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Rabbi Naftali ElfenbeinRabbi Naftali Elfenbein pointed out during a lecture that even the Mishnah, the written codification of our Oral Tradition, is at times woefully misleading. For example, see Bava Kamma 7:4, where a remark from Rabbi Simeon, while it seems to be a response to the preceding statement of the mishnah, is in fact a response to a different saying that is not even recorded in the mishnah! See the Talmudic gloss, folio 76a, (here in english).

He said that the whole purpose of the Oral Tradition is to facilitate consultation and discussion, of the Written Text. That's why the Sages were loathe to write any of it down, and even when they did, they did so in a way that was vague and still required much clarification, (See the thousands of pages of Talmud that do so).

That is why the Written Torah is so vague and misleading when it stands alone. It is by design, so that we can't really understand the laws on our own, and we must search for their meaning being constantly led back to our Rabbis and Sages, and our enduring tradition.


 

Adding my own thoughtsAdding my own thoughts, I think this is what has allowed us to persevere as a people throughout this long and arduous exile. If we had everything we needed from the Pentateuch, I think we would have much less of a sense of community and solidarity than we do, and standing alone, we would splinter and fragment throughout the world, falling prey to assimilation and forsaking the Law of Moses.

The Oral Law creates a perpetual discourse between us! Whether its a scheduled time to learn, or hear a lecture. Whether its an argument about a new invention or phenomenon in halacha between Rabbis and communities, whether is contentious or uplifting, it holds us together, and brings us back together, time and time again.

A final thought, beginning with a question. What happened to the Ten Tribes, the Assyrian exiles? We may have regained some of them, and they may live in some guarded land surrounded by a perilous river somewhere. But there is not formal recording of an in-gathering or a redemption as there is for the Babylonian exiles. Rabbi Ahron Lopiansky, when I asked him what became of them in general, said that they died out or assimilated.

Why did this not happen to the Babylonian Exiles? How did we remain distinct? Perhaps the Talmud in Gittin 88a, (here in english), provides an answer, explaining God's righteousness even in wrath, for when Jehoiachin was exiled to Babylon 11 years before the Temple's Destruction, with him were exiled a great many wise men and sages, who were still alive when the bulk of the people were driven out of the land. They were already settled, able to teach the exiles Torah and preserve the tradition.

Chazal were given interpretive authority for the above reasons. The Written Law was meant to be reinterpreted, to maintain our nation's integrity. To offer a very clear example of this authority, Bava Metzia 86a cites and argument taking place between God Himself and the Heavenly Tribunal! A Rabbi is sought to deliberate on the matter.

Rabbi Naftali Elfenbein pointed out during a lecture that even the Mishnah, the written codification of our Oral Tradition, is at times woefully misleading. For example, see Bava Kamma 7:4, where a remark from Rabbi Simeon, while it seems to be a response to the preceding statement of the mishnah, is in fact a response to a different saying that is not even recorded in the mishnah! See the Talmudic gloss, folio 76a, (here in english).

He said that the whole purpose of the Oral Tradition is to facilitate consultation and discussion, of the Written Text. That's why the Sages were loathe to write any of it down, and even when they did, they did so in a way that was vague and still required much clarification, (See the thousands of pages of Talmud that do so).

That is why the Written Torah is so vague and misleading when it stands alone. It is by design, so that we can't really understand the laws on our own, and we must search for their meaning being constantly led back to our Rabbis and Sages, and our enduring tradition.


 

Adding my own thoughts, I think this is what has allowed us to persevere as a people throughout this long and arduous exile. If we had everything we needed from the Pentateuch, I think we would have much less of a sense of community and solidarity than we do, and standing alone, we would splinter and fragment throughout the world, falling prey to assimilation and forsaking the Law of Moses.

The Oral Law creates a perpetual discourse between us! Whether its a scheduled time to learn, or hear a lecture. Whether its an argument about a new invention or phenomenon in halacha between Rabbis and communities, whether is contentious or uplifting, it holds us together, and brings us back together, time and time again.

A final thought, beginning with a question. What happened to the Ten Tribes, the Assyrian exiles? We may have regained some of them, and they may live in some guarded land surrounded by a perilous river somewhere. But there is not formal recording of an in-gathering or a redemption as there is for the Babylonian exiles. Rabbi Ahron Lopiansky, when I asked him what became of them in general, said that they died out or assimilated.

Why did this not happen to the Babylonian Exiles? How did we remain distinct? Perhaps the Talmud in Gittin 88a, (here in english), provides an answer, explaining God's righteousness even in wrath, for when Jehoiachin was exiled to Babylon 11 years before the Temple's Destruction, with him were exiled a great many wise men and sages, who were still alive when the bulk of the people were driven out of the land. They were already settled, able to teach the exiles Torah and preserve the tradition.

