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I understand that the Oral Torah is the interpretation of Torah that has been passed down to help us interpret and apply it, like a "fence around the Torah".

משֶׁה קִבֵּל תּוֹרָה מִסִּינַי, וּמְסָרָהּ לִיהוֹשֻׁעַ, וִיהוֹשֻׁעַ לִזְקֵנִים, וּזְקֵנִים לִנְבִיאִים, וּנְבִיאִים מְסָרוּהָ לְאַנְשֵׁי כְנֶסֶת הַגְּדוֹלָה. הֵם אָמְרוּ שְׁלשָׁה דְבָרִים, הֱווּ מְתוּנִים בַּדִּין, וְהַעֲמִידוּ תַלְמִידִים הַרְבֵּה, וַעֲשׂוּ סְיָג לַתּוֹרָה:

Moses received the Torah at Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua, Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the prophets, and the prophets to the Men of the Great Assembly. They said three things: Be patient in [the administration of] justice, raise many disciples and make a fence round the Torah.

Pirkei Avot 1:1, Sefaria translation

I understand why Oral Torah is necessary, and I've read many articles with strong arguments that point to texts in Torah that we wouldn't know how to interpret without it. Since the Torah gives some commands without specific details on how they are to be carried out, the necessity of further instructions implies that those instructions were given in the form of Oral Torah.

(An example of one of those articles: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-formation-of-the-oral-torah/amp/)

I say all of that to make it clear that I'm not questioning the need for Oral Torah. But I am looking for specific references to Oral Torah within the Tanakh itself. Are there specific texts in the Tanakh where Oral Torah is directly referred to? Or any other arguments from the Tanakh itself in support of the Oral Torah other than the fact that there are commands within Torah that require further instruction to carry out?

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    A couple of examples: Reish Lakish (B'rachos 5a) points to the expansive wording of Exod. 24:12 ("וְאֶתְּנָה לְךָ אֶת לֻחֹת הָאֶבֶן וְהַתּוֹרָה וְהַמִּצְוָה אֲשֶׁר כָּתַבְתִּי לְהוֹרֹתָם") as including a reference to the transmission at Sinai of oral instruction and explication of the commandments to accompany the tablets and the written law. Deut. 32:7 ("שְׁאַל אָבִיךָ וְיַגֵּדְךָ זְקֵנֶיךָ וְיֹאמְרוּ לָךְ") also seems to imply transmission of an oral tradition.
    – Fred
    Dec 23, 2022 at 9:10
  • @Fred I think the OP is asking for a more explicit ("than the fact that there are commands within Torah that require further instruction to carry out") reference in the Tanakh to the existence of the Oral Torah. Your first example is of "texts in Torah that we wouldn't know how to interpret [as referencing the Oral Torah] without [knowing the Oral Torah itself]". Your second example implies an oral tradition (specifically one of past events, as the verse starts "זכר ימות עולם בינו שנות דר ודר"). The OP is asking for evidence of the Oral Torah, not just any oral tradition.
    – Tamir Evan
    Dec 23, 2022 at 10:59
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    Related (duplicate?):"Is there a mention of the Oral Torah in the Written Torah?" (The body of that question asks: "Is there an explicit mention mention of the Oral Torah in the Chumash? If not, why not?")
    – Tamir Evan
    Dec 23, 2022 at 11:29
  • @TamirEvan If you look at the precise manner in which Reish Lakish expounded Exod. 24:12, I agree that it is more 'al derech d'rash, and we would be employing an oral teaching if we used that exact breakdown of the verse. However, if a reader approaches that verse independently and seeks to analyze it carefully to reach the עומק הפשט, they are very likely to come to the same general conclusion as Reish Lakish that the expansive wording includes reference to the transmission at Sinai of oral instruction and explication of the commandments to accompany the tablets and the written law.
    – Fred
    Dec 23, 2022 at 17:30
  • @Fred "However, if a reader approaches that verse independently and seeks to analyze it carefully to reach the עומק הפשט ..." Why should anybody [not acquainted with the Oral Torah] be inspired to embark on such an endeavor, rather than sticking to simpler meanings of the words? One doesn't seek out a deeper פשט when one is unaware of such a thing needing to be found.
    – Tamir Evan
    Jan 13, 2023 at 5:13

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In his introduction to the Mishne Torah, Rambam brings a couple of pasukim.

