By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)
This paper was written to show that the scripture assumes that there is an oral law, and that without the oral law, the scriptures are incomplete.
It is known that from the beginning of the third century before the common era, rabbinical authorization by the patriarch consisted in the bestowal of authority and power ("reshut") to teach, to judge, and to grant permission regarding "the forbidden first-born among animals" ("yore yore, yadin yadin, yattir bekorot," Sanh. 5a). But it is obvious that this is no longer the original form of rabbinical authorization. Far more significant and expressive of the idea of Rabbinical Authority are the words used by Yeshua when ordaining Peter as chief apostle, or his disciples as his successors, and undoubtedly taken from pharisaic usage: "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt. xvi. 19, xviii. 18). This corresponds exactly with what Josephus, or rather his source, tells of the Pharisees in the time of Queen Alexandra: "They were the real administrators of the public affairs; they removed and readmitted whom they pleased; they bound and loosed [things] at their pleasure" ("B. J." i. 5, § 2). The terms "bind" and "loose" ("asar we-hittir"), employed by the Rabbis in their legal terminology, point indeed to a sort of supernatural power claimed by the Pharisees for their prohibitory or permissory decrees, probably because they could place both men and things under the ban, or "Cherem."
The greatest Torah scholars (Hakhamim) were empowered with the ability to apply the principles of Torah, both oral and written, and utilizing these principles as new cases presented themselves, or where confusion arose regarding existing law. Despite the attributes of the judges who possessed the combination of intellectual prowess with superior personal moral standards, the possibility of an error remained. In such cases the question would arise: Do the sages retain their authority in the event that they are mistaken?
The textual basis for the question revolves around the Torah statement:
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 17:8-12 If there arises a matter too hard for you in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between plague and plague, being matters of controversy inside your gates, then shall you arise, and get to the place which HaShem your God shall choose. And you shall come to the priests the Levites, and to the judge who shall be in those days, and inquire. And they shall declare to you the sentence of judgment. And you shall do according to the sentence, which they of that place which HaShem shall choose shall declare to you. And you shall take care to do according to all that they inform you. According to the sentence of the Torah which they shall teach you, and according to the judgment which they shall tell you, you shall do; you shall not deviate from the sentence which they shall declare to you, to the right hand, nor to the left. And the man who will act presumptuously, and will not listen to the priest who stands to minister there before HaShem your God, or to the judge, that man shall die; and you shall put away the evil from Israel.
The same idea is found in the Midrash Shir HaShirim:
Midrash Rabbah - The Song of Songs 1:18 You shall not turn aside from the sentence which they shall declare to you to the right hand nor to the left. If they tell you that the right hand is right and the left hand left, listen to them, and even if they shall tell you that the right hand is left and the left hand right.
Yerushalmi Horiot 2b Is it possible that if they told you right is left and left is right you would have to listen to them? The verse teaches we must follow [the sages] "left and right" only when they tell you right is right, and left is left.
This approach is comforting, for the individual is not obligated to follow the sages astray, yet the normative law follows the approach of Rashi.
Rashi in the name of the Sifri: Even if they tell you that what you think is the right is really the left or visa versa, and it goes without saying that you must listen if they inform you that this is right and this is left [and you do not know otherwise].
Nachmanides elaborates: Even when you are convinced that they are in error, and the matter is as clear to you as the difference between your right hand and your left, do as they tell you. And do not say to yourself, "How can I eat this food when it is clearly fat [a forbidden substance], or how can I execute this clearly innocent person?" Rather say to yourself, "My Master who commanded me to observe His commandments, instructed me to observe them as the Hakhamim dictate."
Thus, according to this doctrine, we are commanded to follow what the Hakhamim tell us with blind faith, even if we know that what they are telling us is clearly wrong. But how can the Torah command us to do such a thing?
Nachmanides explains that the injunction to follow the rulings of the Sanhedrin (Hakhamim) even when it is clear to you that they are mistaken has no relation to blind faith. Mistaken or not, what the Sanhedrin (Hakhamim) decides determines the shape that the reality in the Torah adopts.
In passing, Nachmanides refers to a famous argument between two of the leading sages of the era of the Mishna. Rabbi Yehoshua and Raban Gamliel had arrived at different conclusions regarding the dates of Rosh HaShanah. This argument had serious ramifications including what day would be observed as the Day of Atonement – Yom HaKippurim:
25a Thereupon Rabban Gamaliel sent for him saying, "I enjoin
upon you to appear before me with your staff and your
money on the day which according to your reckoning should be the Day of
Atonement." ... He [Rabb Yehoshua] then went to Rabbi Dosa ben Harkinas,
who said to him: "If we call in question [the decisions of] the House of
Rabban Gamaliel, we must call in question the decisions of every House of
Judgment which has existed since the days of Moses up to the present time. For it says, then went up Moses and Aaron, Nadab and
Abihu and seventy of the elders of
Nachmanides explains the perspective of Rabbi Yehoshua. Even though Rabbi Yehoshua knew that his position was correct, he accepted the court's decision.
One issue that is intriguing about this case is the fact that the Sanhedrin was no longer functioning. The Temple had been destroyed, and as the text had stated, now the court resided in Yavneh. This would explain the hesitation of Rabbi Yehoshua to acquiesce to the position of the court, and why he was not concerned with the label of "rebellious elder", whose punishment is death.
Now we understand the argument put forward by Rabbi Dosa. The rejection of this court in Yavneh is tantamount to the rejection of every court which has ever existed, it will produce the same result, religious anarchy.
I believe that one of the most telling arguments for the requirement of an oral law, other than the command of Torah, is the tradition that gives us the pronunciation of the words of the Torah.
The words written in a Torah scroll are written without any vowel markings. This means that any word in the Torah has potentially many meanings, depending on what vowels are applied to the consonants to form the sounds of the word. We have a tradition which teaches us how the words are pronounced. This tradition, found in the oral law, defines the meaning of each word in the Torah!
Thus, all the Christian and Jewish translations of the Torah rely on this tradition for their translations. Without this tradition it would be impossible to make a translation of the Torah. Without this tradition there would be anarchy in the translations and in the pronunciation of the words. Without this tradition it would be impossible to know what HaShem is telling us through His Torah.
Each word, in the Torah, can be read and made to mean almost anything, depending on the vowels one introduces. The first verse in chapter two of Genesis reads: “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished.” It can also be read as: “Thus the heavens and the earth were destroyed.” Thus we see that without an oral tradition to teach us the vowels and the sounds of the words, it would be impossible for us to understand their meaning.
* * *
What then is the oral law, the words of our Hakhamim? The Encyclopedia Britannica will give us some insights:
The Age Of The Tannaim (135-c. 200): The making of the Mishna
the promulgation of an official corpus represented a break with Rabbinic
Copyright (c) 1995 Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Our Sages teach us that each Hebrew letter has a particular meaning such that an unfamilar word can be understood by adding together the meanings of the letters. With this background it is instructive to note that the letters of the Mishna (vban) can be rearranged to form the word vnab (neshama which means soul). Thus we learn that the Mishna is the soul of the Written Torah. As the soul is intangible, so the Mishna is oral and intangible.
Mashiach is the written Torah, with the oral Torah being His soul. That is why it says that:
Yochanan (John) 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
This is the intangible part, the soul. The tangible part, the body is defined in:
Yochanan (John) 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
The Mishna is divided into six orders (sedarim), each order into tractates (massekhtot), and each tractate into chapters (peraqim). The six orders are: Zera'im, Mo'ed, Nashim, Neziqin, Qodashim, and Tohorot
Zera'im ("Seeds") consists of eleven tractates: Berakhot, Peah, Demai, Kilayim,
Shevi'it, Terumot, Ma'aserot, Ma'aser
sheni, Halla, 'Orla, and Bikkurim. Except for Berakhot
("Blessings"), which treats of daily prayers
and grace, this order deals with laws related to
Mo'ed ("Season" or "Festival") consists of twelve tractates: Shabbat, 'Eruvin, Pesachim, Sheqalim, Yoma, Succah, Betza, Rosh Hashana, Ta'anit, Megillah, Mo'ed katan, and Chaggigah. This order deals with ceremonies, rituals, observances, and prohibitions relating to special days of the year, including the Sabbath, holidays, and fast days. Since the half-shekel Temple contribution was collected on specified days, tractate Sheqalim, regarding this practice, is included.
Nashim ("Women") consists of seven tractates: Yevamot, Ketubbot, Nedarim, Nazir, Sota, Gittin, and Qiddushin. This order deals with laws concerning betrothal, marriage, sexual and financial relations between husband and wife, adultery, and divorce. Since Nazirite (ascetic) and other vows may affect marital relations, Nedarim ("Vows") and Nazir ("Nazirite") are included here.
Neziqin ("Damages") consists of ten tractates, the first three of which were originally considered one (the Bava qamma, Bava metzia, Bava batra, Sanhedrin, Makkot, Shevu’oth, 'Eduyyot, 'Avodah zara, Avot, and Horayot. This order deals with civil and criminal law concerning damages, theft, labour relations, usury, real estate, partnerships, tenant relations, inheritance, court composition, jurisdiction and testimony, erroneous decisions of the Sanhedrin, and capital and other physical punishments. Since idolatry, in the literal sense of worship or veneration of material images, is punishable by death, 'Avodah zara ("Idolatry") is included.
Avot ("Fathers"), commonly called "Ethics of the Fathers" in English, seems to have been included to teach a moral way of life that precludes the transgression of law.
Qodashim ("Sacred Things") consists
of eleven tractates: Zevahim, Menachoth, Hullin,
Bekhorot, 'Arakhin, Temura, Keretot, Me'ila, Tamid, Middot, and Qinnim. This
order incorporates some of the oldest Mishnaic portions. It treats of the
Tohorot ("Purifications") consists
of twelve tractates: Kelim, Ohalot, Nega'im,
Copyright (c) 1995 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. All Rights Reserved
The Age Of The Amoraim
The Making Of The Talmuds
promulgation of the Mishna initiated the period of the amoraim (lecturers or
interpreters), those teachers who made the Mishna
the basic text of legal exegesis. The curriculum now centered on the
elucidation of the text of the standard compilation, harmonization of its
decisions with extra-Mishnaic traditions recorded in other collections, and the
application of its principles to new situations. The records of these Amoraic
studies have been preserved in the form of two running
commentaries on the Mishna known as the Palestinian (or Jerusalem)
Talmud ("Teaching") and the Babylonian Talmud, reflecting the study
and legislation of the academies of the two principal
centers of Jewish concentration in the Roman and Persian
empires of that time. (Talmud is also the comprehensive term for the whole
collections, Palestinian and Babylonian, containing Mishna, commentaries, and
other matter. The principal agencies mediating the rabbinic way of life and
literature to the masses were the schools, ranging from the primary school to
the advanced "house of study" and more formal academy (yeshiva), the synagogue, and the Jewish courts, which not only
adjudicated litigations but also decided on ritual problems. Primary schools
had long been available in the villages and cities of
The oral law reaches back to Moshe (Moses) for it's beginnings:
Shemot (Exodus) 18:13-16 The next day Moshe took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law saw all that Moshe was doing for the people, he said, "What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?" Moshe answered him, "Because the people come to me to seek HaShem's will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of HaShem's decrees and laws."
Moshe is telling the people about HaShem's laws and decrees before the written Torah is given. The written Torah will be given in Shemot (Exodus) 20. That which Moshe began is made sure in the written Torah:
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 17:8-13 If cases come before your courts that are too difficult for you to judge--whether bloodshed, lawsuits or assaults--take them to the place HaShem your HaShem will choose. Go to the priests, who are Levites, and to the judge who is in office at that time. Inquire of them and they will give you the verdict. You must act according to the decisions they give you at the place HaShem will choose. Be careful to do everything they direct you to do. Act according to the law they teach you and the decisions they give you. Do not turn aside from what they tell you, to the right or to the left. The man who shows contempt for the judge or for the priest who stands ministering there to HaShem your HaShem must be put to death. You must purge the evil from Israel. All the people will hear and be afraid, and will not be contemptuous again.
