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We assume, and indeed our religion is predicated largely, on the fact that we have an unbroken chain of transmission from Moshe at Har Sinai. Originally, and until the times of the Gemara (as most assume), we had an unbroken chain of smicha, from Moshe, to Yehoshua, and on so that anyone who had smicha was as if he was trusted by Moshe himself. With the previous generation's approval, we know that the mesora we have is correct and true.

But we lost true smicha after the times of the Gemara? So wouldn't that mean that our mesora then is broken? How do we know that what we have now continues to be true and real?

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People can still approve of the trustworthiness of others without resting their hands on their heads. –  Double AA Apr 24 at 23:10
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Even Tanaaim, with Smicha from Moshe, argued with one another, alot, hence the Mishnah and Tosefta! –  Baby Seal Apr 24 at 23:13
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Our Mesora is two-pronged, the belief in the revelation at Sinai has obviously persevered. Nahmanides discusses this in Exodus. This is entirely parenthetical to your question, our religion is really predicated on that unbroken chain. –  Baby Seal Apr 24 at 23:15
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why downvotes?! –  Baby Seal Apr 24 at 23:18
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@Shmuel How so? That's what I'm asking. –  WhoKnows Apr 25 at 11:56

1 Answer 1

We consider the mesorah continuing past the mishnah through the gemarah and then continuing through the geonim, the rishonim (such as Rashi and Rambam, etc.), and then through the acharonim such as the Shulchan Aruch, the Mishna Brurah and modern poskim such as Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Elyashiv, Rav Ovadiah Yosef, Rav Dovid Feinstein, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, my LOR, etc.

Thus even though we do not have semicha, we still have the chain of mesorah recognized as an unbroken chain. Of course there are different groups that may have different minhagim (such as sfardim and ashkenazim) but in all cases it is still an unbroken chain of mesora.

Each person can look to his LOR and trace back the chain of mesorah that he has to the common point.

There are those who have tried to reestablish semicha (based on the Rambam) but so far we have not been able to get everyone to agree (one of the Rambam's requirements).

See the discussions on eating turkey as an example as to how mesorah is considered. This applies even though the question arose long after semicha ended, showing that we still consider the mesorah as continuing. Within this discussion, you will see that since birds are defined as not kosher based on a list, we consider that one should follow the mesorah as to which birds are kosher and which birds are not. The rabbonim discuss whether or not one can derive simanim as to whether or not an unknown bird is kosher (similar to fins and scales with fish or hoove and cud with animals) but most discussions nowadays rely on mesorah. That is too long a matter to go into here and can be found in other answers.

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Who's "we" that don't eat birds that are probably kosher unless there is a mesorah that they are eaten? –  Double AA Apr 25 at 13:56
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@DoubleAA See the discussions on turkey and other birds . "we" mean Jews who keep kosher. –  sabbahillel Apr 25 at 14:09
    
Whoa whoa whoa. Why aren't Sefardim Jews? Or are they not keeping kosher? –  Double AA Apr 25 at 14:10
    
@DoubleAA This includes sfardim. They also eat birds that are kosher according to their mesorah. Similarly about chagavim (kosher insects). There are plenty of discussions as to whether particular groups have mesorah about specific types of birds that other groups do not. In any case, the statement that I gave means that Jews keep the mesorah. Another example would be rabonim in Europe who would eat certain types of birds to keep the mesorah active. Similarly, there are things that sefardim have as mesorah that ashkenazim have lost. I point out that there is a chain of mesorah as general case. –  sabbahillel Apr 25 at 14:37
    
I think you are mistaken. Sefardim (at least some) will eat any bird based on Simanei Taharah alone. –  Double AA Apr 25 at 14:48

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