Reader: Now, the points you raised, I will quote you: “Mesora: Their (the Rabbis) views are rooted in the Oral Law given AT Sinai.” I say, THEY CLAIM ORAL LAW WAS GIVEN IN SINAI - BUT THERE IS NO TEXTUAL EVIDENCE OF IT IN THE TORAH!
Mesora: Textual evidence is not the only valid evidence. A unanimous, verbally transmitted position that Moses received the Oral Law proves that the Oral Law was in fact given to Moses at Sinai. If it had not been received, then there would not be a unanimous position by all Torah leaders.
Reader: You wrote, “The Rabbis - and no other group - were granted authority over Torah interpretation, as stated in the Torah.” AGAIN, THIS IS NOT STATED IN THE TORAH. THE CHUMASH MAKES NO REFERENCE TO "RABBIS", OR TO THEIR INTERPRETATION. IT SIMPLY REFERS TO JUDGES AND COHANIM WHO SERVE IN HIS CHOSEN PLACE.
Mesora: It most certainly is, “In accord with the Torah that they teach you, and the statute they tell you, shall you do, do not veer from the word they tell you – right or left.” (Deut. 17:11) However, without the Oral Law, you will not understand “Judges” to refer to the Rabbis. But as I mentioned above, there is no dispute as to the truth of the transmission of the Oral Law, from G-d to Moses, to the Elders, Aaron, his sons, and the entire Jewish nation. The Oral law teaches that this refers to the Rabbis.
Reader: THE MISHNA WAS WRITTEN AROUND THE SAME
TIME AS THE NEW TESTAMENT – SO IT WASN’T GIVEN AT SINAI!
Mesora: The date of writing the Mishna does not define its date of inception, which was at Sinai.
Reader: BESIDES, IF YOU DON'T THINK THE TORAH IS COMPLETE, WHY DO YOU ATTEMPT TO QUOTE (OR MISQUOTE) CHAPTER AND VERSE?
Mesora: The fact that there exists an “Oral Law” does not imply anything is lacking of the Written Law, as you suggest. The Written Law, Torah (Five Books of Moses) together with the Oral Law, function as a complete whole. G-d’s intent is that there be a Written portion, and an Oral portion to Torah. A wise person will ponder the need for such a unique structure, non-existent in all other religions.
The very existence of an oral portion of Torah, insures - by definition - that in each generation the Torah student be trained by the Torah scholar. For without this personal training, all a student has are the texts, but no methodology of study. This is an essential point to understanding Judaism, its structure, and how is continues to be true to G-d’s knowledge.
To gain insight into G-d’s wisdom, man is hopeless without earnest training in thought, which originated in G-d Himself. This is the Oral Law, the tool for training mankind rational thinking. G-d’s knowledge is not a simple matter. If you respect the greatness of Maimonides, Einstein, Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, and Newton, you must agree with the immense depth found in knowledge, and man’s inability to grasp it all. Man recognizes that the Source of all this wisdom far exceeds man’s ability to comprehend. Man stands in awe of this knowledge, and “That” which created it. These great men certainly did. But not only in “quantity” is G-d’s knowledge superior to man’s knowledge, but in “quality” too. Knowledge is not achieved as our society feels, simply by amassing texts, and enlarging one’s memory. G-d’s knowledge is far to great to be encapsulated in written form, and far superior. Human intelligence requires training to develop analytical skills to unlock new knowledge and insights.
So how does man tap G-d’s infinite knowledge, once he completes the limited texts available? The answer is “thought”. This activity of “thinking” is virtually unknown to the world, save a few individuals scattered through the generations, like those mentioned. But it does not have to remain this way, and it won’t upon Messiah’s arrival. Until then, with training in the proper method of thinking, man can unlock new vaults of G-d’s knowledge – although not written. The ancient Greek mathematicians demonstrated this. Without texts, they used intelligence alone, inducing and deducing proofs, to actually perceive real knowledge that exists “out there”. Amazing. Such knowledge is so attracting and absorbing, that people like Newton went for days pondering ideas, so focused and lured in, that others had to force him to eat! His hunger was not stronger than his desire to remain in his studies. This proves how enjoyable thought is, and how exciting is the journey when one anticipates finding new marvels that explain the universe. This is called “Love of G-d”, as we cannot love what we know not (Him), we can only love the knowledge He created.
But such a level is impossible, simply by reading the Torah alone, with no training in thinking…step in, the Oral Law.
This is the design of G-d’s Torah: a Written portion, and an Oral portion. This Oral Law – Talmud and Mishna – are the indispensable keys for understanding G-d’s absolute knowledge: truths, absolute morality, absolute justice, and His formulations. (For example, we cannot know when it is “just” to kill, if G-d does not tell us His parameters of who is considered an “evil” person worthy of death. These parameters are unknown, without the Oral Law.) To secure that G-d’s knowledge be available to man, G-d formulated the Oral law, which can only be transmitted from teacher to student, originating with the model of “G-d to Moses” - the first “Teacher/student” model. This chain of teacher-to-student training, originating with G-d and flowing down the millennia, guarantees that man is able – even centuries later – to discover G-d’s knowledge.
The chain of Oral Law imparts G-d’s knowledge originating with Moses at Sinai, simultaneously training us in rational thought.