That oral law which Moshe began, is perpetuated in the oral law delivered by the Levites and the judges. This oral law is literally the law from HaShem! Somehow, HaShem has guaranteed that what our Hakhamim (Rabbis) decide, is what HaShem has decided! Another put it very eloquently:
Many who have devoted themselves to the act of Talmud torah see the human voice engaged in study as a supplement, albeit a necessary one, to the divine voice in the text being studied. Even the oral law is envisioned as "divine" in the sense that its origins stem from the theophany at Sinai. On this reading the human voice serves merely as a vehicle or cipher for expressing the divine voice of Torah. Perhaps we should re-consider the differences between the divine and the human and, in doing so, make room for the divine in the human voice, that is, the divinity of the human voice as the voice of Torah. Once the human voice takes on a divine valence, even as an expression of human brokenness and frailty, it must be heard in the study house even if it comes from outside the study house. This is because, as I will argue, the voice of the human is not outside the text but embedded in the brokenness of the text that exists only in shards - the shattered tablets of the first covenant. These shattered tablets are not, as one might think, discarded, but are placed side by side with the Tablets of the Law and serve as its foundation ("the tablets and the shards of the broken tablets are placed in the Holy Ark"). What I will argue is that the human voice, when heard, makes the divine voice audible and, more strikingly, makes the divine voice understandable.
This description encapsulates Chazal’s (our Sages) understanding that our Hakhamim literally stand in the place of HaShem when they make their judgments.
Moshe is burdened day and night making Oral Law rulings, HaShem relieves this burden by setting up a council of 70 Elders who have the authority of Moshe.
Shemot (Exodus) 18:13-24 The next day Moshe took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law saw all that Moshe was doing for the people, he said, "What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?" Moshe answered him, "Because the people come to me to seek HaShem's will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of HaShem's decrees and laws." Moshe' father-in-law replied, "What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may HaShem be with you. You must be the people's representative before HaShem and bring their disputes to him. Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform. But select capable men from all the people--men who fear HaShem, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain--and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and HaShem so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied." Moshe listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said.
(Numbers) 11:16-17 HaShem said to Moshe: "Bring me seventy of
Bamidbar (Numbers) So Moshe went out and told the people what HaShem had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the Tent.
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 17:8-12 If cases come before your courts that are too difficult for you to judge--whether bloodshed, lawsuits or assaults--take them to the place HaShem your HaShem will choose. Go to the priests, who are Levites, and to the judge who is in office at that time. Inquire of them and they will give you the verdict. You must act according to the decisions they give you at the place HaShem will choose. Be careful to do everything they direct you to do. Act according to the law they teach you and the decisions they give you. Do not turn aside from what they tell you, to the right or to the left. The man who shows contempt for the judge or for the priest who stands ministering there to HaShem your HaShem must be put to death. You must purge the evil from Israel.
The Council of Elders replaces itself with a king. Under the seventy Elders, HaShem was king.
Shmuel (Samuel) 8:4-6 So all the elders of
Ezra-Nechemiah (Nehemiah) 7:25-28 And you, Nehemiah, in accordance with the wisdom of HaShem, which you possess, appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people of Trans-Euphrates--all who know the laws of HaShem. And you are to teach any who do not know them. Whoever does not obey the law of HaShem and the law of the king must surely be punished by death, banishment, confiscation of property, or imprisonment. Praise be to HaShem, the G-d of our fathers, who has put it into the king's heart to bring honor to the House of HaShem in Jerusalem in this way And who has extended his good favor to me before the king and his advisers and all the king's powerful officials. Because the hand of HaShem my G-d was on me, I took courage and gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.
(Nehemiah) 10:10-17 Then Nehemiah the priest stood up and said
to them, "You have been unfaithful; you have married
foreign women, adding to
At time of Yeshua the Sanhedrin still existed and Yeshua endorsed it:
Matitiyahu (Matthew) 5:21-22 "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.
Matitiyahu (Matthew) 23:2-3 "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moshe' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.
Note that Matt 23:3 is a paraphrase from:
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 17:9-10 Go to the priests, who are Levites, and to the judge who is in office at that time. Inquire of them and they will give you the verdict. You must act according to the decisions they give you at the place HaShem will choose. Be careful to do everything they direct you to do.
Yeshua gives Oral Law authority to his Talmidim, probably the 70, and they utilize it to make Halachic decisions (II Luqas (Acts) 15)
Matitiyahu (Matthew) 18:15-18 "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
Luqas (Luke) 10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.
Luqas (Acts) 15:1-2 Some men came down from Judea to
II Luqas (Acts) 15:19-21 “Wherefore my judgment is that we trouble not them which from among the Gentiles turn to God: but that we enjoin on them to abstain from the pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from blood: and that whatsoever they would not should be done to them ye do not to others. For Moses from generations of old has in every city them that proclaim him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”
Our halachic incisors who state new halachot in response to new situations are not adding to the Torah any more than state legislators are adding to the physical law when they make a law requiring certain safety standards concerning, for example, toxic waste dumps. The laws didn't exist 100 years ago because the situation didn't exist 100 years ago. But the fact that such laws would have to be made would have been known 100 (and more) years ago.
Bereshit (Genesis) 2:15-17 HaShem took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And HaShem commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."
Not only was this an oral command, but it also was a chok, a command without a reason, and for which we can not even deduce a reason. This first oral command declared all fruit to be kosher except the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Consider that ALL of the commands given By HaShem prior to Sinai, were all oral. This includes the command for the first Passover, the command to build Noah's ark, and all of the commands kept by Abraham:
Bereshit (Genesis) 26:5 Because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws."
Here we have Abraham keeping all of HaShem's laws, more than four hundred years before the written Torah was given!
To emphasize the requirement that we must have an oral law, I would like to give a few examples to illustrate that the Torah can not stand alone. There can be no sola scriptura!
Shemot (Exodus 25:8 And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.
9 According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.
And again in:
Shemot (Exodus) 25: 31 And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work shall the candlestick be made: his shaft, and his branches, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, shall be of the same. 32 And six branches shall come out of the sides of it; three branches of the candlestick out of the one side, and three branches of the candlestick out of the other side: 33 Three bowls made like unto almonds, with a knop and a flower in one branch; and three bowls made like almonds in the other branch, with a knop and a flower: so in the six branches that come out of the candlestick. 34 And in the candlestick shall be four bowls made like unto almonds, with their knops and their flowers. 35 And there shall be a knop under two branches of the same, and a knop under two branches of the same, and a knop under two branches of the same, according to the six branches that proceed out of the candlestick. 36 Their knops and their branches shall be of the same: all it shall be one beaten work of pure gold. 37 And thou shalt make the seven lamps thereof: and they shall light the lamps thereof, that they may give light over against it. 38 And the tongs thereof, and the snuffdishes thereof, shall be of pure gold. 39 Of a talent of pure gold shall he make it, with all these vessels. 40 And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount.
There would have to be an oral description given to the workmen if they were to produce the items according to the pattern. The written description in the Torah is not sufficient for reproduction of size and shape. This oral description is said to have been handed down to the next generation by the seventy elders.
Shemot (Exodus) 20:9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of HaShem thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:11 For in six days HaShem made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore HaShem blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
The problem, of course, is that the Torah does NOT define what work is. So, without an oral law, we do not know whether we can mow the lawn or tend our garden. Yet, with an oral law, we know that both are forbidden. The oral law defines work as:
The Thirty-nine Melachot (works) Forbidden on Shabbat
Shabbath 73a MISHNAH. THE PRIMARY LABOURS ARE FORTY LESS ONE, [VIZ.:] SOWING, PLOUGHING, REAPING, BINDING SHEAVES, THRESHING, WINNOWING, SELECTING, GRINDING, SIFTING, KNEADING, BAKING, SHEARING WOOL, BLEACHING, HACKLING, DYEING, SPINNING, STRETCHING THE THREADS, THE MAKING OF TWO MESHES, WEAVING TWO THREADS, DIVIDING TWO THREADS, TYING [KNOTTING] AND UNTYING, SEWING TWO STITCHES, TEARING IN ORDER TO SEW TWO STITCHES, CAPTURING A DEER, SLAUGHTERING, OR FLAYING, OR SALTING IT, CURING ITS HIDE, SCRAPING IT [OF ITS HAIR], CUTTING IT UP, WRITING TWO LETTERS, ERASING IN ORDER TO WRITE TWO LETTERS [OVER THE ERASURE], BUILDING, PULLING DOWN, EXTINGUISHING, KINDLING, STRIKING WITH A HAMMER, [AND] CARRYING OUT FROM ONE DOMAIN TO ANOTHER: THESE ARE THE FORTY PRIMARY LABOURS LESS ONE.
Thus we see that it is impossible to fulfill the requirements of the Torah without the oral law.
In the Prophets we see that HaShem acknowledges the oral law and explicitly restates it as a command:
Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) 17:21 Thus saith HaShem; Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem; 22 Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the sabbath day, neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers.
understand this pasuk, please recall that Yirmeyahu was written about 800 years
AFTER the Torah was given on
The Torah never commands us not to buy or sell on the Sabbath, however, it was obviously a prohibition in:
(Nehemiah) 13:15-22 In those days I saw men in Judah treading winepresses on the Sabbath
and bringing in grain and loading it on donkeys,
together with wine, grapes, figs and all other
kinds of loads. And they were bringing all this into
In this next passage we see some women preparing spices and resting on the Sabbath. The Torah does not forbid us to prepare a body for burial on the Sabbath; so, why do these women rest?
Luqas (Luke) 23:56 - 24:1 Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment. On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.
Baba Bathra 100b An objection was raised: [It has been stated that] they said unto him, ‘If so, such [procedure] should be permitted on the Sabbath also’. Now, if it is said [that the ceremonial is to take place] in the graveyard and on the first day [only], [for] what [purpose] is the graveyard required on the Sabbath? — In [the case of] a town which is near a graveyard [and the dead] was brought [to burial] at twilight.
Shabbath 73a MISHNAH. THE PRIMARY LABOURS ARE FORTY LESS ONE, [VIZ.:] SOWING, PLOUGHING, REAPING, BINDING SHEAVES, THRESHING, WINNOWING, SELECTING, GRINDING, SIFTING, KNEADING, BAKING, SHEARING WOOL, BLEACHING, HACKLING, DYEING, SPINNING, STRETCHING THE THREADS, THE MAKING OF TWO MESHES, WEAVING TWO THREADS, DIVIDING TWO THREADS,TYING [KNOTTING] AND UNTYING, SEWING TWO STITCHES, TEARING IN ORDER TO SEW TWO STITCHES, CAPTURING A DEER, SLAUGHTERING, OR FLAYING, OR SALTING IT, CURING ITS HIDE, SCRAPING IT [OF ITS HAIR], CUTTING IT UP, WRITING TWO LETTERS, ERASING IN ORDER TO WRITE TWO LETTERS [OVER THE ERASURE], BUILDING, PULLING DOWN, EXTINGUISHING, KINDLING, STRIKING WITH A HAMMER, [AND] CARRYING OUT FROM ONE DOMAIN TO ANOTHER: THESE ARE THE FORTY PRIMARY LABOURS LESS ONE.
A Sabbath day's journey is not found in the Tanach, yet it is clearly part of the oral law:
Luqas (Acts) 1:4-12 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this
command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the
gift my Father promised, which you have heard me
speak about. For Yochanan (John) baptized with water,
but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." So when they
met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore
the kingdom to
Eiruvin 42a R. Nahman stated in the name of Shmuel: If a man was walking and did not know where the Sabbath limit ended he may walk a distance of two thousand moderate paces; and this constitutes for him the Sabbath limit.
The Torah tells us something to do without giving us a definitive time to do it:
Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:9-16 HaShem said to Moshe, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. He is to wave the sheaf before HaShem so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath. On the day you wave the sheaf, you must sacrifice as a burnt offering to HaShem a lamb a year old without defect, Together with its grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil--an offering made to HaShem by fire, a pleasing aroma--and its drink offering of a quarter of a hin of wine. You must not eat any bread, or roasted or new grain, until the very day you bring this offering to your HaShem. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. "'From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to HaShem.
Notice that we are to wave this grain, but it does not tell us what grain. Nowhere in Torah are we ever told what grain to wave. Further, the Torah does not tell us which Sabbath is the beginning of our count! This has led to the classic argument of the Pharisees and the Sadducees over the meaning of this enigmatic command. The Sadducees say that it means that we begin on Sunday during Passover week. The Pharisees tell us to start on the day after Passover, a high Sabbath. Many Christians follow the Sadducees, but nearly all Jews follow the Pharisees. At any rate, both positions have to have some reason for what they do. The Pharisaic position relies on the oral law.
Yochanan (John) 7:21-23 Yeshua said to them, "I did one miracle, and you are all astonished. Yet, because Moshe gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moshe, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a child on the Sabbath. Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moshe may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath?
The Oral law says:
There are four fast days: Tammuz 17, Av 9, Tishri 3, and Tevet 10. The entire Talmud tractate of Taanit contains the details of these fasts. The Tanach records these fasts as though they were contained in the written Torah:
Zechariah 7:2-5 The people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-Melech, together with their men, to entreat HaShem By asking the priests of the house of G-d Almighty and the prophets, "Should I mourn and fast in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?" Then the word of HaShem Almighty came to me: "Ask all the people of the land and the priests, 'When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted?
