Authenticity of the Bible II: The Oral Law
Authenticity of the Bible II: The Oral Law

Press Release for Immediate Release 2/17/03
The National Non-Sectarian Council of Pro-Family Activists at
For contact write: Rabbi David Eidensohn, Director or call 1-845-352-7267
(Used by Rabbi Eidensohn's permission on CR's Range)

By Rabbi David Eidensohn

Destroying the authenticity of the bible and religion is a major goal of secularists and especially the Gay Lobby. The bible bars the way to various sexual activity including adultery, incest and homosexuality. Many feel that sexuality is a private matter. Why should society not do something merely because of religion and an ancient bible? Doesn't the bible say many things offensive to the Western rational spirit? I am the son of America's leading battery scientist, and my brothers have medical doctorates along with advanced Talmudic training. We Orthodox Jews are quite comfortable with our religion. On the other hand, those who have no Talmudic training, who have no serious training in bible, can just read it and not be pleased. This is deliberate. Without the Oral Law given at Sinai, the bible is a locked book. Of course, you can read and get some inspiration here and there, but if you are a serious thinker, you cannot be satisfied with that.

A faithful reader of this column asks for more information on the Oral Law, and wants to know where the bible mentions it. Although generally I eschew any talk about religion in our non-sectarian site, if the bible is without rhyme or reason, we might as well chuck family values.

To review briefly, I believe in the bible for the following reasons: One, I believe, as the New York Times recently wrote that modern physics makes Creation obvious. There is, it seems, the "A" word. Physicists have replaced "atheist" with "anthropic," the scientific theorem that the mathematics and physics of the cosmos point to Intelligent Design and the needs of anthropical beings, that is, people. This is not entirely new. Einstein realized that his theory predicted a beginning essentially creatio ex nihilo, when physics did not work. In other words, the conditions needed to produce the universe in the Big Bang defy physics, and are therefore supernatural. Einstein said that the universe began with zero mass. Can nothing produce something? Only in Creation is such a thing possible. The recent "anthropic" and "A" word theorem go much further than Einstein. The fundamental mathematics of the attraction of sub-atomic particles and the process of hydrogen bomb stars indicate a purpose of creating human life.

Now we want to define and explain the Written and Oral law, and the biblical process. If there is a Creation, there is a Creator. If the cosmos is anthropic Intelligent Design, the Creator had a Purpose. What is it? Can people with finite minds invent the Creator's Will? Of course not. Therefore, the Creator had to reveal it. The Revelation at Sinai, when G-d appeared before the entire Jewish nation, is the Will of G-d. G-d revealed the Torah, His Will, at Sinai, to Israel and then, for forty years, He taught it to Moses. Moses wrote down the Divine Teachings in the Five Books of Moses. This is the Torah. Latter prophets and divinely inspired individuals added other books, but none of them has the power to teach new laws or theology, only to inspire and remind us to obey the Torah, or tell of the future and remind us about the past.

Moses received from G-d a "Written" Law, and Moses wrote it down. Moses received an Oral Law, and transmitted it to the Seventy Sages of the Sanhedrin, and to all of the Jewish camp in the Desert of Sinai. G-d's giving of the Ten Commandments to all Israel is taught in the Torah in Exodus:19,20. In 19:1 it says, "In the third month from when the Sons of Israel left Egypt, on this day, they came to the Desert of Sinai. And they traveled from Refidim, and they came to the Desert of Sinai, and they camped in the desert. And Israel camped there facing the mountain. And Moses went up to G-d, and G-d called to him from the mountain'¦"Behold I come to you in the thick cloud so that the people will hear My speaking to you, and also they will believe in you forever"'¦And G-d said to Moses, 'So shall you say to the Sons of Israel: You saw that I speak with you from the heavens.'" We see here the open Revealing of the Ten Commandments (See also Exodus 20) and G-d speaking openly to Moses and the Jewish people. Moses spent much time studying with G-d and when he understood he returned and taught the Jewish people. The Israelites in the Desert of Sinai had little to do but study the Law for forty years. Even today, Orthodox Jews spend hours each day or each week studying the Written and Oral Law. Thousands complete the entire Talmud every seven years, because they study one page of Talmud a day.

(Exodus 24:12) "And G-d said to Moses, 'Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there, and I will give to you the Tablets of Stone, and the Torah and the command that I wrote to teach them."' These various phrases indicate that G-d gave Moses more than just the Tablets of the Ten Commandments and the Five Books of Moses, the Torah. G-d mentions He will give to Moses 1) Tablets of Stone 2) Torah 3) the command 4) I wrote 5) to teach them. G-d wrote the Ten Commandments on the Tablets. Exodus 31:18: "And He gave to Moses, when He finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai Two Tablets of Testimony, Tablets of stone, written with the Finger of G-d." G-d wrote the Ten Commandments and gave them to Moses.

