Oral Law / Written Law

1)  What Is the Oral Tradition (Torah SheBaal Peh)?

2) How Do I Know That It Is True? I Can Accept The Written Torah But Not The Oral Torah.

3) But often the Rabbis come and interpret a verse. Why is there any difference between my interpretations and theirs?

4) What is the הלכה (law)?

5) Why Do I Have To Listen To the Rabbis (מצוות דרבנן) (Rabbinical laws)? What Special Authority Do They Have?

6) What Makes Someone a Rabbi?

7) I Know More About My Situation Than They Do; They Were Talking About a Situation That Existed Many Centuries Ago.

8)  Why Should I Listen to the Rabbis (Chazal): They Did Not Know Anything About My Situation As a Jew Living In the 21st Century. They Did Not Know About Cars and Movies and the Internet. In Their Day There Was No Electricity, No Megacities Nor Running Water, and the Average Person Lived Poorly and Simply. How Could They Begin to Understand What Our Lives and Challenges Are?


1. What is the Oral Tradition (Torah SheBaal Peh)?


Torah SheBaal Peh (the Oral Tradition) is oral because ultimately it has no repository other than the minds of the Jewish people. Even when it was written down in the form of the Talmud, it was written is such a way that it retains a component which can only be learned from a teacher. The Oral Law is the way in which we connect with the Torah. It is the bringing of the Torah into this world all the way down until it rests in and connects with our minds [1] . Without the Oral Law, the Torah would always be something separate from ourselves, as is the Written Torah. This would render the Torah something abstract and removed. But this was not G-d’s Will. G-d’s whole reason for creating the Torah was so that we could keep it – so that we could become walking Sifrei Torah. The Oral Law is therefore not a luxury. It is G-d’s way of ensuring the implementation of His plan [2] .

2. How do I know that it is true? I Can Accept The Written Torah But Not The Oral Torah.


It is quite obvious from looking at the Written Law that it was intended to be accompanied by an oral component. There is not a single mitzvah in the Torah that can be understood in all its parameters without resort to the Oral Law. [3]

    For example, the Torah states that the Tefillin should be as Totafos between the eyes. But there is absolutely no indication from the Torah as to what this word means. Are the Tefillin meant to be big, green round balls worn on our nose, or sharp red pointy ones worn on our foreheads. Maybe we should be wearing a smooth, flat, gold plate. Should there be anything written involved? What? And on what? And where should this be placed? The Written Torah does not give even a clue. Now if G-d has given us this Torah as a revelation of His Will, then he has played upon us a cruel joke. It is like the NY Subway announcements. We hear clearly the bit about, “And the next stop will be…” But just when we get to the crucial information, all we hear is static. It cannot be that G-d went to all the trouble to create this world for us, then gave us the Torah to tell us how to live here, and we open it up, it is incomprehensible. Clearly, there is another place, other than the Written Law where He tells us what Tefillin are and where we should wear them [4] .

    G-d tells us not to work on the Sabbath, but nowhere does the written law define work. Nor does it tell us how many categories of work there are [5] . G-d tells us to slaughter an animal, but the Written Torah does not tell us how. Are we supposed to slaughter it from the neck or the throat. And with what kind of instrument?  The Torah says that you should slaughter, “As I have commanded you [6] ”, implying that we know from somewhere else how to do this. But nowhere else in the written Law is anything clarified on this issue. The information must then be in the Oral Law. There are many, many such examples [7] .

    There is a group of people called the Karaites who insisted that there is no such thing as the Oral Law. But, since the text did not tell them clearly what they had to do, they simply ended up inventing their own oral law. They chose man’s interpretations over G-d’s. A poor choice indeed.

3. But often the Rabbis come and interpret a verse.  Why is there any difference between my interpretations and theirs?


The Hebrew language is a very precise language [8] . It has a very rich spiritual vocabulary to be able to precisely describe issues of good and evil, purity, holiness and their
opposites. In addition, words are related to other words in very precise ways, and they have a very clear, precise grammar.

    Now when the Sages come to understand a verse, they do so as scientists using clear tools of interpretation. They look at the exact words that are used, they identify apparent redundancies and they see whether any one of the 13 Hermeneutic Principles are applicable. They identify any apparent ambiguities and line up all the different possible ways in which a verse may be interpreted.  They then interpret the verse at all four levels of interpretation, checking that the levels are consistent and checking that this interpretation is consistent with everything else that is said in the Torah [9] . Interpreting the Torah is then not an open-ended exercise in creativity. It is a result of laborious analysis, with the intended meaning of the verse emerging, per force, from the information that unfolds.