None of these four fasts is mentioned anywhere in the Tanach, except here. Yet no one disputes that they are required to fast on these four days, because they understand the validity of the oral law.
This is what HaShem Almighty says:
"The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become
joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for
Thus we see that the oral law is accepted by the Jewish people and that these fasts are assumed to be true by the prophet Zechariah.
Now lets look at our most solemn fast of the year. We see this fast in the Nazarean Codicil:
Luqas (Acts) 27:5-10 When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and
Pamphylia, we landed at
The Torah never commands a fast. How then do we know that there is a day of fasting which is so great as to be known as “the fast”? The Torah says:
Vayikra (Leviticus) 16:29 "This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work--whether native-born or an alien living among you--
Bamidbar (Numbers) 29:7 "'On the tenth day of this seventh month hold a sacred assembly. You must deny yourselves and do no work.
The Mishna says:
It is the Torah Shebaal Peh, the Oral Torah that supplies the details. These are but a few examples of why, without the Oral Law, the Written Torah has no meaning.
Moshe spent those forty days and nights receiving the Oral Law, in its entirety, with all the details and nuances, so that in future generations, should there be an outstanding scholar who might extrapolate and infer from what he has received by the Mesorah, (the transmission of the Torah),.....that, too, was what Moshe learned on Sinai from HaShem.
The Torah commands the Jewish people to perform a number of different commandments, the violation of which could lead to severe punishment, including a death penalty. Yet, even with the severity of laws such as the refraining from work on the Sabbath, no details are given as to the practical applications of correct compliance. This can be problematic. If the law does not stipulate what is permitted and what is forbidden, how can it possibly be observed? Already in the days of Moshe it is recorded [Bamidbar (Numbers).15:32-36] that a man, who went out to pick up sticks on the Sabbath, was punished by stoning. This is quite a sentence. Where do we read in the Torah that the ‘work’ that this man did was forbidden? We don’t find it. The Torah doesn’t say it. Nonetheless, when he performed his forbidden deed it was recognized by everyone as a violation of the Sabbath. He was imprisoned awaiting response to an inquiry to HaShem as to what should be this man’s punishment. The penalty came back and it was most severe. This man DIED for disobeying the oral law, and the death penalty was explicitly handed down by HaShem!
In the Torah there are times that the word "manner" means "kind" or "like," as "no manner of blood" "any manner of beast" etc. There are other times when this word means "according to the prescribed custom." Lets look at this in the Torah:
Shemot (Exodus) 21:7 And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. 8 If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her. 9 And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. 10 If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.
What is the "manner of daughters"?
Vayikra (Leviticus) 5:7 And if he be not able to bring a lamb, then he shall bring for his trespass, which he hath committed, two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, unto HaShem; one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering.8 And he shall bring them unto the priest, who shall offer that which is for the sin offering first, and wring off his head from his neck, but shall not divide it asunder: 9 And he shall sprinkle of the blood of the sin offering upon the side of the altar; and the rest of the blood shall be wrung out at the bottom of the altar: it is a sin offering. 10 And he shall offer the second for a burnt offering, according to the manner: and the priest shall make an atonement for him for his sin which he hath sinned, and it shall be forgiven him.
Vayikra (Leviticus) 9:8 Aaron therefore went unto the altar, and slew the calf of the sin offering, which was for himself. 9 And the sons of Aaron brought the blood unto him: and he dipped his finger in the blood, and put it upon the horns of the altar, and poured out the blood at the bottom of the altar: 10 But the fat, and the kidneys, and the caul above the liver of the sin offering, he burnt upon the altar; as HaShem commanded Moshe. 11 And the flesh and the hide he burnt with fire without the camp. 12 And he slew the burnt offering; and Aaron’s sons presented unto him the blood, which he sprinkled round about upon the altar. 13 And they presented the burnt offering unto him, with the pieces thereof, and the head: and he burnt them upon the altar. 14 And he did wash the inwards and the legs, and burnt them upon the burnt offering on the altar. 15 And he brought the people’s offering, and took the goat, which was the sin offering for the people, and slew it, and offered it for sin, as the first. 16 And he brought the burnt offering, and offered it according to the manner. 17 And he brought the meat offering, and took an handful thereof, and burnt it upon the altar, beside the burnt sacrifice of the morning.
In just what manner was the burnt offering offered? Only the oral law contains the correct answer. And again we see same wording in:
Bamidbar (Numbers) 9:14 And if a stranger shall sojourn among you, and will keep the passover unto HaShem; according to the ordinance of the passover, and according to the manner thereof, so shall he do: ye shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger, and for him that was born in the land.
I have already explained that we have a record of the ordinance but not of the "manner." This clearly marks the presence of an oral law which was clearly understood by Moshe and the priests in the Temple.
The sin of ignorance has its manner:
Bamidbar (Numbers) 15:22 And if ye have erred, and not observed all these commandments, which HaShem hath spoken unto Moshe, 23 Even all that HaShem hath commanded you by the hand of Moshe, from the day that HaShem commanded Moshe, and henceforward among your generations; 24 Then it shall be, if ought be committed by ignorance without the knowledge of the congregation, that all the congregation shall offer one young bullock for a burnt offering, for a sweet savour unto HaShem, with his meat offering, and his drink offering, according to the manner, and one kid of the goats for a sin offering.
The offering for the sin of ignorance has its own manner for the “drink offering, according to the manner." And in Num. 29 there is a different manner for a great many different kinds of offerings. What was the manner or prescribed form for the offering of these sacrifices? Some "manners" of course are given but not all. All of these offerings and their manner was given to Moshe and from Moshe they were given to the priests. Without such an authoritative transmission, we would be left in a lurch. In fact, even this transmission is detailed in the oral law:
Avot Chapter 1 MISHNAH 1. MOSES RECEIVED THE TORAH AT SINAI AND TRANSMITTED IT TO JOSHUA, JOSHUA TO THE ELDERS, AND THE ELDERS TO THE PROPHETS, AND THE PROPHETS TO THE MEN OF THE GREAT SYNAGOGUE.
There is an interchange of terms in the Mishna. It speaks of Moshe “receiving” and then “transmitting” to Yahoshua (Joshua), to the elders, the prophets, etc. Why the change in format? It could have stated either that each one “received” or each generation transmitted.
1. The message here is that the Torah that Moshe received from HaShem, by its very nature of having been given by HaShem, is infinite in quantity and depth. No human can fathom its intensity. Notwithstanding what HaShem was prepared to transmit to Moshe, Moshe could only receive what he, as a human, was capable of receiving. Having received the Torah from HaShem, Moshe could then transmit it to the next generation, ad infinitum.
The Torah recognizes the finiteness of man and suggests that the “understanding” of Torah is something that each individual will attain in different measure according to his capacity. The fulfillment of the mitzvot of the Torah, however, are independent of a complete understanding of their infinite nature and value. Can a finite mind comprehend the infinite wisdom?
2. The term kibayl, received suggests something which he earned. Indeed, this is hinted at by the use of this word. There is a famous Midrash which describes Moshe's ascent onto Mt Sinai, and engaging in a debate with the angels about HaShem's granting the Torah to Israel. The angels argued before HaShem: Who is Man that you find him worthy to receive such a Divine document? How can You give such a Go-dly document to flesh and blood?
Moshe parried their argument: Do you have need of a Torah? You are angels; by definition, you have no desires, no lusts no avarices. What would you do with the commands 'Do not steal', 'Do not murder', 'Do not commit adultery'? YOU don’t need Torah! The function of Torah is to purify man and to elevate him out of the flesh and blood mentality. The function of Torah is to show man that his soul is a part of HaShem, and to strive for communion with HaShem, by living in an ethical and G-d fearing way.
Moshe won! He “received” the Torah.
The two verse-fragments “This month shall be for you the first of all the months” and “Observe the month of Spring” (Devarim 16:1), determine all the laws of the festivals, including the paschal lamb, and the Day of Atonement. In his commentary on the former verse, Ibn Ezra ponders this. “The Torah did not explain how from here the years and months are set, and if [Nissan] does not fall in Spring, then what are we to do? This is very obscure; how the Torah explained in detail all the afflictions of the metzora’, which pertain to a single individual and only in specific periods, while bypassing the matter of the festivals, which all Israel must keep, and whereby the punishment for eating leavened food on Passover and eating on Yom Kippur is most severe (‘cutting off’)”.
All the specifications concerning the sanctification of the new month are preserved in the oral law. On these two verse-fragments, Rambam wrote 19 chapters in the Laws of Sanctifying the New Moon, all via the Oral Law. The Mishna says:
Rosh Hashanah chapter 1, Mishna 1: There are four new years. On the first of Nisan is the New Year for Kings and for Festivals; on the first of Elul is the New Year for the tithe of animals - R.Eliezer and R.Simon say, on the first of Tishri - on the first of Tishri is the New Year for the years, for Sabbatical Years, for Jubilee Years, for planting and for vegetables; and on the first of Shevat is the New Year for Trees, according to the view of the School of Shammai, but the School of Hillel say, On the fifteenth thereof.
The Torah says: 'This (zeh) month (Nisan) is the head of all the months'.
When HaShem uses the term 'zeh', “this”, which is a demonstrative word, what does he refer to? How did Moshe know the basis for the calculation of the month? What determined it? It is nowhere written in the Torah. It is written in the oral Torah:
Rosh HaShana 20a Is all this correct, seeing that Rabbah b. Shmuel has learnt: I might think that just as the year is prolonged in case of emergency, so the month may be prolonged to meet an emergency; therefore it says, This month is for you the head of months, [which implies], See [the moon] like this and then sanctify! Raba replied: There is no contradiction: in the once case we speak of prolonging the month, in the other of sanctifying it, and what [the above teaching] meant is this: I might say that just as the year is prolonged to meet an emergency, so the month may be sanctified to meet an emergency, therefore it says, ‘This month is for you’; See [the moon] like this, and then sanctify. This is illustrated by the dictum of R. Joshua b. Levi: ‘Witnesses can be intimidated [to withhold the report of] the new moon which has appeared in its due time in order that the month may be prolonged, but they may not be intimidated into reporting the new moon which has not appeared in its proper time in order that a New Moon may be sanctified [on the thirtieth]’. Is this so? Did not R. Judah the Prince send to R. Ammi a message saying: Know that when R. Johanan was alive he used to teach us that witnesses may be intimidated into reporting [on the thirtieth day] the new moon which has not appeared in its due time, in order that the New Moon may be sanctified, and even though they have not seen it they may say, We have seen it? — Abaye said: There is no contradiction: the one rule holds good for Nisan and Tishri, the other for the other months of the year. Raba said: This teaching which Rabbah b. Samuel learnt follows the ‘Others’, as it has been taught: ‘Others say that between one Pentecost and another and between one New Year and ‘another there are always four days [of the week] difference, or, if it was a leap year, five’. R. Dimi from Nehardea reports the teaching in the reverse form: ‘Witnesses can be intimidated to report [on the thirtieth day] the appearance of the moon which has not appeared in its proper time, in order that the month may be sanctified, but they may not be intimidated to withhold the report of the new moon which has been seen at its proper time in order that the month may be prolonged. What is the reason?
HaShem commanded Moshe to:
HaShem said to Moshe and Aaron in
Yechezkel (Ezekiel) 40:1 In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth of the month, in the fourteenth year after the fall of the city--on that very day the hand of HaShem was upon me and he took me there.
This verse is referring to Yom HaKippurim which is the tenth day of the seventh month. In Shemot (Exodus) 12, HaShem says that the first month is the beginning of the year. The Mishna then clears up the confusion by indicating that there are four new years. (In the Jubilee year the slaves stopped work on the first day of the seventh month and spent the ten days packing, while the owners spent ten days getting together the wealth for the slaves.)
Having multiple new years is something that we are all familiar with. We have a new year for school, in September; a new year for counting years, in January; and a new year for fiscal matters set whenever we want it to be.
Amos 8:3-7 "In that day," declares the Sovereign HaShem, "the songs in the temple will turn to wailing. Many, many bodies--flung everywhere! Silence!" Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land, Saying, "When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?"--skimping the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, Buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat. HaShem has sworn by the Pride of Jacob: "I will never forget anything they have done.
The Torah has clear laws to define divorce:
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 24:1-4 If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, And if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, And her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, Then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of HaShem. Do not bring sin upon the land HaShem your G-d is giving you as an inheritance.
There are no rules, however, to define marriage which is a prerequisite to divorce. The Mishna gives us some insights into marriage:
Taanit 4, Mishna 8: Rabban Simon ben Gamaliel said, There were no happier days for Israel
than the fifteenth of Av and the Day
of Atonement, for on them the daughters of Jerusalem
used to go out dressed in white garments which were borrowed in order not to
shame the one who had none. All the garments required immersion.
