The Written Torah and the Oral Torah

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The Written Torah and the Oral Torah Powered By Docstoc
					Classical Judaism holds that there is a dual Torah, consisting of the Torah Sh'b'ktav
(the Written Torah) and the Torah Sh'Ba'al Peh (the Oral Torah). Commandments
derived from the written Torah are called "d'Oraita" from the Aramaic word meaning
"from the Torah."

For classical Judaism, the Oral Torah consists of Oral Torah revealed simultaneously
at Sinai as well as enactments or laws instituted by later rabbis (d'Rabbanan). The
basis or authority for the laws classified as"d'Rabbanan" and for the implementation
of the observance of the commandments is derived from Deuteronomy 17:8-11.

Hence, the rabbis claim that the authority to interpret the commandments and
subsequently define (i.e. the way in which the commandments are observed) is found
in the written Torah itself, where Moses states that any case or question too difficult
for the Jewish people in future days should be brought before the priests and judges in
office at that time.

To this day, the rabbis serve as judges and legislators akin to a court and a legislature.
Rabbis are in fact dayanim (i.e. Judges). The Torah serves as the constitution for Israel.
Like the Constitution of the United States, the actual implementation of its statutes,
and future needed statutes are left to the Congress and the validity of those laws is left
to the courts. The concept of a constitutional model for Torah law that "evolves" or is
"pliable" allows it to remain relevant and applicable.

A Torah model that does not include this eventually creates a situation in which many
biblical commandments cannot be observed, applied, or understood. Hence a
community like the Karaites who argue that they follow only the Biblical text have
almost reached the point of extinction, have isolated and in fact excluded themselves
from the Jewish community by adopting different calendar and different laws. In the
end they nevertheless created a body of their own "halachah"out of necessity in
attempting to follow the written text.

The case or argument for the Oral Torah exists on two levels. On a very basic level,
the very necessity of Oral Torah can be established by looking at the text of the Torah
itself.

The text of the written Torah is written only in consonants, without vocalization.
Hence one word written in Hebrew can have multiple meanings. Hence, where the
Hebrew text says "BNCH," one might render this as "Bonayich" "your Builders" or as
"B'nayich" "your Children." This occurs quite often. Vocalization (vowels) was only
added much later after the text was written.

So even our very ability to read and understand the text is based upon an oral tradition
which provides us with both the ability to pronounce the alphabet, to read, and most
importantly understand the text.
The famous Hillel was approached by a non-Jew who desired to learn the Torah on
the condition he would learn the written Torah only. He started teaching him the
alef-bet and the next day changed the names of the letters and their pronunciation and
the student was confused. He did this to prove a point!

The text is foundational but it is informed and understood only with the aid of the oral
tradition.

				
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posted:1/26/2011
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