HOME

TheInfoList




According to
Rabbinic Judaism Rabbinic Judaism ( he, יהדות רבנית, Yahadut Rabanit), also called Rabbinism, Rabbinicism, or Judaism espoused by the Rabbanites, has been the mainstream form of Judaism since the 6th century Common era, CE, after the codification of ...
, the Oral Torah or Oral Law (, lit. "Torah that is on the mouth") represents those purported laws, statutes, and legal interpretations that were not recorded in the Five Books of Moses, the "
Written Torah The Torah (; he, תּוֹרָה, "Instruction", "Teaching" or "Law") includes the first five books of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection of Hebrew language, Hebre ...
" (, lit. "Torah that is in writing"), but nonetheless are regarded by Orthodox Jews as prescriptive and given at the same time. This holistic Jewish code of conduct encompasses a wide swathe of rituals, worship practices, Godman and interpersonal relationships, from
dietary laws Some people do not eat various specific foods and beverages in conformity with various religious, cultural, legal or other societal prohibitions. Many of these prohibitions constitute taboos. Many food taboos and other prohibitions forbid the meat o ...
to
Sabbath In Abrahamic religions The Abrahamic religions, also referred to collectively as the world of Abrahamism and Semitic religions, are a group of Semitic people, Semitic-originated religions that claim descent from the Judaism of the ancient Isra ...
and festival observance to marital relations, agricultural practices, and civil claims and damages. According to Rabbinic Jewish tradition, the Oral Torah was passed down orally in an unbroken chain from generation to generation until its contents were finally committed to writing following the destruction of the
Second Temple The Second Temple (, ), also known in its later years as Herod's Temple, was the reconstructed Jewish holy temple that stood on the Temple Mount The Temple Mount (Hebrew language, Hebrew: , ; "Mount of the House f God, i.e. the Temple in ...

Second Temple
in 70 CE, when Jewish civilization was faced with an existential threat, by virtue of the dispersion of the Jewish people. The major repositories of the Oral Torah are the ''
Mishnah The Mishnah or the Mishna (; he, מִשְׁנָה, "study by repetition", from the verb ''shanah'' , or "to study and review", also "secondary") is the first major written collection of the Jewish oral traditions which is known as the Oral Torah. ...
'', compiled between 200–220 CE by Rabbi Yehudah haNasi, and the ''
Gemara The Gemara (also transliteration, transliterated Gemarah, or in Ashkenazi pronunciation Gemore; from Aramaic , from the Aramaic language, Hebrew verb ''gamar'', to finish or complete) is the component of the Talmud comprising rabbinical analys ...
'', a series of running commentaries and debates concerning the Mishnah, which together form the ''
Talmud The Talmud (; he, תַּלְמוּד ''Tálmūḏ'') is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source of Jewish religious law (''halakha'') and Jewish theology. Until the advent of modernity, in nearly all Jewish communities, the ...

Talmud
'', the preeminent text of Rabbinic Judaism. In fact, two "versions" of the Talmud exist: one produced in the
Galilee Galilee (; he, הַגָּלִיל, ha-galil; ar, الجليل, al-jalīl) is a region located in northern Israel and southern Lebanon. Galilee traditionally refers to the mountainous part, divided into Upper Galilee (, ; , ) and Lower Galil ...

Galilee
300–350 CE (the
Jerusalem Talmud The Jerusalem Talmud ( he, תַּלְמוּד יְרוּשַׁלְמִי, ''Talmud Yerushalmi'', often ''Yerushalmi'' for short), also known as the Palestinian Talmud or ''Talmuda de-Eretz Yisrael'' (Talmud of the Land of Israel), is a collection o ...
), and a second, more extensive Talmud compiled in
Babylonia Babylonia () was an and based in central-southern which was part of Ancient Persia (present-day and ). A small -ruled state emerged in 1894 BCE, which contained the minor administrative town of . It was merely a small provincial town dur ...
450–500 CE (the
Babylonian Talmud The Talmud (; he, תַּלְמוּד ''Tálmūḏ'') is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism Rabbinic Judaism ( he, יהדות רבנית, Yahadut Rabanit), also called Rabbinism, Rabbinicism, or Judaism espoused by the Rabbanites, has ...
). Belief that at least portions of the Oral Torah were transmitted orally from God to
Moses Moses he, מֹשֶׁה, ''Mōše''; also known as Moshe Rabbenu ( he, מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ "Moshe our Teacher"); syr, ܡܘܫܐ, ''Mūše''; ar, موسى '; el, Mωϋσῆς, ' () is considered the most important prophet in Judais ...

Moses
on
Mount Sinai Mount Sinai ( he , הר סיני ''Har Sinai''; Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, ܠܫܢܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܐ / '), also known as Syriac Aramaic (''Syrian Aramaic'', ''Syro-Aramaic'') and Classical Syriac (in its ...

Mount Sinai
during the
Exodus Exodus or the Exodus may refer to: Religion *Book of Exodus, second book of the Hebrew Torah and the Christian Bible *The Exodus, the biblical story of the migration of the ancient Israelites from Egypt into Canaan Historical events * Jujuy E ...

Exodus
from Egypt is a fundamental tenet of faith of
Orthodox Judaism Orthodox Judaism is the collective term for the traditionalist branches of contemporary Judaism. Jewish theology, Theologically, it is chiefly defined by regarding the Torah, both Torah, Written and Oral Torah, Oral, as Sinai Revelation, reveal ...
, and was recognized as one of the
Thirteen Principles of Faith There is no established formulation of principles of faith that are recognized by all Jewish religious movements, branches of Judaism. Central authority in Judaism is not vested in any one person or group - although the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewi ...
by
Maimonides Moses ben Maimon ; (1138–1204), commonly known as Maimonides ( ) grc-gre, Μωυσής Μαϊμωνίδης ; la, Moses Maimonides and also referred to by the acronym Rambam ( he, רמב״ם),, for ''Rabbeinu Mōše bēn Maimun'', "Our Ra ...