And the daughters of
The Tanach records one of these events as though it were law:
(Judges) 21:15-22 The people grieved for Benjamin, because HaShem had made a gap in the tribes
of Israel. And the elders of the assembly said,
"With the women of Benjamin destroyed, how shall we provide wives for the
men who are left? The Benjamite survivors must have heirs," they said,
"so that a tribe of
The story of Ruth is read at the time of the giving of the Torah so that we might know that the written Torah and the oral Torah, are together one Torah, and one is not possible without the other. For David, the anointed of HaShem unto all generations, was descended from a Moabite woman, and his legitimacy depended on the oral Torah, which declared that only a Moabite man was prohibited from entering the fold of Israel, but not a Moabite woman. On the foundations of the House of David, the whole people of Israel is supported. All this could only come about through the authority of the oral Torah.
The Talmud gives us some insight into the problem that a Moabite brings:
Yevamot 77b As, however, Doeg submitted to them all those objections and they eventually remained silent, he desired to make a public announcement against him. Presently [an incident occurred]: Now Amasa was the son of a man, whose name was Ithna the Israelite, that went in to Abigal the daughter of Nahash, but elsewhere it is written, Jether the Ishmaelite! This teaches, Raba explained, that he girded on his sword like an Ishmaelite and exclaimed, ‘Whosoever will not obey the following halachah will be stabbed with the sword; I have this tradition from the Beth din of Samuel the Ramathite: An Ammonite but not an Ammonitess; A Moabite, but not a Moabitess’! Could he, however, be trusted? Surely R. Abba stated in the name of Rab: Whenever a learned man gives directions on a point of law, and such a point comes up [for a practical decision], he is obeyed if his statement was made before the event; but if it was not so made he is not obeyed! Here the case was different, since Samuel and his Beth din were still living.
Yevamot 69a ‘R. Simeon b. Gamaliel said: Whenever you may marry his daughter, you may marry his widow etc.’ What is the practical difference between R. Jose and R. Simeon b. Gamaliel? ‘Ullah replied: The difference between them is the case of an Ammonite and a Moabite proselyte. And both of them derived their respective views from none other than [the disqualification] of a widow by a High Priest. R. Jose reasons thus: As with a High Priest who married a widow, his seed is disqualified and he himself causes disqualification, so does any other person cause disqualification only when his seed is disqualified. R. Simeon b. Gamaliel, however, reasons thus: As with a High Priest who married, a widow, all his seed is disqualified and he himself causes disqualification, so does only such a person cause disqualification, all whose seed is disqualified; an Ammonite and a Moabite are, therefore, excluded since not all their seed are disqualified. For a Master said: An Ammonite, but not an Ammonitess; a Moabite, but not a Moabitess.
Yevamot 76b Whence are these laws inferred? — R. Johanan replied: Scripture stated, And when Sail saw David go forth against the Philistine, he said into Abner, the captain of the host: ‘Abner, whose son is this youth’? And Abner said: ‘As thy soul liveth, O King, I cannot tell’. But did he not know him? Surely it is written, And he loved him greatly; and he became his armour bearer! He rather made the inquiry concerning his father. But did he not know his father? Surely it is written, And the man was an old man in the days of Saul, stricken in years among them; and Rab or, it might be said, R. Abba, stated that this referred to the father of David, Jesse, who came in with an army and went out with an army! — It is this that Saul meant: Whether he descended from Perez, or from Zerah. If he descended from Perez he would be king, for a king breaks for himself a way and no one can hinder him. If, however, he is descended from Zerah he would only be an important man. What is the reason why he gave instructions that enquiry be made concerning him? Because it is written, And Saul clad David with his apparel. being of the same size as his, and about Saul it is written, From his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people. Doeg the Edomite then said to him, ‘Instead of enquiring whether he is fit to be king or not, enquire rather whether he is permitted to enter the assembly or not’! ‘What is the reason’? ‘Because he is descended from Ruth the Moabitess’. Said Abner to him, ‘We learned: An Ammonite, but not an Ammonitess; A Moabite, but not a Moabitess! But in that case a bastard would’ imply: But not a female bastard?’ — ‘It is written mamzer [Which implies] anyone objectionable’. ‘Does then Egyptian exclude the Egyptian woman’? — ‘Here it is different, since the reason for the Scriptural text is explicitly stated: Because they met you not with bread and with water; it is customary for a man to meet [wayfarers]; It is not, however, customary for a woman to meet [them]’.
The story of Ruth also contains the application of the oral law to the Kinsman-Redeemer. Lets first read what the written Torah says about the Kinsman-Redeemer:
(Deuteronomy) 25:5-10 If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son,
his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband's brother shall take
her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a
brother-in-law to her. The first son she bears shall carry on the name of
the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel. However, if a man does not want to marry his
brother's wife, she shall go to the elders at the town gate and say, "My
husband's brother refuses to carry on his brother's name
The written Torah relates the Kinsman-Redeemer to a "brother" only. We find the application of the oral law in Ruth:
Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat there. When the
kinsman-redeemer he had mentioned came along, Boaz said, "Come over here,
my friend, and sit down." So he went over and sat down. Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and said, "Sit
here," and they did so. Then he said to the kinsman-redeemer, "Naomi,
who has come back from
The application of the oral law shows that any relative can perform the act that the Torah specifies only a brother can perform.
The existence of the oral tradition is alluded to in the Written Law in numerous places. For example: The Torah says: (Deut. 12:20) "When HaShem expands your borders as He promised you, and your natural desire to eat meat asserts itself, so that you say; 'I wish to eat meat', you may eat as much meat as you wish, you need only slaughter your cattle and small animals, in the manner I have commanded you." Nowhere in the Written Torah is such a manner described. So what is the manner in which we are supposed to slaughter cattle?
Rashi puts it this way:
you may slaughter... as I have commanded you We learn [from here] that there is a commandment regarding slaughtering, how one must slaughter. [Since this commandment is not written in the Torah we deduce that] these are the laws of ritual slaughtering given orally to Moses on [Mount] Sinai.
Though the laws of slaughtering cattle are not explained in the Written Torah, they are described in detail in the Oral Law. The written law can understood ONLY in conjunction with the oral law.
The Torah says:
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 12:21 If the place where HaShem your HaShem chooses to put his Name is too far away from you, you may slaughter animals, as I commanded you, from the herds and flocks HaShem has given you, as I have commanded you, and in your own towns you may eat as much of them as you want.
'V'za-vach-ta ka-ahser tsee-vee-see-cha'
'You shall slaughter <the animal> as I commanded you'.
Nowhere in the Torah do we find HaShem commanding Moshe about the laws of Shechita (slaughter).
Q. Why does the Torah specify that the laws of Shmita were taught on Har Sinai?
A. To teach us that just as Shmita was taught in detail on Har Sinai, so too, all the mitzvot were taught in detail on Har Sinai.
The Jewish Encyclopedia, on the oral law, lends us some insight into this oral law:
The law that a shochet's knife must be examined before slaughtering is derived from the Book of Joshua, but found only in the oral law.
Nowhere does the Torah tell us when the water was created. He told us that He separated it, but, He never tells us when He created it. The oral law tells us when the water was created.
The Torah says:
'Ayin ta-chas ayin. Shayne ta-chas shayne'
'An eye for an eye. a tooth for a tooth'
No Jewish court has ever blinded or otherwise inflicted physical injury as revenge or retribution. The phrase is interpreted to mean what the perpetrator of a crime deserves, not what he should get.
Torah Law at ALL TIMES meant that as monetary compensation; never literally. Where can see find that in the written Torah? It's not there.
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 8:10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise HaShem your HaShem for the good land he has given you.
Yet, notice what happens:
Luqas (Luke) 24:30-31 And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed [it], and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.
The oral law commands us to bless HaShem, for our food, before we eat:
Berachot 33a R. AKIBA SAYS: HE SAYS IT AS A FOURTH BLESSING, etc. R. Shaman b. Abba said to R. Johanan: Let us see: It was the Men of the Great Synagogue who instituted for Israel blessings and prayers, sanctifications and Havdallah.
Yeshua, therefore, followed that oral law.
The Torah says:
Where is the source of how to build the succah, it's height, its size, the acceptable materials that may be used and the definition of the essential parts of the succah? The Written Torah is silent on all this, and yet every Jew knows what a succah should look like.
The Torah says:
Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:40 and ye have taken to yourselves on the first day the fruit of a beautiful tree, branches of palms, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of a brook, and have rejoiced before HaShem your God seven days.
'And you shall take for yourselves the fruit of a beautiful tree’
What fruit does the Torah mean? Where is there any reference in the Torah to the citron, the etrog? There is none, and yet Jews the world over know what an etrog is!
Rabbis have taught, ‘The fruit of a goodly tree’ implies a tree the taste of
whose ‘fruit’ and ‘wood’ is the same. Say then that it is the etrog. Might it
not be said to be pepper, as it has been taught. ‘R. Meir used to say, From the
implication of the text, And ye have planted all manner of trees, do I not know
that the reference is to a tree for food? What then
does Scripture teach by the [next phrase] "for food"? [That the
reference is to] a tree the taste of whose fruit and wood is the same. Say then
that it is pepper. This is to teach you that the pepper tree is subject to the
law of ‘orlah and that the
Rabbi said, Read not hadar but ha-dir; just as the stable contains large and small [animals], perfect and blemished ones, so also [the fruit spoken of must have] large and small, perfect and blemished. Have not then other fruits large and small, perfect and blemished? — It is this rather that was meant: Before the small ones come, the large are still existent [on the tree].
R. Abbahu said, Read not hadar, but ha-dar, a fruit which remains upon its tree from year to year. Ben ‘Azzai said, Read not hadar, but hudor for in Greek water is called hudor. Now what fruit is it that grows by every water? Say, of course, it is the etrog.
Throughout the Nazarean Codicil we NEVER see the proper name of HaShem used. This is in keeping with the oral law:
Pesachim 50a And HaShem shall be King over all the earth; in that day shall HaShem be One, and His name one: is He then not One now? — Said R. Aha b. Hanina: Not like this world is the future world. In this world, for good tidings one says, ‘He is good, and He doeth good’, while for evil tidings he says, ‘Blessed be the true Judge’; [whereas] in the future world it shall be only ‘He is good and He doeth good’. ‘And His name one’: what does ‘one’ mean? Is then now His name not one? — Said R. Nahman b. Isaac; Not like this world is the future world. [In] this world [His name] is written with a yod he and read as alef daleth; but in the future world it shall all be one: it shall be written with yod he and read as yod he. Now, Raba thought of lecturing it at the session, [whereupon] a certain old man said to him, It is written, le'alem. R. Abina pointed out a contradiction: It is written, this is my name, to be hidden; [and it is also written], and this is my memorial unto all generations? The Holy One, blessed be He, said: Not as I [i.e., My name] and written am I read: I am written with a yod he, while I am read as alef daleth.
Rosh HaShana 18b HaShem's name by the Israelites, and when the Government of the Hasmoneans became strong and defeated them, they ordained that they should mention the name of HaShem even on bonds, and they used to write thus: ‘In the year So-and-so of Johanan, High Priest to the Most High HaShem’, and when the Sages heard of it they said, ‘To-morrow this man will pay his debt and the bond will be thrown on a dunghill’, and they stopped them, and they made that day a feast day. Now if you maintain that the Megillat Ta’anit has been annulled, [is it possible that] while the former [prohibitions of fasting] have been annulled, new ones should be added? — With what are we here dealing? With the period when the Temple was still standing
Kiddushin 40a R. Abbahu said on R. Hanina's authority: Better had a man secretly transgress than publicly profane HaShem's name, for it is said: As for you, O house of Israel, thus saith HaShem: Go ye, serve every one his idols, and hereafter also, if ye will not hearken unto me: but my holy name shall ye not profane.
2171 euche, yoo-khay'; from 2172; prop. a wish, expressed as a petition to HaShem, or in votive obligation:-prayer, vow.
This Greek word "euche" is properly translated "vow". I have heard a rumor that the oral law indicates that a Nazirite vow was taken to beseech HaShem to cure someone. Consider the following verses:
Yaaqov (James) 5:14-15 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of HaShem. And the vow of faith will make the sick person well; HaShem will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.
There are only two other places in the Nazarean Codicil where we find this word:
Luqas (Acts) Paul stayed on in
II Luqas (Acts) 21:19-25 Paul greeted them and reported in detail what HaShem had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard this, they praised HaShem. Then they said to Paul: "You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moshe, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, So do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law.
