Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Nonsensicalness of the "Oral Law"

One of the reasons among others why I don't take orthodox judaism seriously is its insistance that its oral tradition is equally reliable to its written tradition. You see, only with goyem, oral traditions aren't reliable, but human nature don't apply to orthodox jews (sarcasm).

Now, essentially, I highly doubt that there's any mention of an oral law in a document before the mishna (200 AD). In virtue of an oral law being oral, there is no physical proof of an oral law. This strikes me as a cause for concern because when one claims that there's an oral law, one can put anything in there and say that it's from God.

The only proofs available for the alleged oral law is "indications" from the written Torah itself, but this essentially uses a document of which there is no proof to try to establish something that there is no proof of.

Basically some of the "biggest proofs" I can remember is that some definitions of words were lost, and that one needs to know the vowels and accentuations of the Torah's words.

Is the fact that a language requires you to know the definition of words proof of a divine oral law? I think not and that such an assertion is absurd. Is the fact that Hebrew requires you to know the vowels of words proof that a divine oral law was given? Again, this is also absurd.

As far as accentuations go, Torah readings were started by Ezra and then again in 70 AD. ( Hardly proof of an oral law from Mount Saini itself.

There is one thing where instructions on how to ritually slaughter an animal are not mentioned in the Torah (as far as I've been told), and in the written Torah, God commanded the Israelites to slaughter animals in a certain way.

Ok, so if you can establish that extra information was given to Moses on Mount Saini about one particular issue (big if, the laws of slaughter could have been made up too), it does not establish that extra info was given to Moses (a whole oral law) on every particular issue. If the giving of the Torah DID indeed happen, I don't think it's unreasonable for God to have told Moses some extra stuff.

As far as the other alleged indications of an oral law goes, there is this web page where they are listed.

The problem with those is that two things, on some points it seems to assume that the existence of Case Law is equivalent to a divine oral law given to Moses. This is absurd.

The other problem is that if there is both a possible natural explanation of something (one that does not require an oral law) and a supernatural explanation of something (one that requires an oral law), the alleged indications automatically jumps the gun into the supernatural explanation despite the existence of a possible NATURAL explanation. Basically all the alleged indications do this.

In light of this blog post, read the "proofs or the oral law" page yourself, and come to your own informed conclusion.


Ahavah Gayle said...

If you go to your handy-dandy Biblical reference book and look of Hulda, you will read that she was a prophetess in the time of the Kings, shortly before the deportation to Babylonia.

To make a long story short, the then King of Israel and the Cohen HaGadol found a book on the Temple grounds during a cleanup/restoration. Neither of them recognized it but they were horrified by the curses in it. Turns out it was the book of Deuteronomy - but they didn't know that and had NO WAY of finding out other than to LEAVE the Temple grounds at go out to the city's Levite quarter and consult this prophetess, who had to inquire of Adonai to see if the book was authentic or not. Turns out it was.

Now, this is proof beyond a shadow of a doubt right there in the Tanakh that there is NO SUCH THING as min har Sinai transmission of an oral law. Otherwise, they wouldn't have needed to go find a seer to find out if they had a correct copy of a Torah book - their own supposedly infallible oral law should have been able to identify it, yet the High Priest couldn't do it.

The Oral Law myth began in the Babylonia deportation, and was imposed on the community along with the social and political agenda of the Judean's leadership in Babylonia - it was all about keeping power and control and had nothing to do with any legitimate transmission of Torah knowledge. The second destruction of the Temple gave rise the same process for the exact same reasons.

E-Man said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Garnel Ironheart said...

Ahavah, forget your reference book and read your actual Bible:
"Hilkiah the Kohen Gadol said to Shaphan the scribe: I have found a scroll of the Torah in the Temple of Hashem." (Kings 2 22:8)
The commentators, who are better qualified to discuss the text than us, note that it wasn't just the scroll of Devarim but that it was an actual Sefer Torah that had been rolled to the tochahah section and left there.
And the text makes it very clear they knew what it was.
"So Hilkiah the Koeh, Ahikam, Shaphan and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess..." (Kings 2 22:14)
Because they knew if they went to Yirmiyahu, he'd give 'em hell and tell them that the final destruction was coming. Did he ever talk about anything else? So they went to Huldah hoping that as a woman she'd read something more compassionate into the situation.
If you actually read the text dispassionately istead of your predetermined bias, you'd see that.

jewish philosopher said...

There is the unique pattern of rabbinical literature which validates its authenticity.

Ahavah Gayle said...