The Talmud (B.T. Br. 5a) interprets as follows: Tablets - these are the Ten Commandments. Torah refers to the Written Law, the Five Books of Moses. The command refers to Mishneh, the Broad Principles of the Oral Law. That I wrote [that I caused to write with the Holy Spirit] refers to prophets and Scriptures. To teach them refers to the final opinion of the Oral Law. This teaches that all of them were given to Moses at Sinai.

Note that the Written Law is called "Tablets" and "Torah." The Oral Law is called "the command" and "to teach them." "Command" and "teach them" are the real-life applications of the Tablets, Torah and Scriptures. "Tablets, Torah and Scriptures" are just that, Tablets, Torah and Scriptures. The "command" and "to teach them," the actual applications of the Torah, come only through the Talmud and the Oral Law.

The Jews kept the Five Books of Moses as the Torah and studied the Oral Law orally for about 1,500 years, until Rabbi Judah the Prince redacted the Mishneh, the primal Talmud, about 1,800 years ago. The final Talmud was completed several generations later, in Babylonia, although there was also an earlier Jerusalemic Talmud. Since the publication of the Talmud in Babylonia, rabbis constantly arrange codes to simplify and reveal the Law for each generation, often in the local language.

Around 2200 years ago, the Greek king of Egypt, Ptolemy II Philadelphus, assembled seventy rabbis, put them in separate rooms, and commanded them to translate the Five Books of Moses into Greek. The rabbis did this, and amazingly, their translations were identical. Although this opened up the bible to the nations and those who could not read Hebrew, the rabbis considered this a major tragedy. A Written Law without an Oral Law is a travesty. The bible, without rabbinics, is a horror.

The biblical prophetic period ended at the time of Alexander the Great. The bible concludes with the rebuilding of the Second Temple in Israel and after a few years, it ends. Now the Jews, bereft of prophets, followed the rabbis. The rabbis, blessed with the Torah wisdom, were equal to the task, but some Jews decided that if the rabbis had no prophecy the Oral Law was not worthwhile. The Jewish nation split over the issue of the Oral Law and rabbinics. Many Jews accepted Hellenism and turned against the pietists. History has shown that Jewish sects that turned away from Oral Law leadership declined or disappeared. In America, only the Orthodox follow the rabbinic Talmud teachings, and only the Orthodox are surviving as a Jewish community. Reform and Conservative temples and synagogues are now filled with non-Jews, because their Jewish members are not remaining in the Jewish fold, and intermarriage brings non-Jews to replace the Jews who are no longer there.

Speaking of the Oral Law and Jewish survival, the saint of the pre-Holocaust generation, Rabbi Kagan of Radin, Poland, correctly predicted the Second World War, the destruction of its Jews, the demise of Communism in seventy years, and the fact that Jews in Israel would not perish along with Jews in Europe. During the first Gulf War, my son was studying in a Yeshiva in Israel, as were many American Jews. The senior rabbis assured everyone that there was nothing to fear. Nothing to fear? Everyone knew that Saddam had missiles with both gas and bombs. The Jews could not go into bomb shelters for fear of gas, which would seep into the shelters and kill its inhabitants. They had to be above ground. But there, huddled in their crowded buildings in Tel Aviv, they were sitting ducks. How could senior rabbis assure everyone that there was no danger? Thirty-nine missiles later, we realized that they were right. Nobody died from the bombings, although entire buildings filled with people were obliterated. Israeli television showed a secular Jew outside his destroyed home. He told how he was inside his home, saw the bomb hit the ceiling, saw the ceiling collapse, and felt something lift him, carry him down the turning stairway and place him outside in front of his house, safe. He said, "I don't think I am a holy person, but, who knows, maybe I am?" Any Jew who lives with the tribulations of the world is a saint, even that Jew without his head-covering who probably did not keep the Sabbath.

When I was young, in the fifties, being religious was the same as being an idiot. People saw me with a yarmulke and laced into me, even grownups, because they feared that I was wasting my life, and because in those days nobody was religious. The rabbis predicted that times would change. They said, "Today there are forces that blind people to religion, but these very forces will one day reverse, and reveal G-d." In my childhod science was the mortal enemy of religion, but today? Today we have "anthropicism," and Intelligent Design. Today we know that Darwin was probably wrong and that Haeckel was an outright fraud.

I am fortunate in that I studied personally under the greatest rabbis of the past and present generation. I saw rationality. I saw truth. That is the Oral Law. A secular Jewish writer in the turbulent times of the early twentieth century interviewed major secular Jewish leaders about the future. They hoped for the best if this and if that. He then interviewed the leading rabbi of Jerusalem, who lived in a tiny apartment overlooking the site of the Temple. Rabbi Sonnenfeld rose and stretched out his arms: "They tell Jews not to come to Israel," he said. "They threaten us and limit us. But mark my words. We are coming. We will march on widened boulevards. Nothing will stop us." The writer said, "The room was small, but it had a great light."

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