TORAH, NOT TALMUD – LIVING GOD’S WAY

 

Introduction

 

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.’

(Deut 4:2)

 

‘See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.’

(Deut 12:32)

 

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.

For example, it says in the Oral Law:

“Even if they instruct you that right is left, or left is right, you must obey them.”

(Sifrey Deuteronomy S154 on Deut 17:11).

This is in contrast to what The Prophets say:

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who call darkness light, and light darkness; who call sweet bitter, and bitter sweet.”

(Isaiah 5:20)

What is decided by Rabbinic authority on religious matters is binding, even if it is factually untrue. Even if Torah says one thing, and the Oral Law says another, they must go according to the Oral Law:

“If there are 1000 prophets, all of them of the stature of Elijah and Elisha, giving a certain interpretation, and 1001 rabbis giving the opposite interpretation, you shall incline after the majority, and the law is according to the 1001 rabbis, not according to the 1000 venerable prophets.”
(Maimonides)

This, despite what it says in Torah:

“You shall NOT follow the majority when they do wrong,”

(Exodus 23:2)

The Oral Law decrees that, the fact that God says something through one of His prophets, we are still not to listen:

“By God, if we heard the matter directly from the mouth of Joshua son of Nun, we would not obey him, nor would we listen to him.”

(Maimonides)

And:

“God did not permit us to learn from the Prophets, only from the Rabbis who are men of logic and reason.”

(Maimonides)

In a story from the Babylonian Talmud, in the tractate Baba Metsia, the tale is told where God speaks out in agreement with just one rabbi, against the majority of other rabbis, but the majority reject God’s judgment, saying, “Sorry, we do not listen to Heaven.”

The Oral Law teaches further, that if a prophet agrees with Torah, and the Oral contradicts Torah, then that prophet must be executed:

“He who prophecies in God’s Name . . . if he changes anything in the Oral Law, even if the plain meaning of Scripture supports what he says . . . that prophet is to be executed through strangulation.” (Maimonides)

If this is true, and God sends the Son of David, and even if the Anointed Son of David says that something in the Oral Law is wrong, then the Rabbis, according to the Oral Law, are duty bound to have him executed!

 We have only to look at The Prophets to see what God thinks of the Oral Law:

“This people comes near with their mouth, and with their lips they honour me; but their heart is far from me, and their worship of me is only rules taught by men.”

(Isaiah 29:12)

What an iniquitous and wickedly shrewd thing is the Oral Law, that they have twisted logic so that even if God tells the rabbis that they are wrong, they have decreed that they are not to listen even to God. The Oral Law, in effect, usurps God’s authority, and replaces Him.

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.

This is in complete contrast to the Oral Law, where the decisions of the Rabbis come first, and are binding, even if they are blatantly unjust, nonsensical, illogical, irrational and ridiculous.

 

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.”

(Deut 26:18-19)

“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.

In ancient times, Gentiles were able to see how our ancestors took delight in God’s appointed customs. The Gentiles who were able to see our ways, and were awed by the God of Israel – so much so that a steady stream of foreigners converted and became one with the House of Israel. Those who chose not to convert still held us in high esteem.

But the Pharisees, then the Rabbanites made it a virtue to hide Torah with the Oral Law. Yeshua` constantly criticised the Oral Law. Yeshua` saw the Oral Law as a burden, and an obstacle. The day that the fence of the Oral Law is breached, the light of Torah will begin to shine through once more. The nations will once more be able to see the awesome God that we follow, and they will finally realise wht we are doing, why we do it, and will be ashamed of what they have done to us throughout the centuries. I believe that the nations will increasingly respect us, and the unjustified hatred they have towards us will decrease.

 

Conclusion

 

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.

 

 



   
Site Content © Shmuliq Parzal 2004-6 contact us | site map | site terms