In his Sefer Ha-mada (Book of Knowledge, Talmud Torah 1:7), the Rambam says:

Where it is customary to charge a fee for teaching the written Torah, it is permissible to charge a fee for such instruction. It is forbidden, however, to teach the Oral Law for payment, for it is written: "Behold, I have taught you laws and rules as the Lord my God has commanded me" (Deut. 4:5). Moses, in other words, said: "Just as I received instruction from God freely, you have received instruction from me freely. And you, too when teaching in future generations, give instruction freely, as you have learned from me."

I don't understand the stated rationale for making this distinction between Written and Oral law. Can someone explain?


2 Answers 2


The Talmud asks and answers this question:

Nedarim 37a:

מאי שנא מדרש דלא דכתיב ואותי צוה ה' בעת ההיא ללמד אתכם וכתיב ראה למדתי אתכם חוקים ומשפטים כאשר צוני ה' מה אני בחנם אף אתם נמי בחנם מקרא נמי בחנם רב אמר שכר שימור ורבי יוחנן אמר שכר פיסוק טעמים

Now, why does Midrash differ, that remuneration is forbidden: because it is written, And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you; and it is also written, Behold I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me just as I [taught you] gratuitously, so you must teach gratuitously? Then should not Scripture too be unremunerated? — Rab said: The fee is for guarding [the children]. R. Johanan maintained: The fee is for the teaching of accentuation.

(Soncino translation)

Thus, there is no inherent difference between Mikra and Midrash; it's just that Mikra includes ancillary services that can be charged for, whether it is the pisuk te'amim (which only apply to Mikra) or babysitting (which only applies to young children who primarily study Mikra).

  • +1 I have heard said over, I believe in the name of Rav Soloveichik, that the Nafka Mina between the two opinions would be teaching an adult Tanach. Jul 13, 2020 at 5:16

This is something that I found that addresses your question.

What I understand is that since the source for the halacha of not getting paid for teaching is from Moshe Rabeinu, that he learnt it from Hashem without payment, so too we should also not get paid, and we want it to apply the same way. What he learnt was halacha, mussar, and hashkafa, etc.; examples of the oral law. However, only teaching the text is not what Moshe Rabeinu did, therefore the prohibition of getting paid to teach it does not apply.

  • 5
    Didn't Hashem also teach Moses the written Torah? May 27, 2020 at 1:54

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