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What is the “Oral Torah”? What role does the rabbinic tradition play vis-à-vis the Bible? The dialectical interplay, sanctioned at Sinai, between the Oral Torah and the Written Torah.

Lesson 3. The Written and the Oral Torah

Lesson 3. The Written and the Oral Torah

Scroll Down - Part 3

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Discussion (52)
November 9, 2016
Debarim 17:7-9
Todah Rabah! Thank you, Dr. Chigel, once more, and again for your time and dedication in this subject. I have greatly appreciated that you avoided me to delve into the historical circumlocution of Yochanan Girchan and the so questioned validity of the Pharisee priesthood in the second temple. For the same historical reasons, the Sanhedrin was affected and both Judges and Kohanim have no significance in the context of the last 1650 years. If you Please, my understanding of the full context just before Deuteronomy 17: 6-9 clearly indicates to me that one will go to judges and Kohanim when a man or woman has committed an abomination, like worshiping ellilim in the land of Yisrael, against the instruction in Ha Torah of YHVH and such Abomination is punishable with the ultimate punishment. It says nothing of going to Judges and Kohanim for something else. Then, please illustrate me if Judges and Kohanim are also subjects of a tradition beyond what is written and ordered by Moshe Avinu.
November 8, 2016
Deuteronomy 17:8-9
During the latter part of the Second Temple period (160 BCE-70CE), the authority of the Kohanim as designated in Deut. 17 atrophied in a rather organic historical way. For a number of reasons, it was eclipsed by the ever-increasing authority of a group of sages known as the Pharisees. By the year 70, with the Temple's destruction, the Kohanim were left utterly "unemployed" and with little authority. So it's very true that this still holds of Kohanim today.

As for the Judges designed in the same verse, they never disappeared from history. And their authority was only diminished in scope. In 358 CE, the great body of judges known as the Sanhedrin convened for the last time. Since then, there are many halakhic laws that can be neither passed nor enforced; e.g. capital punishment. Nevertheless, judges do sit on a tribunal (Bet Din) until today.

Moreover, the study of Law (judgement) has been an ongoing and never interrupted process since Moses. So Deut. 17 is still quite valid.
Michael Chighel
October 27, 2016
On Debarim 17:8-9
Dear Dr. Chighel. Thanks, once more. Please, allow me to remark respectfully on your last answer, that even if you are right, today we do not have neither kohanim nor judges, not even a temple to go to. Do you mean that Rabbis replace the Kohanim? or that any schule replaces The Temple? I do not think so. Teaching to think upon what is read, I can understand and accept from an educated teacher, like most Rabbis are. But even sound and respected scientists like Stephen Hawking have incurred in absurdities and blunders like saying that the universe came to be in existence by itself, out of nothing, just because The Creator does not exist, or it is simply unthinkable. You do not have to be a PhD or educated to understand that Mr. Hawking is dead wrong. But, of course, where there are two Jews together, there are three opinions at least. Thanking you truly from the bottom of my heart, for your answers. Todah Rabah V Baruchot, Shalom.
Jochanan Hernández
October 26, 2016
Deuteronomy 17
Dear Jochanan, as I mention all too briefly in the video, the key text is Deuteronomy 17:8-9. "If a case is too baffling for you to decide ... you shall promptly repair to the place that the Lord your G-d will have chosen, and appear before the levitical priests, or the judge in charge at the time [הַשֹּׁפֵט אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם] ...." There is more to say about this verse than a short note can contain, of course. But I hope the verse suggests clearly enough that the truth of the Torah is entrusted to the educated human decisions of kohanim and judges. And not just entrusted but com-manded, both in the simple and in the etymological sense of the word. Human judgement is part and parcel of the divine plan.
Michael Chighel
October 26, 2016
Debarim 4:2
Dear Dr. Chigel: once more, thank you for your patience and time to answer. The October 25 answer was indeed ingenious. Please, forgive me if You may, for returning back onto this theme, that is indeed crucial to one's faith. Let me assure you that I am not pretending to convince you of anything. However, In your fascinating lesson you explain clearly that it is one's responsibility to choose which rabbi to follow, very much the same as to which doctor I choose, especially if he / she is needed to perform on me a heart operation. These themes are even more delicate for me, for it is an operation of brain and faith. Where in HaTorah are Rabbs appointed with HaShem "imprimatur" to decide what HaShem's will is, or meant in such or such line. With all due respect, isn't it what we criticize to the christian's Pope and his so-called "infallibility", is it? In my opinion, it is quite arrogant to pretend (humanly) the understanding of HaShem's mind and reasoning. We are not His pairs.
Jochanan Hernández
October 25, 2016
Deuteronomy 4:2
"Do not add to the word [הַדָּבָר] which I command you, nor diminish from it, to observe the commandments of the Lord your G-d which I command you." (Deuteronomy 4:2)

For a Karaite, for whom the written word exhausts the meaning of the "davar" (הַדָּבָר) mentioned in this verse, the Oral Law must indeed seem like an addition. For a traditional Jew, "davar" has always included the Oral Torah. There was never a Written Torah without an Oral Torah; in which case there is no addition to speak of.

Moreover, while the term "davar" often means "word," it just as often means "thing" or "matter," "issue," etc.. In Hebrew, there is no clear-cut distinction between "word" and "thing"; at least not in so far as דבר is concerned (see e.g. Gen. 12:17, 18:14, 19:21 etc.). So Deut. 4:2 could also be translated: ""Do not add to the matter which I command you ..." And in the traditional view, again, the "matters" brought up at Sinai were both written and discussed.
Michael Chighel
October 7, 2016
The Karaite Tradition
Dear Dr. Chighel: Thank you, both for your answer as the lesson in humility. I concur in the fact that I should not talk about being a karaite and have a 'tradition' for it is indeed an oxymoron, very much like having circular triangles, or having a written 'oral' instruction, for the same matter. Following the same line of thoughts, the 'instruction' at Devarim 6 would indicate that we must "Shemah" not "לִכתוֹב" - write the instructions... but please, forgive my ignorance. In my poor point of view, writing the oral Torah would contradict the order - mitzvot - of just hearing and repeating. Therefore comes into scene the specific order at Devarim 4:2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish from it, that ye may keep the commandments of YHVH, your God, which I command you. Then, the explanations of the written Oral Torah would violate the instruction itself. Is not it in itself contradictory? HaShem does not contradict Himself, Does He?
Jochanan Hernández
October 1, 2016
Just a technical remark. On 3:26 there is just a simple mistake - instead of quoting Proverbs 22:17, it is quoted Proverbs 22:10.
June 29, 2016
Rabbi Chigel:The Torah
Your wit on the Written/Oral is wonderful. Following you on this subject is different and easy to understand. Thank u sooooch..
Patricia Baker
Raeford, NC
June 22, 2016
The most amazing issue is that the more one delves into the Torah whether it is the Oral or the Written Torah the more my curiosity grows, my thirst for learning increases; a never ending process of trying to connect with the "Truth" of what was handed down to the Israelites. A most amazing, fascinating presentation. Thank you Rabbi Chighel. Always looking forward to more enlightened discussions.
Anne-Marie Dheere
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