4. What is the (law)  הלכה?


The word הלכה (law) comes from the word הולך, which means to walk, to go.  הלכה  is a guide to our path in life. It provides a framework in which we can function which ensures that we set a certain spiritual and ethical standard whether we are up and down. Perhaps we are feeling depressed today – we do not want to get out of bed. But halacha (law) tells us that we have to daven (pray) by a certain time – it breaks our fall and ensures we can rest on a clear standard until we again feel inspired to do more.

    But the path of halacha (law) is about much more than merely breaking a fall. On the one hand, there is more to Judaism than the Halacha [10] . Most of the interpersonal laws provide us with only a basic framework (although comprehensive by secular standards) which is meant to provide a springboard from which we ought to express our own creativity and unique potential. Within the formal wisdom of Judaism itself, there are many areas of knowledge other than the Halacha.

    Yet Judaism can never contradicts Halacha.  G-d made Judaism for us, and therefore we have to see halacha as a gift to us. Most of our day is spent in a dimension called רשות  (permission), an area where it us up to us to harmonize ourselves with the essential logic of the halacha, and bring all areas of our life into the spiritual zone.  Without halacha, this attempt would amount to nothing more than a bunch of subjective interpretations of what we would like the Torah to say.  Halacha is a bed-rock of certainty in fulfilling G-d’s will.

    For centuries, spiritual giants, the wisest of people, have been pooling their wisdom and understanding of Judaism, and giving this to us as a gift of the ages. Halacha represents the final distilling of this wisdom [11] , the starting point wherewith we, even as spiritual midgets, can start out standing on the shoulders of giants.

5. Why do I have to listen to the Rabbis (מצוות דרבנן)? What special authority do they have?


The authority of the Sages derives from the Torah itself:

דברים יז יא:
לא תסור מן הדבר אשר יגידו לך ימין ושמאל
על פי התורה אשר יורוך[ [12]

you shall not deviate from the word that they will tell you, right or left

ויקרא יח ל:
ושמרתם את משמרתי – ובאה בו הקבלה: ועשו משמרת למשמרתי

you shall safeguard My charge

    It is as if G-d Himself commanded us to keep each (Rabbinical laws)  . [13] מצוה דרבנןIn fact, the Torah was given in such a way that it lacked a certain completion. G-d Himself should have commanded us to do the things, which were Rabbinically ordained [14] . And in fact, many of the things which the Sages have commanded us to do are clearly implicit if not directly hinted at in the verses of the Torah itself. מצוות דרבנן (Rabbinical laws) are therefore an integral part of our conception of Judaism [15] . (However, השם (G-d) did not want these commandments to have דאורייתא (from the Torah) status: [16] ) The Sages were given the mandate to fill in and complete the Divine Will, an awesome and frightening undertaking.

    Now the Sages knew when they undertook to make any Rabbinic Decree that these would be binding for all time. They certainly understood that times change: Some of us would live in times of wealth and some in times of poverty; some during times of peace and some during times of war; some would live in the Middle East, some in North Africa and some in the USA – representing enormous diversity of cultures. Some would live in the 2nd Century and some in the 21st. They were enormously careful, therefore, not to decree anything which would somehow date, which might be enormously relevant at certain times under certain circumstances but not at other times or under different conditions. Sometimes they debated a decree for hundreds of years. Thousands of Sages may have been involved.

    Look, as an example, at the Siddur. There were at least seven prophets amongst thousands of the greatest minds who all came together to pour over every word, every nuance, of this great work. They did so with an understanding that sometimes we may feel up and sometimes down; that sometimes we may be looking for comfort and sometimes for inspiration. Ask a passionately observant Jew today what he finds in this fabulous work and he will tell you that he finds all of himself therein.

6. What makes someone a Rabbi?


The formal qualification to be a rabbi is to past a test in certain difficult areas of Jewish law, and to receive a Semicha (Rabbinical ordination) from the testing rabbi. Now, although there is a minimum standard, which is quite high, there are certainly semichas and semichas, some being more prestigious than others. However, in addition to the formal knowledge required, no one would be eligible for receiving the title “rabbi” unless he showed that he was passionate about his Judaism, and a real example to others.

