Rabbi Avraham Feld
The Oral Law
The Oral Law
Michael Drazin in ‘THEIR HOLLOW INHERITANCE’, states that clearly, the Oral Tradition must be afforded the utmost seriousness, for its explanations of Biblical verses were given to Moses by G-d and have been studied and cherished for generations. In contrast, during the glorious Prophetic Era (which lasted one thousand years), while the Israelite people pondered the profound Divine messages conveyed by its prophets, Christians were non-existent and most Gentiles were illiterate pagans. The Hebrew Bible, with its revolutionary moral standards, only became known to the world at a much later date (around 246 BCE). Nevertheless, the founding fathers of Christianity had to insist that their interpretations of the Hebrew Bible were as valid as those of the Jews. But the basis of theses claims is itself founded on misinterpretations: [2-Chronicles 34:14] AND WHEN THEY BROUGHT OUT THE MONEY THAT WAS BROUGHT INTO THE HOUSE OF THE L-RD, HILKIAH THE PRIEST FOUND THE BOOK OF THE LAW OF THE L-RD BY THE HAND OF MOSES.
The sensational discovery unearthed the Torah Scroll Moses himself had written (“The Book of the Law”) – not that there were not an abundance of scrolls – Torah was being learned and practiced day and night. Merely that this was particular because of its antiquity and the very special scribe that worked on it, namely Moses.
[Deuteronomy 31:24-26] AND IT CAME TO PASS, WHEN MOSES HAD FINISHED WRITING THE WORDS OF THE LAW IN THIS BOOK…THAT MOSES COMMANDED THE LEVITES…SAYING, ”TAKE THIS BOOK OF THE LAW AND PUT IT BY THE SIDE OF THE ARK OF THE COVENANT OF THE L-RD, YOUR G-D, THAT IT MAY BE THERE FOR YOU AS A WITNESS.”
This scroll had been hidden from King Ahaz, who had destroyed the holy artifacts one hundred years earlier: [2-Chronicles 28:24] AND AHAZ GATHERED TOGETHER THE VESESELS OF THE HOUSE OF G-D, AND CUT IN PIECES THE VESSELS OF THE HOUSE OF G-D…
However, when this scroll was unrolled before King Josiah, he rent his clothes (2-Chronicles 34:19) for it fell open to the section containing all the curses destined to befall those Jews who disregard the Torah (Deuteronomy 27:28).
Huldah the prophetess confirmed Josiah’s conviction that this was no mere coincidence but an omen from G-d: [2-Chronicles 34:24-25] THUS SAYS THE L-RD: “BEHOLD, I WILL BRING EVIL UPON THIS PLACE AND UPON ITS INHABITANTS, EVEN ALL THE CURSES THAT ARE WRITTEN IN THE BOOK THEY HAVE READ BEFORE THE KING OF JUDAH . BECAUSE THEY HAVE FORSAKEN ME AND OFFERED TO OTHER GODS…”
Hoping to move the populace to repent, Josiah read them this section of the Torah: [2-Chronicles 34:30] AND HE READ IN THEIR EARS ALL THE WORDS OF THE BOOK OF THE COVENANT THAT WAS FOUND IN THE HOUSE OF THE L-RD.
Although there are many covenants in the Torah, this section is called “the Covenant” because they accepted each curse upon themselves as a punishment foe violating the Torah. The conclusion of these two chapters affirms their uniqueness: [Deuteronomy 28:69] THESE ARE THE WORDS OF THE COVENANT THE L-RD COMMANDED MOSES TO MAKE WITH THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL IN THE LAND OF MOAB, BESIDES THE COVENANT HE MADE WITH THEM IN HOREB [i.e. Sinai].
It should be noted that of all of the Torah’s commands, the prohibitions relating to idolatry were those that were violated by Josiah’s subjects. [2-CHRONICLES 34:21] …FOR GREAT IS THE WRATH OF THE L-RD THAT IS POURED OUT UPON US, BECAUSE OUR FATHERS HAVE NOT KEPT THE WORD OF THE LORD, TO DO ACCORDING TO ALL THAT IS WRITTEN IN THIS BOOK.
It has been claimed that the written Torah (and consequently, the Oral Tradition) was lost and forgotten until found by Hilkiah. Any objective study however would show this to be obviously erroneous. The Torah was being lived and studied continuously, without interruption, from time immemorial.