Note that this vow (Nazirite) involved cutting the hair. Additionally, it also involved living according to the oral law (custom). In this pasuk, Yaaqov is showing Hakham Shaul how to clearly prove that he obeys Moshe AND the oral law. Hakham Shaul goes on to pay the vow and thereby prove that he kept the Torah and the oral law!
Chanukah is a Rabbinic feast with an historical account in the apocryphal books of first and second Maccabees. There is no mention of this feast in the Tanach, yet Yeshua observed Chanukah. Clearly, Yeshua observed the oral law:
The observing and celebrating of Chanukah is based solely on the oral law as delivered by our judges. Yet, Jews worldwide, for two millenniums have faithfully carried out the decree of the judges. It should be noted that we have an accurate written record of this oral law in:
1 Maccabees 4:58-59 Then Judah, his brothers, and the whole congregation of Israel decreed that the rededication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness at the same season each year, for eight days, beginning on the twenty-fifth of Kislev.
It is customary to place the chanukiyah (Chanukah menorah) where it's lights will be visible from the outside.
Many folks see Yeshua’s condemnation of the hearts of some Pharisees and Scribes, as a condemnation of the whole oral law. Nothing could be further from the truth. Note the word SOME in the following passage. Note, carefully, what Yeshua actually condemned:
Marqos (Mark) 7:1 Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. 2 And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. 3 For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. 4 And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables. 5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? 6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. 9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.
Here we see that SOME of Yeshua’s talmidim did not properly wash their hands, as prescribed by the oral law. This suggests that MOST of His Talmidim DID wash their hands before they ate bread. So why did SOME not wash? Perhaps we could explain it as the situation of those who are newly observant, or those who were Gentiles and NOT required to wash their hands, or it could be simple forgetfulness. I personally suggests that they were Gentiles who were not obligated. In Yeshua’s response we see Him ignoring their complaint entirely! In fact, He castigates them for their additional strictness that was not required by the oral law, and in doing so, they ignored what was Torah, and a weighty matter at that. In short, it appears that they were picking on others to find fault with Yeshua, whilst they themselves were deficient. Never the less, Yeshua AND MOST of His talmidim DID wash their hands before they ate bread! Yeshua and MOST of His Talmidim did observe the oral law.
The following chart comes from the document, "Not Subject to the Law of God?" found at www.yashanet.com/library/underlaw.htm. It shows that rather than teaching contrary to the Pharisees (a common misconception) Yeshua supported much of what they taught, as he often quoted from the Mishnah (the early portion of the Talmud) which is an entirely Pharisaic document.
Teachings of YESHUA the Pharisee (Summaries in italics)
TALMUDIC Teachings of the Pharisees
(Summaries in italics)
The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. - Mark 2:27
Rabbi Jonathan ben Joseph said: For it is holy unto you; I.e., it [the Sabbath] is committed to your hands, not you to its hands. - Talmud: Yoma 85b
Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. - Matthew 25:45
One who betrays his fellow, it is as if he has betrayed God. - Tosefta Sh'vuot, ch. 3
Insulting someone is like murder.- Matthew 5:21-22
He who publicly shames his neighbour is as though he shed blood.- Talmud: Bava Mezia 58b
But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. - Matthew 5:28
One who gazes lustfully upon
the small finger of a married woman, it is as
if he has committed adultery with her.-
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. - Matthew 5:45
Rabbi Abbahu said: The day when rain fails is greater than [the day of] the Revival of the Dead, for the Revival of the Dead is for the righteous only whereas rain is both for the righteous and for the wicked - Talmud: Taanit 7a
Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. - Matthew 6:1
In the case of the recital of the Shema’, since everybody else recites, and he also recites, it does not look like showing off on his part; but in the case of the month of Ab, since everybody else does work and he does no work, it looks like showing off.- Talmud: Berachot 17b
But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth. - Matthew 6:3
What kind of charity is that which delivers a man from an unnatural death? When a man gives without knowing to whom he gives. and the beggar receives without knowing from whom he receives. - Talmud: Bava Batra 10a - 10b
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.- Matthew 6:7
If one draws out his prayer and expects therefore its fulfilment, he will in the end suffer vexation of heart, as it says, Hope deferred maketh the heart sick. - Talmud: Berachot 55a
Do not worry about where your food will come from tomorrow, or your drink. - Matthew 6:25-31
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. - Matthew 6:34
A parable: [They were] like a man who was kept in prison and people told him: Tomorrow, they will release you from the prison and give you plenty of money. And he answered them: I pray of you, let me go free today and I shall ask nothing more! - Talmud: Berachot 9b
Let your Yes be Yes and your No be No. - Matthew 5:34-37
A righteous yes is a Yes; a righteous no is No. - Talmud: Bava Batra 49b
Let your yes be yes, and your no be no. --R. Abaye, Baba Metzia 49a
At that time Yeshua answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. - Matthew 11:25
Rabbi Johanan said: Since the Temple was destroyed, prophecy has been taken from prophets and given to fools and children. - Talmud: Bava Batra 12b
And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. - Matthew 5:29-30
Come and hear what was taught: Rabbi Tarfon said, ‘If his hand touched the membrum let his hand be cut off upon his belly’. ‘But’, they said to him, ‘would not his belly be split’? ‘It is preferable’, he replied, ‘that his belly shall be split rather than that he should go down into the pit of destruction’. - Talmud: Niddah 13b
But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Mashiach; and all ye are brethren. - Matthew 23:8
Shemaiah used to say: love work, hate acting the superior, and do not bring thyself to the knowledge of the ruling authority. - Mishnah: Avot 1:10
Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. - Matthew 24:44
Even as R. Zera, who, whenever he chanced upon scholars engaged thereon [I.e., in calculating the time of the Mashiach's coming], would say to them: I beg of you, do not postpone it, for it has been taught: Three come unawares: Mashiach, a found article and a scorpion. - Talmud: Sanhedrin 97a
Yeshua taught in a parable that they can please the king (God) by pleasing one another. - Matthew 25:40
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. - Matthew 25:40
Rabbi simeon said: if three have eaten at one table and have not spoken thereat words of torah, [it is] as if they had eaten sacrifices [offered] to the dead, for [of such persons] it is said, for all tables are full of filthy vomit, [they are] without the All-Present. But, if three have eaten at one table, and have spoken thereat words of torah, [it is] as if they had eaten at the table of the All-Present, blessed be he, as it is said, this is the table before HaShem. - Mishnah: Avot 3:3
Love your enemy. - Matthew 5:43
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; - Matthew 5:43
They who are insulted but insult not back; who hear themselves reproached but answer not; who serve out of love and rejoice in their affliction--of them it is written in Scripture: They that love God are as the going forth of the sun in its might. - Talmud: Yoma 23a, Gitin 36b, Shabat 88b
For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. - Matthew 22:23-30
There will be no marital union in the world to come. - Ma'asrot 4:5-6
Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. - Matthew 5:23-24
If a man said, "I will sin and repent, and sin again and repent", he will be given no chance to repent. [If he said,] "I will sin and the Day of Atonement will effect atonement", then the Day of Atonement effects no atonement. For transgressions that are between man and God the Day of Atonement effects atonement, but for transgressions that are between a man and his fellow the Day of Atonement effects atonement only if he has appeased his fellow - Mishnah: Yoma 8:9
Matthew 5:45 ... sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
Talmud, Taanit 7a - God causes it to rain for the wicked as well as for the righteous.
Matthew 5:43 Love thine neighbor and hate thine enemy
Talmud, Yoma 23a, Gitin 36b, Shabbat 88b - They who are insulted but insult not back; who hear themselves reproached but answer not; who serve out of love and rejoice in their affliction--of them it is written in Scripture: They that love God are as the going forth of the sun in its might.
Matthew 5:23-24... first be reconciled to thy brother
Matthew 6:14-15 For if ye forgive men their trespasses ...
Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 17a - Only if you forgive others will God forgive you.
Talmud, Shabat 151b - One who is merciful toward others, God will be merciful toward him
Matthew 6:19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth ...
Matthew 7:1 Do not judge, or you too will be judged ...
Avot 2:14 - Do not judge your fellow until you have been in his place.
Avot 4:10 - Do not be a judge of others, for there is no judge but the one (God).
Matthew 7:2 ... with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again
Mishnah Sotah 1:7 - By a person's standard of measure, is he, too, measured.
Shabat 127b - How you judge others, does God judge you.
Sanhedrin 100a, attributes to Rabbi Meir the saying: "The measure which one measures will be measured out to him."
Matthew 7:3-5 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye ...
Er'chin 16b - Rabbi Tarfon said, "I wonder if there be anyone in this era who will allow himself to be reproved. If someone says to another, 'Cast out the speck that is in your eye!' he will retort, Cast out first the beam that is in your own eye!'"
Kidushin 70a - He who condemns others, sees in them his own faults.
Bava Mezia 59a - Do not rebuke your fellow with your own blemish.
Matthew 7:6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs
Ketubot. 111a -
R. Levi said: "God made
Matthew 7:12 Do to others what you would have them do to you ...
Shabbat 31a - What is hateful to you, do it not unto others -- this is the entire Torah, and the rest is commentary.
7:26 every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not ...
Avot 3:17 - One who studies Torah but does not do good deeds is likened to one who builds with a foundation of straw, so that even a minor flow of water will destroy it.
10:21 ... brother shall deliver up the brother to death
Talmud 49b - In the footsteps of the Mashiach, insolence will increase and honour dwindle; the vine will yield its fruit [abundantly] but wine will be dear; the government will turn to heresy and there will be none [to offer them] reproof; the meeting-place [of scholars] will be used for immorality; galilee will be destroyed, gablan desolated, and the dwellers on the frontier will go about [begging] from place to place without anyone to take pity on them; the wisdom of the learned will degenerate, fearers of sin will be despised, and the truth will be lacking; youths will put old men to shame, the old will stand up in the presence of the young, a son will revile his father, a daughter will rise against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man's enemies will be the members of his household; the face of the generation will be like the face of a dog, a son will not feel ashamed before his father. So upon whom is it for us to rely? Upon our father who is in heaven.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. --Matthew 5:7
He who is merciful to others, shall receive mercy from Heaven. - Shabbat 151b
Freely you receive, freely give. --Matthew 10:8
Just as I teach gratuituously, so you should teach gratuitously. - Bekoroth 29a
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. --Matthew 23:12
He who humbles himself for the Torah in this world is magnified in the next; and he who makes himself a servant to the Torah in this world becomes free in the next. - Baba Metzia 85b
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the beam that is in your own eye? --Matthew 7:3
Do they say, take the splinter out of your eye, he will retort: "Remove the beam out of your own eye."
Baba Bathra 15b
The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. --Matthew 9.37
The day is short, and the work is much; and the workmen are indolent, but the reward is much; and the Master of the House is insistent. Avot 2:15
Sifri, Ekev No. 49 - As God is, so shall you be: As God is merciful, so shall you too, be merciful.
I have listed several examples of Oral Law found in the Nazarean Codicil. The following list illustrative: The argument of Yeshua, in which he defends the manner in which His disciples fast, is based upon a recognized halakha that it is improper to fast in the presence of a bridegroom. This is not found in the written Torah.
Matityahu (Matthew) 9:14-15 "Then the disciples of Yochanan came to Him, asking, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?" And Yeshua said to them, "The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. "
Pharisees are inquiring about the disciples of Yeshua: Why do they transgress the traditions of the elders by not washing their hands according to halakha before eating? Yeshua rebukes them, citing also their use of korban to "hide" their wealth from aging parents who needed their support. In both cases, it is clear that the Pharisees consider the halakha, based on oral Torah, as binding. - Haggigah 2.5; Shabbat 13b-14a; Shabbat 1.3d; Yoma 87a
Matityahu (Matthew) 15:1-3 Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Yeshua from Jerusalem and said, "Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread." And He answered and said to them, "Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?"
There is nothing in the written Torah about giving thanks before eating. Saying the blessing before eating is part of the oral Torah.
Matityahu (Matthew) 15:36 and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.
The Pharisees found a way to deny
certain oaths (those sworn by the Temple) and to
allow others (those sworn by the gold of the
Matityahu (Matthew) 23:16-17 Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ' Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.' You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold?
This is not in the written Torah.
II Luqas (Acts) 23:3 Then Paul said to him, "God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?
