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Mishpatim As Iqqar Tora SheB’Al Peh

February 1, 2014

Certain concepts exist long before they are recognized, and even longer before they are defined and given a specific name. Take the Sanhedrin, for instance.  Since the begining, our people have been led by the elders. They were around in Egypt before Moses showed up, and later, 70 of them served as the official leadership of the people. Such is explicit in Exodus and Numbers. This institution lasted before it received its (likely Greek) name, Sanhedrin.

I believe the same is true for the Oral Law. We are all familiar with the written text of the Torah and the various components of the masora and the Torah Sheb’al Peh: the vocalizations and the cantillations of the Bible, the Laws, and the mishnayoth, and then the Talmud. Throughout the generations, there have been those deviant ideologues who claimed that the mainstream Jewish traditions were fabrications, be it the Sadducees, Samaritans, and Karaites, or the latter day Reformers. Indeed, one could read the entire Pentateuch until Mishpatim and make an argument that the text, including the commandments up to that, are to be understood as minimally as they appear. However, once one reads Mishpatim, with its dozens of commandments, it becomes eminently clear that Moses and the people received many more details than what is written. Example off the top of my head: The fact that no Jewish court or judge in the history of the world ruled that one who broke his fellow’s arm should have his own arm broken.

It is interesting to note that the section of Mishpatim interrupts the Torah’s narrative of the Revelation of Sinai. I believe that it was to show that just like G-d gave His people stone tablets engraved with His word, and later, a Law written “upon a scroll”, the terseness and conciseness of the intervening laws of “The Book of Covenant” indicate that Moses at the time delivered more than just what was written.

I also believe that the heretical position, as espoused by this guy, has some delicious irony. His people have been very busy developing their own Torah She’bal Peh while vociferously denying that such a thing ever existed.  Do they not understand that by elaborating upon how to understand and interpret the written word, they are doing the exact thing for which they criticized the “Rabbanites”? I especially enjoy his request for a Kosher Kohen to contact him. Doesn’t he understand that there is a reason why practically every single descendant of Aaron has stuck to the traditional understanding of the Torah as part of his maintenance of his patrilineal line?


From → logic, original, parasha

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