    It is interesting that many great rabbis never got a semicha, and, at this level, it does not seem to matter very much.  We need to know whether or not someone received semicha where we are not sure how else to evaluate the person’s knowledge, observance and practice of Judaism. We don’t want people walking around faking it. But someone whose overall knowledge and observance is so significantly above this minimum standard would be seen as a Torah leader in our eyes and be worthy of the name “Rabbi”.

7. I know more about my situation than they do; They were talking about a situation that existed many centuries ago.


    People in the Western world have a particular problem with authority figures in general, and this exacerbates their problems in this area. But, the truth is, that all legal codes work basically the same way. Almost every western legal system can trace its origins to Roman law. In England, the Roman and later legal principles were embodied in what is today known as English Common Law. Superimposed upon these are state or county laws, municipal ordinances and even neighborhood regulations.  This comprises a vast web of precedent, principles and codes of conduct covering vast areas of our life. In fact, the most regulated country in the world is the USA. We are told whether to park on the right or the left side of the road and on which day, how to sort our garbage, and whether we can have a fence around our backyard or not. Yet we know, that this does not contradict our idea of America as a country of freedom and opportunity. 

    The Rabbis of the Talmud had a genius and insight that makes Einstein look like a kindergarten kid. [There have been many physicists, doctors and other professionals, some of them leaders in their field, who have studied the Talmud. All have reported that they have never come across anything so intellectually challenging and sophisticated, containing so much insight into the human condition.]

    But even they would not have dared to direct a small part of our lives had the Torah itself not ordered them to do so. (See above)

    These great men, thousands of them over many centuries, knew that times and circumstances change. They themselves saw dramatic changes in their own environments. Their genius was to make up a code that provided ethical principles together with a few timeless decrees. There are in fact no more than seven Rabbinic decrees, asking us to do something new. All the other enactments of the Sages related to consolidating what the Torah had already told us to do, remembering a Torah Mitzvah which we could temporarily not fulfill, or ensure appropriate commercial, zoning, pollution and neighborhood laws [17] . But even this leaves large parts of our lives unregulated and open to our own, spiritual creativity in harmonizing these aspects of our lives with the deep principles of the Torah.

    The rest is up to each community to develop its own customs and each generation to resolve its own unique problems.

(See the next question. See also But how could the Torah know about the challenges we have today? How can Judaism of the past answer questions of the future?)

8. Why should I listen to the Rabbis (Chazal): They did not know anything about my situation as a Jew living in the 21st Century. They did not know about cars and movies and the internet. In their day there was no electricity, no megacities nor running water, and the average person lived poorly and simply. How could they begin to understand what our lives and challenges are?


First read the answer to the previous question, which is the background to this one.
    The mandate of the Sages comes from the Torah itself. It is the Torah which tells us to listen to the Sages and to the legislation which they might make, thereby giving G-d’s legitimacy to any of the decrees of the Sages. The Sages were enormously brilliant and insightful people who were masters not only of all of the Torah wisdom but of 70 languages and much other secular wisdom besides. There were many, many prophets amongst them. They were critically aware of the fact that they were making legislation for times and circumstances in the future when things might be different. They were profoundly careful not to make any legislation which might become dated or which might not apply to any set of circumstances. They therefore looked very deeply at universals in human psychology and makeup, and drew on deep principles that would be applicable for all time. In this, they were operating at a level called Ruach Hakodesh, a phenomenally high spiritual level, which allows access to a much higher plane of understanding.

    Despite operating at such a high level, still the sages were very wary of making any decree. Many hundreds and often thousands of Sages would discuss each and every point, before a decree would be made. Sometimes, such discussion would continue for decades, sometimes over many generations.

    To understand what the Sages were up to, imagine an extremely valuable, crystal-glass bowl lying at the edge of a table. Although it is firmly on the table, yet it can still be knocked off very easily. What the Sages did was to take the bowl and put it in the middle of the table. Now, even if the table gets knocked, the bowl still will not fall off. Our commandments are so precious that the sages ensured that even if we should bump something over (transgress), we will still have the commandments intact, safely guarded in the middle of the table by the edicts and decrees of the Rabbis.

(See also But how could the Torah know about the challenges we have today? How can Judaism of the past answer questions of the future?)


