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The Principal Sources of the Divine Law" of the Religion of Orthodox Judaism

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The Principal Sources of the Divine Law" of the Religion of Orthodox Judaism

  • The Mishnah. The formative writings of Judaism founded on the Oral Law {Torah SheBeal Peh) of the first century A.D. Pharisees which Jesus confronted in His lifetime.

  • The Tosefta. The supplement to the Mishnah, but possessing lesser authority.

  • The Gemara. The commentary on the Mishnah. We refer almost exclusively to the Gemara of the authoritative Babylonian Talmud (abbreviated as "BT" here), which has significantly greater authority in Judaism than the Yerushalmi (Jerusalem or "Palestinian") Talmud.

  • The Kabbalistic Zohar, Attributed to Rabbi Shimon Yohai but greatly enlarged over the centuries by subsequent gedolim.

  • The Commentaries of Rashi on the Chumash and the Talmud. Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki; 1040-1105) is revered in Judaism as a divinely-inspired interpreter of the Pentateuch (called "Chumash" to distinguish it from the Pentateuch as contained in the sefer torah scrolls used in the synagogue and worshipped as a totem; the Chumash edition is not used as a totem and hence, may be utilized for everyday use without special ritual care concerning how it is handled and placed). Rashi's commentary is regarded as equal to or greater than the text of the Pentateuch, since without Rashi (and succeeding gaonim) the Pentateuch cannot be understood. Due to the bureaucratic prolixity of Judaism, there are commentaries on Rashi's commentaries, ad infinitum, the most noteworthy being the "Panim Yafot" of Rabbi Pinchas Halevy Horowitz (ca. 1730-1805).

  • The Mishneh Torah of Rabbi Moses Maimonides (1135-1204; who is known by the acronym, the "Rambam").


• The Tur. We begin an account of the Tur with "the Rosh," Rabbi Asher
ben Yechiel; (c.1250-1328, Germany-Spain); one of the most crucial Rishonim
on the Talmud. The Rosh's renowned son compiled Piskei Harosh, a summary
of the halacha of his father, which is printed in the back of many editions of
the Talmud. This work resembles the Hilchot of "the Rif' (Rabbi Isaac Alfasi;
a Sephardic lawyer-rabbi). And let us not forget "the Ran" (Rabbeinu Nissim
ben Reuven Gerondi; c. 1320-1380; Spain).

The Rosh is consulted both as a halachist and as one of the last of the tosafists. His son Rabbi Jacob (Yaakov) ben Asher (1270-1343), the "Ba'al ha-Turim," compiled the Arba Turim, first printed in 1475. "Tur" is used as shorthand for both the title of the whole work and for Rabbi Asher himself, since it is customary in Judaism to call a compiler by the name of his compilation. The Tur is the predecessor of Rabbi Joseph Karo's Shulchan Aruch. The four-part structure of the Tur and its division into chapters (simanim) were adopted by Karo in the later code, Shulchan Aruch. Each of the four divisions of the work is a Tur, so a particular passage is cited as Tur Orach Chayim, siman 22, denoting Orach Chayim (or Orchot Chaim) division, chapter 22. Often the citation is abbreviated as "O.C." The four Turim are as follows: Orach Chayim (Path of Life) laws of prayer and synagogue, Sabbath, holidays. Yoreh De'ah (pedagogy; abbreviated as "Y.D.") miscellaneous ritualistic laws, such as shechita (ritual slaughter) and kashrut (kosher foods). Even Ha'ezer (Rock of the Helpmate) laws of marriage and divorce. Choshen Mishpat (Breastplate of Judgment) laws of finance, damages (personal and financial) and bureaucracy (legal procedure). When the reader encounters notes and references in the following pages to O.C. and Y.D. it is to the preceding texts, as specified.

