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Why were the Sages permitted to add 'fences' to Torah laws?

by Mrs. Dinka Kumer

  

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Question:


Saying that "fences" can be put around the Torah, however, also suggests that such additions are not necessarily from G-d. Therefore, it is not absolutely right or wrong to follow those fences. According to my reading of Deuteronomy 4:2 "You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor shall you subtract from it, to observe the commandments of Hashem, your God, that I command you." and 13:1 "The entire word that I command you, that shall you observe to do; you shall not add to it and you shall not subtract from it." To follow additional guidelines isn't inherently wrong, but it would be against the Torah to say that they are mandated by G-d. --Gracie


Answer:


You are correct that we cannot claim these 'fences' are from G-d, which is why Jewish law is clear about them being 'fences' and not part of the 613 commandments which are from G-d. On the other hand, G-d also requires us to abide by the fences that the Sages created, and therefore, we must live according to these 'fences'1 .

As as example, if you were fined for a traffic violation, could you object and say the Constitution makes no mention of traffic laws? Yet, the Constitution relies upon the judicial courts to protect each person's right to live (the reason for creating traffic laws). So, in fact, these traffic 'fences' which we must abide by, are in order to uphold the Constitution, and we are likewise, obliged to abide by the courts' application of these 'fences'.

Footnotes

  • 1. See Mitzvahs #174 and #312, as listed by Maimonides and Deuteronomy 17:11

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Torah
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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.
Hashem
"The Name." Out of respect, we do not explicitly mention G-d's name, unless in the course of prayer. Instead, "Hashem" is substituted.
Deuteronomy
The fifth of the Five Books of Moses. This book is a record of the monologue which Moses spoke to the Israelites in the five weeks prior to his passing.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.