I recall hearing an idea that we don't pasken by tanach

So, a rabbi or judge, nowadays, would pasken by the shulchan aruch and various repsonsa, and I suppose by the talmud.

I don't know if the saying "we don't pasken by tanach" is saying they wouldn't use the tanach alone, or that they wouldn't use the tanach at all.

I understand the reasoning. The tanach doesn't take into account the oral law, or later customs. But I'd be interested to know of any sources that have this saying, and where it originated.

  • "and I suppose by the talmud" This is incorrect - no rabbi today can/would pasken from the talmud.
    – user9643
    Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 3:16
  • Do you mean the rule that we don't pasken by prophecy, alluded to here? judaism.stackexchange.com/a/48821/3
    – WAF
    Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 3:57
  • Either I'm missing the question or this is simply דברי תורה מדברי קבלה לא ילפינן in bava kamma 2b... Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 11:09
  • 1
    I'm not sure I understand the question. You're conceding that there is an Oral Law that explains and expounds the Tanach. Let's make up percentages, and say 50% of the understanding is from the text and 50% is from the Oral Law. Why would one need a source that says "Don't Pasken with only 50% understanding of the sources"? Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 12:27
  • @Salmononius2 if you see ploni's comment you'll see they don't pasken from tanach at all, or even talmud.
    – barlop
    Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 12:43

1 Answer 1


I do not believe there is such a saying.

The reason one would not "pasken" (decide a case in law) by Tanach (alone)(besides the issue of Rabbinical injunctions), would apply equally to someone living in the era of the Tanach as it does to us in post-Talmudic times.

The Written Torah was originally given with the Oral Torah for a reason. It is obvious from reading the Written Torah alone, that it is too abbreviated and/or broad, to apply as rulings to individual legal cases by itself. However it is the firm basis and source of all Jewish Law.


The Torah says we must eat matzah (unleavened bread) on Passover. How much Matzah? We must not boil the Passover offering's meat in water. May we boil it in its own juices?

The Torah simply says we must "sanctify a priest (Kohen)." Does that mean we should give him the first aliyah on every Sabbath Torah reading? What if the synagogue needs money? May we auction off all aliyahs even to a Levi or Yisroel?

The Torah says we must put "judges in our gates". How many judges are needed in each gate to fulfill this? What's a gate? Does a judge get a salary from the town?

The Torah says we must not cheat each other. How much money is considered overcharging for a certain product?

The Torah requires witnesses for certain crimes and financial cases. What if a witness says: "I am not sure." or "I am almost certain." What if witnesses testify together to the same crime but one says he was wearing black and the other says he was wearing green?

The Torah says a thief pays double. What if the thief admitted to the crime and returned the goods? Does he still pay double?

If a man borrowed money with witnesses, but he now claims he paid the debt back without witnesses, is he believed against the lender who claims he never paid?

If two men came to court and each one claimed to be the father of a certain child, would you bring a sword like King Solomon did, or could you order a paternity test? Would another method be appropriate?

So a Rabbi who is paskening out of a Tanach by itself is flying blind. :)

  • It may be that not paskening by tanach means not by tanach alone, but I wasn't suggesting anybody would pasken out of tanach alone.. your answer is completely or almost completely irrelevant it is just telling me that we have an oral torah. I know we have an oral torah. You could've at least addressed if they'd base their decision on tanach at all(if you know)?
    – barlop
    Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 1:36

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