Obviously, during the seven hundred years between Moses and Josiah, the Jews had innumerable copies of the Torah. As shown, it was their most treasured possession. The Torah is also referred to throughout the Hebrew Bible. For instance, in the same book chronicling the discovery of this scroll, Deuteronomy 24:16 is quoted verbatim with regard to Amaziah, who reigned just three years prior to Josiah: [2-Chronicles 25:3-4] NOW IT CAME TO PASS WHEN THE KINGDOM WAS ESTABLISHED UNTO [Amaziah] THAT HE KILLED THE SERVANTS WHO HAD SLAIN THE KING, HIS FATHER. BUT HE DID NOT PUT THEIR CHILDREN TO DEATH; RATHER HE DID ACCORDING TO THAT WHICH IS WRITTEN IN THE LAW OF THE BOOK OF MOSES, AS THE L-RD COMMANDED, SAYING, FATHERS SHALL NOT DIE FOR CHILDREN, NOR SHALL CHILDREN DIE FOR FATHERS; BUT A MAN SHALL DIE FOR HIS SIN.”
Two men, one Jewish and one a Gentile, arrived late at night in the emergency room at a hospital. In the morning the Jewish man donned tefilin and prayed. The Gentile man was amazed and said to the visiting doctor, “These Jews are really something. He’s here one night and already he’s taking his own blood pressure.” These little boxes and straps were uncovered by archaeologists thousands of years ago. Hundreds of years before, a portion of the Oral Tradition had to be put into writing.
The Torah says [Exodus 13:9] “AND IT SHALL BE AS A SIGN ON YOUR ARM AND A REMINDER BETWEEN YOUR EYES SO THAT THE L-RDS TORAH WILL BE IN YOUR MOUTH FOR WITH A STRONG HAND THE L-RD REMOVED YOU FROM EGYPT .” Look at [Exodus 13:16 ] – “IT SHALL BE A SIGN UPON YOUR ARM AND AN ORNAMENT (frontlets) BETWEEN YOUR EYES – FOR WITH A STRONG HAND G-D TOOK YOU OUT OF EGYPT .” Deut. 6:8 makes it clear that this is a real time command.
“BIND THEM AS A SIGN UPON YOUR ARM AND LET THEM BE FRONTLETS BETWEEN YOU EYES.” [Deut. 11:18] – “Place these words of mine” (which words?). The command says “these words” – quite specific – so, friend, which words?
The hundreds of laws as to what these tefilin are and the details explaining their use, have been faithfully transmitted through the generations. Jewish people have always accepted these traditions, and today, 3,350 years after the command was articulated, the laws of tefillin are still being practiced in their original fashion. Because of the terrible persecution and dispersions that occurred throughout the ages, a danger arose of forgetting the Oral Law, and the detailed instructions and explanations contained within – those such as the commandments surrounding tefillin, as described above. Thus part of it was written down, first a portion called the Mishna, and later, for the same reason, another portion called the Gemora. The two together are referred to as the Talmud. The archaeological find mentioned above, reveals that the tefilin of yesteryear are the same as the ones used today. The fact that our tefilin conform exactly with those of thousands of years ago is truly profound.
We clearly see that archeological finds sometimes confirm the continuity of the Biblical Oral Tradition and how carefully it was preserved and transmitted. Finds include the uncovering of numerous mikvot – ritual baths even from the First Temple times. Once again, they conform to the rigorous standards of any ultra orthodox Jew of today. The Bible cryptically says, “waters bring purity” and that reveres numerous religious precepts for layman, priests, men, and women that necessitates a ritual bath for purification. Yet complete reliance is again placed on the Oral Bible for the practical real time application of these crucially important biblical injunctions. Almost no problems have crept into the Hebrew Bible. We see here even into the Hebrew Biblical Oral Torah an absence of problems that would halt or obstruct actual observance of the Bible. These discoveries of ritual baths, tefillin, etc. have amazing ramification. They are mind boggling proofs that the ancient Oral biblical teachings have been faithfully kept.
Hershel the water carrier had a son who would soon be Bar Mitzvah, so he went to his friend that he considered wise, as opposed to going to the town’s local spiritual leadership. “Tell me, Buddy, how shall I introduce my son to mysteries of reproduction? He will soon reach an age of spiritual manhood and it is time he learned about the ‘birds and the bees.’ “First of all,” replied his friend, “you must forget about the ‘birds and the bees.’ It is a myth that has no reality, in fact.” “How can you say that?” asked Hershel. “Because I proved it to my own satisfaction. I put a bird and a bee together in a cage and although I watched for a week, I assure you, dear Hershel, nothing happened.”
People start off with the wrong premises, with conceptual mistakes, and being overly literal in context. The results of these logical faults are to reject the tried and true wisdom of the Oral Bible. Simple, honest reevaluation would correct their mistaken conclusions. Clarifying the Identity of the Lost Ten Tribes and working to bring them back is part of the Messianic Process. We should all do all we can to hasten the coming of the Messiah. The whole concept of a Messiah is the concept of a world whose mistaken conclusions can be rectified, whose conceptual mistakes and out of context literalness can be fixed.
The Oral law was given together with the Written Law from the hand of the Almighty G-d of Israel.
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