Before I do a separate post to answer Rob Roy's question, I wanted to share some random musings from today. In no particular order:
Earlier today came across an article written by Rabbi Dr. Meir Triebitz that uses my terminological distinction of "core" Oral Torah (How dare he! Just kidding):
"In summary, laws derived through biblical exegesis comprise of two categories:
1. A core set of laws received from Sinai, which were transmitted throughout history, undisputed and unchanging.
2. Laws that were part of an evolutionary process, which derive their divine status from man’s divinely empowered intellect," Rabbi Dr. Meir Triebitz, "Maimonides' Philosophy of the Evolutionary Structure of Jewish Law and of Natural Processes, pg. 146
Pleased to find that another mind found this terminological distinction useful.
Another random thought from today:
People who bash the rabbis and Jewish tradition tend to focus their attack on Rambam by claiming that Rambam absurdly argues that all Oral Torah comes from Sinai. That's not really an accurate description of Rambam's view since Rambam in addition to saying, "The mitzvot given to Moses at Mount Sinai were all given together with their explanations..." also said "It also includes marvelous judgments and laws which were not received from Moses, but rather were derived by the courts of the [later] generations based on the principles of Biblical exegesis," (both quotes from Introduction to Mishneh Torah).
To repeat, Rambam explicitly says that there are laws which were not received from Moses at Sinai.
Also, Exodus Rabbah says this:
R' Abbahu said: All the forty days that Moses was on high, he kept on forgetting the Torah he learnt. He then said: 'Lord of the Universe, I have spent forty days, yet I know nothing.' What did God do? At the end of the forty days, He gave him the Torah as a gift, for it says, AND HE GAVE UNTO MOSES. Could then Moses have learnt the whole Torah? Of the Torah it says: The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea (Job 11:9); could then Moses have learnt it all in forty days? No; but it was only the principles thereof which God taught Moses," Exodus Rabbah 41:6.Back to Rambam... Aren't his statements contradictory?
On a literal level, they are most certainly contradictory. But let's assume that Rambam was not a moron and that what he meant was that he believed the later rabbinic traditions should be regarded as though they have the authority of explanatory traditions that Moses received at Sinai.
Now it should definitely be pointed out at this point that NOT EVERYONE AGREED WITH RAMBAM on this idea that the later rabbinic traditions should be accorded with the status of Sinaitic authority:
"Here we have the classic difference of opinion between these two giants of halakhah as to the source of rabbinical authority. According to Maimonides, the command 'You shall not turn aside' implies acceptance by the jew of (1) the traditional (Masoretic) text of the scriptures, (2) the laws deduced from scripture by the thirteen hermeneutical rules of R. Ishmael (shelosh-esreh middot she-ha-Torah nidreshet bahem), and (3) the decrees (gezerot), ordinances (takkanot), and customs (minhagim) instituted by the sages. Nachmanides regards the first two categories only as included in the biblical injunction. Laws which are of rabbinical origin are not, in his view, enforceable by the same sanctions as those expressly stated in or directly derived from the Torah," pg. 425 of The Mitzvot by Abraham Chill.In my opinion, people put too much emphasis on what Rambam said about the origins of Jewish Tradition. What really matters is not what authority Rambam thinks Jewish Tradition has but rather what authority Jewish Tradition actually has.
There's basically 2 types of authority: mandatory and advisory. I see rabbinic authority as advisory. McKee also seems to agree with me. McKee says that the rabbis have "consultative" authority (LINK). To accord the rabbis this level of authority, one is forced to defend the rabbis against attackers (like the Israeli gentlemen in the infamous VIDEO). How does one defend the rabbis against such attackers? Here's just a few examples of how McKee does it:
"Cranfield (and various others) goes on to conclude, though, that Yeshua rejected all of the Oral Torah as just human tradition. Yet, those who are engaged in more targeted Jewish New Testament studies might not draw such a broad proposition, and instead emphasize that more case-by-case or issue-by-issue specificity is needed. Vs. 9-13 following especially emphasize the sort of Jewish tradition that Yeshua the Messiah was radically opposed to, which nullified clear Torah commandments," McKee, Messianic Kosher Helper, pg. 361.
"[Yeshua's] condemnation of these kinds of traditions, where the high ethical imperatives of God's Torah were subverted, does not all of a sudden mean that there were not various, mainline Jewish customs and traditions observed by Yeshua and His Apostles," McKee, Messianic Kosher Helper, pg. 363.
"The Mishnah certainly records the history and procedure of how things were done in the Temple and much of the halachah that Yeshua and the Apostles would have been exposed to in Judea. The Mishnah is an invaluable historical resource that gives us much insight into how the Torah was followed in the First Century, and there are many good, wisdom sayings in it," McKee, The Role of History in Messianic Biblical Interpretation.So that's an example of a defense of the rabbis from a man who must love the rabbis on some level. Now here's an example of an attack from the aforementioned video which shows nothing but hatred for the rabbis and Jewish Tradition (the following is a transcription based on the subtitles in the video):
END OF TRANSCRIPTION
Why's that hateful? Because it paints the rabbis as conniving and manipulative and power hungry. Because it states that all man-made tradition is wrong and that G-d only has negative things to say about Jewish Traditions in the Tanak. Let's be honest: this is an all-out, hateful assault on Jewish Tradition.