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Transcript
The Written and Oral Torah
Prepared by Matt Pham & Felix Just, SJ
for SCTR 19 – “Religions of the Book”
Meaning of “Torah”

Hebrew word “Torah” is not really “Law”
–

Limited sense:
–

First section of the Tanak: Five Books of Moses
Broader sense:
–

Better translated “teachings & instructions”
Entire Tanak: 24 books of the Hebrew Bible
Broadest sense:
–
Whole body of Jewish laws, teachings, and traditions
Introduction / Origin

“Rabbi” = Teacher
–
–

Main leaders of Judaism in post-70 CE Era
Successors of the Pharisees of pre-70 Era
Traditions of “Rabbinic” Judaism:
–
Moses received both Written Torah
and Oral Torah from God at Mt. Sinai (ca. 1250 BCE)

–
Much more than just two tablets with “Ten Commandments”
Neither is more important than the other



Oral Torah did not come from or after Written Torah
Written Torah needed to be accompanied by Oral Torah
Words (of the Written) + Meanings (of the Oral)
Written Torah

Tanakh / Hebrew Bible / Mikra
–
–

Writing/editing process lasted 1000+ years
HB canon limited to 24 books, ca. 90 CE
Three Sections:
–
–
–
Torah = 5 Books of Moses (a.k.a. Pentateuch)
Nevi’im = Prophets (4 Former & 4 Latter Prophets)
Khetuvim = Writings (11 Poetic & Wisdom Books)
Oral Torah (acc. to Rabbinic Judaism)

God gave it to Moses at Mt. Sinai
–

Passed down orally till 2nd century CE
–

Thus of divine origin, just like the written Torah
Finally written down in Mishnah and later Talmuds
Why was “Oral” Torah eventually written down?
–
–
–
–
Destruction of the Second Temple/Jerusalem
Jewish learning threatened by wartime deaths
Traditions better preserved if written
Rise and importance of Rabbinic Judaism
Mishnah

Earliest written compilation of Oral Torah
–
–
–

Legal opinions & debates about life without the Temple
–

“Mishnah” = “teaching” or “repetition”
Compiled 200 CE by Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi (“Judah the Prince”)
Oldest text of Rabbinic Judaism, recording their traditions
How to live/apply/adapt the mitzvot (God’s commandments)
Six Sections or “Orders”:
–
–
–
–
–
–
Seeds
Appointed Times
Women
Damages
Holy Things
Purities
 agricultural laws and prayers
 laws of the Sabbath and Festivals
 marriage and divorce
 civil and criminal law
 sacrificial rites, the Temple, dietary laws
 purity and impurity rules (unclean things)
Gemara and Talmud

Gemara = additional commentary on the Mishnah
–

Mishnah + Gemara = Talmud
–
–

Mishnah = core of the Oral Torah
Gemara = further discussion of ideas in the Mishnah
Talmud = explanation, interpretation, application
–

“Gemara” = “learning” or “completion”
Jewish law, ethics, customs, history
Two versions of the Talmud:
–
–
Two centers of Rabbinic scholarship: Palestine & Babylonia
So: Jerusalem Talmud & Babylonian Talmud
Two Talmuds

Jerusalem Talmud:
–
–
–

Babylonian Talmud:
–
–
–

Compiled in 5th Century CE (incomplete; lacks continuity)
Written in Western Aramaic  more difficult to read
Focuses on concerns pertinent to Land of Israel
Completed in 6th Century CE (100+ more years of discussion)
Written in Eastern Aramaic  more precise expressions
Used by Jews living elsewhere throughout the ancient world
Today, “Talmud” usually refers to the Babylonian one
–
Decreased size & influence of Jewish community in Israel,
 Increased influence & use of Babylonian Talmud
Rabbinic Era Maps
Sample Page
of the Talmud
Text of the Mishnah
is in the center;
Various commentaries,
called Gemara,
are around it.
Groups of Rabbinic Scholars


Tannaim (“repeaters”) – recorded Oral Torah in the Mishnah
Amoraim (“sayers”) – discussed opinions, decided conflicts,
harmonized contradictions, applied laws to new circumstances

Seboraim (“reasoners”) – asked “why” and “what is the
underlying concept” about their predecessors’ opinions
– Discussion of Amoraim and Seboraim appear in the Gemara

Stammaim (“anonymous men”) – edited final text of Talmud
–
–
Compilers & final editors did not sign their names
Thought they were just faithfully passing on teachings of the
“named ones” of previous generations
More
Talmud Images
For a closer look go to:
http://www.ort.org/ort/edu/rolnik/halacha/halacha.htm
Midrash

Exegesis = interpretation of biblical texts
–

Four Ways of Understanding HB texts:
–
–

Analyzing the narratives of the HB to derive laws,
principles, or moral lessons for Jewish life
Simple meaning; hints/clues; interpretation; “secret”
Midrash focuses on hints/clues and interpretations
Two Types of Subject Matter:
–
–
Halakhic (legal, how to “walk/conduct” one’s life well)
Aggadic (non-legal, mainly homiletic / inspirational)
Other Rabbinic Literature

Books of the Tannaitic Rabbinic Era:
–
–
–

Tosefta = another compilation of oral traditions
–

Mekilta  on Genesis
Sifra  on Leviticus
Sifre  on Numbers and Deuteronomy
“supplement” to the Mishnah
Targumim = Aramaic translations of HB books
–
often reflects interpretations of later rabbis
Recap (main points to know)

Oral Torah – passed down orally through many
generations along with the Written Torah
–

Belief of Rabbinic Judaism (from after 70 CE to today)
Two main categories: narrative and legal
–
Midrash deals with biblical stories

–
Mishnah & Talmuds deal with legal materials


Interpretation of HB narratives
Application of the mitzvot/commandments
Focus of Rabbinic Literature:
–
More on Mishnah and Talmuds, less on Midrash