Relationship between written and oral torah

Oral Torah - Wikipedia

relationship between written and oral torah

In this piece, I examine the relationship between the Written and Oral Torah. I argue that the Written Torah has been given a raw deal. According to Rabbinic Judaism, the Oral Torah or Oral Law represents those laws, statutes, and legal interpretations that were not recorded in the Five Books of Moses, the "Written Torah" (Hebrew: תורה שבכתב , Torah she-bi-khtav, lit. " Torah that is in writing"), but nonetheless are regarded by Orthodox Jews as The major repositories of the Oral Torah are the Mishnah. BCE), coming generations routinely set their ideas into relationship with . of the dual Torah, oral and written, which formed the indicative and definitive trait.

The problem is that this Oral authority is not uniform, and often contradictory. A century later, Akiva ben Joseph, a proponent of the Hillel camp, won the day. Akiva developed the Mishnah.

It was also Akiva, though, who believed that Bar Kochba, the Jewish leader of the revolt against Roman rule, was the Messiah. So far, we have examined the Oral Torah as the creator of the Written Torah. Judaism considers the sages chochomim to be the God-appointed human channels of the Oral Torah.

The Torah serves as raw material for human creation, and man must develop the Torah in the direction that seems right to him. Tanna Debei Eliyahu Zuta, ed. The Torah was given like raw material, and man must utilize it in order to fashion the next layer of the Oral Law.

Chazal spoke in a similar vein in other places as well He quotes: What is the meaning of: This is in order that the Torah be explained in forty-nine ways favoring ritual impurity and forty-nine ways favoring ritual purity. The formulation proposed by Rabbi Joseph Bloch, head of the Telz Yeshiva, comes closer to our view than do the words of the author of the Ketzot he quotes: Thus, it differs from the other branches of wisdom, for those who investigate them do not establish the reality of those branches of wisdom, but rather uncover it.

For their thinking and decisions will never change reality. This is not the case regarding Torah, for the reality of ritual impurity and purity, forbidden and permitted things, obligation and exemption, are set in accordance with the decisions of the Torah Sages.

How can the Torah Sages give two different answers, both of which are equally valid? In the case of a mathematical problem, for example, 2 plus 2, the problem has only one correct answer. It would seem that halachic questions should also have only one correct answer! For this branch of wisdom does not allow for clear demonstrations as does mathematics. Ramban, Introduction to his Milchamot Hashem. Here we see that although the Oral Torah feeds on the raw flesh of the Written Torah, it is the Oral Torah that reveals the inworkings and inwormings of the Written Torah.

I examine how the Oral Torah works with would say, against the raw data of Written Torah: Here is the relevant Midrash: And there was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day. That would be extraordinary! Are such stories and imaginative interpretations of the written Torah to be taken seriously, and if so, in what way? Finally, what about the Kabbalah the "third" or "hidden" Torah and mystical traditions?

Are these also part of the oral Torah? First it should be noted that the notion that there was an unbroken succession of oral Torah from Moses to the rabbis Sanhedrin is an article of faith that at first sight seems to contradict the testimony of Scripture itself.

Now while it's true that the word "all" here might be qualified to mean "all the words that God commanded Moses to write," there is still a question about how the claim that the oral Torah was given might be substantiated. After all, the only appeal for its occurrence is a self-referential appeal contained within oral tradition itself, the very point at issue.

Moreover, Moses' great successor Joshua was likewise commanded to abide exclusively by the book of the Law written by Moses Josh. It should also be noted that the written Torah itself warns not to add or subtract to any of its words Deut. Did He support the idea of oral Torah?

Well, yes and no. On the one hand Yeshua agreed with much of the prevailing thinking of the Pharisees. Both of these commandments were the "agreed upon answer" to the question according to the oral Torah of His day at least from the perspective of the "house of Hillel". Yeshua's formulation of the "Golden Rule" Matt.

Yeshua also willingly subjected himself to the religious authoritiy of His day, the Sanhedrin. When He was commanded by the High Priest to confess his identity during his "trial," Yeshua apparently complied Matt. Yeshua did this in order to fulfill the requirement of the Torah and to become a sacrificial victim on behalf of Temple Judaism for more information, see: Yeshua's Pidyon ha-ben ceremony.

The Last Passover of Yeshua also indicates that He observed elements of the oral traditions. When He blessed the bread and Cups, He was following the general pattern of the Seder that was endorsed by the sages of His day. Yeshua also apparently wore tzitzit Mark 6: Yeshua's teaching methodology the use of parables, the master-disciple relationship, and so on. He called Himself "Lord of the Sabbath" Luke 6: Throughout his public ministry he fiercely rejected the concept of "putting a fence around the Torah" by adding extra-Scriptural religious edicts, customs and traditions Matt.