Your argument fails to hold water. The King and the Cohen HaGadol both admit they were NOT obeying the precepts they read in the book and clearly were NOT aware of the curses and punishments prior to reading the scroll. Hello! If their "oral law" covered all this in excruciating detail, how could they have NOT known it. Why would the Cohen HaGadol have thought it noteworthy that they found the book? Why would he have taken the book they found to the king if it was just another copy of stuff they already had? Why would the king tear his clothes? They should have said, "oh, yeah, king, we know all about that already - old news." Josiah was supposed to be a good and well-intentioned kid who loved Hashem, yet he was horrified when he heard the book read and said they HADN'T been doing the things in it!

Why would the priests have failed to educate him? He was only 8 years old when he became king. They had total control of his education - why would they not teach him Torah? Why would they not have him write a copy of the Torah scroll for his own use, as a king is SUPPOSED to do (according to the Torah they obviously didn't have).

No matter how you slice it, it's clear that neither the Cohen HaGadol nor the King had any "oral law" at their disposal to indicate to them any of this information or to verify the contents of the book. Women don't read prophecy any differently than men do. If they had know the real Torah, they would have known everything Jeremiah was telling them was true and their toadys were lying. They didn't go to him because they wanted/hoped to find out the book was WRONG and NOT TORAH.

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

> both admit they were NOT obeying the precepts they read in the book and clearly were NOT aware of the curses and punishments prior to reading the scroll

Yeah, so? read a chapter earlier and you see that between Menashe and his son, there was a 54 year period in which idol worship was the law of the land in Israel. That mean cohanim that knew nothing of Torah and that Yoshiyahu had never seen a Torah in his life because they had all been hidden. The point is precisely that he had never been educated because the rabbonim of the day had never had access to him or the priest.

> Why would he have taken the book they found to the king if it was just another copy of stuff they already had?

Because again if you read the mephorshim on the subject, all the official Torahs used by the royals and the priests had been corrupted to reflect idol worship. This, a completly undamaged Torah, open right to a very inopportune section, is what got their attention.

> Why would the king tear his clothes?

Having never seen a Torah due to his upbringing, it would be news to him. Look, lots of people love God without knowing a lick of Torah. Others say they do and reject all the Oral Law, thinking that's the right thing to do. Doesn't make them bad, just misguided.

> Why would the priests have failed to educate him?

They had been appointed by Menashe. Again, go a couple of verses back and note that his father was assasinated by the anti-idol worshipping crowd and Yoshiyahu was enthroned because they thought he was a harmless kid who didn't know anything and wouldn't stand in the idol worshipper's way. That he knew enough to end idol worship was more than they expected.

As for your conclusion, again it's completely erroneous. There are two concepts. One is that of irrevocable prophecy. A prophet announces things are coming to an end, no matter what. You can do teshuvah, you can feel really sorry, it doesn't make a difference. Show's over.
Then there are the conditional propehcies. Do teshuva and maybe hellfire and bromstone won't saturate your clothes. The kind and priests believed that the prophet could choose which it would be. They knew Yirmiyahu was the fire and brimstone type and that Huldah was more merciful so they went to her for an interpretation that might mean they had a chance at survival.

Honestly, Ahavah, this is annoying. I know you think anyone has a right to read the Bible and interpret it the way he/she feels like without having to listen to "the rabbis" but to disregard centuries of commentary and simply decide things were a certain way because that's how you feel, I meann really. Would you pick up a legal decision or medical trial and decide to figure out what it meant without any relevant trial? What makes the Bible such fair game?

SJ said...

Centuries of commentary don't exist dating all the way back to the giving of the Torah, Garnel, stop pretending that it does.

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

I never said it did, RYSJ. I said that the commentators know Tanach better than us so they're more qualified to comment on it than us.

Ahavah Gayle said...


Excuse me?

That's why it's called the ORAL TORAH - because until after 70 AD, it was SUPPOSED to have been passed down from father to son, priest to priest, Rabbi to Rabbi ORALLY - BY MOUTH - WITH NO WRITTEN DOCUMENTS. Explain to everyone, please, how Manassa could possibly have prevented every priest everywhere, including the high priest's family, from TALKING!

Ahavah Gayle said...

You've missed the point of the arguement, Garnel - by the way. The topic at hand is the Oral Law - which IF it had been handed down min har Sinai would have been ALL the information needed by them (not to mention a lot of nonsense about lice being spontaneously generated from sweat and mice appearing spontaneously out of dust balls) to correctly interpret and identify any writing they found, Torah or otherwise. These guys are the only priests - they serve at the only Temple, yet you're saying they did not know either the written Torah or the oral law that supposedly was passed down without error from Sinai.

