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In parsha ki tetze (Devarim 22) it says if a man takes a wife, hates her, accuses her of not being a virgin, etc. Then the elders spread out the bedsheet to see if there is blood of virginity. If not, then the man is fined. If yes, then the girl is excecuted publicly.

Rashi brings down the oral which explains that it refers to the case where there were witnesses that she committed adultery. The plain reading of the verses however offers no such clue. It appears that only if the bedsheet did not have blood, then the girl is stoned to death by all the inhabitants of the city.

Anyone unfamiliar with the oral law will read this and consider the torah to be barbaric and bizzare. Question is why did God write the torah in such a way that it appears so misleading without the oral law.

There are many many other examples, take for example in parsha vayera (Bereishis 21:6-7) "Upon seeing the son of Hagar engaged in 'laughter' Sarah demands that Hagar and her "son" be sent away" (21:10). Without the oral law which explains "laughter" to be attempted murder it seems really, really bizzare. What just because the kid laughed, you want to send away him and his mother???

Is the torah trying to repel those without access to the oral law??

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Not misleading at all,the point is the Torah is vague so one has to come onto the oral law to show it is divine the written and oral law are hand in hand. –  sam Aug 13 '13 at 17:12
    
right but it seems to be trying to push away those without access to the oral law such as nonjews –  ray Aug 13 '13 at 17:14
    
I forgot which big Rabbi said this analogy,the written Torah is the cue cards for the lecture but the oral Torah is the speech. –  sam Aug 13 '13 at 17:31
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I think that @Sam has a very valid question which was bothering me as well, Ray I disagree with you, if you look in parshas Breishis where god says "Lets make" by the creation of Adam Rashi explains that the Torah is giving an excuse for the non believers but even there it can be explained in accordance with text as the Talmud says that God was consulting the angels see rashi there for full explanation. –  Bernard Goldberger Aug 13 '13 at 18:23
    
not comparable. that's talking about someone looking for an excuse to worship multiple deities/ idolatry, instead of the logical one God. Here this is the plain meaning of the text, how could one interpret it otherwise without access to the oral law? –  ray Aug 13 '13 at 20:06
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2 Answers

The Rambam in Moreh Nevukhim 3:41 (2nd paragraph) explains the reason behind "an eye for an eye" literally, then says that we should not be bothered that the law is that one pays, because his goal is to explain the written Torah, not the halakhah, and one who wants an explanation of the halakhah should consult the Rambam in person. The commentator Narboni explains that the written law of "an eye for an eye" is the ideal, which can never be practically implemented--because, as the Gemara says, one might end up killing the person which wouldn't be equitable. This means that the written Torah expresses a level of law which cannot be implemented in practice, and the oral law tells us the law as it is carried out.

This is similar to the approach of the Vilna Gaon, who says that the oral and written law are like clay and a seal--the written law is compared to a seal which leaves its imprint backwards in the clay (Aderet Eliyahu, Parshat Mishpatim). According to the Gra, the written law by itself does not represent the law as it is actualized in this world. The "applied law" may appear as the opposite of the law as it is written. For the Gra, this is connected to the kabbalistic level of the written law.

R. Moshe Shmuel Glasner, in the introduction to his Dor Revi'i, says that the reason the oral law was not given in writing was to provide necessary flexibility (this is also the explanation given by Mordecai Gumpel Schnaber Levisohn in his Ma'amar ha-Torah veha-Chochmah here). However, the flexibility of the oral Torah doesn't extend to all cases. As the Rambam explains in the introduction to his commentary on the Mishnah, there are "received explanations" (peirushim mekkubalim) from Moshe, which cannot change.

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so how do you explain the second example with yishmael that commited the cardinal sin of "laughing"?is it also ideal to banish him for that? –  ray Oct 19 '13 at 17:29
    
מצחק does not always mean laughing. See e.g. Genesis 39:14. In any case, 1. in non-halakhic cases, there is greater latitude to explain the verse, and in this case there is a range of opinion too; 2. the word "צחוק" is used in a number of ways in describing the story of Yitzchak, so it should not surprise us to find it here. In other words, one must also look at the context to understand the Torah. –  wfb Oct 20 '13 at 4:52
    
the context there is the birth of yitzchak and the torah uses the same word many times to convey laughter, such as that sarah "laughed", etc. –  ray Oct 20 '13 at 5:00
    
But Sarah's laughter is not the same as Avraham's. Or how about Gen. 26:8: והנה יצחק מצחק את רבקה אשתו –  wfb Oct 20 '13 at 5:21
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Your question is an important one, which can be directed towards many laws found in the Torah, as you seem to suggest.

The principle which would answer it is this: the Torah was given along with the Oral Law (see Mishne Torah intro). Moshe Rabbeinu was the one who explained the Torah for the Israelites throughout their wanderings in the wilderness. It was thus expected that all questions be answered by Moshe and his court. So the people were not misled by the simple meaning of the text, since everything was explained to them by Moses.

The primary purpose of the Torah was to gain the acceptance of the first Jews receiving it. They had to believe with all their hearts that they were entering an eternal, binding treaty with God. The way other people in other times and places would understand it was irrelevant for these purposes.

Instead, the Torah was meant to be understand in different ways at different times. Flexibility and reliance on the Oral Law was of utmost importance. MT Mamrim 2:1 states that a Bet Din (court) is not bound by the rulings of previous generations in regard to how to understand the text. If they read the verses differently, they may in fact rule in contradiction to a previous court's decision. The way they understand the text is for all intents and purposes the Law, no matter how dissimilar a superficial reading of the text may be.

Therefore, it may very well may be that the "plain" understanding of the verses which you indicate was the way it was understood by Moses and his court. That is a matter of theory, though, in terms of modern-day practice, which is determined by the legislation found in the Babylonian Talmud and other sources of Oral Law.

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are you saying Moses understood that the girl would be executed merely if the sheets were not blood stained? (i.e. no witnesses that she commited adultery). dont think that's correct –  ray Aug 14 '13 at 5:21
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@ray He's saying it might be that Moses understood it that way. It might not. But it doesn't matter (halachically). What matters is how we read it now. –  Double AA Aug 14 '13 at 7:45
    
@DoubleAA cannot be how Moses understood it. that would contradict other places in the torah, such as: lo yumat al pi ed echad. all the more so without any witnesses –  ray Aug 14 '13 at 18:11
    
But maybe chazaka of the circumstances beats that. Maybe the verses about witnesses are talking about the death penalty in only that specific instance. –  Double AA Aug 14 '13 at 18:22
    
what you actually believe the oral law changed so drastically? furthermore its obviously totally ridiculous to kill a girl because the bedsheet had no blood. many explanations could exonerate her. could be mukat etz, or happened b4 kidushin, etc. –  ray Aug 14 '13 at 18:51
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