Certain Messianic believers suggest that Yeshua actually endorsed Rabbinical authority. As a proof text, they cite Matthew The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you - but not what they do.

For they preach, but do not practice. At first glance it seems that Yeshua is saying that His followers are to practice and observe the Jewish traditions as expounded by the scribes and Pharisees.

relationship between written and oral torah

However, when we closely read the context of this passage we note that these words undoubtedly indicate irony and scorn for their outward shows of righteousness Matt If Yeshua had seriously meant for His followers to practice and observe what the scribes and Pharisees had taught, why would He go on to berate them as hypocrites who "shut up the kingdom of heaven against men," making a "pretense" of their prayers and going out of their way to make one convert who is "twice the child of hell" than themselves?

Would Yeshua have you and I practice and observe these sorts of things? On the contrary, the overall context of this passage indicates that the follower of the Messiah should not become subject to their authority. This interpretation is further made evident by Yeshua's statement that we are to be subject to Him alone as Teacher and are to call no one "rabbi" Matt On the one hand we need to remember his training as a Rabbi when he quotes the Scriptures in his writings.

Paul was at one time a student of Gamaliel the Elder, the grandson of the renowned Rabbi Hillel, and therefore familiar with the sages and their interpretations Acts 5: For example, when he wrote, "And all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ" 1 Cor.

In addition Paul was careful to observe various Torah restrictions during his life. Even after his conversion, he took the Nazirite vow Acts Paul asked, "Do we then nullify the Law through faith?

May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law" Rom. On the other hand, Paul was tireless in his fight against legalism and the idea that true spirituality involves attaining personal merit and religious self-righteousness. The book of Galatians is his sustained argument against the Judaizers. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth" Titus 1: Their words are those of men living in the 2nd-5th centuries AD.

When the Torah was lost for 50 years and later restored by the priests 2 Kings Other Concerns Contrary to the view that the complete written Torah was given to Moses at Sinai, it must be understood that only part of it was actually recorded at that time. Only the sefer habrit was written at the time of giving of the Ten Commandments at Sinai; the rest of it was compiled and written during the 40 years in the desert.

Practically speaking, the idea of oral Torah essentially invites us to relegate the study of the written Torah to a glorious footnote of Jewish history. True, written Torah is considered foundational, but it is merely the historical starting point for the greater discussion about what Torah means to us today.

Hence we see in some forms of Jewish observance a minimal interest in the actual words of the written Torah, with added emphasis on the the shiurim lessons and discussions of various rabbis. There is a tendency, then, to gradually move away from the clear revelation of Scripture into a closed system of speculations among the sages, different schools of thought, etc.

Without the written Torah as the central focus, however, it's difficult to know where to draw the line in terms of what we are to do and how we are to respond to God's commandments.

relationship between written and oral torah

A more serious charge against the idea of oral Torah is that the Talmudic revisionism of post-Temple Judaism transformed Moses from being God's direct meditator into "Moshe Rabbeinu" - Moses our Rabbi. The same "conversion" can be seen in the rabbinical reinvention of the prophets, King David, and even the Messiah into advocates of the Talmud and the rabbis.

Indeed, even God Himself is sometimes seen as being subject to the authority of the rabbis! Eliezer had argued a point of doctrine the truth of which was attested to by miracles.

His rabiinical opponents, however, dismissed his various proofs. Eliezer said to the Sages, "If the Halakhah agrees with me, let it be proved from heaven. Eliezer, with whom the Halakhah always agrees?

The Written and Oral Torah

Joshua stood up and protested: Nathan met [the prophet] Elijah and asked him, "What did the Holy One do at that moment? Rabbinical consensus and interpretation now trumps all. Perhaps this explains why it is so difficult to share the gospel message with practicing Jews today.

To point out how Yeshua is revealed in the Torah, the Writings, and the Prophets i. Every prooftext in the Hebrew Scriptures will be given an alternative interpretation that accords with the Yeshua-rejecting Rabbinical tradition In other words, since the rabbis have not accepted Yeshua as Israel's Mashiach, that's the final word on the subject. Perhaps the "fence around the Torah" was intended to restrict access to the plain sense of Scripture, thereby hiding from view that Rabbinical authority itself is without sanction from the written Torah.

The Relative Importance of the Oral Torah Despite these serious objections to the idea of oral Torah as a source of divine authority, we need to ask if there is any value for us to study Talmud and the oral traditions? Yes indeed, especially since the Talmud often provides invaluable insights into much of the written Torah, including many of the teachings and discussions about the meaning of Scripture that were prevalent at the time of Yeshua.

The Talmud also provides details about the social life of Israel, the origins of various customs, and Temple activities that are not explicitly mentioned in the writings of Moses. Often additional insights from the Jewish sages make Scriptural passages clearer to the reader.