[1] מהר”ל תפארת ישראל פס”ח:

... וע”י תושבע”פ שהיא בפה האדם והתורה היא עמו לגמרי ואינה על הקלף כתובה ... בפני עצמה רק היא עומדת באדם (ולכן לא כרת הקב”ה ברית עם ישראל אלא בשביל דברים שבעל פה שנאמר ע”פ הדברים האלה כרתי אתך ברית – (גיטין ס:) ודבר זה הוא הברית והחבור שמחבר שני דברים יחד נותן הברית והמקבל הברית, לא התורה שבכתב שהיא אינה עומדת באדם.

עיין דרשות בית הלוי (באמצע השו”תים) הדרוש הי”ז (האחרון) ליתר ביאור

[2] There are many other reasons for the Oral Law. See the Ner LeElef book, the Oral Law.

[3] באר הגולה באר רביעי (דף נ):

לא היה מצוה אחת קטנה או גדולה שנוכל לדעת פירוש המצוה אם לא היה חכמתם גדולה … ולא שלא היינו יודעים שום מצוה על אמתתה, אך היינו הולכים מהפך אל הפך להבין דבר מצוה בהפך מה שכוונה התורה.

[4] The following 10 הלכות cannot be deduced from any scriptural source even indirectly:

(a) The פרשיות must be written with black ink;
(b) They must be written on parchment that comes from the outer side of the animal’s inner skin;
(c) The boxes and the stitching should be squared;
(d) There must be a ש on both sides of the של ראש;
(e) The פרשיות should be wrapped with animal skin;
(f) They should also be wrapped with animal hair;
(g) The בתים should be sewn shut with thread made from an animal’s sinew;
(h) There should be an opening on the side of the בתים for the strap to pass through;
(i) The רצועות should be painted black;
(j) The רצועה of the של יד should be knotted so as to form a ד.

In addition the following laws are part of the Oral Tradition:

(a) There should be 4 פרשיות on each one of the תפילין. (Supported by the דרשה that טט בכתפי שתים פת באפריקי שתים.(סנהדרין ד:)
(b) The של ראש should be placed on the hairline. (A גזירת שוהin קידושין לו.)
(c) The של יד should be placed on the left arm. (A דרשה on the extra ה of ידכה, meaning the weaker arm - מנחות לז.)
(d) The animal to be used must be a בהמה טהורה.
(Learned from the verse: למען תהיה תורת ה’ בפיך - מן המותר בפיך (שמות יג) (שבת קח.))
(Taken from מבוא שערים/Gateway to the Talmud - Meir Zvi Bergman.)

[5] The Torah does mention two categories of work, carrying and lighting a fire. But clearly these were never meant to comprise an exhaustive list. Indeed, each of these is brought for a special reason.

[6] דברים יב:כא:  כי ירחק ממך המקום אשר יבחר ה’ אלקיך לשום שמו שם וזבחת מבקרך ומצאנך אשר נתן ה’ לך כאשר צויתך ואכלת בשעריך בכל אות נפשך.

a) Death Penalty - does not specify details;
b)  יום כפור - עינוי - not described;
c) Marriage - only 4 words – כי יקח איש אישה  (דברים כד: א)

[8] The complexity and wisdom of the Hebrew language is such that it could not have been invented by human beings. The internal logic and interconnectedness of the letters and the words are vastly superior to any other language on earth. The fact that we were given and still have the תורה in לשון הקודש (Torah in it’s original Holy Language) is further proof of the Divine origins of the תורה (Torah).

    The Hebrew language is the vehicle through which all הקב”ה ’s השפעות (G-d’s emanations) are filtered. Therefore it is called לשון הקודש (the Holy Tongue/Language).

    Other languages are languages by convention, i.e. by the common decision of a group of people to agree to use certain sounds (words) to represent certain things . Hebrew, however, is intrinsic, i.e. the words actually reflect the reality of a particular object at a certain level. Since the world was created by G-d using Hebrew words (עשרה מאמרות של מעשה בראשית /בדבר ד’ שמים נעשו), were we to trace any object back up its spiritual trajectory, we would, at some stage get to the word. The word then, is the reality of the object at a higher level. This is how אדם הראשון  (the first Man) knew what the names of the animals were. He did not name them, rather, וכל אשר יקרא לו האדם נפש חיה הוא שמו: And whatever Man understood to be each animals name, that was indeed its name. (בראשית ב:יט) The שם (name) of something is its thereness, its - שם ness . The word, therefore, actually sustains the physical reality it produced. Man, who is an עולם קטן (microcosm of the world) is made up of all 22 letters (שם).