Maimonides
. However, not all branches of Rabbinic Judaism accept the literal Sinaitic provenance of the Oral Torah, characterizing it instead as the product of a historical process of continuing interpretation. There have also been historical dissenters to the Oral Torah in its entirety, including the ancient
Sadducees The Sadducees (; he, צְדוּקִים ''Ṣĕdûqîm'') were a sect or group of Jews who were active in Judea Judea or Judaea, and the modern version of Judah (; from he, יהודה, Hebrew language#Modern Hebrew, Standard ''Yəhūda'', ...
,
Essenes The Essenes (; Modern Hebrew Modern Hebrew ( he, עברית חדשה, ''ʿivrít ḥadašá ', , ''Literal translation, lit.'' "Modern Hebrew" or "New Hebrew"), also known as Israeli Hebrew or Israeli, and generally referred to by speakers ...
, and adherents to modern
Karaite Judaism Karaite Judaism () or Karaism (, sometimes spelt Karaitism (; ; also spelt Qaraite Judaism, Qaraism or Qaraitism) is a Jewish religious movement Jewish religious movements, sometimes called "Religious denomination, denominations", include di ...
, who derive their religious practice strictly from the Written Torah, using Scripture's most natural meaning to form their basis of Jewish law. Karaites often look to traditions of interpretation but, unlike Rabbinic Jews, do not ascribe to those traditions authoritative or normative parity with the Written Torah. The
Beta Israel Beta Israel ( he, בֵּיתֶא יִשְׂרָאֵל, ''Beta Yisra'el''; gez, ቤተ እስራኤል, , modern ''Bēte 'Isrā'ēl'', Encyclopaedia Aethiopica, EAE: "Betä Ǝsraʾel", "House of Israel" or "Community of Israel"), also known as E ...
, who traditionally adhere to a form of Judaism referred to as
Haymanot Haymanot ( gez, ሃይማኖት) is the branch of Judaism Judaism ( he, יהדות, ''Yahadut''; originally from Hebrew , ''Yehudah'', "Kingdom of Judah, Judah", via Ancient Greek, Greek ''Ioudaismos''; the term itself is of Anglo-Latin ...
, also reject the idea of an Oral Torah.


Components of the Oral Torah

The term "Oral Torah" should not be understood as a monolith. The ''
Jewish Encyclopedia ''The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day'' is an English-language encyclopedia containing over 15,000 articles on the ...
'' divides the Oral Torah into eight categories, ranked according to the relative level of authoritativeness, which are found within the Talmud, the
Tosefta The Tosefta (Jewish Babylonian Aramaic Jewish Babylonian Aramaic was the form of Middle Aramaic employed by writers in Lower Mesopotamia between the fourth and eleventh centuries. It is most commonly identified with the language of the Babylo ...
and the halakhic
Midrash ''Midrash'' (;"midrash"
''Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary''.
he, מִדְרָשׁ; ...

Midrash
im. # Explanations of those laws of the written law, which are not fully intelligible without the explanations, and therefore presuppose an oral interpretation. Such explanations are connected in some way with Scripture. # Ancient
halakhot ''Halakha'' (; he, הֲלָכָה, ; also transliterated as ''halacha'', ''halakhah'', ''halachah'', or ''halocho''; ) is the collective body of Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people ...
which have no connection with Scripture and can not be connected with it, thus deriving their authority only from the tradition which ascribes them to Moses on Sinai. (In the case of these two groups, it is impossible to ascertain which elucidations and rules were really given to Moses on Sinai, and which were added later.) # Laws found in the prophetic books. Some of these originated at the time of the Prophets; but others are much older, perhaps having been transmitted orally, and committed to writing by the Prophets. They are called also ''"Dibre Ḳabbalah"'' (Words of Tradition). # Interpretations and regulations defining many written laws, as well as new laws, formulated by the early scribes, beginning with the time of
Ezra Ezra (; he, עֶזְרָא, '; fl. 480–440 BCE), also called Ezra the Scribe (, ') and Ezra the Priest in the Book of Ezra The Book of Ezra is a book of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; : , or ), is the of scripture ...

Ezra
. These are called also ''"Dibre Soferim"'' (Words of the Scribes). # Interpretations and regulations covering the written law, as well as new halakhot, which the
Tannaim ''Tannaim'' ( arc, תנאים , singular , ''Tanna'' "repeaters", "teachers") were the rabbi A rabbi is a spiritual leader or religious teacher in Judaism. One becomes a rabbi by being ordained by another rabbi, following a course of study ...
deduced from Scripture by means of hermeneutic rules or by logical conclusions. There are differences of opinion among the scholars in regard to most of these explanations and definitions; but they are of equal weight with the written law, and are called also ''"Debar Torah"'' (Regulation of the Torah). # Customs and observances (''" taḳḳanot"'') which were introduced at various times by different scholars. They are ascribed partly to
Moses Moses he, מֹשֶׁה, ''Mōše''; also known as Moshe Rabbenu ( he, מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ "Moshe our Teacher"); syr, ܡܘܫܐ, ''Mūše''; ar, موسى '; el, Mωϋσῆς, ' () is considered the most important prophet in Judais ...

Moses
, partly to
Joshua Joshua () or Yehoshua ( he, יְהוֹשֻׁעַ ''Yəhōšūaʿ'') ''Yēšūʿ''; syr, ܝܫܘܥ ܒܪ ܢܘܢ ''Yəšūʿ bar Nōn''; el, Ἰησοῦς, ar , يُوشَعُ ٱبْنُ نُونٍ '' Yūšaʿ ibn Nūn''; la, Iosue functioned ...

Joshua
, but chiefly to the members of the Great Synagogue or the ''Soferim ''("Scribes"), and are called also ''"Dibre Soferim"'' ("Words of the Scribes"). # Statutes and decisions (''" gezerot"'') decreed by the
Sanhedrin The Sanhedrin (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and th ...

Sanhedrin
or court, and generally accepted. Such laws could be abrogated only by another court greater than the first one in numbers and scholarship. # Statutes and regulations for which the scholars had no tradition or allusion in Scripture, but which they accepted as standards after deriving them from the customs and laws of the country in which they were living. These are called ''"Hilkhot Medinah"'' (Statutes of the Country). The laws in the last three groups were not considered equal in validity to the written law (''" De'oraita"''), but were regarded merely as rabbinical regulations (''" de-rabbanan"'').


Historical development


Source and transmission

According to modern scholarship, the traditions embodied in what later became known as the "Oral Torah" developed over generations among the inhabitants of
Judea Judea or Judaea ( or ; from he, יהודה, Hebrew language#Modern Hebrew, Standard ''Yəhūda'', Tiberian vocalization, Tiberian ''Yehūḏā''; el, Ἰουδαία, ; la, Iūdaea) is the ancient, historic, Biblical Hebrew, contemporaneous ...

Judea
and were passed down through various modes of
cultural transmission Cultural learning is the way a group of people or animals within a society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same spatial or soci ...
, including but not restricted to oral transmission. It is hypothesized that, sometime prior to the
Babylonian exile The Babylonian captivity or Babylonian exile is the period in Jewish history during which a number of people from the ancient Kingdom of Judah were captives in Babylon, the capital of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. After the Battle of Carchemish in ...
of 586-530 BCE, in applying the Mosaic code to daily life and Temple worship, "a multitude of usages arising out of practical necessity or convenience or experience became part of the routine of observance of the code, and, in the course of time, shared the sanctity and authority which were inherent in the divinely inspired code itself." Such practices experienced exponential growth from the time of
Ezra Ezra (; he, עֶזְרָא, '; fl. 480–440 BCE), also called Ezra the Scribe (, ') and Ezra the Priest in the Book of Ezra The Book of Ezra is a book of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; : , or ), is the of scripture ...

