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The Seal of God

An Ancient Jewish Measure of Spiritual Authority
by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

"There is a dividing line. We have always had a demand that is written even in the books of law: a person may be a great scholar, extremely intelligent and all that—but if he doesn't measure up to what he says, he is of no value and he shouldn't be honored. He shouldn't be respected; he's only talking.

There is a book, one of the most famous books we have on morality. For us, as an old people, it's a recent book, only four hundred years old. This book became very influential. It's called The Beginning of Wisdom because there is a verse in Proverbs that says, 'The beginning of wisdom is fear of God.' It's a book on morality, which means behavior, and includes everything from theology to sex, with very high demands on every level, very high demands. After he wrote this book, the author was living here in this country, in Zefat, and some scholars were sent to examine him. Now they didn't examine what he wrote in his book because they knew that he was scholarly enough to write everything correctly. They wanted to see whether he was the kind of a person who behaves according to his book; that was what they wanted to check. It was a different kind of a check, it was not checking on whether what he wrote was correct.

In this case they found out that he was consistent. Then the book came to have a great amount of influence, but not so much because of the content. It was not just a matter of sincerity; it was a matter of having here a person who is saying what is true, true in the sense that he is living it, he is being with it, he is a part of it. So because of that we believe that the book has what we call the Seal. The seal of God is Truth. That is the seal. Where there is no truth, it means that the seal is absent. It's a forgery."

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz is one of the foremost Judaic scholars and teachers of this century. His accomplishments include the publication of multiple volumes of the Steinsaltz Talmud, a new edition of the traditional Jewish scriptural commentary. The above excerpt is from a dialogue between Rabbi Steinsaltz and Andrew Cohen at the rabbi's home in Jerusalem, 1995.


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