TORAH, NOT TALMUD – LIVING GOD’S WAY
In Torah, it specifically says that we are not to add to, nor subtract from the words of Torah:
‘Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of YHVH your God that I give you.’
‘See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.’
This is the basis of our objection to the Oral Law – the ‘Traditions of the Elders’, the Talmud. God told us not to add to the written Torah, and the Prophets warned us of its dangers.
The blatant iniquity of the Oral Law
The Oral Law teaches the absolute authority of the Rabbis, even when they say something that is illogical, contradictory, or against Torah.
(Sifrey Deuteronomy S154 on Deut 17:11).
The two extremes
In Talmidaism, Torah as written comes first. If something in Torah is unclear, we then turn to The Prophets. If the Prophets are unclear, we then go according to ancient tradition (Massorah) as practised in the Land of Israel. Usually, this is sufficient. If something is still unclear, then we can go to a learned Torah scholar, but his/her decision is not binding.
In Yeshua`’s day, there was one group that accepted the Oral Law – the Pharisees, and another that completely rejected it – the Sadducees. In Yeshua`’s opinion, it was one thing to reject the Oral Law, and quite another to stick so literally to the word of the Written Law, that one misses the point:
“In Jerusalem, a priest who belonged to the party of the Sadducees, said to Yeshua`, ‘Your words are adding to the Torah of Moses. You do the same as the Pharisees with their Traditions of the Elders. But we observe the Torah and keep it faithfully, since we have never added to it.’
So Yeshua` answered and told him that this was true – that they had never added to the Torah. But he also said that neither had they gained anything.
‘It’s like when a rich man prepared to go on a long journey. He called three of his servants, and entrusted to them his gold. To the first he gave five kikkarin, to the second, two kikkarin, and to the last, he gave one kikkar. Then he went away.
After a long while, the rich man returned, and commanded those servants, to whom he had entrusted the money, to be brought to him to settle accounts.
The first came to him and said, “Master, you entrusted me with five kikkarin; see, I’ve made five kikkarin more.”
‘His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Because you’ve been faithful in a little matter, I’ll set you over much – you shall keep the five kikkarin you’ve gained.”
‘So the second servant also came forward. “Master, you entrusted me with two kikkarin; see, I’ve made two kikkarin more.”
‘His master said to him, “And you shall keep the two kikkarin you’ve gained.”
‘But the third servant came forward, saying, “I know you to be a harsh man; you reap what you didn’t sow, and withdraw what you didn’t deposit. So I went and buried the kikkar you gave me in the ground to keep it safe. Here, have what’s yours.”
‘But his master answered him, “You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I was a harsh man, reaping what I didn’t sow, and withdrawing what I didn’t deposit? Then you should’ve invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would’ve collected it with interest.”
‘Then he said to those standing by, “Take the kikkar from him, and give it to him who has ten.
‘“Be gone from here, you lazy and spiteful servant!” ’
(Sefer Yeshua`, passage 80)
The third servant stuck so literally to his master’s instructions, that he profited nothing by it. What we object to about the Oral Law, is the teaching that it is God’s Word. It is not. It is a collection of human – and often contradictory – opinions. Much of today’s Jewish law comes not from the Bible, but from the Talmud.
The place of Massorah (Tradition) in Talmidaism
There were things which were so well known in Israelite culture, that it wasn’t recorded – knowledge was assumed. In modern times, some commandments in Torah are unclear. There are gaps which assume knowledge of a particular culture and way of life. We agree that Talmud is a good reference for how things used to be done in ancient times, and when it doesn’t contradict the written Torah, we will take information contained in the Talmud into account.
Talmidaism bases its culture on 1st century CE Judaism in Galilee and Judea. We have built up a body of information on that culture to which we can refer when necessary, called Massorah (which is Aramaic for ‘Tradition’). It is not intended to add to the written Torah; it only acts to fill in the gaps when something is unclear, and unlike the Talmud, is not seen as the word of God, only describing the culture in which Torah operates.
The prison fence around Torah
How can even God persuade the rabbis to walk according to his glorious will, when the rabbis have decreed that they should not listen to it or obey it? While the majority of religious Jews are under the dictate of the Oral Law, how can God fulfil His promises in the future, when His future prophets will be ignored at best, or at worst executed?
God intended us to be a light to the nations, and Torah was God’s way of showing us how to become that light. God promised that Torah would cause the nations to hold us in respect and high honour, as it is written:
“And YHVH has declared this day that you are His people, His treasured possession as He promised, and that you are to keep all His commands. He has declared that He will set you in praise, fame and honour high above all the nations He has made, and that you will be a people holy to YHVH your God, as He promised.”
“YHVH will establish you as His holy people, as He promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of YHVH your God and walk in His ways. Then all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by YHVH’s name, and they will have an awesome respect for you.” (Deut 28:9-10)
God gave Torah to us, a numerically insignificant people, to enable us to be free of persecution and hatred – God promised it on oath. But what did the Pharisees and then the Rabbanites do? They built a prison fence – the Oral Law – around Torah. They built an impenetrable fence, so that the nations could not see God’s light. The nations were not able to see the light that was to bring us ‘respect, praise, fame and honour high above all the nations’.
The Prophet Yeshua` and the Oral Law
Yeshua` prophesied against the Oral Law, because he knew how dangerous it would be. He knew it would hide Israel’s light; he knew that it would deny us the respect that God promised His people. Yeshua` told us that a light is not hidden under a bushel or a basket, but put on a stand, so that everyone could see that light. What the Pharisees and the Rabbanites did, was to put the light – which is God’s shining Torah – underneath a basket – which is the Oral Law – and as a result, the nations were not able to see the light that was to bring us respect and peace, and freedom from persecution and fear.
Oral Law and Tradition have their proper place. It is not their place to replace God’s Torah, or have greater authority than God’s Word.
Without the burden of the Oral Law, the Torah and the Prophets comes alive. Living God's ways is like swimming in a sea of clear, warm water - it is a pleasure to do, and revitalises the body and soul.