Rabbi Naftali Elfenbein pointed out during a lecture that even the Mishnah, the written codification of our Oral Tradition, is at times woefully misleading. For example, see Bava Kamma 7:4, where a remark from Rabbi Simeon, while it seems to be a response to the preceding statement of the mishnah, is in fact a response to a different saying that is not even recorded in the mishnah! See the Talmudic gloss, folio 76a, (here in english).

He said that the whole purpose of the Oral Tradition is to facilitate consultation and discussion, of the Written Text. That's why the Sages were loathe to write any of it down, and even when they did, they did so in a way that was vague and still required much clarification, (See the thousands of pages of Talmud that do so).

That is why the Written Torah is so vague and misleading when it stands alone. It is by design, so that we can't really understand the laws on our own, and we must search for their meaning being constantly led back to our Rabbis and Sages, and our enduring tradition.

Adding my own thoughts, I think this is what has allowed us to persevere as a people throughout this long and arduous exile. If we had everything we needed from the Pentateuch, I think we would have much less of a sense of community and solidarity than we do, and standing alone, we would splinter and fragment throughout the world, falling prey to assimilation and forsaking the Law of Moses.

The Oral Law creates a perpetual discourse between us! Whether its a scheduled time to learn, or hear a lecture. Whether its an argument about a new invention or phenomenon in halacha between Rabbis and communities, whether is contentious or uplifting, it holds us together, and brings us back together, time and time again.

A final thought, beginning with a question. What happened to the Ten Tribes, the Assyrian exiles? We may have regained some of them, and they may live in some guarded land surrounded by a perilous river somewhere. But there is not formal recording of an in-gathering or a redemption as there is for the Babylonian exiles. Rabbi Ahron Lopiansky, when I asked him what became of them in general, said that they died out or assimilated.

Why did this not happen to the Babylonian Exiles? How did we remain distinct? Perhaps the Talmud in Gittin 88a, (here in english), provides an answer, explaining God's righteousness even in wrath, for when Jehoiachin was exiled to Babylon 11 years before the Temple's Destruction, with him were exiled a great many wise men and sages, who were still alive when the bulk of the people were driven out of the land. They were already settled, able to teach the exiles Torah and preserve the tradition.

Chazal were given interpretive authority for the above reasons. The Written Law was meant to be reinterpreted, to maintain our nation's integrity. To offer a very clear example of this authority, Bava Metzia 86a cites and argument taking place between God Himself and the Heavenly Tribunal! A Rabbi is sought to deliberate on the matter.

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Rabbi Naftali Elfenbein pointed out during a lecture that even the Mishnah, the written codification of our Oral Tradition, is at times woefully misleading. For example, see Bava Kamma 7:4, where a remark from Rabbi Simeon, while it seems to be a response to the preceding statement of the mishnah, is in fact a response to a different saying that is not even recorded in the mishnah! See the Talmudic gloss, folio 76a, (here in english).

He said that the whole purpose of the Oral Tradition is to facilitate consultation and discussion, of the Written Text. That's why the Sages were loathe to write any of it down, and even when they did, they did so in a way that was vague and still required much clarification, (See the thousands of pages of Talmud that do so).

That is why the Written Torah is so vague and misleading when it stands alone. It is by design, so that we can't really understand the laws on our own, and we must search for their meaning being constantly led back to our Rabbis and Sages, and our enduring tradition.


Adding my own thoughts, I think this is what has allowed us to persevere as a people throughout this long and arduous exile. If we had everything we needed from the Pentateuch, I think we would have much less of a sense of community and solidarity than we do, and standing alone, we would splinter and fragment throughout the world, falling prey to assimilation and forsaking the Law of Moses.

The Oral Law creates a perpetual discourse between us! Whether its a scheduled time to learn, or hear a lecture. Whether its an argument about a new invention or phenomenon in halacha between Rabbis and communities, whether is contentious or uplifting, it holds us together, and brings us back together, time and time again.

A final thought, beginning with a question. What happened to the Ten Tribes, the Assyrian exiles? We may have regained some of them, and they may live in some guarded land surrounded by a perilous river somewhere. But there is not formal recording of an in-gathering or a redemption as there is for the Babylonian exiles. Rabbi Ahron Lopiansky, when I asked him what became of them in general, said that they died out or assimilated.

Why did this not happen to the Babylonian Exiles? How did we remain distinct? Perhaps the Talmud in Gittin 88a, (here in english), provides an answer, explaining God's righteousness even in wrath, for when Jehoiachin was exiled to Babylon 11 years before the Temple's Destruction, with him were exiled a great many wise men and sages, who were still alive when the bulk of the people were driven out of the land. They were already settled, able to teach the exiles Torah and preserve the tradition.