3. The Oral Tradition

In the first chapter, Christian authorities were quoted as stating that the New Testament was based on hearsay and conflicting traditions, and was composed, canonized, and made public long after the events depicted therein allegedly occurred.

In direct contrast, the Torah was written and transmitted to the entire Jewish nation by Moses himself:

Deuteronomy 31:9

And Moses wrote this Law, and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who bore the Ark of the Covenant of the L-rd, and to all the elders of Israel.

The Jewish nation that stood at Mount Sinai dedicated itself to the study of the Torah, as have its descendants throughout the generations, in fulfillment of the following directive:

Deuteronomy 6:6-7

And these words, which I command you this day, shall be upon your heart. And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up.

Moses furthermore instructed that the Torah be read before the entire nation every seven years:

Deuteronomy 31:10-12

And Moses commanded them, saying: "At the end of every seven years, during the time of the year of release, during the Feast of Tabernacles, when all Israel is come to appear before the L-rd, your G-d, in the place He shall choose, you shall read this Law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, the men and the women and the little ones, and your stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the L-rd, your G-d, and observe to do all the words of this Law...."

One thousand years later, this practice was still in effect:

Nehemiah 8:1, 3, 8

All the people gathered themselves together as one man into the broad place that was before the water gate; and they told Ezra the Scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the L-rd had commanded to Israel....And he read therein, before the broad place that was before the water gate, from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law....And they read in the Book, in the Law of G-d, distinctly; and they gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.

If an oral explanation had not been taught to the nation from the outset, the uniform observance of the Torah's commandments would have been impossible:

Exodus 16:29

See that the L-rd has given you the Sabbath;...let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.

What is the meaning of the term "place"? The Oral Tradition stipulates that a Jew is forbidden to walk more than 0.7 miles beyond his city's perimeter.

Exodus 31:15

Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the L-rd; whoever does work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death.

What constitutes work? The Oral Tradition explains that those activities involved in building the portable Tabernacle in the wilderness are prohibited on the Sabbath.

Deuteronomy 6:8

And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.

Without the Oral Tradition, one would never know that this verse is speaking of the tefillin worn by Jewish men during morning prayer. These black, leather boxes contain verses from the Hebrew Bible and are strapped to one's arm and forehead.

Deuteronomy 6:9

And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house, and upon your gates.

This refers to mezuzoth, parchments inscribed with Biblical verses, which are placed in small containers and affixed to the doorposts of Jewish homes.

Numbers 29:1

In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a holy convocation: you shall do no servile work it shall be a day of sounding for you.

This description of Rosh Hashanah does not specify what exactly is to be sounded on the Jewish New Year, but the Oral Tradition does: a shofar (ram's horn).

Numbers 29:7

On the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a holy convocation and afflict yourselves; you shall do no work....

Only the Oral Tradition teaches us that "afflicting yourselves" on Yom Kippur means abstaining from all food and drink.

Deuteronomy 12:21

If the place where the L-rd, your G-d, shall choose to put His Name be too far from you, then you shall slaughter of your herd and of your flock, which the L-rd has given you, as I have commanded you....The method of ritual slaughter is not found in the Written Torah, but it is part of the Oral Tradition.

To enhance Moses' comprehension and memory of the Oral Tradition, its intricate details were shown to him in visions:

Exodus 25:8-9

And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, the pattern of the Tabernacle, and the pattern of all its vessels, so shall you make it.

Numbers 8:4

And this was the work of the candlestick: it was of beaten gold; from its base to its flowers it was beaten work, according to the pattern that the L-rd had shown Moses, so he made the candelabra.

Clearly, the Oral Tradition must be afforded the utmost seriousness, for its explanations of Biblical verses were given to Moses by G-d and have been studied and cherished for generations. In contrast, during the glorious prophetic era which lasted 1000 years, while the Jewish people pondered the profound Divine messages conveyed by its Prophets, Christians were non existent and most of the nations were illiterate pagans.

 


Nevertheless, the early church leaders insisted that their interpretations of the Hebrew Bible were as valid as the Jews. But the basis of these claims is itself founded on misinterpretations:

II Chronicles 34:14

And when they brought out the money that was brought into the House of the L-rd, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the L-rd by the hand of Moses.

This sensational discovery unearthed the Torah scroll Moses himself had written ("the Book of the Law"):

Deuteronomy 31:24-26

And it came to pass, when Moses had finished writing the words of this Law in a book...that Moses commanded the Levites...saying, "Take this Book of the Law and put it by the side of the Ark of the Covenant of the L-rd, your G-d, that it may be there for you as a witness."

This scroll had been hidden from King Ahaz, who had destroyed the holy artifacts 100 years earlier:

II Chronicles 28:24

And Ahaz gathered together the vessels of the House of G-d, and cut in pieces the vessels of the House of G-d....

However, when this scroll was unrolled before King Josiah, he rent his clothes (II Chronicles 34:19) for it opened to the section containing all the curses destined to befall those Jews who disregard the Torah (Deuteronomy 27-28).

Huldah the Prophetess confirmed Josiah's conviction that this was not a coincidence but an omen from G-d:

II Chronicles 34:24-25

Thus says the L-rd: "Behold, I will bring evil upon this place and upon its inhabitants, even all the curses that are written in the Book they have read before the king of Judah. Because they have forsaken Me and offered to other gods...."

Hoping to move the populace to repent, Josiah read to them this section of the Torah that lists the curses:

II Chronicles 34:30

...and he read in their ears all the words of the Book of the Covenant that was found in the House of the L-rd.

Although the entire Torah is a covenant between G-d and the Jews, this section is called "the Covenant" because they accepted each curse upon themselves as a punishment for violating the Torah. The statement that concludes this section affirms its uniqueness:

Deuteronomy 28:69

These are the words of the covenant that the L-rd commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant He made with them in Horeb [Sinai].

It should be noted that of all the Torah's commands, the only one some of Josiah's subjects were accused of violating was idolatry:

II Chronicles 34:21

...for great is the wrath of the L-rd that is poured out upon us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the L-rd, to do according to all that is written in this Book.

Missionaries claim that the Written Torah and consequently the Oral Tradition was lost and forgotten until it was found by Hilkiah. The Jews allegedly then interpreted it anew, each to his own understanding. Missionaries, therefore, assert that their interpretations are as valid as those of the Jews.

Obviously, during the 700 years between Moses and Josiah, the Jews had innumerable copies of the Torah. As shown, it was their most treasured possession. The Torah is also referred to throughout the Hebrew Bible. For instance, in the same Book chronicling the discovery of this scroll, Deuteronomy 24:16 is quoted verbatim with regard to Amaziah:

II Chronicles 25:3-4

Now it came to pass when the kingdom was established unto Amaziah that he killed his servants who had slain the king, his father. But he did not put their children to death; rather, he did according to that which is written in the Law in the Book of Moses, as the L-rd commanded, saying: "Fathers shall not die for their children, nor shall children die for their fathers; but a man shall die for his own sin."