Almighty demands that these laws be kept by all humanity, and
because He is the Creator and we are His creations, we have
no choice but to accept them. Through the fulfillment of
these laws, all mankind can come close to G-d and earn a
share in the World to Come.
However, even these laws are only known to humanity as the
Will of G-d because they were part of the revelation at
Sinai, as will soon be discussed [in subsequent Principles].
The ramifications of this reality is clearly stated by the
Rambam: "Everyone [every gentile] who accepts the seven
mitzvos and is careful to fulfill them is counted among the
Righteous Gentiles of the world. He also has a portion in the
World to Come. [But] this is so [only] when he accepts them
and fulfills them because G-d commanded them His Torah and
made it known to us through Moshe Rabbeinu that the children
of Noah were previously commanded to do them."
In other words, if gentiles observe these seven mitzvos only
because they appreciate their value, understanding how
necessary they are, these individuals have no share in the
World to Come. They earn this ultimate good only if they
fulfill their mitzvos as laws given by the Almighty through
Moshe Rabbeinu. Consequently, when they rejected the Torah
they also opted out of these laws.