Beitzah 39b [if he said,] Behold, thou art herem, to thee, the vower is forbidden;
[if he said,] Behold, I am [herem] to thee, and thou to me, both are forbidden
to benefit from one another; but [to both] is permitted the use of things that
belong to them that came up from Babylon, but the use of things that belong to
the citizens of that town is forbidden to both. And the following are the
things which belong to them that came up from
Yeshua paid this tax:
(Matthew) 17:24-27 After Yeshua and his disciples arrived in
Avodah Zarah 35b THEIR BREAD. R. Kahana said in the name of R. Johanan: Their bread was
not permitted by the Court. Is it to be deduced from this statement that
anybody does allow it? Yes, because when R. Dimi came [from
The Apostles clearly obeyed this oral law:
II Luqas (Acts) 10:27-29 Talking with him, Tzefet (Peter) went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But HaShem has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?"
Shevu'oth 39a What is the meaning of: it also may be said in any language? — As we learnt: These may be recited in any language: The scriptural text of the Sotah, confession when giving the tithe, the Shema’, Tefillah, Grace after meals, the oath of testimony, and the oath of deposit. And now it says also, ‘The oath of the judges may also be said in any language.’
Shabbath 24a The scholars propounded: Is New Moon to be mentioned in grace after meals? Should you say that it is unnecessary in the case of Hanukkah, which is only Rabbinical, then on New Moon, which is Biblical, it is necessary; or perhaps since the performance of work is not forbidden, it is not mentioned? Rab said: It is mentioned; R. Hanina said: It is not mentioned. R. Zerika said: Hold fast to Rab's [ruling], because R. Oshaia supports him. For R. Oshaia taught: On those days when there is an additional offering, viz., New Moon and the weekdays of Festivals at the Evening, Morning and Afternoon [services] the Eighteen [Benedictions] are recited, and the nature of the occasion is inserted in the ‘Abodah; and if one does not insert it, he is turned back; and there is no Sanctification over wine, and mention thereof is made in grace after meals. On those days when there is no additional offering, viz., Mondays, Thursdays, Fasts, and Ma'amadoth -What business have Mondays and Thursdays [here]? -Rather [say thus:] on the Mondays, Thursdays and the [following] Mondays of Fasts - and of Ma'amadoth — at the Evening, Morning and Afternoon [Services] the Eighteen [Benedictions] are recited, and the nature of the occasion is inserted in ‘Thou hearkenst unto Prayer’; yet if one does not insert it he is not made to repeat it, and no reference is made on these [days] in grace after meals.
We see Daniel obeying in:
Daniel 6:10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his HaShem, just as he had done before.
We see the Apostles obeying this oral law in:
II Luqas (Acts) They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
The precept of tefillin depends on the oral law. The Torah commands:
(Deuteronomy) 6:4-9 Hear, O
The description of tefillin, the binding of these laws, can only be found in the oral torah. They are nowhere described in the Torah. Yeshua, then, followed the oral Torah when he wore tefillin. The Talmud contains many details of tefillin in Shabbath 28b.
In the Written Torah it is stated, "And you shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes."
This is an indistinct and obscure statement, for Scripture did not explain how and what to bind, nor what frontlets are, nor where is "between your eyes" or "on your hand," until the Oral Torah explicates that one needs to bind a single box on the hand, and four boxes on the head, containing four Scriptural passages.
Moreover, the boxes are to be made of prepared leather, and necessarily square, and to be tied by means of leather straps which need to be black, with all the other detailed rulings governing the making of tefillin, that were stated orally, [i.e., that are found in the Oral Torah].
The Torah commands:
Bamidbar (Numbers) 15:37-40 HaShem said to Moshe, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of HaShem, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God.
The Hebrew for tassels, is tzitzith. We see Yeshua wearing tzitzit in:
Matityahu (Matthew) 9:19-22 Yeshua got up and went with him, and so did his disciples. Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed." Yeshua turned and saw her. "Take heart, daughter," he said, "your faith has healed you." And the woman was healed from that moment.
The edge of his cloak, is the tzitzit. The Greek word that the King James translators rendered "hem" is kraspedon. This is the same word that is used in the Septuagint, to translate tzitzith. It is found three times in Bamidbar (Numbers) 15:37-41, where the wearing of tzitzith is commanded.
Malachi talks about the healing to be found in the tzitzith:
Malachi 4:1-2 "Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire," says HaShem Almighty. "Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.
His wings are the wings formed in the talit which contains the tzitzith. The way tzitzith are made is only contained in the oral law, it is not found in the Torah:
Baba Bathra 74a They slept on their backs; and the knee of one of them was raised, and the Arab merchant passed under the knee, riding on a camel with spear erect, and did not touch it. I cut off one corner of the purple-blue shawl1 of one of them; and we could not move away. He said unto me: ‘[If] you have, peradventure, taken something from them, return it; for we have a tradition that he who takes anything from them cannot move away.’ I went and returned it; and then we were able to move away. When I came before the Rabbis they said unto me: Every Abba is an ass and every Bar Hana is a fool. For what purpose did you do that? Was it in order to ascertain whether [the Law] is in accordance with the [decision of] Beth Shammai or Beth Hillel? You should have counted the threads and counted the joints.
The oral law has an extensive treatment of the laws pertaining to the tzitzith in: Menachoth 38b
Yeshua returned to
Yeshua read this portion of the Haftorah:
Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 61:1-2 The Spirit of the Sovereign HaShem is on me, because HaShem has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, To proclaim the year of HaShem's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,
This is the exact Haftorah portion of the triennial cycle of Torah readings.
The oral law says:
Megilah 29b The following was then cited in objection: ‘If it [the New Moon of Adar] falls on the portion next to it [the
portion of Shekalim], whether before or after, they read it and repeat it’. Now
this creates no difficulty for one who holds that ‘When thou takest’ is read
because [the regular portion containing this passage] falls about that time.
But according to the one who says that ‘My food which
is presented to ‘me’ is read does [the portion containing that passage] fall
about that time? Yes, for the people of
So, we know that Yeshua followed the oral law in His reading and in His fulfillment of the scripture. Now lets see how Paul followed the oral law in this regard:
If Paul was allowed to speak in the synagogue, he would have had to observe many parts of the oral law. He would have read the Torah according to the triennial Torah cycle. He would have lain his tefillin and worn his talit. These articles could only have been made in accordance with the oral law because the manufacture of these items is not described in the written Torah.
Another example of insufficient information without an oral explanation is the preparation and observance of the Passover. Keeping the feast according to a strict pattern would not be possible without an oral tradition of details not found Shemot (Exodus) 12, Devarim (Deuteronomy) 16, or elsewhere in the Torah. The fruit of the vine, present in the Passover, and drunk at the Passover by Yeshua, is not mentioned in the Torah. Without an oral tradition, the validity of using fruit of the vine in the Passover could not be established. Our tradition required four cups of wine at spaced intervals in the passover:
Pesachim 99b ON THE EVE OF PASSOVER CLOSE TO MINHAH A MAN MUST NOT EAT UNTIL
NIGHTFALL. EVEN THE POOREST MAN IN
By drinking the fruit of the vine, which is still a part of Jewish observance, at the Passover seder, Yeshua confirmed the validity of the oral law:
Matityahu (Matthew) 26:26 And as they were eating, Yeshua took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.
Unleavened bread and bitter herbs are mentioned, but the kind of herbs are not detailed in the Law of Moshe. These are defined in the oral law (Talmud):
Pesachim 95a WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE FIRST PASSOVER AND THE SECOND? THE FIRST IS SUBJECT TO THE PROHIBITION OF [LEAVEN] SHALL NOT BE SEEN AND [LEAVEN] SHALL NOT BE FOUND; WHILE AT THE SECOND [A MAN MAY HAVE] LEAVENED AND UNLEAVENED BREAD IN THE HOUSE WITH HIM. THE FIRST REQUIRES [THE RECITING OF] HALLEL WHEN IT [THE PASCHAL LAMB] IS EATEN, WHEN THE SECOND DOES NOT REQUIRE HALLEL WHEN IT IS EATEN. BUT BOTH REQUIRE [THE RECITING OF] HALLEL WHEN THEY ARE SACRIFICED, AND THEY ARE EATEN ROAST WITH UNLEAVENED BREAD AND BITTER HERBS, AND THEY OVERRIDE THE SABBATH.
At the Passover Seder: How did Yeshua know that he was to dip? How did He know to take four cups of wine?
Matityahu (Matthew) 26:20-30 When evening came, Yeshua was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me." They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, "Surely not I, HaShem?" Yeshua replied, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born." Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, "Surely not I, Rabbi?" Yeshua answered, "Yes, it is you." While they were eating, Yeshua took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom." When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
The Succoth Water Libation (Sukkoth 4:9) was obviously going on when Yeshua said these words:
Yochanan (John) 7:37-38 On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Yeshua stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."
What does this Succoth event have to do with Oral Law? The water libation ceremony which Yeshua identifies himself with is from the Oral Law (Succoth 4:9) not the written.
The Mishna has this to say about the water libation:
Succah 4, Mishna 9: The water-libation; How so? A golden flagon holding three log was filled from the pool of Shiloah. When they arrived at the Water Gate they sounded a prolonged blast, (and) a quavering note, and a prolonged blast. He went up the ramp and turned to his left where there were two silver bowls. R. Juday says, They were of plaster, but their surfaces were blackened because of the wine. And they each had a hole like a narrow spout, one wide and the other narrow, so that both were emptied out together, the one to the west was for water and that to the east for wine. If one emptied out that for the water into the one for wine or that for wine into the one for water, it is valid. R. Judah says, With one log they could carry out the libations all the eight days. To him who performed the libation they used to say, ‘Raise thy hand!’, for on one occasion he poured it over his feet and all the people pelted him with their citrons.
Bereans (Hebrews) 11:4 By faith Abel offered HaShem a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when HaShem spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.
Yeshayahu (Isaiah) was martyred by sawing in half. This is not mentioned in the Tanach, but it is recorded in the Talmud (Yeb. 49b):
Bereans (Hebrews) 11:32-39 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Shmuel (Samuel) and the prophets, Who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, Quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated-- The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.
Any allusion to water is really a reference to Torah, it is understandable that Miriam’s well was no ordinary well. The Mechilta says that, just like the manna could taste like any food, the water from Miriam’s well could taste like any drink. More importantly, anytime be’er (well) is written in the masculine form, it alludes to Torah Shebiktav (written); when it is written b’era, in its feminine form, it alludes to Torah ShebaalPeh (oral). (Pri Tzadik, Parashat Chukkat, 15) Thus, B’era shel Miriam alludes to Torah ShebaalPeh.
The well of Miriam that provided water in the wilderness (Parashat Chukkat 20:1b-2a) is not mentioned in the Tanach, but it is recorded in:
I Corinthians 10:1-6 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moshe in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food And drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was HaMashiach. Nevertheless, HaShem was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.
Where does it ever say that Mashiach will be called a Nazarene? It is not found any where in the Tanach!
(Matthew) 2:19-23 After Herod died, an angel of HaShem appeared in a dream to Joseph in
Egypt And said, "Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land
of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead."
So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the
Paul never did anything against the CUSTOMS OF OUR FATHERS [Halachah]. This would have included obedience to the oral law:
Luqas (Acts) 28:16-17 When we got to
Paul states he has kept the customs of the Jews. Strong's number for the word translated "customs" is #1485. Thayer's definition is a "custom or a usage prescribed by law, institute, prescription or rite." From a Jewish point of view, he is talking about the Oral Law.
At the end of his life, Paul reiterates that he has not done anything against the law of the Jews. The Jews considered the oral and the written law to be of equal validity:
II Luqas (Acts) 25:8 Then Paul made his defense: "I have done nothing wrong against the law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar."
Law provides the details or fine points of how to perform a Commandment. The Oral Law will not be found in Torah.
An example would be how to keep the Sabbath. HaShem
says, "do no work" on the Sabbath, with no further explanation
(Shemot ). It was up
to the oral law to define work.
Defining what work is would be an
example of the Oral Law. Moshe also received these Oral Laws (Devarim -31) as well as the Written
Paul did NOT teach against the HALACHA.
II Luqas (Acts) 21:17-26 When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers received us warmly. The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. Paul greeted them and reported in detail what HaShem had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard this, they praised HaShem. Then they said to Paul: "You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moshe, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, So do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality." The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.
Paul taught oral law to Gentiles.
II Thessalonians 2:15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
Strong's number for "traditions" is #3862. Paul is writing to the Gentile
What instructions did Paul give regarding dealings with people who did not keep the "traditions" or Oral Law:
II Thessalonians 3:6 In the name of the Lord Yeshua HaMashiach, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the traditions you received from us.
You guessed it. Again the word for traditions is the same, Strong's #3862.
I Corinthians 5:6-8 Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast--as you really are. For HaMashiach, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.
Paul makes it clear he not only kept the Written Law but the Oral Law as well:
1 Corinthians 11:1-2 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Mashiach. I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions, just as I passed them on to you.
