[b-hebrew] oral law

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Sat Jun 24 20:27:01 EDT 2006

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Peter Kirk" <peter at qaya.org>
> 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.

First of all, Hillel is NOT credited with having "invented" his way of 
eating the lamb, bitter herbs and unleavened bread. A traditional view would 
say, Hillel was faithfully passing on what HE had learned to do from HIS 
rabbis, all the way back to Moses! In any case, the very first generation, 
that of the Exodus, must have done it in one way or another - however Moses, 
speaking for God, told them to. They then taught their children, who then 
taught their children, all the way to Hillel! In other words, assuming that 
there actually WAS a Moses, who actually DID give the Torah to the people of 
Israel, and that those people immediately began observing every law, they 
MUST have had to deal with the details.

>>Peter Kirk:
> 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.

The tradition is, that all through history there was always some small group 
who kept the traditions, and that the prophets were sent to Israel to keep 
them on track. The reason that the "oral" Law was eventually committed to 
writing (the Mishnah and the Talmud) because the rabbis felt that the 
traditions were in danger of being lost.

Look, I know that a lot of this seems historically unlikely. I'm certainly 
not trying to convince anyone of its "historicity". What I am trying to do 
is to explain the traditions, in order to make it easier for those not 
familiar with them to understand where the traditional Jewish interpretation 
is coming from. Acceptance of these traditions is a matter of personal 
faith, which is of course way beyond what this list is about.


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