• The Shulchan Aruch ("The Set Table"). The authoritative codification
of the Tur is the Beit Yosef of Rabbi Joseph Karo (1488-1575). It mirrors the
layout and arrangement of the texts of The Tur. Karo undertook the Beit
Yosef as the first step in his projected codification of rabbinic law. He chose to
craft it as a commentary on Rabbi Jacob (Yaakov) ben Asher's Tur, rather
than as a separate work, because in the Tur is already found the


fundamental sifting, analyzing and compiling of the legal decisions of the leading medieval rabbinic authorities. The "Beit Yosef carefully analyzes the rulings in the Tur, tracing them back to their sources in the Talmud and other ancient rabbinic compendia; noting the rationales for the Tur's decisions on disputed questions; explaining the disputes, and examining rulings that had been omitted from the Tur. After clarifying each question, Karo determined one ruling as normative based on the consensus or majority of three chief authorities: 1. Rabbi Isaac Alfasi ("the Rif'). 2. Rabbi Moses Maimonides (the Rambam) 3. Rabbi Asher ben Yechiel ("the Rosh"). Karo united the Sephardic Hilchot of the Rif and the Mishneh Torah of the Rambam, with the Ashkenazi Tur and "Piskei Harosh" of the Rosh, to form the grand masterwork of Judaism's law, the Shulchan Aruch. Any notion of completion would be fallacious, however. Since the laws of Judaism consist in the imaginings of men, and since man's imagination is a bottomless pit of endless self-invention, the multiplication of laws, rules, regulations, codes, compilations, traditions and fantasies is a growth industry in the rabbinic universe. Just when one imagines that there could not possibly be another alliterative compendium in the wake of those by the Rif, the Rosh and the Rambam, we meet:

• The Bach of Rabbi Joel Sirkes; ("the Bach," 1561-1640) whose Halachic codification of the Tur, "Bayit Chadash" (Bach) and 250 responsa, consume the attention of ever more enslaved bochurim, with its ever more labyrinth intricacies, complexities and loopholes.

  • The Taz. "Turei Zahav" an elucidation of the Shulchan Aruch by the Polish Rabbi Dovid ben Shmuel HaLevy ("the Taz"; 1586-1667).

  • Aruch HaShulchan. Compiled by Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein (1829-1888). In Aruch HaShulchan, Epstein cites the source of each law as found in the Talmud and Maimonides, and states the halakhic decision as found in the Shulchan Aruch with the glosses of Rema. When he deems it necessary, he also cites the precedents of other Rishonim (early, pre-1550 authorities), and especially Acharonim (later authorities). Epstein considers the glosses of Rema on Joseph Karo at great length. The Aruch HaShulchan follows the structure of the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch: A division into four


large parts, subdivided into parallel chapters (simanim). These are further subdivided into paragraphs (se'ifim). In his work, Epstein tends to take a lenient view (le-kula), but decidedly without compromising in any form on the power and rule of the rabbis. Aruch HaShulchan is often quoted alongside the Mishnah Berurah. The Aruch HaShulchan refers in a number of its sections to the Mishnah Berurah. Aruch HaShulchan has a much wider scope than the Mishnah Berurah.

• The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch. Compiled in the nineteenth century by
Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried (1804-1886). The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch is: "drawn
from all four sections of Rabbi Yosef Caro's Shulchan Aruch, the bedrock
compilation of religious law, the Kitzur set forth the laws required to be
known by every Jew, written in simple language and appropriately
arranged...While achieving these objectives, he presented the material in a
format that was brief and to-the-point. The Kitzur was an immediate and
extraordinary success. In the two decades before his death, more than twenty
editions appeared...In the century since, it has been reprinted more than any
other Jewish work, with the exception of the Talmud, siddur, and the
Passover hagaddah." The Encyclopedia Judaica calls it "...the main
handbook for Ashkenazi Jewry..."

• The Mishneh Berurah. Compiled by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan

(1838-1933; the "Chafetz Chaim"). In our time his work is authoritative in the
yeshiva world, surpassing the legal codification of the later Arukh
HaShulkhan ("Laying the Table") of Rabbi Epstein.

  • Responsa: subsequent rabbinic rulings mainly (but not limited to) the application of the law in the daily and practical sphere.

  • Derivations of the legal corpus peculiar to factions within Judaism, as for example the "Shulchan Aruch Harav" of the "Alter Rebbe" (Shneur Zalman of Lyady), a legal text sacred mainly to Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidim and his dogmatic treatise, "Tanya." Also cf. Moshe Feinstein's "Igros Moshe."