Ezra
to the Romans' destruction of the
Second Temple The Second Temple (, ), also known in its later years as Herod's Temple, was the reconstructed Jewish holy temple that stood on the Temple Mount The Temple Mount (Hebrew language, Hebrew: , ; "Mount of the House f God, i.e. the Temple in ...

Second Temple
due to the changing social and religious conditions experienced by inhabitants of Judea. Many of these practices were advocated by the
Pharisees The Pharisees (; Hebrew: ''Pərūšīm'') were a social movement and a school of thought in the Levant during the time of Second Temple Judaism. After the Siege of Jerusalem (AD 70), destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, Pharisaic belie ...
, a sect of largely lower- and middle-class Jews who stood in opposition to the
Sadducees The Sadducees (; he, צְדוּקִים ''Ṣĕdûqîm'') were a sect or group of Jews who were active in Judea Judea or Judaea, and the modern version of Judah (; from he, יהודה, Hebrew language#Modern Hebrew, Standard ''Yəhūda'', ...
, the priestly caste who dominated the Temple cult. The Sadducees rejected the legitimacy of any extra-biblical law or tradition, as well as increasingly popular notions such as the immortality of the
soul In many religious, philosophical, and myth Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or origin myths. The main characters in myths are usually non-humans, such as ...

soul
and divine intervention. Danby notes the following:
It is a reasonable hypothesis that a result of this controversy—a controversy which continued for two centuries—was a deliberate compilation and justification of the unwritten tradition by the Pharisean party, perhaps unsystematic and on a small scale in the earlier stages, but stimulated and fostered from time to time both by opposition from the Sadducees and by internal controversy (such as, e.g., the disputes between the House of Hillel and Shammai) within the ranks of the Pharisees, culminating in the collections of traditional laws (''Halakoth'') from which the present Mishnah draws its material.
With the destruction of the Second Temple around 70 CE, the Sadducees were divested of their main source of authority, without which their theology could not survive. On the other hand, the Pharisees became the progenitor of the rabbinic class, who formalized the traditions of their predecessors. Following the fall of the Temple, it appears that the Pharisaic leader
Johanan ben Zakkai Yohanan ben Zakkai ( he, יוחנן בן זכאי, 1st century Common Era, CE), sometimes abbreviated as Ribaz () for Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai, was one of the Tannaim, an important Jewish sage in the era of the Second Temple, and a primary contrib ...
(30-90 CE) settled in
Yavneh Yavne ( he, יַבְנֶה) or Yavneh is a city in the Central District of Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל; ar, إِسْرَائِيل), officially known as the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, '), ...
, where he established a school that came to be regarded by fellow Jews as the successors of the Jerusalem
Sanhedrin The Sanhedrin (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and th ...

Sanhedrin
. Upon this Council of Jabneh fell the duty of administering and interpreting religious law, conserving tradition, and solving problems that arose by the past dependence of numerous observances on the existence of the Temple and priesthood. Thus, from 70 to 130 CE, when the Bar Kochba revolt further decimated the Jewish community, the Oral Law experienced a significant period of development and an unprecedented level of legal and religious authority among the populace.


Codification


The Mishnah

The destruction of the Second Temple and the fall of Jerusalem in the 1st and early 2nd Centuries CE devastated the Jewish community. The
First Jewish–Roman War The First Jewish–Roman War (66–73 CE), sometimes called the Great Jewish Revolt ( he, המרד הגדול '), or The Jewish War, was the first of three major rebellions by the Jews Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Isra ...
of 66–73 CE and the
Bar Kokhba revolt The Bar Kokhba revolt ( he, מֶרֶד בַּר כּוֹכְבָא, links=no; ''Mered Bar Kokhba'') was a rebellion of the Jews of the , led by , against the . Fought circa 132–136 CE, it was the last of three major , so it is also known as T ...
cost hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives, the destruction of leading
yeshivot A yeshiva (; he, ישיבה, , sitting; pl. , or ) is a Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people are members of an ethnoreligious group and a nation originating from the Israelite ...
, and thousands of scholars and students. At that point, it became apparent that the Hebrew community and its learning were threatened, and that publication was the only way to ensure that the law could be preserved. Thus, around 200 CE, a
redaction Redaction is a form of editing Editing is the process of selecting and preparing written language, written, photographic, Image editing, visual, Audio engineer, audible, or Film editing, cinematic material used by a person or an entity to ...

