The Written Torah consists of the Five Books Of Moses. They are directly transmitted letter for letter to Moses from G-d.
Additional scriptures are authored by the Prophets during the thousand years that follow Sinai. The collection of these works becomes known as the Bible. The Biblical period ends some three-hundred years before the Common Era, when the Men Of The Great Assembly decree that there are to be no more additions.
The Oral Torah, also transmitted to Moses on Sinai, defines and elaborates upon the behavior and values that the Written Torah prescribes. It provides keys and approaches with which one can read and understand the Written Torah, to be able to derive the expected behavior and values. This capability of derivation provides the Oral Torah with its infinite dimension.
The Written and Oral Torahs together provide Mankind with a set of formal and detailed instructions for living.
Without the Oral Torah, the Written Torah will be misunderstood and thereby misused, distorted by individuals for personal advantage or out of sheer ignorance.
The Written Torah
The Written Torah is both finite and infinite. Since you can read the entire Torah its finite. However, since there is no limit to what can be learned from it, the Torah is infinite.
We are taught that the Torah preceded Creation and that both all existence and all of history are reflections of the Torah. The Torah was not written to match Mankind and human behavior. Rather, man, nature, and history were created and are managed to match the Torah. For all times, the Torah is no less relevant than is nature itself.
There is a linkage between the words of the Torah, the creation, and history. This is discussed in Kabalistic literature.
Anyone who deliberately distorts the Torah to make it relevant or convenient to observe is in big trouble.
As an analogy, think of the traffic court.
The first defendant comes up before the judge and pleads guilty with an excuse. He was in a hurry and simply forgot the speed limit. The judge fines him the normal penalty.
A second defendant comes forth and starts arguing that the posted speed limit is inappropriate. Moreover, he is an expert driver and can assure absolute safety and responsibility at higher speeds. The judge throws the book at him.
It is a true source of amazement that the Torah can provide a deeply meaningful learning experience to a pre-school child, to an established scholar and sage, and to everyone else in between. Check it out!
The Oral Torah
G-d provides instructions for life in brief form within the Written Torah. The Oral Torah provides the necessary explanations for these instructions, as well as the proper approaches for reading and understanding the Written Torah.
In His infinite genius, G-d restricts the method of transmitting the Oral Torah. From the time of Sinai, for the next fifteen-hundred years it will be forbidden to write the Oral Torah.
The transmission of Oral Torah from generation to generation thus mandates an intensive teacher-to-student relationship. This insures a strong link between the generations. It requires that every detail be expressed and internalized.
Due to the hardships that Jewish history imposes, this restriction will be gradually relaxed, permitting the Oral Torah to be recorded so that it will not be forgotten. This relaxation will be based upon sources within the Scriptures, themselves.
The Written Torah was eventually translated into Greek and from there into other languages. Many people subsequently laid claim to it. However, the Oral Torah has always remained the sole legacy of the Jewish people.
Behavior can be legitimately classified as being Jewish only when it is consistent with both the Written and the Oral Torah.
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