Monday, January 26, 2009

Restoring the Oral Torah

Torah as we have it today:

Tanakh - the Bible used in Judaism.

Originally, this was the Written instructions taught alongside the Oral instructions.

Tanakh is a Hebrew acronym for the three subdivisions of the bible. T N K
1. T - Torah - "Instruction or Teaching" (i.e. NOT law) the Five Books of Moses
2. N - Nevi'im - "Prophets"
3. K - Ketuvim - "Writings"

is often referred to also as the Mikra.
- "that which is read". because since the time of the Second Temple - the three parts were read publicly. This is the origin of the term, "that which is written".

IMPORTANT NOTE: The chapter divisions and verse numbers were not part of Jewish Tradition. They originated during the Spanish Inquisition, from forced clerical debates which took place against a background of harsh persecutions.
Three problems with this:
1. The divisions reflect a Christian Exegesis of the bible. (they are looking at the bible in a LITERAL sense)
2. Chapters/verse references are dividing the biblical text at numerous points where it is deemed inappropriate.
3. They ignore the accepted closed and open space divisions which are based on the MESORAH (the tradition used in determining the precise text of the Tanakh)

Masoretic Text
the Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible. It defines not just the books of the bible, but also the precise letter text of the biblical books. It also defines the vocalization and accentuation for both public reading and private study. A deviation in a single letter would make the entire Torah scroll invalid. Nothing was allowed to be added and nothing could be taken away. So ADDING chapters and verse numbers to the word of God was considered a big NO NO.

The Greek Translation - the Septuagint - has numerous differences, both of greater and lesser significance.

2. TALMUD - Basic outline of ORAL TORAH

Talmud - record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, customs and history. It is a central text of Judaism, second only to the Hebrew Bible in importance.

The talmud has 2 components:
1. the Mishnah - the first written collection of the oral torah - the "core text" of the Talmud (mishna studies began at the age of 10). i.e. the Outline
2. the Gemara - the analysis of the Mishnah and expounds greatly on the Tanakh. (Gemara studies began at the of 15)

The Mishnah - divides the torah into six categories.
1. Zeraim - ("seeds") - for agricultural laws and prayers
2. Moed ("festival") - for the Sabbath and the Festivals
3. Nashim ("women") - dealing primarily with marriage and divorce
4. Nezikin ("Damages") - for civil and criminal law
5. Kodashim ("Holy Things") for sacrifices and the dietary laws
6. Tohorot ("Purities") - for ritual purities

(from the talmud): The Mishna is the authorized codification of the oral or unwritten law, which on the basis of the written law contained in Pentateuch, developed during the second Temple, and down to the end of the second century of the common era."

The authorities mentioned in the Mishna and Boraitha 2 as having transmitted and developed the oral law belong to three different periods; namely: (1) The period of Sopherim. (Scribes); (2) The period of Zugoth; (3) The period of Tanaim.

(a) Sopherim or Scribes were the learned men who succeeded Ezra during a period of about two hundred years. To them many institutions and extensions of the Mosaic law are ascribed. The Sopherim. are also called collectively "the men of the Great Assembly (Synod)." According to tradition, this Synod consisted of 120 members, but we have no record of their names with the exception of Ezra, its founder, and of Simon the Upright (Just), (the high priest Simon I., between 310-292, or his grandson Simon II., between 220-202 B.C.), who is said to have been one of the last members of the Great Assembly.

The Gemara - (means to study or learning by tradition) - takes every aspect of the Mishnah and aims to do an exhaustive explanation of the full meaning for each. It is a written argumentation and debate for each mishnah. Each "debate" covers the following categories"
1. Language - why does the Mishna use this word instead of that word? The Gemara seeks to clarify the intention of Mishna.
2. Logic - explores the logical principles of each Mishna statement and shows the practical application.
3. Legal - If a principle is presented as a generalization, the gemara clarifies how much is included; if an exception, how much is excluded.
4. Biblical exposition - demonstrates how the Mishna's rulings derive from Biblical texts. The gemara will often ask where in the Torah the Mishnah derived a particular law.

Midrashim - "to investigate" or "to study"
ancient Rabbinical expositions of the Oral Torah. This is the illustrations and the explanations of the Tanakh (bible). They are not literal interpretations, but figurative and allegorical. These are considered to be as binding as the written law of Moses itself.

The Midrash concentrates somewhat on the Remez level (LEVEL 2 TORAH UNDERSTANDING - THE DEEP MEANING, "HINTS"), but mostly it focuses on the Derash level (Level 3 of Torah understanding- thru comparitive meaning, "to inquire" , to "seek")

The term Midrash occurs twice in the Hebrew Bible. 2 Chronicles 13:22 and 24:27

"and the rest of the acts of Abijah, and his ways, and his sayings, are written in the MIDRASH (KJV: "story") of the Prophet Iddo." 2 Chronicles 13:22

"Now concerning his sons, and the greatness of the burdens laid upon him, and the repairing of the house of God, behold they are written in the MIDRASH (KJV: "story") of the book of the kings. 2 Chronicles 24:27

In general, each Midrash subject matter focuses on either the :
1. Halakha (legal) aspect, or
2. Aggadic (non legal) aspect;

Both were preserved only orally, but now they exist mainly in commentaries on the Tanakh (Hebrew bible)

The Midrash Halakha - tells the sources of the commandments in the bible. It will support the commandments and give its reason for existence.

The Aggadic Midrashim - interprets the non legal portions of the bible. Explanations are philosophical or mystical and concern the angels, demons, paradise, hell, feasts, fasts, parables, idols, etc..