redaction
of the Oral Law in writing was completed. Both Rabbinic tradition and scholarship ascribe this effort to Rabbi
Judah HaNasi Judah ha-Nasi ( he, יְהוּדָה הַנָשִׂיא‎, ''Yəhūḏā haNāsīʾ‎''; Yehudah HaNasi or Judah the Prince) or Judah I, was a second-century rabbi (a tanna of the fifth generation) and chief redactor and editor "Quarters ...
. The product of this effort, the
Mishnah The Mishnah or the Mishna (; he, מִשְׁנָה, "study by repetition", from the verb ''shanah'' , or "to study and review", also "secondary") is the first major written collection of the Jewish oral traditions which is known as the Oral Torah. ...
, is generally considered the first work of
rabbinic literature Rabbinic literature, in its broadest sense, is the entire spectrum of rabbi A rabbi is a spiritual leader or religious teacher in Judaism. One becomes a rabbi by being ordained by another rabbi, following a course of study of Jewish texts ...
. "Mishnah" is the name given to the sixty-three tractates that HaNasi systematically codified, which in turn are divided into six "orders." Unlike the Torah, in which, for example, laws of the Sabbath are scattered throughout the books of
Exodus Exodus or the Exodus may refer to: Religion *Book of Exodus, second book of the Hebrew Torah and the Christian Bible *The Exodus, the biblical story of the migration of the ancient Israelites from Egypt into Canaan Historical events * Jujuy E ...
, Leviticus, and
Numbers A number is a mathematical object A mathematical object is an abstract concept arising in mathematics. In the usual language of mathematics, an ''object'' is anything that has been (or could be) formally defined, and with which one may do deduc ...
, all the Mishnaic laws of the Sabbath are located in a single tractate called ''
Shabbat Shabbat (, , or ; he, שַׁבָּת, Šabat, , ) or the Sabbath, also called Shabbos ( yi, שבת) by , is 's day of rest on the seventh day of the —i.e., . On this day, religious remember the biblical stories describing the and the redem ...
'' (Hebrew for "Sabbath"). Moreover, the laws contained in the twenty-four chapters that make up that tractate are far more extensive than those contained in the Torah, reflecting the extensiveness of the Oral Law. Some authority suggests HaNasi made use of as many as 13 separate collections of
Halakhot ''Halakha'' (; he, הֲלָכָה, ; also transliterated as ''halacha'', ''halakhah'', ''halachah'', or ''halocho''; ) is the collective body of Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people ...
from different schools and time periods, and reassembled that material into a coherent whole, arranged it systematically, summarized discussions, and in some cases rendered his own rulings where alternative traditions existed. The Mishnah does far more than expound upon and organize the Biblical commandments. Rather, important topics covered by the Mishnah "rest on no scriptural foundations whatsoever," such as portions of the civil law tractates of ''
Bava Kamma Bava Kamma (Jewish Babylonian Aramaic Jewish Babylonian Aramaic was the form of Middle Aramaic Aramaic ( Classical Syriac: ''Arāmāyā''; Old Aramaic: ; Imperial Aramaic: ; square script ) is a language that originated among the Ar ...
'', ''
Bava Metzia Bava Metzia (Talmudic Aramaic Jewish Babylonian Aramaic was the form of Middle Aramaic employed by writers in Lower Mesopotamia between the fourth and eleventh centuries. It is most commonly identified with the language of the Babylonian Talm ...
'' and ''
Bava Batra Bava Batra (also Baba Batra; Talmudic Aramaic Jewish Babylonian Aramaic was the form of Aramaic language#Middle Aramaic, Middle Aramaic employed by writers in Lower Mesopotamia between the fourth and eleventh centuries. It is most commonly id ...
''. In other words, "To perfect the
ritten Ritten (; it, Renon ) is a ''comune The (; plural: ) is a Administrative division, local administrative division of Italy, roughly equivalent to a township or municipality. Importance and function The provides essential public servic ...
Torah, the Oral tradition had to provide for a variety of transactions left without any law at all in Scripture." Just as portions of the Torah reflect (according to the
documentary hypothesis The documentary hypothesis (DH) is one of the models used by biblical scholars to explain the origins and composition of the Torah (or Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible: Genesis Genesis may refer to: Literature and comics * Genes ...
) the agenda of the Levite priesthood in centralizing worship in the Temple in Jerusalem and legitimizing their exclusive authority over the sacrificial cult, so too can the Mishnah be seen as reflecting the unique "program" of the
Tannaim ''Tannaim'' ( arc, תנאים , singular , ''Tanna'' "repeaters", "teachers") were the rabbi A rabbi is a spiritual leader or religious teacher in Judaism. One becomes a rabbi by being ordained by another rabbi, following a course of study ...
and their successors to develop an egalitarian form of Judaism with an emphasis on social justice and an applicability throughout the Jewish diaspora. As a result, the Talmud often finds the rabbis combing scripture for textual support to justify existing religious practice, rather than deriving the practice organically from the language of scripture.


The Gemara

HaNasi's method of codification, in which he often included minority viewpoints and citation by name to rabbis who championed different viewpoints, became a template for the
Gemara The Gemara (also transliteration, transliterated Gemarah, or in Ashkenazi pronunciation Gemore; from Aramaic , from the Aramaic language, Hebrew verb ''gamar'', to finish or complete) is the component of the Talmud comprising rabbinical analys ...
, a compendium of discussions and commentaries on the Mishnah's laws by generations of leading rabbis during the next four centuries in the two centers of Jewish life, Judea and
Babylonia Babylonia () was an and based in central-southern which was part of Ancient Persia (present-day and ). A small -ruled state emerged in 1894 BCE, which contained the minor administrative town of . It was merely a small provincial town dur ...
. The Gemara with the Mishnah came to be edited together into compilations known as the
Talmud The Talmud (; he, תַּלְמוּד ''Tálmūḏ'') is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source of Jewish religious law (''halakha'') and Jewish theology. Until the advent of modernity, in nearly all Jewish communities, the ...

Talmud
. Both the
Babylonian Talmud The Talmud (; he, תַּלְמוּד ''Tálmūḏ'') is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism Rabbinic Judaism ( he, יהדות רבנית, Yahadut Rabanit), also called Rabbinism, Rabbinicism, or Judaism espoused by the Rabbanites, has ...
and the
Jerusalem Talmud The Jerusalem Talmud ( he, תַּלְמוּד יְרוּשַׁלְמִי, ''Talmud Yerushalmi'', often ''Yerushalmi'' for short), also known as the Palestinian Talmud or ''Talmuda de-Eretz Yisrael'' (Talmud of the Land of Israel), is a collection o ...
have been transmitted in written form to the present day, although the more extensive Babylonian Talmud is widely considered to be more authoritative. The Talmud's discussions follow the order of the Mishnah, although not all tractates are discussed. Generally, a law from the Mishnah is cited, which is followed by a rabbinic deliberation on its meaning. The discussion often, but not always, results in a decision regarding the more persuasive or authoritative position based on available sources or anecdotal evidence.


In Jewish tradition


Orthodox Judaism

Rabbinic Judaism holds the Oral Law to be of divine origin. The divinity and authoritativeness of the Oral Law as transmitted from God to Moses on Mount Sinai, continues to be universally accepted by Orthodox and
Haredi Judaism Haredi Judaism ( he, יהדות חֲרֵדִית ', ; also spelled ''Charedi'' in English; plural ''Haredim'' or ''Charedim'') consists of groups within Orthodox Judaism Orthodox Judaism is the collective term for the traditionalist branche ...

Haredi Judaism
as a fundamental precept of Judaism. The Oral Law was the basis for nearly all subsequent rabbinic literature. It is therefore intricately related to the development of
Halacha ''Halakha'' (; he, הֲלָכָה, ), also transliterated Transliteration is a type of conversion of a text from one script to another that involves swapping letters (thus '' trans-'' + '' liter-'') in predictable ways, such as Greek → ...
. As such, despite codification, interpretation of the Oral Law is likewise required.


Divine source and transmission

Rabbis of the Talmudic era conceived of the Oral Torah in two distinct ways. First, Rabbinic tradition saw the Oral Torah as an unbroken chain of transmission. The distinctive feature of this view was that Oral Torah was "conveyed by word of mouth and memorized." Second, the Rabbis also viewed the Oral Torah as an interpretive tradition, and not merely as memorized traditions. They saw the written Torah as containing many levels of interpretation. It was left to later generations, who were steeped in the ''oral tradition'' of interpretation, to discover those ("hidden") interpretations not revealed by Moses. Instead, Moses was obligated to impart the explanations orally to students, children, and fellow adults. It was thus forbidden to write and publish the Oral Torah. Jewish tradition identifies the unbroken historical chain of individuals who were entrusted with passing down the Oral Law from Moses to the early rabbinic period: "Moses received the Torah and handed it down to Joshua; Joshua to the Elders; the Elders to the prophets; and the prophets handed it down to the men of the Great Assembly." Similarly,
Maimonides Moses ben Maimon ; (1138–1204), commonly known as Maimonides ( ) grc-gre, Μωυσής Μαϊμωνίδης ; la, Moses Maimonides and also referred to by the acronym Rambam ( he, רמב״ם),, for ''Rabbeinu Mōše bēn Maimun'', "Our Ra ...