• Torah. This word is wielded like a weapon. It is Judaism's badge of

authority. The rabbis boast that they have the Torah, they have mastered the
Torah, they base their laws on the Torah and that they are Torah-true.
Actually, these claims of theirs are a play on words, for the "Torah" they
study, base their laws upon and truly uphold is the formerly Oral Traditions
and Laws of the Pharisees which is known among them as the Torah SheBeal
Peh. Consequently when the rabbis are telling the gentiles all about their
relationship with the "Torah," the gentiles imagine that the rabbis are
referring to the Hebrew Covenant or


Testament, known as the Torah

Judaism is not true to the Torah SheBichtav, but rather to the Torah SheBeal Peh. If Christians and gentiles could keep this hester (concealed) distinction uppermost in their minds when dealing with rabbinic claims, demands and boasts of authority and knowledge, it would go a long way toward clearing up the spiritual and epistemological smog that is at the very heart of Judaism — its posturing as a Biblical, i.e. "Torah" faith. When faced with this claim on the Torah, one should always ask the claimant, which "Torah" is it to which you are loyal? According to Jesus Christ, one cannot be loyal to both (Mark 7:9).

Rabbinic Literature

• Non-halachic rabbinic literature, which, with its traditions, is a

formative influence on the rabbinic mentality. These include the "Pirkei
Avot," or "Ethics of the Fathers" contained within the Mishnah, dealing not
with halacha, but with mussar (morality and ethics). Other texts having a
status below that of halakha but still possessed of teaching authority, include
wild fantasies embroidered around Bible figures, patriarchs and narratives
as found in the "Midrash" (the most famous of which is the Midrash Rabba),
and the "Aggadah"; and lesser status folk literature, such as the notorious
"Toldeth Yeshu." Here is a sample of the merchant-haggler Aggadic
literature: Which came first heaven or earth? Bet Shammai say Heaven was
created first. Bet Hillel say Earth was created first. The Sages say: Both
Heaven and Earth were created at the same time. How do Bet Shammai and
Bet Hillel explain the argument of the Sages? The two verses contradict each
other! Resh Lakish answered: At Creation, God first created Heaven and
then Earth, but when He set them up, He first set up Earth and then Heaven.105

  • Siddur: compilations of Judaism's prayers; hence, a prayer book.

  • Practices common to rabbinic culture, but not having the force of law, and constituting mere local custom, are known as minhag. An example of a minhagim would relate to the propriety of a bochur (youthful Talmud student) of Yekkishe (German-Judac) descent wearing his tallis (fringed prayer shawl) in a synagogue that is located in a community where the bochurim do not wear tallis. (In general, the minhag is that a Judaic male does not wear tallis until he is married. Being of marriage-age and not wearing tallis exposes the unmarried Judaic to embarrassment. In this way he can be shamed into getting married, whether he likes it or not).

The previous discussion as to who Should be considered a person's teacher now leads the Gemara to a general statement about the different fields of Torah study. Our Sages taught the following Baraita. "it may be said about those

Students who occupy themselves with studying the Bible alone, to the exclusion of Mishnah and Talmud, that their specialization is a good way of studying, but it is not as good a way as they could have found, because the other fields of Torah study are superior to it. II may be said about those students who occupy themselves with studying Mishnah but not Talmud, that their specialization is a good way of studying, and they are destined to receive a reward from God for their efforts. It may be said about those who occupy themselves with Studying Talmud, that there is no greater way of studying than this.

The three levels of study in Judaism

The Bible is the lowest form. The next best is the Mishnah.

The highest is the Talmud (the Gemara).

Photographically reproduced from the Steinsaltz Talmud

As noted above, while Judaism pays elaborate lip-service to the Bible (Tanakh), the Bible is not a factor in the rise, formation, progress and emendation of rabbinic law, except as a prestigious cover and front for what are, in fact, entirely man-made enactments, figments of the rabbinic imagination and extensive revivals of pagan anachronism (Deuteronony 4:2; 13:1; Matthew 15:2-3; Colossians 2:8). While this is hotly denied among the rabbis and the legions of gentile apologists for Judaism in the universities and the modern churches, it is a truism inside Judaism, as reflected in the following rabbinic passage, which lays out the superior status of the rabbinic oral law over the written law of the Bible, and goes even further, acknowledging what is to be expected from a religion of self-worship, that the rabbis are superior to God! With regard to the halacha of the Talmud, we discover that "the Almighty Himself is bound by them." The rabbis of course portray God as conceding His inferior status: footnote 106 Adam Clarke's 1825 Commentary on Colossians 2:8: "There are three systems of philosophy among the Jews, (Bell. Jud., lib. ii. cap 8, sec. 2,) meaning the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes, as immediately follows. The Jewish philosophy, such as is found in the Cabala, Midrashim, and other works, deserves the character of vain deceit, in the fullest sense and meaning of the words. The inspired writers excepted, the Jews have ever been the most puerile, absurd, and ridiculous reasoners in the world. Even Rabbi Maymon, or Maimonides, the most intelligent of them all, is often in his masterpiece ( The Guide of the Perplexed), most deplorably empty and vain....what the apostle calls the tradition of men, namely, what men, unauthorized by God, have taught as doctrines received from him. Our Lord frequently refers to and condemns these traditions."end footnote