Strong's number for the word translated "traditions" is #3862. Thayer's second definition states "of the body of precepts, esp. ritual, which in the opinion of the Jews were orally delivered by Moshe and orally transmitted in unbroken succession to subsequent generations, which precepts, both illustrating and expanding the Written Law, as they did, were to be obeyed with equal reverence."
What does Paul say to Believers about those who try to prevent people from observing the traditions of the Jews?
Romans 16:17 I urge you brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.
Have we not learned what Paul has been teaching? Is it not the traditions and laws of the Jews? Beware of those who state the Law is not to be obeyed! Keep away from them.
Paul, in his second letter to Timothy, quotes from the oral law to name those who opposed Moshe:
II Timothy 3:8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moshe, so also these men oppose the truth--men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected.
The Torah records this incident, but it does not name the names:
Shemot (Exodus) 7:11-12 Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs.
In the Talmud we have this note:
Menachoth 85a ALL [OFFERINGS] MUST BE OFFERED FROM THE CHOICEST PRODUCE etc. Johana and Mamre said to Moshe, ‘Wouldst thou carry straw to Hafaraim?’ He answered them, ‘There is a common saying. "Bring herbs to Herbtown".’
Another part of the oral law, the Zohar, also names these men:
Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2,
Page 191a ’AND WHEN THE PEOPLE SAW THAT MOSES
DELAYED (boshesh) TO COME DOWN OUT OF THE MOUNT. The word “people” denotes the
“mixed multitude”. And who were the “mixed multitude”? Were they Lydians,
Ethiopians, or Cyprians? Were they not all Egyptians, and did they not all come
Thus we see that not only was Hakham Shaul conversant with the oral law, but that he used this oral law to teach about Yeshua. Hakham Shaul, matter of factly, accepts the oral law as authoritative!
Paul remained a Pharisee (in favor of Oral Law) as a believer.
II Luqas (Acts) 23:6 Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, "My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead."
Paul kept all the Law, but perhaps most importantly, he told the people to follow his example as he follows the Messiah's example, verse 1. Does not the Messiah have to be a Law-observant Jew? If he was not an observant Jew, then he would be disqualified from being the Messiah. Since the Messiah was observant and Paul followed his example, then Paul was instructing all Jews, whether they believed Yeshua was the Messiah or not, to keep the Law. This is the Messiah's example. Keep in mind that Paul stated this after Messiah's death. Paul is misunderstood repeatedly because he wrote in Jewish terms and at a high level of presumptive understanding. Paul wrote with the assumption that the person reading his letter knows Written and Oral Torah.
Yeshua endorsed Pharisaic teaching (Oral Law).
Matityahu (Matthew) 23:2-3 "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moshe' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.
Yeshua apparently attached great importance to the Oral Torah (unwritten in his day), and it seems he considered it to be authoritative. When he admonished his disciples to "do and observe everything they [the scribes and Pharisees] command you" he was referring to the Pharisees' oral traditions and interpretations of the Written Torah. The Written Torah itself could not have been in question, for it was accepted by all sects of Judaism. Notice that Yeshua is giving this command just days before He is to die by the hands of the court of Pharisees!
The law given in Shemot 18:2 says that a Hebrew slave acquired by any person shall serve for six years; but it does not state why and how such a slave may be acquired. The law furthermore provides that if such a slave has served for six years, his wife, if he has one, shall go free with him; but it does not state that the wife of the slave accompanies him to his master's house, nor does it define her relation to the master.
The Oral Explains The Written
Without an oral law, even the text of the written Torah becomes frought with problems The most outrageous example I have seen is using the Shema to prove that there are many gods:
"Hear O Israel, [the one called] HaShem is our g-d, HaShem is [number] one [among the gods]". Could the Hebrew sentence be read and interpreted that way? Sure. Is that the intent? Most decidedly not, yet without an oral law, it becomes a possibility.
* * *
Oral Law Terms used in the New Testament, and their Greek equivalents
Mt 15;Mk 7
Mt 13 Mt 15:15
II Luqas (Acts)
II Luqas (Acts) 28:17
Mt Jn 14:6
II Luqas (Acts) -26
II Luqas (Acts) 22:4
It's "Nit picking."-- This is the problem of Christianity, when a disagreement arises they start a new sect! In Judaism we have an open forum and air out the issue in an orderly manner, preserving unity... I prefer "Nit picking" to Sectarianism any day. We either care about HaShem's word (Torah) or we don't. If we care then its not "Nit picking", if we don't care, then that is a problem in itself.
The Talmud was penned by those who rejected Messiah. True to an extent, though Jacob the Min, the Judge of Shabbat116a and Nakdimon (Nicodemus) were believers, and Gamaliel was somewhat open minded about it.
Some say that the Oral Law made some drastic change between the close of the Nazarean Codicil (c. 100 CE) and the Mishna (c.200 CE). -- There is no evidence of this, the accounts we have of the Pharisees from the Apostolic period (those made by Josephus) match up quite well with those made in the fourth century by Epiphanius! Epiphanius even said in the fourth century, well AFTER the Mishna was penned, that the Nazarenes were exactly like the other Jews except for the acceptance of Yeshua as Messiah. (Nazarenes = Jews).
The Nazarean Codicil shows that Yeshua condemned the practices of the Pharisees. True, but, only their practices, because of hypocrisy, just as He will do to the rest of the congregation... He was very careful to endorse Pharisaic teaching as opposed to Pharisaic actions, as we saw in Matityahu (Matthew) 23:2-3.
Know that it is your duty to understand that whoever propounds a certain theory or idea and expects that theory or idea to be accepted merely out of respect for the author without proving its truth and reasonableness pursues a wrong method prohibited by both the Torah and human intelligence... According to this preamble, then, we are not duty bound to defend the opinions of the sages of the Talmud, concerning medicine, physics and astrology, as right in every respect simply because we know the sages to be great men with a full knowledge of all things regarding the Torah, in its various details...
* * *
MOSHE RECEIVED (kibayle) TORAH FROM SINAI AND TRANSMITTED IT (u'm'sa-ra) TO JOSHUA, AND JOSHUA TO THE ELDERS, AND THE ELDERS TO THE PROPHETS, AND THE PROPHETS TRANSMITTED IT TO THE MEN OF THE GREAT ASSEMBLY.
The beginning of the first Mishna begs for some understanding. If the purpose of the statement above is to tell us the location it should have said AT or ON Sinai, a very definable place. Why the use of the word 'from'?
We are not interested in “location” here; our concern is a relationship, which the word 'from' connotes. We are emphasizing the resource from whence these ethics derive. They are G-d given; they stem from the same source as all the other religious laws. They have the same validity as the laws of Shabbat, Kashrut, and Family Purity (Taharat Hamishpocha) because they were given to Moshe by HaShem on Sinai. This is fundamental!
True, the human mind is rational and one can argue that even if we were not given the ethical laws on Sinai, a decent human being would perforce observe them nonetheless. Who could justify killing? Who could justify stealing, cheating? Who cannot see the 'morality' of honoring father and mother or helping the poor? It's axiomatic!
We offer two responses:
1. The Torah view is that even what we accept axiomatically as 'good' and 'evil' is something that HaShem implanted in us. This idea is expressed in the Midrash (Bereshit Rabbah 2:5)
Rebbe Abavhu said: At the beginning of the world's creation, The Holy One, Blessed be He, gazed at the deeds of the righteous and at the deeds of the wicked. The world was 'tohu v'vaohu' (Bereshit 1:3) refers to the deeds of the wicked. "and HaShem said Let there be light" refers to the deeds of the righteous. But still I would not know which of them He desires.... the deeds of these of the deeds of those. However, once Torah writes, "And HaShem saw the light that it was Good (Bereshit 1:4), it is the deeds of the righteous that He desires and He does not desire the deeds of the wicked.
2. Who could justify killing? Look at the holocaust. It happened. A society created a new 'morality' where genocide became acceptable, where selection based on racial qualities was the ideal, and where dishonor to parents, by spying and reporting on them to authorities became the norm. Look at the Socratian concept of 'Justice is in the interest of the stronger' and Hobbes' 'dog eat dog' pessimism about human nature, and you question how inviolate some of our basic concepts of 'good' and 'evil' are.
The Mishna establishes that ethics are from Sinai, and are absolute. Man has no authority to tamper with it lest he destroy himself and the world.
The messages and the codes of conduct what will be henceforth taught are not arbitrary, man-made rationalizations.
As a corollary, having acknowledged HaShem's authorship of Ethics, it follows that Fear of Heaven must precede the study of Torah. Later in the Mishna we learn that he whose fear of Heaven and fear of sin precedes his study of Torah, his Torah will be sustained. But he whose study of Torah is not predicated on fear of Heaven, his Torah will dissipate. There are teachers of ethics in the universities whose lives have double standards, one in the classroom and the other on the outside, both in opposition. One who is truly enveloped by Torah is a whole personality and his life by example as well as precept is the message.
* * *
Moshe received Torah from Sinai. The chronology of that event is as follows:
After having heard the Aseret Hadibrot, the Ten Commandments from Sinai, Moshe ascended onto the mountain and remained there for forty days and nights. The Torah describes that he ate no bread nor drank no water.
WHAT DID MOSHE DO ON SINAI FOR FORTY DAYS AND NIGHTS ?
He received the Torah on Sinai. Now this can't be the Written Torah, as we know it as the Five Books of Moshe, since we know that some mitzvot, like Shabbat, were given prior to Sinai, and most were recorded after the event at Sinai. There is a debate in the Talmud as to whether the Torah was written all at one time by Moshe, or section by section throughout the forty year trek through the desert.
But one thing is certain that the text of the Written Law was “not” given on Sinai, with the exception of the Ten Commandments, which were oral and which were then given to Moshe engraved by HaShem in stone. So, the question “what” was given to Moshe on Sinai during those forty days?
Moshe received the Oral Law on Sinai. The Oral Law is the basis for the Written Law. Without the Oral Law, the Written Law, that what we all see in the Holy Ark in the synagogue, is meaningless. The Written Law is merely a set of cryptic notes, symbols, shorthand abbreviations for a more expansive, fundamental and complete system of a blueprint for the world and life.
illustrate. The basis for our liberty in these
then, the Written Torah is an abstract of a fuller expanded gift that HaShem
Why Did HaShem Create an Oral Law?
This section is from a former web site with an anonymous author:
Question: If there is an Oral Law, why didn't HaShem or Moses write it down? What benefit could there be in the details of the Law being Oral?
Answer: There are actually many reasons why the Torah needs an oral component. I will, HaShem willing, try to explain a few in this article.
The Rabbis make a very
interesting statement in the Midrash Rabbah (sermons of the Rabbis taken from
the Oral Tradition, and later collected and published by a student of Rabbi
"And for the peace sacrifice,
two oxen..." Because HaShem gave
He gave them the Oral Torah so
that they would, by the Oral Torah, be distinct from all other nations. For
this reason it was not given in writing, so that the Gentiles
could not forge it or claim it for their own, and then claim that they
are the true
-- Midrash Bamidbar Rabbah 14:10, s.v. "On the Eleventh Day"
The Oral Torah is our unique property, our special possession, our glory and source of joy. It is what makes us what we are, and enables us to fulfill HaShem's will.
The Torah is more vast than most people imagine. In the Book of Job, Tzofer Hana'amasi (one of Job's friends) tells us about the wisdom of HaShem, the Torah, that "Its measurement is longer than the land, and wider than the sea" (Job 11:9). But if you unroll a copy of every Book of the Torah and stretch them out end to end, starting from the Five Books of Moses until Malachi, the entire length is not likely to reach even one mile. Tzofer Hana'amasi is not referring to the Books of the Written Torah, which have a specific limit, but to the wisdom of HaShem as manifest in the Oral Torah, and as alluded to in the Written Torah.
Similarly, we find in the Midrash as follows:
May the Name of the King of all
emperors be blessed, for having chosen Israel from
all the seventy nations, as it says, "For HaShem's portion is His nation,
Jacob is the essence of His inheritance" (Deut. 32:9). And He gave us the
Written Torah that contains hidden and concealed allusions, and He explained
them in the Oral Torah, and revealed them to
Moreover, the Written Torah has the general rules, and the Oral Torah has the details. The Oral Torah is vast, and the Written Torah is small. Concerning the Oral Torah, it says, "Its measurement is longer than the land, and wider than the sea." ....
For HaShem ratified His pledge
The Torah could have said, "Because of these words...." or "For the sake of these words...." or "For these words..." or "through these words...", but instead the Torah used the phrase "By the mouth of these words...." This refers to the Oral Torah, hence the use of the phrase "by the mouth of these words..."
Only those who love HaShem with all their hearts, all their souls, and all their might, study the Oral Torah.