Maimonides
provides a generation by generation account of the names of all those in the direct line that transmitted this tradition, beginning with
Moses Moses he, מֹשֶׁה, ''Mōše''; also known as Moshe Rabbenu ( he, מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ "Moshe our Teacher"); syr, ܡܘܫܐ, ''Mūše''; ar, موسى '; el, Mωϋσῆς, ' () is considered the most important prophet in Judais ...

Moses
up until Ravina and
Rav Ashi :''For the seventh generation Amora sage of Babylon ''Bābili(m)'' * sux, 𒆍𒀭𒊏𒆠 * arc, 𐡁𐡁𐡋 ''Babil'' * grc-gre, Βαβυλών ''Babylṓn'' * he, בָּבֶל ''Bavel'' * peo, 𐎲𐎠𐎲𐎡𐎽𐎢 ''Bābiru'' * elx, ...

Rav Ashi
, the rabbis who compiled the Babylonian Talmud.


The interplay of the Oral and Written Law

According to traditional Judaism, the Oral Law must have been disseminated at the same time as the Written Torah because certain Torah commandments would be indecipherable without a separate explanatory codex (and, presumably, God would not demand adherence to commandments that could not be understood). Many terms used in the Torah are left undefined, such as the word ''totafot'', usually translated as "frontlets," which is used three times in the Pentateuch (in
Exodus Exodus or the Exodus may refer to: Religion *Book of Exodus, second book of the Hebrew Torah and the Christian Bible *The Exodus, the biblical story of the migration of the ancient Israelites from Egypt into Canaan Historical events * Jujuy E ...
13:9 and
Deuteronomy The Book of Deuteronomy (literally "second law" from Greek ''deuteros'' + ''nomos'') is the fifth book of the Jewish , where it is called ''Devarim'' ( he, דְּבָרִים), "the words f Moses F, or f, is the sixth Letter (alphabet), let ...
6:8 and 11:18) but only identified with
tefillin Tefillin (; Israeli Hebrew Israeli may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the State of Israel * Israelis, citizens or permanent residents of the State of Israel * Modern Hebrew, a language * ''Israeli'' (newspaper), published from ...

tefillin
in the Mishnah (see
Menachot Tractate Menachot ( he, מְנָחוֹת; "Meal Offerings"), is the second tractate of the Order of Kodashim. It has Gemara The Gemara (also transliterated Gemarah, or in Ashkenazi pronunciation Gemora; from Aramaic , from the Hebrew H ...
3:7). Similarly, many procedures are mentioned without explanation or instructions, or assume familiarity on the part of the reader. For example, the discussion of ''
shechita In Judaism, ''shechita'' (anglicized: ; he, ; ; also Romanization of Hebrew, transliterated ''shehitah, shechitah, shehita'') is slaughtering of certain mammals and birds for food according to ''kashrut''. Source states that sheep and cattl ...
'' (
kosher ''Kashrut'' (also ''kashruth'' or ''kashrus'', ) is a set of dietary laws Some people do not eat various specific foods and beverages in conformity with various religious, cultural, legal or other societal prohibitions. Many of these prohibitio ...

kosher
slaughter) in
Deuteronomy The Book of Deuteronomy (literally "second law" from Greek ''deuteros'' + ''nomos'') is the fifth book of the Jewish , where it is called ''Devarim'' ( he, דְּבָרִים), "the words f Moses F, or f, is the sixth Letter (alphabet), let ...
12 states "you shall kill of your herd and of your flock which God Lord has given you, ''as I have commanded you''," without any clear indication of what had been "commanded"; only in the Oral Torah are the various requirements of ritual slaughter explicated. Similarly, Deuteronomy 24 discusses the laws of
divorce Divorce (also known as dissolution of marriage) is the optional process of terminating a marriage in Stockholm Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock is a culturally and often legally recognized union between people calle ...

divorce
in passing; these laws are set forth with great specificity in the Mishnah and Gemara. Another example: the blue string of
tekhelet ''Tekhelet'' ( he, תְּכֵלֶת; alternate spellings include ''tekheleth'', ''t'chelet'', ''techelet'' and ''techeiles'') is a "blue-violet", "blue", or "turquoise" dye highly prized by ancient Mediterranean civilizations and mentioned 49 time ...
on the
tzitzit ''Tzitzit'' ( he, ''ṣīṣīṯ'', ; plural ''ṣīṣīyyōt'', Ashkenazi Ashkenazi Jews ( are a Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and nati ...

tzitzit
is to be dyed with an extraction from what scholars believe to be a snail; a detail only spoken of in the oral Torah. For other examples and further discussion here see ''
Kuzari The ''Kuzari'', full title ''Book of Refutation and Proof on Behalf of the Despised Religion'' ( ar, كتاب الحجة والدليل في نصرة الدين الذليل: ''Kitâb al-ḥujja wa'l-dalîl fi naṣr al-dîn al-dhalîl''), also k ...
'
3:35
Moreover, according to the traditional view, without an Oral Law, blind adherence to the plain text of certain Torah commandments would lead to unethical acts, or would cause the practitioner to violate a commandment elsewhere in the Torah. Neither of these results could have been intended by God; and thus, ''a priori'', a set of supplementary "instructions" must have been provided. A classic example involves the phrase "
An eye for an eye "An eye for an eye" ( hbo, עַ֚יִן תַּ֣חַת עַ֔יִן) or the law of retaliation ( la, lex talionis) is the principle that a person who has injured another person is to be penalized to a similar degree by the injured party. In softe ...

An eye for an eye
, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot" is held in the oral tradition to imply monetary compensation – as opposed to a literal ''
Lex talionis "An eye for an eye" ( hbo, עַיִן תַּחַת עַיִן, ) is a commandment found in Exodus 21:23–27 expressing the principle of reciprocal justice measure for measure. In Roman civilization, the law of retaliation ( la, lex talionis) b ...
''. Regardless, the interpretation as “monetary compensation” is not consistent with ; this relationship paralleling the logic of the preceding paragraph. Finally, and similarly, the Oral Torah is needed to explain actions of biblical actors, seemingly discordant with other verses. For example, the marriage of
Boaz Boaz (; Hebrew language#Modern Hebrew, Hebrew: בֹּעַז ''Bōʿaz''; ) is a biblical figure appearing in the Book of Ruth in the Hebrew Bible and in the Genealogy of Jesus, genealogies of Jesus in the New Testament and also the name of a Boaz ...
, a member of the
tribe of Judah According to the Hebrew Bible, the tribe of Judah (, ''Shevet Yehudah'') was one of the twelve Tribes of Israel. Biblical account The Tribe of Judah, its conquests, and the centrality of its capital in Jerusalem for the worship of the god Yah ...