Examples of Classical compilations of Midrashim:

Mekhilta - a commentary on the book of Exodus; two versions
1. Mekhilta de Rabbi Ishmael - halakhic commentary
2. Mehilta de Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai - Aggadic commentary

Sifra - on Leviticus.
Sifre - on Numbers and Deuteronomy
Sifre Zutta - halakhic commentary on the book of Numbers, etc...

Halakha - the collective body of Jewish religious law, including biblical law ( the 613 mitzvot) and the talmudic and rabbinical law, as well as customs and traditions.
It said that the Halakha is the REVEALED will of God.

Judaism has no distinction between religious and non-religious life. So Halakha guides not only the religious practices and beliefs, but numerous aspects of day to day life.

It is often translated as "Jewish Law", but a more suiting translation is "the path or way of walking". The word is derived from the Hebrew root that means TO GO or TO WALK.

Historically, Halakha served as the enforceable avenue of civil and religious laws. Today, Jews are only bound to Halakha by voluntary consent.

In todays Israeli Laws, many of the family and personal status laws are governed by the Halakha.

Halakha is a comprehensive guide to all aspects of human life, both corporeal and spiritual. Its laws, guidelines, and opinions cover a vast range of situations and principles. It is first and foremost for its judicial opinions, legislation, customs, and recommendations, which have been passed down over the centuries.

The Halakha was relayed to each generation beginning the moment a child first starts to speak.

The Halakha is the practical application of the Written Torah's 613 mitzvots. It divides the Mitzvots into positive and negative. There are 248 positive mitzvots that require and action to be performed, and thus bring one closer to God. There are 365 Negative commandments that forbid a specific action; thus violations create a distance from God.

It is further divided between the
1.Chukim ("decrees" ) - laws without obvious explanations, i.e. the dietary laws)
2. Mishpatim ("judgments") - laws with obvious social implications
3. Eduyot ("testimonies" or "commemorations") - such as Shabbat and holidays

Then another division is:
1. Laws in relation to God
2. Laws about relations with other people.

Halakha violations of people are more severe, in certain ways, because of the requirement one must obtain forgiveness both from the offended person and from God.

Also - some mitzvot are revelant only in the Land of Israel. Many laws pertaining to holiness and purity can no longer be performed without the holy Sanctuary in Jerusalem. Some laws require a Jewish Court that no longer exist.

The Orthodox Jews of today still hold Halakha as the divine law of the Torah, rabbinical laws, rabbinical decrees, and customs combined.


Kabbalah - means "receiving" - it is a discipline and school of thought, discussing the mystical aspects of Judaism. It is the ESOTERIC (part of Sod understanding - instructs man in that which is invisible) teachings meant to define the inner meaning of both the TANAKH (the Hebrew Bible) and the traditional Rabbinic Literature, as well as to explain the significance of Jewish observances.

It is considered to be a necessary part of the study of TORAH, and a duty of observant Jews.

The Kabbalistic tradition was knowledge that was transmitted orally by the Patriarchs, prophets, and sages. It was "interwoven" into Jewish religious writings and culture. It was open knowledge practiced by over a million people in ancient Israel. They were the revelations from God to Abraham, Moses, and the other ancient figures, but were never written until the time of the Roman persecution.

Kabbalah - is considered to be Advanced Judaism. Traditionally Kabbalah is not taught until the age of 40, when Torah and Talmud education has been completed.

Originally, only Jewish men who were at least 40 years old could study Kabbalah, and by extension read the Zohar, because they were believed to be too powerful for those less emotionally mature and experienced.

Foreign conquests drove the Jewish spiritual leadership of the time (the Sanhedrin) to hide the knowledge and make it secret, fearing that it might be misused if it fell into the wrong hands. As a result, the Kabbalah became secretive and esoteric. What was once open knowledge to all of Gods people, became the "hidden mysteries" or the "Torat Ha'Sod".

The Talmud contains vague hints of a mystical school of thought that was taught only to the most advanced students and was not committed to writing. There are several references in ancient sources to ma'aseh bereishit (the work of creation) and ma'aseh merkavah (the work of the chariot [of Ezekiel's vision]), the two primary subjects of mystical thought at the time.

Jesus studied Kabbalah. He performed his miracles using Kabbalistic techniques learned from the Essenes, a Jewish sect at that time that studied the Torat ha Sod, Jewish Mysticism.

WARNING: If you see any books on the subject of "practical kabbalah," you can safely dismiss them as not authentic Jewish tradition because, as these stories demonstrate, this kind of knowledge was traditionally thought to be far too dangerous to be distributed blindly to the masses.

"They that understand shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they who turn or lead many into the right path of knowledge as the stars forever and ever." (Dan. xii. 3.)

Understand - Tarot ha Sod - the 4th level of Torah Understanding
The Hebrew word for BRIGHTNESS - is ZOHAR.


Zohar - means Splendor or Radiance. It is considered to be the most important work of Kabbalah - the Tarot ha Sod, i.e. Jewish Mysticism.

It is the mystical commentary on the Torah. It discusses the nature of God, the origin and structure of the universe, the nature of souls, sin, redemption, good, evil, and the relationship between God and man.

The Zohar is a group of books that discuss the Tarot ha Sod, the highest level of scripture understanding.

It contains the oral teachings starting from the second century. Judaism was taught from teacher to teacher, in a long and continuous chain.

Just like the Talmud, the Zohar was an oral tradition, reapplied to changing conditions, and eventually recorded during the Roman persecution.

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