UNDERSTANDING THE ORAL LAW
Harvey A. Smith
Is what is called the Torah Sheba'al Peh (Oral Law) really G-d's Holy Word
The real issues facing us today is: Are we in Messianic Judaism following
the Torah min Hashaymyim,( the Torah from Heaven), which we call Biblical
Judaism, for want of a better word, or are the Rabbinic Jews of the
Orthodoxy which call their faith, Torah Judaism really the keepers of the
Torah Min Hashomaim.
Have the Orthodox Rabbis, kept the covenant with the Almighty? Is the
Torah She-bik-htab,( The Written Law) taught and its precepts kept, or is the
Torah Sheb'al Peh, the oral law, the covenant that the Rabbis teach and try
to keep.. Mixed in with all this is the Gramatria of Cabalah which allows
one to re arrange the letters of a word in Torah to mean something
different than the literal meaning.
To quote the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Dr. I Jakobovits and Mr Chaim
Schimmel, a lawyer and co-founder and chairman of the Hovevey Torah
educational movement, plus being the Chairman of Yeshiva Etz Chaim, and
convenor of the A.O.J.S. speakers panel to British Universities...
"The Jewish people are frequently called "The People of the Book, yet if
one were to search out a people who follow literally the Bible's behest,
one might be led to the Samaritans, who still practise their religion on
the outskirts of Shechem (Nablus) or the Karaites who are now settled to
the south of modern Tel-Aviv,(Israel), but NEVER TO THE JEWISH PEOPLE.
THEY DO NOT NOW FOLLOW THE LITERAL WORD OF THE BIBLE, NOR HAVE THEY EVER
DONE SO.(personally i take issue with that because under David, and Solomon
and under Ezrah and Nehemiah, the Word of Torah was supreme).
They have been fashioned and ruled by the verbal interpretation of the
Written word, more particularly by the "Torah" which embraces both the
written and the Oral law"
Make no mistakes about it, no matter what they call themselves, they do not
follow the literal covenant that Moshe gave them at Mt Sinai.
Could it be that this is the sin that has kept our people in exile for over
Certainly we cannot fault the Rabbis for writing commentaries of the Torah,
a practice that every religion and denomination has followed to explain the
Word of G-d... and for sure we cannot fault the Rabbis for trying to
explain the code of Law that is contained within our covenant with the
Almighty. But to claim that the Torah Sheb'al Peh, the Oral Law is from
G-d and was given by Moses at Sinai and is as Holy as the Written Torah can
very well be the sin of the Fathers which is passed from one Generation to
the other. Hence is the Torah Sheb'al Peh, a Torah at all??
Certainly the Experts of Jews for Judaism who claim Torah Judaism as their
Faith, know that they do not practice the Torah as is written, so do not be
deceived by Titles...We in Messianic Judaism are not Samaritans or
Karaites... We are the inheritors of the Torah from Heaven, to keep it pure
and to share the Revelation of Messiah with our people, which is the true
Torah. We also have a halacha, It is in the New Covenant the 16 letters
which were written to show us how to fulfill and live in the Joy of the New
Covenant. In this article i will endeavor explore the Oral Tradition of
the Orthodoxy of Rabbinic Judaism and will show where it veered off the path
of Biblical Judaism, the Judaism of Mosheh Rabbanu (Moses).
TORAH1, THE ORAL TRADITION,(SHEBE'AL PEH)
IS THE SHEBE'AL PEH (THE ORAL LAW OF THE RABBIS) A TORAH?
IS THE SHEBE'AL PEH INSPIRED BY THE ALMIGHTY?
WAS THE SHEBE'AL PEH GIVEN TO MOSES AT SINAI BY G-D?
DOES THE SHEBE'AL PEH OF THE RABBIS' EQUAL IN INSPIRATION
TO THE "TORAH SHE-BIKHTAB" (THE WRITTEN TORAH)?
These are the pertinent questions that we must answer. According to Rabbi
Neusner, a foremost Talmudist, the Oral Tradition really begins with Rabbi
Akiba in the end of the First century, and reaches its height in the second
century under Judah HaNasi with the codifying of the Mishnah, the central
core of the Oral Tradition.
The two main arguments that are used in Rabbinic Judaism to prove that the
Oral Tradition has its origins at Sinai are as follows:
I) "That it is difficult, if not impossible, to make sense of the written
law, without an oral tradition" (Talmud Shabbat 31A). Rabbi Hillel,
a Babylonian Rabbi who existed during the time of the Messiah, even went
further, to say that without an oral tradition, it is impossible to even
identify the letters of the alef-Bet" (alphabet).
II)"That there are principles of Oral Law which date back from the same time
as the written law."