tribe of Judah
to Ruth, a
Moab Moab ''Mōáb''; Assyrian: 𒈬𒀪𒁀𒀀𒀀 ''Mu'aba'', 𒈠𒀪𒁀𒀀𒀀 ''Ma'ba'', 𒈠𒀪𒀊 ''Ma'ab''; Egyptian Egyptian describes something of, from, or related to Egypt. Egyptian or Egyptians may refer to: Nations and et ...
itess, as described in the
Book of Ruth The Book of Ruth (abbreviated Rth) ( he, מגילת רות, ''Megilath Ruth'', "the Scroll of Ruth", one of the Five Megillot) is included in the third division, or the Writings (Ketuvim Ketuvim (; hbo, כְּתוּבִים Kethūvīm "wri ...
, appears on its face to contradict the prohibition of against marrying Moabites; however, the Oral Torah explains that this prohibition is limited to Moabite ''men''. Similarly, the rabbinic practice for the
Counting of the Omer Counting of the Omer (, Sefirat HaOmer, sometimes abbreviated as Sefira or the Omer) is an important verbal counting of each of the forty-nine days starting with the Wave Offering The wave offering (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwe ...
() is at odds with the Karaite practice, which appears to accord with a more literal reading of these verses, but is in fact borne out by . Much Talmudic analysis similarly demonstrates how the Mishnah's rulings, and / or disputes, in fact derive from - and are hence consistent with - the much earlier Biblical texts; see Gemara #Biblical exposition. Relatedly, the 1st century
Targum Onkelos Interlinear text of Hebrew Numbers 6.3–10 with Aramaic Targum Onkelos from the British Library. Targum Onkelos (or Onqelos; Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic ...
is largely consistent with the oral tradition as recorded in the
midrash ''Midrash'' (;"midrash"
''Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary''.
he, מִדְרָשׁ; ...

midrash
, redacted into writing only in the 3rd or 4th century. Complementary to the above textual and internal evidence,
archaeologist Archaeology or archeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. Archaeology is often considered a branch of socio-cultural anthropology, but archaeologists also draw from biological, geological, ...

archaeologist
s have uncovered various physical evidence relating to religious rituals and practices which were current prior to the codification of the Mishnah; from which it can be inferred that Judah HaNasi and his contemporaries recorded, rather than innovated, normative Judaism as practiced during the 1st century CE and prior. For example, excavations at
Qumran Qumran ( he, קומראן; ar, خربة قمران ') is an archaeological site in the West Bank The West Bank ( ar, الضفة الغربية '; he, הגדה המערבית ' or ') is a landlocked territory near the Mediterranean co ...
( Cave 4) have yielded specimens of ''
tefillin Tefillin (; Israeli Hebrew Israeli may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the State of Israel * Israelis, citizens or permanent residents of the State of Israel * Modern Hebrew, a language * ''Israeli'' (newspaper), published from ...

tefillin
'' and parchment scrolls; these reflecting later Talmudic discussion. Likewise, the structure and placement of ritual baths at
Masada Masada ( he, מצדה ', "fortress") is an ancient fortification in the Southern District (Israel), Southern District of Israel situated on top of an isolated rock plateau, akin to a mesa. It is located on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert, ...

Masada
appears to be consistent with the rabbinic requirements per the Mishnaic tractate ''
Mikvaot Tractate Miqwaʾoth (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as one of the spoken languages of the Israeli ...
'', although they were constructed approximately 120 years before the Mishnah was compiled. A clay seal discovered in Jerusalem in 2011 is consistent with the tradition recorded in tractate '' Shekalim'
chapter 5
The Elephantine papyri include a "Passover letter" (419 BCE) which already included many of the Pesach observances of today, and the first known text of a
Ketubah A Ketubah ( he, כְּתוּבָּה) is a Jewish marriage contract. It is considered an integral part of a traditional Jewish marriage, and outlines the rights and responsibilities of the groom, in relation to the bride. In modern practice, th ...
(about 440 BCE). The Qumran ''Halachic Letter'', which records approximately a dozen disputes regarding the application of halakha, also testifies to the evolutionary process of the Oral Law.


In rabbinic literature and commentary

This section, discusses the Rabbinic treatment of the Written Law in light of the Oral Law, and the consequent overlap of the oral and written, and is not a general discussion of rabbinic Literature, ''
per se Per se may refer to: * ''wikt:per_se, per se'', a Latin phrase meaning "by itself" or "in itself". *Illegal per se, Illegal ''per se'', the legal usage in criminal and antitrust law *Negligence per se, Negligence ''per se'', legal use in tort law *P ...
''. As above, the Oral Law is recorded in the Midrash and Talmud, while later rabbinic literature builds on these works. Here, it is important to note that these source, "oral", documents, are nevertheless intimately connected to the written. Thus, the
midrash ''Midrash'' (;"midrash"
''Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary''.
he, מִדְרָשׁ; ...