So the Oral Law acts as the only means by which we can arrive at G-d’s true intent of His cryptic, unknowable Torah. It also acts as a means of securing the teacher/student union, through which, every generation has been chained together, linking all the way back to Moses and G-d. Without the tutelage of a Rabbi, himself trained by his Rabbis; man is bereft of the indispensable knowledge, which G-d imparted to Moses. He has no direct link back. Other religions – by definition – have no knowledge of G-d’s Oral Law. Therefore, their systems are false. But in Judaism alone, with the Oral Law, we thereby gain absolute knowledge of G-d’s reality, Sinaic knowledge, and the essential training in thought only provided by Talmudic analysis. Judaism remains the only religion of G-d, as opposed to man’s fabrication, seen in Bible critics, Christianity, Islam, and every other man-made religion.
Contrast this perfect Judaism with other religions who distort G-d’s words, and number two, possess no Oral Law. The absence of the Oral Law is admission by Christianity and others that they possess an incomplete, and hence, corrupt system.
Although lengthy, this elaboration is essential to this topic. I will now return to your questions.
Now, your original question is answered when one accepts the Rabbis’ authority as mandated by the Torah, and as expressed by the Talmud. This appears to be your first step, still not understood by you. I suggest you consider why such great minds like Maimonides - who was far wiser than us both - was completely convinced that the Oral Law was a reality, and the Rabbis do in fact have authority directly from G-d. This is not just the opinion of Maimonides, but of all our Sages. Ask yourself what compelled such a position, were it not for proof. In all areas, the Rabbis were brutally honest, admitting ignorance when they were, and speaking with strength on points as solid and provable as the Earth. They did not conspire to perpetrate lies. So with patience, dismount from your position long enough to consider with objectivity, what reasoning was available to convince such great minds.
Reader: You wrote, “Other religions have no proof to their ‘prophecies’, just the mere word of one man's claim to it. Whereas Judaism has Sinai, attended by 2.5 million people.” IF THIS IS A VALID SCIENTIFIC ARGUMENT, AND I DO NOT BELIEVE IT IS, YOU NEED TO SHOW THAT THE 2.5 MILLION PEOPLE RECEIVED THE ORAL LAW ON SINAI, AND ACCURATELY PASSED IT FROM EACH GENERATION TO THE NEXT. DO YOU HAVE INDEPENDENT CONTEMPORARY EVIDENCE TO PROVE THIS? DOES IT APPEAR IN THE TORAH, PROPHETS AND WRITINGS?
Mesora: As we discussed here many times, the account of Sinai would not have been accepted and spread as is evident, had it never occurred. Nothing more is required to prove this history, or any other history.
Your requirement for “independent contemporary evidence” is an internally flawed request: this position claims that a single, historical account – even if held by millions of people – is insufficient evidence for the history it claims. So what IS sufficient for your standards? You suggest additional accounts from independent sources. However, what would these “independent sources” add, other than numbers of people? You assume other countries possessing the story of Sinai are greater proof than the Jews’ possession alone. But what is the new factor you say exists, once other sources claim Sinai’s truth? The fact it may be accepted in other lands only shows that the account spread, but nothing else qualitatively. You might retort that “objectivity” is now evident; offering greater proof, as other countries have no personal interest in claiming G-d appeared to the Jews. To this, I respond that the Jews as a country would not unanimously lie, for a common motive cannot be found in millions of people. (“Motive”, by its very definition, is a subjective phenomenon.) Certainly, the “real” Jewish history would have surfaced, had there been one. In the absence of any other Jewish history, and the unanimous world acceptance of Sinai, Sinai is proven. (You also have ignored the Christian world’s acceptance.)
Regarding mentions in Prophets of Moses’ Torah revealed at Sinai, you will find them.
Reader: THE FIRST WRITTEN EVIDENCE FOR ORAL LAW IS ABOUT 1000 YEARS AFTER THIS. IN JOSIAH'S TIME, THE WRITTEN TORAH WAS LOST (THANKS TO MENASSEH) AND IT WAS UNKNOWN IN ISRAEL. HOW, THEN DID THE ORAL LAW SURVIVE? IN EZRA'S TIME, THE PEOPLE I ISRAEL WERE UNAWARE OF EITHER LAW. PLUS, EZRA READ FROM THE SCRIPTURE, BUT THER IS NO MENTION OF AN ORAL LAW!
Mesora: Incorrect. The Rabbis unanimously agree that Moses received the Oral Law on Sinai. Perhaps many Jews were ignorant of the Written and Oral Torah, but neither was ever lost. The Prophets constantly rebuke the people to abide by “Toras Moshe”, “Moses’ law”. Rashi, Ibn Ezra and all other Torah leaders knew that the Oral Law was never lost.
I believe your problem is that you commenced your inquiry from the wrong starting point: instead of starting from a position that there was no Oral Law, (which from your words has no basis) you should question what convinced these great minds otherwise. The fact is that generation after generation, the Torah leaders verbally communicated truths. One of these truths is the event at Sinai, and the body of knowledge passed down from Moses to the Elders, to Joshua, Aaron, his sons, and the Jewish nation. Read the introduction to Pirkei Avos for the history of the Torah’s dissemination. Base yourself on facts, not your own supposition.
Reader: You wrote, “G-d promised in the Torah and through prophets to never alter the Torah.” BUT THE RABBIS FELT THEY WERE ABOVE THIS, AND ADDED NEW LAWS!
Mesora: You project your own emotional notions onto people who were far superior in character than you or I. Don’t assume their motives are like ours, that they felt “above” matters and acted in such a way. Also, your knowledge of Jewish Law is severely lacking. You must study the Talmud on this issue, and you will see how G-d demanded the Rabbis interpret the laws, and construct fences – not new laws – to protect the Torah system. Had you studied, you could not have made such a statement.
Reader: Well, that was certainly a good dialog. I thank you for taking the time to compose this and to sort thru our correspondence. I shall also endeavor to take your challenge and look at things from different angles.