    The kabbalistic work which deals with how words are the building blocks of the world is ספר היצירה which, according to the כוזרי  (מאמר ד ס’ נה), was written by Abraham אברהם אבינו. The letters are considered the bricks, the words the rows of bricks which comprise the buildings.

    Letters and words are precise in all their dimensions: They can therefore be analyzed by their shape, their numerical value, their sound, and their relationship to other letters and words. Because they represent complete realities, they translate not only into the physical reality of matter, but also of time (each month reflects a letter), and of the Jewish nation itself (each tribe) (ע”פ ספר הצירה). 

[9] Rabbi S. R. Hirsch said that the way other religions, including Reform, choose to interpret the Torah is not scientific. Analyzing the Torah very specifically, you have to come up with a specific interpretation. Rarely is this interpretation how one would have translated the verse at first glance. In several places רש”י (Rashi) says that the verse is פשוטו כמשמעו . Rabbi Biberfeld says that this implies that in all the other places, פשוטו is not כמשמעו. If you go through פירוש רש”י (Rashi’s commentary), he has a very specific (question/difficulty) קושיא, and what רש”י(Rashi) is telling you is the intended meaning of the verse based on the grammar of the verse, the redundancies, the order of the words, and why a particular word was chosen.

    Rav Hirsch says, by looking at the general categories of letters that the words belong to we can understand both the general class of meanings to which the words belong and the specific meaning of this particular word. The ספר היצירה  and the זהר  tell us that they are divided by their sounds. ד’, י’, נ’, ט’, where the top of your tongue meets your teeth. ב’, ו’, מ’, פ’, said by closing your lips. Or gutturals, א’, ע’, ה’. If you were to analyze a word you would have to:
1) look at all other places the word was used,
2) associate and analyze it in context of its letters.

This is a very scientific exercise, not open to everyone’s interpretation. The נקודות (vowels) are Oral Law.

[10] Not every aspect of one’s daily living is enshrined in Halacha (law). There is a huge area of our lives designated רשות (permission), which is not specifically mandated.  Although there are considerably more halachic imperatives in our lives than most of us realize, the period between minyanim has large areas which are open to our own creative decision making and only generally covered by the injunction, קדושים תהיו. But even that מצוה is understood by Rashi, the Ramban and others to be a negative injunction, as the Ramban says that we shouldn’t become נבל ברשות התורה. However, ראשית חכמה shows clearly that being קדוש has a positive side as well   Clearly, when we say אשר קדשנו in any ברכה we have some positive קדושה in mind,  and not just that the מצוות are going to keep us from doing something negative. So too, there is an expectation that the רשות in our lives will produce something positive, and not just keep us out of trouble. Here, the ability of someone to see everything in his life through Torah glasses is essential. We have to deal with work, politics, finances, all sorts of relationships … with behavior that is in harmony with the Torah.

    One could argue that when one acts Toradik in one’s area of רשות, one is also bringing the Torah finally into the world, just as when a posek paskens halacha. In this sense, תושבע”פ is a part of our רשות just as it is a part of our הלכה.

    One of the areas that give us our Toradik perspective is Agadata (these are stories that are meant to illustrate important points in the Jewish worldview. These stories contain a wealth of information on a huge range of topics. you name it, it’s in there). Another, according to Rav Hirsch, is the symbolism in the Torah. The Mishkan (Tabernacle), for example, was a symbol of man. The details of the Mishkan give us a clear reading of how we are to construct ourselves. Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch held that such symbolism has to emerge from the halachos within each sugya.  Symbolic interpretations must not only be consistent with the halachos, the symbolism must emerge from these halachos. (Contrast with the Moreh Nevuchim who claimed that we could not understand the details of the Mitzvah in the context of their “Taam”.)