midrash
provides a verse by verse discussion of the entire (written) Tanakh, per the oral Torah. Similarly, the Talmud, although applying a different framework, discusses and analyses the written Torah—both from an
aggadic Aggadah ( he, אַגָּדָה or ; Jewish Babylonian Aramaic אַגָּדְתָא; "tales, fairytale, lore") is the non-legalistic pardes (Jewish exegesis), exegesis which appears in the classical rabbinic literature of Judaism, particularly the ...
and
halakhic ''Halakha'' (; he, הֲלָכָה, ; also transliterated as ''halacha'', ''halakhah'', ''halachah'', or ''halocho''; ) is the collective body of Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people ...
perspective—drawing from (and recording) the oral tradition; here the discussion is organized around the Mishnah, and the discussion does not proceed verse-wise as with the Midrash. The era of the ''
Rishonim Rishonim (; he, ; sing. he, , ''Rishon'', "the first ones") were the leading rabbi A rabbi is a spiritual leader or religious teacher in Judaism. One becomes a rabbi by being ordained by another rabbi, following a course of study of Jewis ...
'' sees the Oral Law incorporated into the first formal
Torah commentaries Jewish commentaries on the Bible are List of biblical commentaries, biblical commentaries of the Hebrew Bible (the Tanakh) from a Jewish perspective. Translations into Aramaic language, Aramaic and English, and some universally accepted Jewish comme ...
, where the biblical text is discussed and / or analysed based on the various Midrashic and Talmudic traditions. The chief of these is perhaps
Rashi Shlomo Yitzchaki ( he, רבי שלמה יצחקי; la, Salomon Isaacides; french: Salomon de Troyes, 22 February 1040 – 13 July 1105), today generally known by the acronym Rashi (see below), was a medieval French rabbi A rabbi is a spi ...
's commentary on Tanakh. This work clarifies the "simple" meaning of the text, by addressing questions implied by the wording or verse or paragraph structure, by drawing on the Midrashic, Talmudic and Aggadic literature. It has given rise to numerous counter- (e.g., Ramban) and super-commentaries (e.g., Mizrachi), all similarly drawing on the Oral Torah, and widely studied to this day (see ''
Mikraot Gedolot The ''Mikraot Gedolot'' () "Great Scriptures," often called the " Rabbinic Bible" in English, is an edition of the Tanakh (in Hebrew) that generally includes four distinct elements: *The Biblical text according to the '' masorah'' in its letters, ...
'', Yeshiva #Torah and Bible study). In more recent times, '' Acharonic'' times, several (
Orthodox Orthodox, Orthodoxy, or Orthodoxism may refer to: Religion * Orthodoxy, adherence to accepted norms, more specifically adherence to creeds, especially within Christianity and Judaism, but also less commonly in non-Abrahamic religions like Neo-paga ...
) commentaries have been produced, which, in some sense, ''reverse'' the direction of the analysis. These originated in response to the (erstwhile) challenges of ''
haskalah The ''Haskalah'', often termed Jewish Enlightenment ( he, השכלה; literally, "wisdom", "erudition" or "education"), was an intellectual movement among the Jews Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2ISO The International Organ ...
'' and
Biblical criticism Biblical criticism is the use of critical analysis to understand and explain the Bible. During the eighteenth century, when it began as ''historical-biblical criticism,'' it was based on two distinguishing characteristics: (1) the concern to a ...
, and were intended "to demonstrate the indivisibility of the written Torah and its counterpart, the oral Torah", and in so doing, "showing the organic relationship between the Written Law and the Oral Law", often in the light of the above. Given this purpose, these provide a further detailed and explicit analysis here. The main of these: * '' Ha'amek Davar'' ("Delve into the matter") on Torah, and ''Davar Ha'amek'' on ''
Nevi'im Nevi'im (; he, נְבִיאִים ''Nəḇīʾīm'', "Prophets", literally "spokespersons") is the second major division of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; : , or ), is the of scriptures, including the , the , and the ...
'' and ''
Ketuvim Ketuvim (; hbo, כְּתוּבִים Kethūvīm "writings") is the third and final section of the Tanakh The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afro ...
'', by
Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin (20 November 1816 in Mir, Russia – 10 August 1893 in Warsaw, Poland), also known as Reb Hirsch Leib Berlin, and commonly known by the acronym Netziv, was an Orthodox rabbi A rabbi is a spiritual leader or reli ...
, the "Netziv" * '' Haketav VehaKabbalah'' ("The Written orahand the
ral RAL may refer to: * RAL colour standard RAL is a colour matching system used in Europe Europe is a continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any s ...
Tradition") on Torah, by Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg * '' HaTorah vehaMitzva'' ("The Torah and the Commandment") by Meïr Leibush, the "Malbim", covers all of ''Tanakh'' except ''Kohelet'' and ''Eicha''. * ''Samson_Raphael_Hirsch#Commentary_on_the_Torah, Uebersetzung und Erklärung des Pentateuchs'' ("Translation and Commentary of the Pentateuch") by Samson Raphael Hirsch. * ''Torah Temimah'' ("The Perfect Torah") on Torah, by Baruch Epstein. A more recent work of this type is the Israeli ''Da'at Miqra'' (and to some extent ''Da'at Sofrim'' by Chaim Dov Rabinowitz); see also Mordechai Breuer #Literary contribution . Contemporaneous with, and complementary to these commentaries, were specific, monograph-like works discussing the Oral Torah in concept and historically. These included: * Isaac Hirsch Weiss#His Dor Dor we-Dorshaw, ''Dor Dor v'Dor'shav'' ("Each generation and its Scholars"), by Rabbi Isaac Hirsch Weiss, a five volume history of the Oral Law, Halakha and Aggada, from Biblical times until the composition of the ''Shulchan Aruch''. * Zvi Hirsch Chajes#Works, ''Mevo Hatalmud'' ("Introduction to the Talmud") and ''Torat Neviim'' ("Teachings of the Prophets"), by Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Chajes. The first, a detailed history and classification of the Talmud and its underlying oral tradition, formulating the nature, extent, and authority of tradition. The second, treatises on the authority of Talmudic tradition, and on the organic structure and methodology of the Talmud. *David_Zvi_Hoffmann#Writings, ''Die Erste Mishna'' (The First Mishna), a historical and linguistic analysis of the Mishna by David Zvi Hoffmann, positing an early, uniform, undisputed, and therefore authoritative collection of the Oral Law. (R. Hoffmann also authored a Torah commentary addressing some of the same issues as those mentioned.) * ''Matteh Dan'' (or ''
Kuzari The ''Kuzari'', full title ''Book of Refutation and Proof on Behalf of the Despised Religion'' ( ar, كتاب الحجة والدليل في نصرة الدين الذليل: ''Kitâb al-ḥujja wa'l-dalîl fi naṣr al-dîn al-dhalîl''), also k ...
Hasheini''; London 1714) written by Rabbi David Nieto demonstrates the authority of the Oral Law, and defends the tradition against attacks by Karaite Judaism, Karaites and skeptics. *Several works by Rabbi Immanuel Aboab, especially his ''Nomologia'', defend the traditional law and discuss its chronology. Other well known works here, if perhaps less modern in orientation, include
Maimonides Moses ben Maimon ; (1138–1204), commonly known as Maimonides ( ) grc-gre, Μωυσής Μαϊμωνίδης ; la, Moses Maimonides and also referred to by the acronym Rambam ( he, רמב״ם),, for ''Rabbeinu Mōše bēn Maimun'', "Our Ra ...

Maimonides
' (Rambam's) Maimonides#Judaic and philosophical works, ''Introduction to the Mishnah''—dealing with the nature of the Oral Law, the distinction between the prophet and the sage, and the organizational structure of the Mishnah—as well as Isaiah Horowitz's ("The Shelah") ''Introduction to the Oral Torah'' in part 2 of his Isaiah Horowitz#Works, ''Shenei Luchot HaBerit'' Finally, other major works discussing the Bible as based on the Oral Torah include the following. * Menasseh Ben Israel#Writings, ''El Conciliador'' ("The Conciliator"), by Rabbi Menasseh Ben Israel, a work written to reconcile the apparent contradictions in numerous passages throughout the Bible by utilizing “an astounding range of sources", primarily the Talmud and the classic Jewish commentaries. It was written in Spanish, in Amsterdam, 1632, primarily to strengthen the faith of the Marranos. * Weiss' ''Dor Dor v'Dor'shav'' similarly discusses apparent divergencies in the Pentateuch and the various books of the Nevi'im, Prophets. * ''Me'am Lo'ez'', begun by Rabbi Yaakov Culi in 1730, a detailed explanation of each chapter of the Torah, explaining it from "countless approaches", especially according to the
Midrash ''Midrash'' (;"midrash"
''Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary''.
he, מִדְרָשׁ; ...