III) The Rabbis had made note that they must now share the Torah with the
Nations of the world (due to the rise of Christianity), so that the differences
between the true people of G-d would become clouded. Since the Rabbis'
considered that the gentiles had stolen Torah from them, the only way for G-d
to discern between the true people of G-d was through the Sheba'al Peh"
.(Tanh.,Ki Tissa, 58b)
When the Gentiles would say to G-d, we are the true children
of the L-rd because we keep the Torah, the L-rd would respond to them:
"do you know my secret?" They would respond: What secret. and the L-rd
responds, my children know my secret". (R Judah, Pes.R. 14b) That secret
is the Oral Tradition, the Torah Sheba'al Peh!"
IV) The oral tradition are the codes and rules for observing the Mitzvot
that the Rabbis attribute to Moses. They're statement "That the teaching
which came to us from the Mishnah of the Sages is of identical date and origin
with that which is derived by interpretation of the Scriptural word, all
is given by One G-d and communicated by one and the same Prophet", must
be rejected. It is noted that some statements of Mishnah date back to the
time of Joshua or even Moses. However they were discussions of how to handle
certain leperous signs in the camp. Another dealt with the daughters of
Zelophehad when they first settled in the land of Israel. These tractates
were by the Rabbis considered amongst the first Mishnayot. And as we shall
see later that even the framers of the Mishnah did not intend that they
should become Scripture but when the overwhelming majority of Rabbis
began to subscribe to the notion that the Mishnah was so powerful that it
was even more precious than the Torah. (Num.R., Naso, xiv, 10.), the
framers of the Oral tradition succumbed to the majority and Oral Tradition
became the modis operandi of Rabbinic Judaism.
Of course all this hinges on the Rabbinic theory that Moses did not
receive the entire Torah at Sinai (Exodus R. 41). Rabbi Akiba asks
rhetorically "and did then Moses learn the entire Torah" and he replies
"No, G-d taught him only the principles of Torah". Also Sefer Ha-Ikarim
III,23 states "It is not possible to claim that G-d gave the Torah
in such a way that it should provide for all times and all events.
Moses was given only the Principles.
Of course Torah Davarim (Deut.) 31:24 states that Moses wrote them all
down. The Book of Davarim gives testimony that the covenant between the
Almighty and children is what G-d dictated to Moses at Sinai and Moses
spoke to the Children of Israel to keep. The warnings to world wide
dispersion for breaking the Torah She-bikhtab(Written Law) are a sinister
spector of prophecy that warn us to go back to the Bible.
This article is the result of my personal study and the quotes come out
of several books: "The Oral Law" by H. Chaim Schimmel, "The Book of
Redemption" by Ramban (Nachmanides), "Rabbinic Anthology" by Moses
DID THE RABBIS TRY TO BUILD SAFEGUARDS AROUND THEIR
WRITINGS IN ORDER TO PRESERVE THE WRITTEN WORD OF G-D?
The Rabbis' intended to safeguard their writings and legislative
1. "Rabbinic legislation was not to be misrepresented as though it were
inspired by prophecy.
2. Nor was it to be misrepresented as though it were Torah legislation
3. Torah law and decisions of earlier Bet Dins were not to be abrogated
4. The will of the People
5. The Will of G-d
6. The Will of the Bet Din
Because of these severe restrictions, the Rabbis sought other means or
loopholes to create new laws. First they developed what is called "Legal
Fiction, where a statement which is known to be Untrue, but no debate is
allowed to make it invalid or denied, so some new law could be enacted."
(If their laws were of G-d and not man made, there would not have been this
need to lie and then go around the old law to bring in a new more workable
Once again to quote Mr Schimmel (The Oral law pg 57) "Yabneh was a time of
comparative calm in the midst of political upheavels in the land, and the
SAGES FELT THAT THEY MUIST GRASP THE OPPORTUNITY TO ESTABLISH THE AUTHORITY
OF HALACHAH."(So evidently before Yabneh 1 century CE, Halachah was not
the established authority in the Jewish communities and certainly did not
come from Moshe MeSinai)(This is recorded in the Talmud for all to see).
The classic example of "Legal Fiction" is Hillel's famous Pruzbal (Gittin
Hillel cited a pretence that a person's debt was assigned to the Bet Din
until after the Sabbatical Year. The reason for this was, during the
Sabbatical Year according to Torah Law, all debts were to be forgiven.
By doing the above they kept the man in debt for after the Sabbatical Year
the man's debt was reassigned by the Bet Din back to the lender, thus
successfully circumventing the law which said "His debts shall be forgiven"
That they say was fulfilled by the lender, who forgave everyone their debts
during that year.(Note he had already passed ownership of the debts to the
Bet Din, so he did not have any debtors to fulfill the law.) Remember it
is the Almighty who looks on the heart.
