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103. Are there then two kinds of laws, the written and the oral ?
Not by any means; for in fact there is but one law and one code, as the Scriptures and Tradition constitute together but one whole,* they being the component parts of the Mosaic Law.
104. What would you then understand by ORAL LAW ?
That part of the law, which explains more fully the written precepts, and fixes their meanings and the practice under them, that these points might not be left to be determined by the fancy of men, whose reason is necessarily circumscribed, and who are often blinded by prejudice and passion.
105. What was the reason, that these explanations were not originally committed to writing ?
Because in that case the explanations would in the lapse of time have been exposed to absurd interpretations and arbitrary perversions of differently thinking men. For this reason this oral law, or rather this more lucid explanation of the written
* The Rev. Chief Rabbi Mr. Hurwitz drew here my attention to the numerical valuet of the words 2002 and 75-by. The numerical value of the first is 424, and of the second 187, which added produce the sum of 611, which is precisely the numerical value of the word yn (Law).
Author. ¢ It is a favourite mode with certain commentators, to show the close relation existing between different parts of scriptural events and laws, by comparing the numerical value of words or even phrases found in different parts of the Bible. This way of commenting is chiefly founded upon the belief, that there is nothing fortuitous or by chance, not even a single letter, in Holy Writ.
precepts, was communicated solely to a few chosen men, or persons eminently distinguished for piety and learning; that the law might be preserved through their means pure and free from perversions and forged additions.
106. Was not the oral law for all that finally committed to writing?
Yes, in the times of Rabbi Judah Hanassy, surnamed the holy, about the year 3980 after the creation. When namely the learned men of those days saw, that the teachers of the law continually decreased in numbers, occasioned through the intolerable oppressions they bad to encounter, and that the law was daily more neglected and forgotten; they determined,
,רבי יהודה הנשיא הקדוש under the presidency of this pious chief
to commit the tradition, which had hitherto been preserved orally, to writing, in short sentences; the book, thus composed, they called the Mishna; that is, repetition of the law. Although it must be confessed, that this was, to a certain degree, acting contrary to the letter of the law; yet they quoted, in doing this, the Psalmist (119 Ps. 126 v.):
gonin 1997 ob niey's my “ There is a time, when it becomes necessary, in honour of the Eternal, to suspend one precept, to preserve either the whole law or an essential part of it.”
107. Is the Mishna the only work of this kind ?
No; it was afterwards found to be too short and unintelligible without further elucidation : it came therefore to pass, that, two hundred and eighty years after the afore-mentioned period, this Mishna, and in fact the whole law, were more clearly and amply explained and illustrated, under the presidency of the pious and learned chiefs Rabina and Rab Ashy.
The work, which was produced under this revision, is called the Gemara or Talmud, and is divided in 36 (mingon) books.
108. Were not other law-books composed at subsequeat periods?
Yes; but they are no new law-books ; on the contrary, they contain merely in the form of a code, and in a concise and systematic order, that which has been decided and instituted as law in the Talmud, with the omission of the more detailed discussions, which are found in the same.
109. Which are the principal books of this kind?
The work Yad hachasakah (npinn 7) in 14 books, written by the Rabbi Moses Maimonides, in the year of the world 4936, and the Shulchan Ngaruch (Tiny jako) in 4 volumes, which was edited by the Rabbi Don Joseph Caro in the year of the world 5325.
110. In what order do our wise men reckon the regular succession and transmission of the tradition?
ywin' you's ononi on niin sap ron “ Moses received the law
on Sinai , and delivered לזקנים וזקנים לנביאים ונביאים מסרוה לאנשי
51720 nDj it over to Joshua. Joshua delivered it to the elders, the elders to the prophets, and the prophets communicated it to the members of the great synod.” (Aboth, i.)
111. Was this regulation of any service?
It was indeed very useful; for to it we are mainly indebted, that the written law even has descended to us pure and uncorrupted. For, as these pious men had been instituted through this means, as it were, guardians and interpreters of the law; they directed their most particular attention to it, and they even counted the words and letters of the Holy Scriptures, showed how they ought to be written, and taught at the same time, how they were to be read and punctuated. This was afterwards expressed by signs and figurative phrases, which are easily understood, and published under the name of Massorah 179op (Tradition).
112. What other benefit do we derive from the aforesaid wise regulation?
The judges and elders of the people had thereby an opportunity of introducing many wise laws and useful regulations, which were suited to the circumstances and emergencies of their times; and the people felt the necessity of honouring their expounders of the law and their teachers, and of obeying strictly, on all occasions, their words and admonitions. This is also the express will of the legislator, who says (Deut. 17 ch. 11 v.):
VON ODVON byo 7977 vus ghinn no by “ According to the law, UN 12777 ya on is wyn 75 1978" which they (the elders)
· Now yorg5 1792 will teach thee, and according to the judgment, which they may tell thee, thou shalt do; thou shalt not depart from whatever they may tell thee, either to the right or the left.”
113. What duties do, according to this law, devolve upon the teachers of the people, the Rabbies and consistories of every generation?
They must instruct the people in matters of faith, that they may learn to distinguish between true religion on the one side, and superstition and foolish addition on the other.
They ought to draw the attention of the people to their real duties, which the laws of God and of the state demand of them. They should have a watchful eye over the religious education of children, and in short, make such regulations and provisions, as the circumstances and wants of any particular time may demand as necessary and expedient. And if they should in some cases act even against established customs, which have become almost of equal force with laws* through public opinion, they ought to say, with the above-named pious teacher of the people:
* As the words of Mr. Johlson may perhaps be misunderstood, I beg leave to subjoin the following in explanation.
From the whole tenor of our laws it is apparent, that no old established custom, which has become general, can ever be abolished for the benefit of one particular section of country; as through such means the uniformity of our institutions would be annihilated. Let us, for instance, name the worship in the Hebrew language, which is now universal throughout all the dispersions of Israel. It is no doubt a great misfortune, that the Hebrew is so little understood by many persons; but it would nevertheless be more injurious to adopt, as the sole language of public worship, the languages of the countries in which we live ; for the uniformity of our institutions would be greatly injured, by the substituting of many languages, for the single and energetic Hebrew. My limits will not permit me to enter at greater length into a discussion of this point, which would besides be also out of place here; but this one example will clearly prove, that reform, such as our author recommends from time to time, must be confined to excrescences only, but should never be extended to essentials. What the essentials in the ceremonial part of our law are, I am unable to detail here ; but in general they are all those rules and regulations, which we have adopted as a distinguishing mark of oun people, from other nations, which can therefore never be stigmatized as superstitious. The reinarks of our author, however, are directed, against superstitious customs solely, and these should be abolished, no matter how sacred thoy may be regarded by the mass of our nation, since all superstition is contrary to the Mosaic Law.