-- Midrash Tanchumah, Noach 3:3, s.v. These are the Chronicles.
The Talmud is not the entire Oral Torah. The Talmud is the basic skeleton of the Oral Torah, as much as was absolutely necessary for the preservation of the Torah. But it is by far not the entire Oral Torah. That wouldn't be possible.
The Oral Torah is limitless. This is not hyperbole, or exaggeration, in any way. I mean this precisely and literally. The greatness of the Oral Torah is that no matter how much is taught, no matter how much is learned, there is always more true Torah to be discovered. HaShem created the Torah that way. The Talmud tells us, "Every Torah teaching that any conscientious Torah student is destined to extrapolate was already taught to Moses at Mount Sinai" (Midrash Rabbah: Leviticus 22:1; ibid. Eccl. 1:2 and 5:2). (This does not mean, by the way, that every interpretation anyone makes up is true.)
And absolutely every single element of the Oral Torah is alluded to in the Written Torah. This adds yet another dimension to the study, and helps make the learning even more glorious and meaningful.
Incidentally, this is why the Written Torah had to be written in Hebrew, the language that HaShem created specifically for that purpose.
The Oral Torah contains the details of the general Laws found in the Written Torah. Without those details, we could never fulfill the Laws. For example, the Torah commands the Jewish Supreme Court to declare when a new month has begun, and the Oral Torah gives us all the necessary details. We find, therefore, that the Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 25b) tells us that the time between each appearance of a new moon can be no less than 29.53059 days. This information, reported Rabbi Gamliel in the Talmud, is part of the Oral Torah.
Only this century did anyone else
in the world have a calculation of that nature. Carl Sagan has stated that the
period of time from new moon to new moon is 29.53058 days, only 100 thousandth
of a day less! That's within 0.864 of a second of what the Talmud
says! Scientists in
The Oral Torah is needed in order to maintain the context of the Written Torah. It therefore contains much more information than the Written Torah. The Written Torah needs the Oral Torah to make certain that the correct meaning is conveyed and understood.
In the simple act of relaying information, the spoken word can employ so many means that are unavailable to the written word. Tone of voice is one example. Another example is which words we stress, and how strongly we accent them. Hand gestures and body language convey a great deal more than the simple spoken word conveys, and far more than the written word.
There is an old Yiddish story
about the man in a small town in
The baker opened the letter, and read it to the father. The letter was a rather simple letter, in which the son tells the father about how busy he is with his courses, how he has found a simple place to live in the big and confusing city. Unfortunately, it is rather distant from the school, but it was all he could afford. As a result he needs to take a bus to and from school every day. And so on and so forth. He ended the letter with a polite plea to his father to send him some money. "Tatteh, shik gelt." ("Father, send money.")
Unfortunately, the baker was not very adept at reading, and moreover, did not know of the close relationship between the father and his son. The baker perceived the letter as being nasty and full of demands. He was certainly unable to render the flowery phrases of affection interspersed throughout the letter.
"He complains that you sent him to this difficult school that gives him a lot of work to do," said the baker, "how terrible the city is, and how he is not happy with his apartment. He demands that you send him money!" That was how the baker interpreted the letter.
The father grew incensed. "After all I did for him! That lousy ingrate! How dare he speak to me that way!"
He took the letter, and rushed off to the town Rabbi to show it to him.
The Rabbi took the letter, the evidence of the son's chutzpah, and read it. Raising an eyebrow, he asked the father what harm there was in the letter.
The father, sputtering, reiterated his outrage against his son's chutzpah, all the while pointing to the letter.
The Rabbi smiled patiently, and told the man to sit down. He offered him something to eat and drink, and then said to him, "Let me read this letter to you." He read the letter out loud, in a soft and loving voice, ending with the impassioned plea of "Tatteh, shik gelt."
By the time the Rabbi was finished, the man was red in the face with embarrassment. "I can't understand it, " he muttered. "The baker must have read the wrong letter."
A written record is needed, but it takes an educated person to read it properly! That is why we need Rabbis and scholars to delve into each matter and make sure the Torah is properly and fully understood.
In addition, words themselves change their meanings over time. Here's an interesting example. In Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, we find the expression "Stuff and nonsense!" I once read a work in which the author mused that the two words, "stuff" and "nonsense," made an odd juxtaposition. After all, the word "stuff" means, more or less, "something of substance." "Nonsense," of course, means the opposite. Using the two words to describe one thing makes no sense.
But if you read Charles Dickens' works, you will also come across the word "stuff," and he used it to mean "nonsense!" In other words, "stuff and nonsense" was not an odd juxtaposition at all, back then. Back then, in the nineteenth century, when Dickens and Dodgson (Lewis Carroll's real name) lived, the word "stuff" had almost precisely the opposite meaning that it does today, barely 150 years later!
So when the Torah gives us instruction, we must be clear as to the original meaning of the instruction. This, the Oral Torah keeps alive for us.
Let me cite an example of a changing idiom.
The Torah commands Jewish men to wear tefillin on their head. Where on the head? Above the hairline, in a straight line between one's two eyes (no, it does not have to be precise, but near enough). How does the Torah phrase it? The Torah says, "Let them be as insignia between your eyes" (Deut. 11:18). The Torah does not mean literally between your eyes, but on your head in that position.
How do we know this? The Torah uses the phrase "between your eyes" in at least one other place. The Torah commands us not to imitate pagan practices, among them the practice of pulling out one's hair in mourning. The Torah says, "You are children of HaShem your G-d. Do not mutilate yourselves, and do not make a bald patch between your eyes as a sign of mourning" (Deut. 14:1).
Where, precisely, are we not to make a bald patch? Between our eyes? Do you have that much hair between your eyes? How can you make yourself bald in a place that has practically no hair, if any at all? What does the Torah mean here?
Well, back in the early Biblical days, there was a Hebrew phrase "between your eyes" that really meant "on your head above your hairline, between your eyes."
So when the Torah tells us to place tefillin "between your eyes," the Torah really means on one's head, in a direct line above the area between one's eyes.
How do I know this? Because the Talmud tells us so (Menachot 37b). I would not have made this connection on my own. Our Oral Tradition, however, teaches us the meaning of the Written Torah.
Thus we see that the Oral Torah maintains the integrity and original meaning of the Written Torah. Today, no one uses the phrase "between your eyes." If they do, they don't mean it the way the Torah uses it. That's why we need the Oral Torah!
The truth is that the Oral Torah and Written Torah work together, and each can exist only with the other. The Written Torah is needed as an anchor for the Oral Torah. It contains, in brief and in hidden allusion, the Oral Torah as well.
So we need both the Oral Torah and the Written Torah to maintain each other, and bring us the full instruction that HaShem has given us.
Furthermore, the Torah must be passed along from generation to generation by direct oral transmission. Just as in every field, we Jews also have specialists. These are our Hakhamim, who have the responsibility to teach and keep Judaism alive that way. And they, too, must teach by example as well as by direct teaching.
The Torah therefore exhorts each of us, "Ask your father and he will relate it to you; your elders (alternatively, your grandfathers) and they will tell you" (Deut. 32:7).
We must study the Torah constantly, but that is not enough. Torah must be absorbed, it must be internalized through day-to-day exposure. Yes, it must be studied constantly. But even more so, it must be soaked up through total immersion, like a tea bag in hot water. The tea in the bag becomes completely wet, and the water around the bag turns into tea. When we live a life of Torah, the Torah elevates and improves us, and the entire Torah-observant world is enriched through our personal example, and future generations look to us as a role model. Therefore, to truly internalize the Torah within us, we must be part of and interact with the Torah world.
For that, and for the reasons mentioned above, and for many more reasons besides, we need direct Oral Teaching. We could never rely on the Written Word alone.
The Indispensable Oral Law
"Safeguard and keep (these rules) since that is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations. They will hear all these rules and say, 'this great nation is certainly a wise and understanding people'". Deut. 4:6
Throughout history, in almost every country, the Jews have led the intelligentsia. Through the worst of the "Dark Ages", when the only men capable of reading were the clergy and some nobility, just about every Jewish male knew how to read Hebrew, and many were equally proficient in the language of the land. Jews have been at the forefront of every civil movement, every intellectual movement, and have been known as scholars throughout all of history.
Even non-Jews have recognized this, and you can find mention of it in numerous places, and in the writings of many cultures.
What is the source of our wisdom? The Torah tells us, the Torah is the source!
It is amazing that so few people take the time to think about what this really means. Consider: The Christians claim that they now have the Torah. Yet no one calls the Christians a wise people. What do we have that they don't?
The answer is obvious to anyone who has ever learned the Torah. We have the Oral Law, which is the Traditional accompaniment to the Written Tradition many refer to as the Bible. Anyone who has ever tried to learn the Scriptures alone knows that they are a closed book, full of confusing and difficult-to-understand statements. The Torah is generally briefly worded, and lacks detailed directions. Obviously, commentary is necessary. This commentary is the Oral Tradition, also known as the Oral Law, or the Oral Torah. The Written Bible is completely incomprehensible without the Oral Tradition.
To demonstrate, I will cite some examples of Laws from the Written Torah that are completely incomprehensible without knowledge of the Oral Tradition.
The prohibition of Chelev (fat) (Lev. 7:24) leaves us uninformed as to which fat is included in the category of Chelev, and which are Shumin (fat) and therefore permitted.
Which blood is forbidden, (Lev. 7:26) and how do we purge the meat of it?
Which work is forbidden on the Sabbath, and which is permitted?
"You shall not cook a young animal in its mother's milk" is stated three times in the Torah. Why? The Oral Law explains why. It also explains the seemingly odd wording of the commandment.
Most Hebrew words change their meaning when pronounced differently. Without the Oral Tradition, how can we determine the true meaning of the words of the Hebrew Scriptures, written as they were without vowels? Indeed, without an oral law we would not even understand the meaning of the letters, much less the words.
These are just a few examples of why the Oral Torah is necessary. And if you consider all that the Torah includes, you will realize that the entire body of Torah, the instructions on how to live our lives, is too vast to be confined to a few small books.
The Talmud tells the story of a Gentile who went to Hillel the Elder and said to him, "I want to convert, but I want to accept only the Written Torah, and not the Oral Torah. I don't wish to accept the words of the Hakhamim. So teach me only the Written Torah, and not the Oral Torah."
But Hillel knew that the man wanted to do the right thing. He simply didn't understand the purpose of the Oral Torah. So he began to teach him the Aleph Bet (Hebrew alphabet). The first day, Hillel the Elder taught him the first two letters, aleph, and bet.
The next day, Hillel the Elder taught him the same two letters in reverse. He showed him the letter aleph, and called it "bet." The man objected, "but yesterday you taught it the other way!"
"Well, then, you need me, a Hakham, to teach you the Aleph Bet? So you have to trust my knowledge of the tradition of the letters. What I tell you is the Oral Tradition. You can't read the alphabet if no one tells you what it means. And you think you don't need the Hakhamim knowledge of Jewish Tradition in order to understand the words of the Torah? Those are much more difficult! Without an Oral Tradition you will never be able to learn the Torah."
So it is clear that an Oral Tradition is needed, and that one exists.
* * *
This study was written by
Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David
Comments may be submitted to:
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 Shaul Magid
 Codex Bezae
 S.R. Hirsch, The Pentateuch
 Shabbat 18:5-19:5
 Daughters as well as sons.
 Their daughters being permitted to marry into the congregation.
 Shall not enter into the assembly of HaShem. Deut. XXIII, 4.
 Infra 76b, Kid. 67b, Keth. 7b, Hul. 62b.
 Sifrei ; Chul. 28a
 V. Aboth I, 1.
 The various divisions mentioned in the habdalah benediction.
 Succah 46a
 Shabbat 24a
 Succah 25b; Berachot 2.10
 Cf. Num. XXVIII, 11-15.
 Devarim 6:8.
 See Menachot 34b ff., et al.
 Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "See Rambam, Hilchot Tefillin , as well as other codifiers."
 Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "...as it means in other places."
 Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "...as was [the position of] the headband [of the High Priest]."
 They were the chief magicians in Egypt in the time of Moshe. They are mentioned in Jewish literature also under the name of Jannes and Jambres. V. J. E. VIII, p. 71.
 So MS.M. and other MSS.; in cur. edd. ‘Afraim, v. note on this word in Mishnah, supra p. 506. Hafaraim was a town where apparently there was a plentiful supply of straw, and so it became proverbial to describe wasted efforts as ‘carrying straw to Hafaraim’. (Cf. to carry coals to Newcastle’). As Egypt was reputed to be a land of magic and sorcery these magicians thus taunted Moses when he performed his wonders before the Pharaoh.
 For all merchants flock there and the demand for herbs is great.