If you look at any mitzvah as it’s described in the Torah, it’s impossible to understand all the nuance and details necessary to fulfil it properly from the text alone. The Oral law (Torah She’ba’al Peh), also given from G-d to Moses at Mount Sinai, fills in all the missing details.
The power of interpretation and application of this Oral Law was given to the great sages of each generation. What do you do when you’re unsure of how to do a mitzvah? You ask the Rabbi! And the Torah says (Deut. 17:10-11) that you’re obligated to listen to the Rabbis’ interpretation. (The verse is discussing Sanhedrin, the Supreme Jewish Court located in the Temple). So if the Rabbi’s are empowered to interpret and apply the Torah law, can they change it based on personal preference or perceived communal needs? What are the limits to the Rabbis’ ability to interpret and apply Torah law?
Join me as we discuss the basics of the Oral Law and some common misconceptions regarding Rabbinic leniencies in Judaism.
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Listen to the Rabbis – Deuteronomy 17:10-11 – https://www.sefaria.org/Deuteronomy.17.10-11?lang=bi&aliyot=0
Laws of Debt Forgiveness on the Sabbatical year – Deuteronomy 15:1-3 – https://www.sefaria.org/Deuteronomy.15.1-3?lang=bi&aliyot=0
Hillel’s enactment of Pruzbul – Gittin 36a – https://www.sefaria.org/Gittin.36a.11?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en
Biblical classification of a public domain – Rashi Eruvin 6a – https://www.sefaria.org/Eruvin.6a.11?lang=bi&p2=Rashi_on_Eruvin.6a.11.1&lang2=bi
Simple list of rules for interpreting the Oral Law from Rabbi Yishmael said in morning services – https://tinyurl.com/rabbiyishmael