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What function does the Oral Law serve?

by Rabbi Simcha Bart

  

Library » Torah » Mishnah and Talmud | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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The Torah is a closed book without the Oral Law.

Allow me to illustrate this point:

The Torah has no vowels in it. Imagine the word BIRD, without the letter I to indicate its vowelization. Now take this word B-R-D -- is it bird, beard, bread, or perhaps any of many different permutations?

The entire Torah is written in this way!

Recently I was in synagogue listening to a Torah reading. In the course of the reading, the Hebrew word for "burnt-offering" was used several times in connection to the sacrifices offered in the Holy Temple during the holiday of Sukkot. The word for burnt-offering in Hebrew is Isheh, but since there are no vowels, it could be read as Ishah, which means woman. How then do I know that we are not required to offer human sacrifices -- "a woman offering"?!

They were merely transmitting the oral tradition which accompanied the written word when G-d gave the Torah to Moses on Mt. Sinai
I know this is because the Oral Law tells us that the proper pronunciation is Isheh not Ishah.

It should also be pointed out that one wouldn't begin to recognize Judaism if the Talmud and the Oral Law were stripped away.

Here is a common example:

Yom Kippur the holiest day of the Jewish year, marked by a 25 hour sunset to nightfall fast. In the Torah, there is no mention of "fasting" on this day. We are merely told to "afflict" ourselves on this day; which the Oral Law informs us to mean fasting (as well as some other forms of affliction ).

See also What exactly is the Oral Torah? and What are the Mishnah and Talmud? 


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RELATED CATEGORIES

Torah » G-d's Wisdom

Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Oral Law
G–d orally explained all the 613 Commandments to Moses. These explanations constitute the Oral Law.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Sukkot
A seven day autumn festival commemorating the miracle of the Heavenly Clouds which enveloped the Jews while traveling in the desert for forty years. On this holiday we dwell in makeshift booths and shake the Four Species.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.