Shiur # The Relationship between the Written and Oral Torah | vbm haretzion

Frequently the rabbi's knowledge of Hebrew, Aramaic, and even Greek shed new light on important words and grammatical constructions. The task of doing Messianic Biblical Theology would be unthinkable without consulting the collected wisdom of the Jewish Torah sages.

The Talmud helps us contextualize some of the power struggles between Jesus and the Pharisees and Sadducees. For example, it records some of the theological debates between the followers of Hillel Bet Hillel and the followers of Shammai Bet Shammai that were well-known to Yeshua's audiences.

Generally speaking, Hillel was more liberal and Shammai was more conservative regarding their respective interpretations of Torah.

At times Yeshua sided with Shammai's interpretation, and at other times he sided with Hillel. For example, regarding divorce, he agreed with Shammai's view that it is always illegal Matt.

Christians even those who hold to the Protestant idea of "Sola Scriptura" regularly resort to various commentaries of the Scriptures from scholars within the Church tradition, and this can sometimes be of real benefit. When it comes to understanding the Torah of Moses, however, there is no better source than the Jewish sages.

What's the Difference Between the Written and the Oral Torah?

What about Aggadah and Midrash? But what about the various legends and midrashim about the Torah embedded within Jewish tradition?

relationship between written and oral torah

Are these to be taken seriously or to be disregarded as myth or nonsense? The word "midrash" is a general term that simply means searching the text. There is no single book called "The Midrash," but only various compilations composed and edited over the course of more than a millennium.

Midrash can apply to matters of Jewish law called midrash halakhah or narrative matters called midrash aggadah. When someone says, "It says in the midrash The various extra-biblical "tall tales" are intended to reinforce Jewish values, provide moral exhortation, instill a sense of reverence or inspiration, and to generally inculcate Jewish "hashkafah" perspective.

Regarding Aggadah the Jewish scholar Maimonides wrote, "The sages presented their drashot in a style by which the mind of a fool will reject them because of his way of thinking; it is improper to assign any deficiency to the drash; if anyone is devoid of understanding, it is the reader" Commentary on the Mishnah.

In other words, such legends should be understood as parables intended to express truth found in the written Torah. Such storytelling is sometimes justified as a counterbalance to halakhic legal punctiliousness that tends to mark serious Jewish thinking about the Law. If interested, Ein Yaakov is a collection of the aggadic material found in the Talmud. Now that we know what midrash and aggadic literature is about, let's take a look at some of the more popular aggadot legends that concern the giving of the Torah to Israel at Sinai, as well as some other stories about the importance of the Torah for the Jewish people.

In charity to the authors of these stories, ask yourself how the story or legend supports other truths you understand from the written Torah. Torah Offered to the 70 Nations A famous story Peskita 21 says that from the time of creation until the time of the Exodus the LORD offered the Torah to each of the 70 nations, but they all refused it. For example, God came to the descendants of Esau and said to them, "Will you accept the Torah?

Na'aseh venishmah - "All that the Lord has spoken will we do and be obedient" Ex. God as the Eager Groom Another story says that God originally planned to give the Torah to the Jews the day after they left Egypt -- but on second thought He decided to wait for fifty days.

God wanted to make sure Israel would accept Torah for the right reasons -- not because of the miracles, signs and wonders He performed to secure their redemption from Pharaoh Other versions of this story have it that God delayed giving the Torah so as not to appear like a groom who jumps too hastily into marriage or because the people needed to be free from their defects 49 levels of tumah before receiving the defect-free Torah.

Therefore God healed all the sick of Israel between the Exodus and the arrival at Sinai. The journey to Sinai was likened to God "courting" His betrothed. God treated Israel as a king who properly wooed his beloved by showering her with many gifts i.

The Torah itself was God's ketubah marriage contract signed after the ceremony at Sinai. God Created the Universe for Israel's Acceptance of Torah Another midrash says that God created the universe solely on the condition that Israel would accept the Torah when it was offered to them.

Should Israel refuse, God would return the world to tohu v'vohu chaos and void, Gen 1: Shimon the Righteous said, "Upon three things the world stands: God Suspended Mount Sinai Yet another legend states that when the children of Israel had gathered at Mount Sinai and took their places literally at "the foot of the mountain" Ex. If not, you will be buried here.

It was quite different at Mount Sinai, however. God bent the heavens and shook the earth. Rivers suddenly ran backwards. The air reverberated with thunder and shofar blasts. These words were understood not only by the terrified Israelites but by all the peoples of the earth and even by the souls of unborn Jewish generations.

In other versions of this story, the mountain was lifted up as a chuppah wedding canopy for the big day. Black Fire on White Fire Then there is the legend from Midrash Tanhuma that the Torah was written with letters of "black fire on white fire" "the flame alphabet".

relationship between written and oral torah

Others say the black fire denoted Divine Mercy while the white fire represented Divine Justice