Midrash
and
Talmud The Talmud (; he, תַּלְמוּד ''Tálmūḏ'') is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source of Jewish religious law (''halakha'') and Jewish theology. Until the advent of modernity, in nearly all Jewish communities, the ...

Talmud
; also discusses the relevant ''
Halacha ''Halakha'' (; he, הֲלָכָה, ), also transliterated Transliteration is a type of conversion of a text from one script to another that involves swapping letters (thus '' trans-'' + '' liter-'') in predictable ways, such as Greek → ...
'' as based on the ''Shulchan Aruch'' and ''Mishneh Torah''. The work was intended as a "compendium" of the major fields of Torah study, for the Judaeo-Spanish, Ladino-speaking community.


Dissenting viewpoints

From Pharisaic times, there has always been some level of opposition to the concept of a "Dual Torah" within the umbrella of Judaism, although today only the Karaite sect formally opposes the incorporation of any extra-biblical law into their practice. Rather, the branches of modern Judaism differ more in their views regarding the divinity and immutability of the Oral Torah than they do in their belief in the importance of an interpretive tradition as exemplified in the Talmud.


Sadducees

Sadducees The Sadducees (; he, צְדוּקִים ''Ṣĕdûqîm'') were a sect or group of Jews who were active in Judea Judea or Judaea, and the modern version of Judah (; from he, יהודה, Hebrew language#Modern Hebrew, Standard ''Yəhūda'', ...
rejected the Pharisees, Pharisaic oral traditions. They based their interpretations on their own traditions emphasizing a more literal understanding of the verses. In many respects, this led to a more severe observance than that of the Pharisees especially as regards purity laws and temple practice. Most aspects of Sadduceean law and methods of interpretation are not known.


Essenes

Essenes The Essenes (; Modern Hebrew Modern Hebrew ( he, עברית חדשה, ''ʿivrít ḥadašá ', , ''Literal translation, lit.'' "Modern Hebrew" or "New Hebrew"), also known as Israeli Hebrew or Israeli, and generally referred to by speakers ...
, a monastic group of people, had a "monastic organization". Though they had non-biblical rules and customs, they rejected much of the oral traditions.


Samaritans

The Samaritans, an ancient sect that has survived in small numbers to the present day, have their own rich interpretative tradition, as reflected in the Medieval Samaritan legal collection called the ''Hilukh'', which shares etymological roots with the term ''Halakhah''. However, the concept of a divinely ordained Oral Law having equal value with the written one is foreign to Samaritan theology.


Karaites

Karaite Judaism or Karaism is a Jewish denominations, Jewish denomination that began in eighth century Baghdad to form a separate sect that rejected of the Oral Torah and
Talmud The Talmud (; he, תַּלְמוּד ''Tálmūḏ'') is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source of Jewish religious law (''halakha'') and Jewish theology. Until the advent of modernity, in nearly all Jewish communities, the ...

Talmud
, and placed sole reliance on the Tanakh as sacred text, scripture. Thus, for example, Karaite understood Exodus 35:3 ("Do not light a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day") as forbidding the use of any kind of fire on the Sabbath, including fires lit before the start of the Sabbath, which are permitted by the Oral Law. Karaites also do not adhere to widespread customs such as the donning of ''tefillin'' and the prohibition against eating milk and meat together on the grounds that such practices are grounded in the Oral Law. Some Karaites strive to adhere only to the ''peshat (plain meaning) of the text. This is in contrast to Rabbinic Judaism, which relies on the Oral Torah and employs several interpretive methods which, at times, stray from the literal meaning.


Modern perspectives


Torat Eretz Yisrael

According to Torat Eretz Yisrael and Siddur#Minhagei Eretz Yisrael, Minhagei Eretz Yisrael, it is important to notice that Torah sages can err, just as the
Sanhedrin The Sanhedrin (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and th ...

Sanhedrin
could (Leviticus 4:13).


Reform Judaism

Reform Judaism generally considers the Oral Law to reflect interpretations or perspectives on the Torah authored by groups of rabbis in Babylonia and Palestine (region), Palestine over a period of time, which are not inherently more legitimate or authoritative than the opinions of Jewish scholars, philosophers, or religious leaders at any other time, including the present.


Conservative Judaism

Conservative Judaism (also known as "Masorti" outside North America) takes an intermediate perspective, claiming that the Oral tradition is entitled to authority, but regarding its rulings as flexible guidelines rather than immutable precepts, that may be viewed through the lens of modernity. Jewish scholar and philosopher Ismar Schorsch has postulated that Conservative Judaism is tied to "sensing divinity both in the Torah and in the Oral Law," but not in a literalist manner. Rabbi Zecharias Frankel, considered intellectual founder of Conservative Judaism, was respected by many Orthodox until writing in 1859 that the Talmudic term "Law given to Moses at Sinai" always meant ancient customs accepted as such. His opponents demanded that he issue an unequivocal statement of belief in the total divinity of Oral Law, yet he refrained from doing so. He was consequently ostracized and declared a heretic by several authorities.


See also

* Aggadah * Hadith * Law given to Moses at Sinai * Oral history * Oral law * Traditional knowledge * Uncodified constitution


References

Traditional Material * "
Maimonides Moses ben Maimon ; (1138–1204), commonly known as Maimonides ( ) grc-gre, Μωυσής Μαϊμωνίδης ; la, Moses Maimonides and also referred to by the acronym Rambam ( he, רמב״ם),, for ''Rabbeinu Mōše bēn Maimun'', "Our Ra ...

Maimonides
introduction to the Mishnah Torah"
English translation
* "
Maimonides Moses ben Maimon ; (1138–1204), commonly known as Maimonides ( ) grc-gre, Μωυσής Μαϊμωνίδης ; la, Moses Maimonides and also referred to by the acronym Rambam ( he, רמב״ם),, for ''Rabbeinu Mōše bēn Maimun'', "Our Ra ...

Maimonides
introduction to the Maimonides#Works and bibliography, Commentary on the Mishnah"
Hebrew Fulltext
Bibliography * ''The Essential Talmud'', Adin Steinsaltz, Basic Books; 1984 * ''Introduction to The Talmud and Midrash'', H.L. Strack and G. Stemberger, Fortress Press * ''The Infinite Chain: Torah, Masorah, and Man'', Nathan T. Lopes Cardozo, Targum Press Distributed by Philipp Feldheim; 1989


External links

* {{CathEncy, wstitle=Massorah
Oral Law
Jewish Encyclopedia ''The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day'' is an English-language encyclopedia containing over 15,000 articles on the ...
Oral Torah, Jewish law Talmud