The Oral Tradition of the Written Law 02

This series of shiurim is sponsored anonymously and is l’ilui nishmat Michael Yirmiyahu (Jeremy) haCohen Barkan.

Chazal worked with the assumption that there was an oral tradition before the Torah was written down. Here are some examples of this:

Parshat Vayera (Bereishit 18:20-22)

Rashi ad loc. mentions the concept of tikkun soferim.

Look atĀ Tosefot Bava Metzia 60b (s.v. lama chilkam hakatuv) who discusses why the Torah chose to use two separate phrases for the same halacha.

According to Rabbi Yochanan, who says that the Torah was given as separate scrolls, we cannot say that at the end of 40 years Moshe simply glued all the scrolls together, because of the concept of “there is no earlier or later in the Torah” which means that there must have been another, later, redaction.

Look at Lech Lecha (Bereishit 16:8).

Talmud Berachot 7b

Tosefot asks why the Talmud does not learn from the earlier mention of ‘Adon’ a few verses earlier (verse 2). He answers that Brit bein ha-Betarim occurred several years before the war of the kings.

The dual role of Moshe Rabbeinu as recipient of the scrolls, and as final editor, explains the apparent contradiction in Rambam’s 13 Principles. In the 7th principle, Rambam stresses that Moshe was the most suitable to receive the Torah because of his great intellect. Yet in the 8th principle, Rambam states that Moshe was like a scribe copying from a text, which implies an activity which does not require great intelligence (and in fact intelligence may be a disadvantage for such a task).

Next week Rabbi Triebitz will show how this idea is understood by Rav Tzadok HaCohen and by the Vilna Gaon.

We hope you enjoy these shiurim.
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