No wonder Yeshua said "Why do you transgress the Words of G-d for your
ordinances" "You despise the Word of G-d by your Ordinances" Matt 15:3-7
and again " because this people has come near with their mouth and has
honored me with their lips, but their heart is far from me and their
REVERENCE TOWARD ME IS THE COMMANDMENTS OF MEN WHICH HAVE BEEN TAUGHT"
(The Gospel of Matthew according to primitive Hebrew Text)
It would be wrong to continue this discussion without a comment or two on
the Mishnah. i am quoting again from "The Oral Law"
"The Mishnah is the basis of the Oral Law which is known to us, and its
formulation was entirely the work of the SAGES. THERE IS NO SUGGESTION
THAT THE TEXT OF THE MISHNAH IS OF DIVINE ORIGIN."
"The Mishnah comprises a simple statement of the law or of a difference in
Rabbinic opinion concerning the Law and DOES NOT SEEK SCRIPTURAL PROOF."
What the Rabbis' failed to see was that by circumventing the rules of
Safeguards, they removed from themselves all traces of accountability.
Anyone Rabbi could change the laws according to his or her whims, without
any type of accountability. Certainly if they had stayed within their
parameters, many of their decisions and legislations would have been widely
accepted by the people instead of them rebelling against the harsh
oppression of Rabbinic Rules that have been handed down as from G-d and
Moses at Sinai, in direct opposition to their own rules of conduct.
Because of these great Sins of the Rabbis' our people have been kept
captive, until now. Thank G-d, that He is bringing our people back to
Eretz Yisrael, according to Ezekiel 36, and Isa. 11, where it is not for
Israel's sake but for G-d's Holy Name Sake, which they have profaned amongst
the heathen when they said "We are the people of the L-rd and have left His
In conclusion, the reason Halachah is so great a Sin, is that the people
were taught these were G-d's Laws, so now when a person rebells against one
of these Rabbinic Laws, they believe they are rebelling against G-d.
Soo the rebellion becomes a hatred for G-dly things.
We have a similiar problem in Messianic Faith. There are some Shepherds
who heap laws and legalism unto their sheep, causing them to rebell and do
the same thing. Let us not Add to the Words of the Almighty or detract
from them. Let us fulfill the New Covenant Mitzvot by doing those things
that are acceptable to HaShem.
There is much to be learned in Rabbinic Literature.
There is much to understand especially in the area of Torah Law.
Remember the Rabbis' were not only concerned with Law but of how to keep
our people together during this harsh exile and to govern when allowed our
little communities amongst the sea of Gentile nations.
IS THE HALACHAH (ORAL TRADITION OF THE RABBIS BASED ON TORAH
OR GRECIAN PHILOSOPHY?
I have said before that i believed that Orthodox Halachah, was based
primarily on Philosophy and Logic rather than the Torah from Heaven.
The Rabbis during the age of the Mishnah, (100-250 CE), made it rather
plain that they were following the Torah MeEretz, rather than the Torah
from Heaven. A heavy dispute between two Rabbis on the issue, caused the
dismissal of one from the Sanhedrin.
This principal is known as "S'Bara". The Talmud ascribes the authority for
many Halachic laws as being "S'Bara". "What need is there for basing the
decision on a Biblical verse"."It is S'Bara", meaning the decision is
logical so therefore Torah, whether or not it is based on the Torah.
(page 3 Not in Heaven by foremost Orthodox Talmudist, Eliezer Berkovits)
With the re-establishment of the Nation of Israel, the Halachists found
themselves in a quandry. While in exile, all they could think was that
halachah had many problems there because it was laws written for Jews
who were supposed to be living in the Land of Israel.
Now back in the land, they have found according to Rabbi Berkovits that the
Halachah is also alien to Eretz Yisrael (land of Israel).
In his book, Not in Heaven, Rabbi Berkovits is calling for a total
re-evaluation of halachah, calling it the captive of the Galut, (Exile).
This more than ever points to the fallacies of halachah of being only the
work of man and not of the Almighty. The problem with Rabbi Berkovits
answers to the problems of Halachah is that he wants to keep using it to
get around the Biblical Torah laws, especially that which is connected to
the land and the debts of individuals. "Shmitta". These are the very
abuses that caused our exile in the first place.
I heartily suggest the reading of the book "Not in Heaven" published by Ktav
as to an understanding of the "Nature and Function of Halakha"
While we suscribe to the fact, that there are many Halachic rules that are
good, we must also suscribe to the Halacha, the position of commentary, and
explanation. There is a treasure of History within the Halachaic reports
As Jews and Messianic Believers we must totally reject the premise that the
Sheba'al Peh is in fact a Torah, which was given to Moses at Sinai.
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government
will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Councellor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." - Yeshaya 9:5 (9:6)
"To the Jews who had believed him, Yeshua said, "If you hold to my
teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth,
and the truth will set you free."" - Yochanan 8:32-33