The realization of the difference between written and oral regulations finds expression in the appraisal that The Sages safeguarded their own enactments more than those of the Torah' and in the hyperbolical statements concerning the supreme authority of the expositions and decisions of the Rabbis. The Almighty Himself is bound by them. God sits and occupies Himself with the section of the Red Heifer, and He cites a Halakha in the name of R Eliezer, despite the astonishment of Moses, who cries: 'Sovereign of the universe, Thou dost hold in Thy power the creatures of heaven and earth, yet Thou dost sit and cite a Halakha in the name of a human being!' {Pesiqta de-R. Kahana, Para, ed. Mandelbaum, p. 73).

The Rabbis "safeguarded their own enactments more than those of the Torah."

God is "bound" by the "expositions and decisions of the Rabbis."

God quotes Rabbi Eliezer.


The Rabbinic Eras

  • The Tannaic (or Tannaitic) Era (first two centuries A.D.). Rabbis of this era—which is reputed to have been initiated by Hillel the Elder in the time of Christ - are referred to as the Ta'nnaim. During this period the laws, doctrines and traditions of the Pharisees processed from oral to written form as the Mishna and its addendum, the Tosefta, became the first written records of the traditions of the Pharisees that formed the law of the newly institutionalized religion of rabbinic Judaism. Hillel and his friendly rival, Shammai, comprised one of the five Zugot ("pairs," the "earliest Pharisaic teachers" : Yose ben Yoezer and Yose ben Yohanan; Yehoshua ben Perahyah and Nittai the Arbelite; Judah ben Tabbai and Simeon ben Shetah; Shemayah and Avtalyon; and Hillel and Shammai). Hillel's seven middot (rules of interpretation) form the basis of rabbinic exegesis.

  • The Amoraic (or Amoraitic) Era. Rabbis of this period, (circa 300 - 600 A.D.) are referred to as the Amora'im. During this era, rabbis in Palestine and Babylon concocted the Gemara. The Babylonian edition eventually became authoritative; the Jerusalem (sometimes called "Palestinian") version devolved into a supplement of considerably lesser authority. In Judaism, the Gemara alone bears the denomination, "Talmud." Historically, Christian scholars, concerned with demarcating the central fount of the traditions of men that were committed to writing and comprised the earliest basis for Judaism, have referred to both the Mishnah and the Gemara as the Talmud.

  • The Geonic Era (circa 600 - 1000 A.D.). Rabbis of this era are referred to as the Geonim. This period marked the hallowing and codification of the now written traditions in newly compiled law books (halachot) of the rabbis, derived from the mishnayot (laws of the Mishnah), and the Gemara, together inspiring such landmark geonic works as the Halachot Pesuchot and the Halachot Gedolot. The geonim also were responsible for the first major collection of fledgling Responsa texts,108 based on the vast body of legal


interpretations, judgments and decisions compiled in the takkanot literature. Any struggle or tension between Biblical law and Talmudic law was finally decided in perpetuity by the geonim, in favor of the Talmud, which may explain the rise of the Karaite resistance in this period. Much of the lawyer's culture and hair-splitting were formalized in the geonic era, as witnessed by the enshrinement of tools of Biblical nullification known under the technical heading of takkanah (referred to generically as "enactments"), along with a huge bureaucracy of ranks of Talmudic-rabbinic lawyers, clerks, scribes and functionaries: hakhamim, aluftm, rashe midreshe, rabbanan dedara, rashe pirke, rosh haseder, reshe dekallah, sufficient to fill a Kafkaesque courtroom or a Freudian insane asylum.