    Another source of a Toradik perspective is the stress and emphasis we give to certain midos, issues and aspects of our lives over others. In addition, many of these great underlying principles, although impacted by halacha, are not entirely halachically proscribed. The יג עיקרים of the Rambam was not even articulated in that form before his time (though some of them can be defined as Mitzvos). In fact, Rav Yosef Albo (ספר העקרים) held that there were only three such principles. The Torah does not explicitly discuss ימות המשיח  nor תחיית המתים. The בה”ג holds that there is not a מצוה פרטית to believe in HaShem. It is a יסוד  of the whole Torah. (Ramban: השגות על ספר המצוות, מצווה א). The Ramban, and most poskim, hold that there is no chiyuv to daven daily to HaShem. It is a chesed HaShem granted us. (רמב”ן השגות שם: מצוה ה); According to some, the Rambam does not hold that there is a מצוה  to do תשובה; only to do וידוי. The type of chesed we are supposed to do is, with the exception of a few Derabanans such as Bikur Cholim and Hachnasas Kala, left completely open to us. According to Rav Chaim Vital, there is no מצוה to work on your midos (though all the מצוות demand some application of מדות development) (מובא בעלי שור); family and chinuch issues are also loosely proscribed and it is questionable whether a woman is חייב to get married. (בר”ן הוי רק הכשר מצוה לבעלה של פרו ורבו, והמקנה חולק). All this means is that we have to have a way of applying the Torah that is not restricted to purely halachic categories, though which have to be consistent with them.

[11] באר הגולה: ההלכה היא שכל פשוט … כי ההלכה היא הדרך הישר והוא ההולך עם הש”י לגמרי לכן נקרא דבר הזה ההלכה

[12] וכן אנחנו מצווים לשמוע אל השופט הממנה בכל דור ודור כמו שאמר הכתוב (דברים יז ט-י): ובאת אל הכהנים הלוים ואל השפט אשר יהיה בימים ההם, ודרשת והגידו לך את דבר המשפט, ועשית על פי הדבר אשר יגידו לך מן המקום ההוא אשר יבחר ד’

[13]   רמב”ם פ”א מהל’ ממרים הל’ ב:
…על פי התורה אשר ירוך [ועל המשפט אשר יאמרו לך תעשה זו מצות עשה -  (עיין במס’ שבת כג: והיכן צונו שמביא שם עוד פסוק ועיין בריטב”א חדשה שם)] אלו הגזירות והתקנות והמנהגות שיורו בהם לרבים כדי לחזק הדת ולתקן העולם.

(והנה  הרמב”ן בהשגותיו על ספר המצוות שרש א חולק על הרמב”ם וסובר דהפסוק של לא תסור הולך רק על תורה שבע”פ אבל על דבריהם לא קאי כלל ע”ש ומרבה להקשות עליו ועיין במשך חכמה פרשת שפטים ד”ה לא תסור שמתרץ כל קושיות הרמב”ן ועיין בקובץ שעורים,  קונטרוס דברי סופרים ס”א ס”ק יג – טו שמביא שמוכרח לומר שלשיטתו כל דרבנן הוי גילוי רצונו ית”ש ע”ש. והקרית ספר תירץ את קושיות הרמב”ן על הרמב”ם. ושיטת הכוזרי בזה (מאמר ג לט) לא ברור שכתב דבזמן הבית מברכים על מצוות דרבנן אשר קדשנו ואלא בזמן הגלות לא היו מחייבים אותנו ברכה, אך היה נאמר עליהם כי תקנה הם או מנהג. עיין בקול יודה שמפרש את הכוזרי או כהרמב”ם או כהרמב”ן. או באופן שלישי יהיינו דאין אנו חייבים מן התורה לשמוע אליהם אלא בזמן הבית, כלשון הכתוב וקמת ועלית אל המקום וגו’ .

בדרישות הר”ן מביא מחלוקת אמוראים שכ”ע מסכימים שגזירות וסייגים דרבנן שיש להם סמך ועיקר מן התורה הם נכללים בהלאו דלא תסור אבל במצות דרבנן שאין להם עיקר בתורה וכמו נר חנוכה יש מחלוקת אם נכללים או לא (הדרוש השביעי הקטע המחיל התירוץ בזה שלא נחלקו וכו’)

[14] רמח”ל מאמר העיקרים:

כל התקנות האלו ... הנה דעתו ית”ש מסכמת שישמרו שמירה מעולה ככל מצות התורה עצמה ... וכבר היה ראוי שיצוה עליהם הוא ית”ש בתורה עצמה, אלא שהיה הרצון לפניו שיבא הדבר מצדנו ... ואין הבדל בין [מצות מן התורה ומצות מדרבנן] אלא במה שהם ז”ל הבדילום, דהיינו הספיקות בדיני התורה ידינו לחומרא ובדברי סופרים ידינו לקולא ... אמנם בענין חיוב המצות ... אין הפרש בין אלה לאלה כלל.

