Sunday, July 16, 2006

Why the "Oral Torah" is Oral

The Torah Shebal Peh was oral because the Torah is very holy, and learning Torah is not only an educational experience but a spiritual one as well. It affects your very soul. Not everyone has a high enough soul to be able to learn Torah shebal peh. Without the proper soul, the spiritual experience is damaging to your soul. Therefore, only Jews are allowed to learn Torah shebal peh.

In addition, it was done in order to protect Torah shebal peh itself. Torah shebiksav is by its very nature "testimony" and therefore is revealed. But look what the Goyim did to it! They twisted it into Christianity, Islam, etc. This is an incalculable dishonor to G-d the Torah. Therefore, Torah shebal peh was hidden in order that the goyim should not dishonor it the way they did with the written torah.

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All of Torah describes the will of G-d. This means that someone who learns Torah becomes familiar with who Hashem is. The more Torah you learn, the more you “Recognize He Who created the world” (Sifri Devarim 6:7).

Now let’s say you have acquaintances who know you. But they only know the outside of you. Only your friends you let into the “inside” of you. But not all the way. Maybe there’s someone very special in your life that knows the real inside of you. Someone who has special access to really deep inside of you. Only this special person you let in there.

Same thing with the Torah. The goyim know Hashem as acquaintances or friends, so Hashem let’s them know Torah shebiksav (the Written Torah). But that’s as far as they can go.

We Jews are the special people to Hashem, we have that special relationship with Him that he allows us to know the inside of Him, what He is really like; what He really wants; what he really cares about. Only we can go there, because we are the special people in His “life”.

This inside of Hashem is called Torah shebal peh (the Oral Torah – the Talmud and Midrashim). Only Jews are privy to this special part of Hashem. A Goy who learns Torah shebal peh commits a capital sin! Because he has no right to invade Hashem’s privacy like that. Only Jews, who are in a special relationship with Hashem, can go there.

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We needed both Written and Oral Torah.

The purpose of the Oral Law being unwritten was to protect it from abuse by other religions - the way they abused Tanach by making it into the "Old Testament" etc. The Oral Law is the private connection between the Jews and G-d, and nobody else can have access to it - it’s the private relationship between us and Him.

However, one of the characteristics of the written Law is that it is "aidus" - "testimony" to the world of the events that happened - the creation of Klall Yisroel, the giving of the Torah, etc. Kind of like the official marriage documentation between us and Hashem. And as testimony, must be public and written. The Oral Law is our private relationship with G-d, but the written law is the documentation that we are His.

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