[b-hebrew] oral Torah

Shoshanna Walker rosewalk at concentric.net
Fri Jun 23 10:12:08 EDT 2006

G-d told Moshe to choose 70 men, who, together with him would be the 
first Sanhedrin, and told Israel that they had authority.  I don't 
remember by heart the description of their requirements, but they 
certainly had to be "wise men" and versed in Torah law.


HH: Then there is no chain of command, is there, for who else is there
besides priests and prophets who are God- ordained? The "scribes" are
not God-ordained as a special authority-bearing group outside the
priests and prophets. If there is such a chain of command, the Law
itself ought to instruct us of that fact.

> The function of Priests, that is, decsendants of
>Aaron, is to perform the perscribed rituals in the Temple.

HH: The function of priests was also to teach and to judge. You are
greatly circumscribing the role of priests.

> The function of
>Prophets, that is, people who receive "direct" messages from God, is to warn
>the people of their transgressions or to give them hope for the future, NOT
>to interpret the Law.
>Of course, there were individuals who were either both priest and prophet,
>priest and rabbi, or prophet and rabbi. Ezra was all three, which gives him
>a lot of clout in Jewish tradition. But the functions themselves are
>The Talmud recounts several stories of rabbis discussing a point of Law,
>when suddenly either a heavenly voice or a prophet (even Elijah!) appeared
>and gave "God"'s view on the matter, to which the rabbis replied "It [the
>Law] is not in heaven" (Deut. 30:12) - once the Torah was given to us, we
>have sole authority over its interpretation.

HH: The rabbis, as a group distinct from prophets and priests, have no
special God-given authority that I can recall from Scripture. I
certainly don't see any "chain of command" in Scripture. There are the
"wise men" in Scripture, but  these are a group that culturally
functioned in every nation, simply those looked to as wise. There are
the elders, who were heads of the various families. That is certainly a
divinely-approved position of authority, but it is based  in culture and
family and gives no special authority in the handling of Scripture.

>Of course, historically speaking, this interpretation has not been held by
>all Jews throughhout history. The Sadducees, who were mostly priests, both
>denied the authority of the Oral Torah and of the rabbis who considered
>themselves to be its stewards. But this has become the "mainstream" view of
>post-Destruction Rabbinic Judaism.

HH: Thanks.

Harold Holmyard

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