[15] פאר הדור על החזון איש:

גזירות שגזרו חז”ל, משמרת למשמרת, הכל “נכנם בגופי התורה ובינתה “

משך חכמה שפטים יז יא (ד”ה לא תסור):
התורה רצתה אשר מלבד ענינים הנצחים ומקיימים לעד, יתחדש ענינים, סיגים, ואזהרות, וחומרות אשר יהיו זמניים, היינו שיהיה ביד החכמים להוסיף ע”פ גדרים הנמסר להם. מהר”ל, באר הגולה, באר א (דף טו): וגם באלו מצוות (שגזרו חכמים) אין ספק שהם מתחברים אל התורה עצמה ... וכן עשתה הטבע הצפרנים לאצבעות היד והרגלים שלא יהיו נקופים התנועת האדם, ושערות הראש שמירה לראש ... וכמו ששמירת העין ושאר אברים נכנסין בגדר הבריאה, כך ג”כ גזירות שגזרו חכמים לשמירת המצות נכנסים בגדר התורה. לכך חייב לברך עליהם אשר קדשנו וכו’ כמו על מצוות התורה וכן בכל דבר שבעולם יש שמירה ותיקון ג”כ, שהש”י סדר אותו בחכמתו שיהיה נשמר מן ההיזק ... ואיך לא תהיה שמירה למצות שבתורה.

במדבר רבה יד:יב  דברי תורה ודברי חכמים מרועה אחד נתנו (ויש שפירשו שדברי חכמים קאי על תושבע”פ דרך כלל.)

The Ritva understands that the Chachamim saw a hint in the Torah of all that they decreed. This was an indication to them that HaSh-m wanted these decrees all along:

ריטב”א ראש השנה טז. ד”ה תניא ר”ע (בסוף): שכל מה שיש אסמכתא מן הפסוק העיר הקב”ה שראוי לעשות כן אלא שלא קבעו חובה ומסרו לחכמים  … לקבעי … אם ירצו כמ”ש  ועשית על פי הדבר אשר יגידו לך ולפיכך תמצא החכמים נותנין בכל מקום ראיה או זכר או אסמכתא לדבריהם מן התורה כלומר שאינם מחדשים דבר מלבם וכל תורה שבע”פ רמוזה בתורה שהיא תמימה וח”ו שהיא חסרה כלום.

The same is true of תקנות after the time of חז”ל:

“תקנת חכמי דור ודור מחייבת כתקנת חכמים בזמן התלמוד” “שמה שגזרו הראשונים ז”ל גזרו על שורש הדבר המביא להרחבת המצווה ומשמרתה ומסרוה לחכמים הבאים לשפוט ביתר הפרטים כפי הוראת העיון וכמשא-ומתן של דין התורה ומה שראה לחכם שראוי להבינו בכלל גזירתם זהו באמת בקשת הגוזרים ומבוקש גזירתם”

[16] The exception to this may be a שבות on שבת. At the beginning of his הלכות שבת, the ערוך השולחן brings the ריטב”א who says in the name of the רמב”ן that the שבויות are in fact דאורייתא. (If this were not the case, it would be permissible, מדאורייתא, to spend the whole of Shabbos doing business, in contradiction to the whole idea of Shabbos.) However, the שבותים were given over to the Sages to define. The only difference between a שבות and a דאורייתא is in the punishment. Lehalacha, however, we apply to the שבויות all the קולות of a דרבנן. For example a שבות דשבות במקום מצוה או במקום צער is מותר.

[17] The following are the enactments of the Sages:

(i) A handful of Rabbinic mitzvahs (officially seven: lighting candles Friday night, reading the Scroll, lighting candles on Chanukah, washing hands before eating bread, etc.)

(ii) Laws that were Torah laws and will, when the conditions are right again, be Torah laws, which we keep now in order not to forget how to do them;

(iii) Enactments protecting the rights and freedoms of the citizen; relationships between neighbors; business enactments; etc.

(iv) Many laws that act as a fence around the Torah law, so that, even if one should come to accidentally transgress one of these, one still will not have transgressed the Torah law. This is similar to having a cut glass bowl. Even though it is firmly on the table, when at the edge of the table it may be bumped off. So we make sure that it is in the middle of the table.


Posted in: Jewish Beliefs & Philosophy