• The Rishonic Era (commencing circa 1000-1400 A.D.). Rabbis of this era are referred to as the Rishonim. This is the era of the revered codifiers who continued the process of system-building within Judaism, as represented by such esteemed Talmud commentators as Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzchaki ("Rashi") and key halachic authorities such as Rabbi Moses ben Maimon ("Maimonides," the "Rambam") author of the Mishneh Torah and Guide of the Perplexed; and Rabbi Moses ben Nahman (i.e. "Nahmanides" the "Rambam,) author of the foundational legal treatise, Torat Ha-adam, and several other stars of the rabbinic firmament such as Rabbi Isaac Alfasi of Morocco and Rabbeinu Asher of Germany (this duo are known collectively by the tic-toe doggerel, "the Rif and the Rosh").

The Acharonic Era (1400-1700). Rabbis of this era are referred to as the Acharonim. This age marks the further expansion of the vast rabbinic laws, under gedolim such as Joseph Karo (Shulchan Aruch) and Shmuel Eliezer Halevi Adels (also spelled Edeles), the so-called "MaHaRSHA." Adels' legal codex is titled Hidushei MaHaRSHA ("New Explanations by MaHaRSHA"). This era also marked the further expansion under Yitzhak Luria and Moses Cordovero, of Kabbalah as a basis for Orthodox Judaism's system of halacha. This age also saw the infiltration of the Vatican by rabbis such as Ovadiah (Obadiah) Sforno who would groom "Christian" Kabbalists like Cardinal Grimani and Joahnnes Reuchlin, with the help of the Judaic papal physician, Samuel Zarfati.

The distinction between Rishonim and Acharonim is worth noting. One does not contend with Rishonim, whose words are "words of the living God." Rishonim cannot be doubted. Rabbi Baruch Leibowitz contrasted the difference between Rishonim and Acharonim: the former a group of "sages" whose writings are infallible; the latter, in theory, fallible. Leibowitz related that one of the giants of Judaic law, the Mishnah Berurah-compiler Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (the Chofetz Chaim) disagreed, believing that the words "these and those are words of the living God" also applied infallibility to Acharonim.

Deceit Mechanisms

As part of the enduring process of dissimulation and masquerade which is the intrinsic matter and methodology of Judaism in its response to tangible trespass by gentiles, it is sometimes claimed that the Zohar (principal work of the Kabbalah) is not a basis of rabbinic law. However, this objection is easy to overcome by approaching the decisor-corpus of Chazal, and confronting the posekim with their own Zohar-derived decisions: "Not only did the author of the Shulchan Aruch not guard himself against the influence of the Kabbalah, he listened to it willingly as far as a great hahakhic scholar like him could reconcile his views with it."

In this case, what is common knowledge among the Orthodox rabbinate is denied in public before a gentile audience, and this is a familiar stratagem and one that is a paramount insight into the deceitful nature of Judaism: usually its leaders publicly admit only what is generally known or established about Judaism and deny anything that might tarnish its image, or lead to unpleasant revelations about its hidden doctrine and teachings. Hence, it is an axiom that Rabbi Karo's Shulchan Aruch, which would become the basis for subsequent halachic decisions, is based in part on the Kabbalah, yet because this is not well-known among the goyim, it is denied, in order to avoid having to account for how a flagrantly pagan/occult text like the Zohar is a source of rabbinic "Biblical" law. But, pay heed to the operating principle of these master deceivers: were this fact about the relationship between the Kabbalistic Zohar and rabbinic law well-known, it would be


conceded by the rabbis; the concession being surrounded by sundry qualifications and explanations intended to test the extent of what the goy knows and the degree to which the goy percipient can still be misled. Moreover, rabbinic prestige and supremacy, and the fear and awe they generate, are so formidable and all-pervasive, that the goyim generally, together with the clergy of Churchianity, dare not expose or contest Judaism on any basis, including its pagan-Kabbalistic roots. Adin Steinsaltz is the Nasi of the revived Israeli Sanhedrin: "Rabbi Steinsaltz said that Kabbalah, despite a mystical and esoteric nature that's shrouded in mystery, is 'part of the Torah in the same way Talmud is part of the Torah."

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