Is there any sect of Judaism that interprets both the written Torah and oral Torah literally?

  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because It is not clear what you are asking. Oral Law is not literal as it is the explanation of the written law. Jun 7, 2017 at 12:01
  • @sabbahillel I think his question is clear, but it arises from the OP's incorrect premise. See my answer.
    – DanF
    Jun 7, 2017 at 13:45
  • I would disagree with anyone who thinks there is no such thing as a non literal interpretation of oral law. Probably the single biggest reason for difference of opinions between Chassidic Modern Orthodox Conservative Reformed Yeshivish or any other major Jewish movement is how 'literally' Talmudic laws must be adhered to vs keeping to the spirit of the Talmud. Every single one of these communities have practices which either uphold old laws that other groups do not or conveniently ignore certain laws that other groups might keep.
    – user6591
    Jun 7, 2017 at 14:33
  • The fact that words like minhag or unzera gidankt or adapting to the modern world are used changes nothing. Whether it's tznius or chadash or shabbos or limud Torah or any other law biblical or rabinik, justifications are made and interpretations of the spirit of the law are introduced.
    – user6591
    Jun 7, 2017 at 14:35
  • Hey Mark! When you say oral law, do you have in mind a particular text, such as the Mishna or Talmud?
    – mevaqesh
    Jun 7, 2017 at 16:19

2 Answers 2


Your question presents contradictory ideas.

Anyone that accepts the validity of the Oral law has inherently acknowledged that he is not translating the Written Law literally. That's the whole reason for having the Oral Law.

As an example - The Torah says, "An eye for an eye". Literally, that means if I take out your eye, you take out mine (assuming you can see well.) But, if you accept the Oral Law's validity, you accept that it has not taken the Written law literally, for the Oral Law explains that it means that the damager compensates you monetarily.

  • I guess often the oral torah still takes it literally in the sense of not being contrary to the written torah, but adds more information.
    – barlop
    Jun 7, 2017 at 20:05
  • @barlop Torah is a "summary". As a matter of fact, it is this rule of "brevity" that all commentaries and scholars as well as the Talmud has always assumed. Thus, if the Torah adds extra words or repeats something, there must have been a reason for it, which is why it must be analyzed. The Oral Law is the detail. In Devarim (Deut.), we often see phrasing, "AS G-d has told you", or similar. Rash"i will almost always cite a verse that supports exactly WHERE G-d has said this. On occasion, there is no supporting verse. When that happens, Rash"i says, "This proves that there is an oral law!"
    – DanF
    Jun 8, 2017 at 15:38
  • I don't recall the sources, but when the gemara says it learns something from here/there in the tanach, there are a few theories. One is that there are hermeutical rules through which it has derived the teaching, rather like rabbi yishmael's 13 rules, but there are more and the rules have been lost. Another is that it's independent and the rabbis have some license like an artist, to pick which verse from tanach to connect it to. Another is that it's independent and there's a tradition on which it connects to.
    – barlop
    Jun 8, 2017 at 15:43
  • IIRC listening to rabbi dovid gottlieb of ohr, he said that the ramchal argues that it's not derived purely from the tanach, it is its own source but it is connected to a verse and the rabbis argue which verse. And dovid gottlieb is of the view that the ramchal proves this. And gottlieb mentioned that some think it is derived purely from the text and then try to justify it saying "oh it's gemara logic", but gottlieb thinks they're mistaken.
    – barlop
    Jun 8, 2017 at 15:47
  • @Barlop All of them are possible theories. It's definitely a good research project for both of us, perhaps - determining what rules are used when and by whom? I havea feeling that Steinzaltz may have addressed this topic. I'll see if I can get some ideas from my scholarly local rabbis.
    – DanF
    Jun 8, 2017 at 15:48

You can't interpret the oral torah literally because, by its nature, it is not definite. At the "end user" side of the oral law, there is a Rabbi who will give a ruling, but there could have been a different rabbi who would give a ruling.

If your Rabbi gives you a ruling, unless he is talking cryptic and yoda-like, that is the law and you have to take it literally.

If he uses a figure of speech and you decide to interpret that literally and subvert the ruling, then that should not be interpreted literally.

  • if you're trying to suggest that a rabbi might take things in the oral torah as non literally, (and particularly in regards to a ruling), then can you give some examples to make your case? Your point that two rabbis could disagree in interpretations, doesn't mean that they aren't taking it literally.
    – barlop
    Jun 7, 2017 at 20:00
  • Can you give me an example of what you mean by oral torah? Jun 7, 2017 at 22:38
  • I don't think the term oral torah is really that open to interpretation, it necessarily includes mishna and I suppose includes all or at least some, midrash.
    – barlop
    Jun 8, 2017 at 2:19

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .