[b-hebrew] oral law

Peter Kirk peter at qaya.org
Sat Jun 24 19:00:58 EDT 2006

On 25/06/2006 00:04, Yigal Levin wrote:
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Peter Kirk" <peter at qaya.org>
>> Of course it doesn't. That's because such matters, like so many details
>> of religious practice, are not divinely specified. If this verse, I
>> suppose you mean Deuteronomy 6:8, is intended to be taken literally at
>> all, God did not choose to specify exactly how these commandments were
>> to be tied to hands and foreheads because this was a matter for each
>> person, or each community, to decide for themselves. And that is what
>> happened; one community's decision on these details has become
>> traditional Jewish teaching and practice. But what matters to God is not
>> the details the principle behind it.
> Peter, that's a (Pauline) Christian view, not a (Rabbinic) Jewish one. Of 
> course I have no intention of arguing about anyone else's religious views, 
> but the Jewish one is basically, that God would not have given so many rules 
> if he had not intended them to be followed. ...

I agree, and so did Paul, that the rules which God gave he intended to 
be followed. But there is no record of him giving rules on the details 
of how these rules should be put into practice. Did he say that the lamb 
and bitter herbs should be wrapped up in the matzot, the early form of 
sandwich which Hillel is said to have invented? I doubt it. He said that 
lamb, bitter herbs and unleavened bread were to be eaten, but, as far as 
the record tells us, he left it to individual or community decision 
whether these should eaten separately with the fingers, as a sandwich, 
with a knife and fork or however. Surely God doesn't care to specify 
such details, he leaves them to our own good sense.

> ... Halakhah, the "legal" part of 
> the Oral Torah, spells out just how the rules are supposed to be followed. 
> Something like by-legistlation specifying what a constitution states in only 
> general terms. But since God, unlike the human authors of a constitution, is 
> "perfect" and omniscient, He would not have left things to chance. And so 
> the Torah "must" have all possibilities already "built in". A very literal 
> understanding of this, such as the one that Shoshanna holds, would be that 
> God actually prepared Moses for every possibility that would arise in the 
> future, and he passed these down to the elders, who passed them to the 
> scribes, who passed them to the rabbis of "the Great Assembly", the later 
> Sanhedrin. A less literal interpretation is that God taught Moses the rules 
> by which to apply the Torah and gave him the authority to do so, and this is 
> what he passed down.
I can accept your less literal version as something which may have 
happened, although I wonder how faithfully anything was actually passed 
down through the multiple upheavals and apostasies of the Judges and 
Divided Kingdom periods, through the time when even the written Torah 
was lost before being found in Josiah's time. And while I accept that 
Shoshanna has the right to her faith position on the very literal 
version, I can see no evidence, in the written Torah or anywhere else, 
that this actually happened.

Peter Kirk
E-mail:  peter at qaya.org
Blog:    http://speakertruth.blogspot.com/
Website: http://www.qaya.org/

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