So, you've just proved my point. You just testified that min har sinai transmission couldn't have happened and didn't.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Ahavah, your ignorance of the Bible you supposedly read all the time with your family and know better than "the rabbis" is truly astounding.

First of all, spontaneous generation of lice from sweat is not halacha, it's not Oral Law. It's just a scientific observation based on the understandings of the time. It's obvious to anyone whose mind isn't made up already.

Secondly, priests served not only in the Temple but also in the bamos. Further, if the king is an idolator, what's to stop him from picking an uneducated priest whose father, being seduced to idol worship didn't educate him? Really, it's actually quite simple.

As for Menashe, he was a homicidal tyrant who killed anyone who got in his way. Who would talk and rist getting executed? (See the Soviet Union for a contemporary example of how this worked)

Ahavah, you are full of hate for the wrong people and you've decided to twist the Bible to fit that agenda. I feel more sorry for you than anything.

Ahavah Gayle said...

Your blind devotion to a bunch of crap made up by medieval men makes me wonder if you are capable of thinking at all.

The unscientific, unhistorical, medically false, etc. stuff in the Tamlud testifies to its credibility. In other words, it has NO credibility as the word of God - it is simply the words of men. These men had agendas and made the rules they did for social and political reasons, not because they received this knowledge from on high. They were men of their age and wrote false medieval junk in the name of the eternal God of truth.

They were also men who were WRONG about a lot of things.

You ask: Who would risk passing down the oral torah - the priests were supposed to. It was their JOB to do so supposedly, and the Ravs CLAIM they did, but here AGAIN you assert they did not.

I think my point is more than proved, from your own arguments. There was no min har sinai transmission of the oral law or talmudic knowledge of any kind. The information contained in the talmud, including the oral law itself and all the junk with it, was made up by men. SJ knows it, I know it, every intellectually honest (objective secular) historian knows it, and you know it too. Continuing to defend the indefensible is what has made the Chereidi what they are today, and ruined Judaism in the process. You're not part of solution, you're part of the problem.

Garnel Ironheart said...

You're a nasty person, Ahavah, which is interesting because you present yourself as an opponent of nasty people.

Some priests failed in their mission to pass on the oral law. You extrapolate that into none of them doing it.

> The unscientific,

We don't learn science from the Talmud

> unhistorical

We don't learn history from the Talmud

> medically false

We certainly don't learn medicine from the Talmud.

> it has NO credibility as the word of God - it is simply the words of men.

You've clearly never actually learned the Talmud, have you. Or perhaps random excerpts, enough to give you an opinion about a topic you know nothing about. We learn halacha from the Talmud and we do so through the conversations and debates of the Chachamim. So yes, brilliant, it's the words of men. That's how it's advertised

> These men had agendas

Look who's talking.

> They were men of their age and wrote false medieval junk

Pretty impressive since
a) medieval wouldn't happen for another couple of centuries after the Talmud was sealed
b) medieval happened in Europe, not Asia Minor. But why let facts get in your way?

SJ said...

You are being disingenuous Garnel, mainstream orthodox judaism considers the Talmud to be as inerrant as the torah.

Also, about the medieval thing, it's an expression. Stop being a shmuck.

Lastly, how did the rabbis get knowledge of this vast oral law if they were in a separate class than the priests and happened after the priests? After the destruction of the 2nd temple, with the supposed oral law being all oral, isn't it more likely than not for the oral law to be corrupted if not vanish?

Garnel Ironheart said...

> how did the rabbis get knowledge of this vast oral law if they were in a separate class than the priests and happened after the priests?

Read your Bible (not the Ahavah edition, it seems to be full of omissions and mistakes). Elders are mentioned as being important parts of the people all the way through the 1st Temple period. They were always there. It's the prophets who eventually disappeared.

> After the destruction of the 2nd temple, with the supposed oral law being all oral, isn't it more likely than not for the oral law to be corrupted if not vanish?

That's why Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi committed the Mishnah to writing. The purpose of the Gemara as well is to take contradictory teachings and figure out which one is correct.

SJ said...

mishna = c 200 ad

destruction of second temple = 70 ad.

helluva gap.

ok, where does it say that a oral law was transmitted to these elders, and who were they? where did they go? how did they begin?

Garnel Ironheart said...

> ok, where does it say that a oral law was transmitted to these elders,

First chapter of Pirkei Avos. In addition, the Rambam has a complete list of the leading elders who were responsible in each generation.

> where did they go?

They lived, they died. What?

> how did they begin?

With Moshe Rabeinu. In this week's parsha, as a matter of fact!

SJ said...

who were the elders? names? bios? extrabiblical proof of existence?