Firstly, he brings a quote why he is able to teach the whole Oral Law (which is the raison d'etre of MT)

אָז לֹא אֵבוֹשׁ, בְּהַבִּיטִי אֶל כָּל מִצְו‍ֹתֶיךָ:

"Then I will not be ashamed when I gaze at all Your mitzvot" (Tehillim 119:6)

Since he can "gaze at all Your mitzvot" - i.e., has the knowledge of the entire Oral Law available, he is able to teach it (see Hilchot Talmud Torah 5:4 (Yayin Malchut).

The proof pasuk he brings:

וְאֶתְּנָה לְךָ אֶת־לֻחֹת הָאֶבֶן, וְהַתּוֹרָה וְהַמִּצְוָה

And I will give you the tablets of stone, the Torah, and the mitzvah. (Shemot 24:12)

He explains:

"The Torah" refers to the Written Law; "the mitzvah," to its explanation. [God] commanded us to fulfill "the Torah" according to [the instructions of] "the mitzvah." "The mitzvah" is called the Oral Law.

See also Rambam's Introduction to his Commentary on the Mishnah, where he elaborates on the same concept.

He also brings Moshe's exhorting Yehoshua:

אֵת כָּל־הַדָּבָר, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם – אֹתוֹ תִשְׁמְרוּ, לַעֲשׂוֹת

Be careful to observe everything that I prescribe to you. (Dvarim 13:1)

He writes on this:

He commanded it [verbally] to the elders, to Joshua, and to the totality of Israel...For this reason, it is called the Oral Law.

Rabbi Tovia Singer has many pasukim that, through the same holy logical rules of learning that the Oral Torah transmission uses (logic is available to all to critique). Crystal clear, the pasuk in Dvarim 12:21:

וְזָבַחְתָּ֞ מִבְּקָרְךָ֣ וּמִצֹּֽאנְךָ֗ אֲשֶׁ֨ר נָתַ֤ן יְהֹוָה֙ לְךָ֔ כַּאֲשֶׁ֖ר צִוִּיתִ֑ךָ

You may slaughter any of the cattle or sheep that יהוה gives you, as I have instructed you.

It is not written anywhere how to slaughter. This is purely an Oral Torah transmission.

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  • All the examples you bring, except for the last one, require already having the Oral Torah in order to know that they say it exists. The last one is yet another case of the Torah giving "some commands without specific details on how they are to be carried out", with the necessity of further instructions implying "that those instructions were given in the form of Oral Torah", that the OP stated in the question that he already knew about. How does this answer his question?
    – Tamir Evan
    Dec 23, 2022 at 10:56
  • @TamirEvan I apologise, I was under the impression that the last one was a "direct reference to Oral Torah". Other examples the OP may have been talking about are things that we don't know how to do, but they don't necessary say directly "which I have instructed you", but this one does. I'm not 100% sure about all the other one's I brought requiring Oral Torah, but that's a wider discussion so I accept the point without complaint
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Dec 23, 2022 at 11:04
  • "Other examples the OP may have been talking about ... don't necessary say directly 'which I have instructed you', but this one does." Why translate "כאשר צויתך" as "as/which I have instructed you", rather than "as I have commanded you"?...
    – Tamir Evan
    Jan 13, 2023 at 5:01
  • ...Why translate "וזבחת" as "you may slaughter", rather than "you may sacrifice"?
    – Tamir Evan
    Jan 13, 2023 at 5:01
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    @PaulWalker let's leave it at that, and also apologies definitely not making fun. I did enjoy the conversation thank you, and I appreciate your feedback!
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Feb 21 at 16:35

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