Written Torah and Oral Torah


Thank you in advance for this resource and your time and knowledge.

My questions are simple and I look forward to their answers.

Can you provide a source solely from the Tanach for the following claims: 1) That Gd gave Moses two torahs — the second one being the oral Torah; and, 2) That the Tanach gives Rabbis authority to interpret the Torah and rule over its meaning.

These are very basic questions. However, no one has been able to correctly answer either one. Can you?


Many thanks.




  1. There is no definitive statement in the Written Torah that refers to the Oral Torah. According to our Sages the Oral Torah is alluded to in the Written Torah, for example Exodus 24:12 where God told Moses that He will give him “the Torah and the commandments.” The Rabbis question the need for God to add the word “commandments”. It would seem that the word Torah is sufficient. The Rabbis understand that the “extra” word is alluding to the Oral Torah.

    However, in truth, there is absolutely no necessity for the Written Torah to mention the Oral Torah because the Written Torah, itself, is indecipherable without the Oral Torah. Most of the commandments given in the Written Torah contain no details that would allow for them to be performed. For example, we are commanded to eat Kosher meat but nowhere in the Written Torah is there a description of how to make meat Kosher. Another example, is that of Phylacteries. The Written Torah commands us to wear Phylacteries without giving any detail of what they are. These are two examples from countless others that the Written Torah is incomplete without the Oral Torah.

    The verse in Deuteronomy 17:11 states, “You shall not stray from what [the Rabbis] tell you either right or left.” That is a clear indication from the Torah that the Rabbis have the authority to interpret the Written Torah. However, it is important to point out that they can only do so if they follow the defined methodology. Anyone who simply decides something because they feel that it the correct thing to do is not interpreting the Torah according to the prescribed manner and they should not be listened to.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team

  2. Thank you for your responses. As suspected, however, they do not answer the questions. Your argument (the chabad standard one) that “how else” could we interpret Torah is devoid of basis, truth, fact and reason. As you honestly set forth, no express basis exists in the Torah for a rabbi to interpret Torah. And that’s the answer. Rabbis are committing idolatry by doing so. Which is what Karaite Jews believe (I am not karaite). And they’ve been adhering to the Torah longer than rabbinite Jews. The oldest temple in Israel is the Karaite temple.
    So, Rabbis gave themselves the authority to interpret Torah…from their own interpretation of the Torah.

    As for the issue of two Torahs, again your response was accurate but your interpretation is sorely incorrect. In fact, ALL TORAH was given orally to Moses which he then scribed word for word. Moses refers to the “Torah” approximately 30 different times and NEVER refers to it in the plural. NEVER. And, btw, the word “rabbi” is not found in the Torah even once.

    Still, your response was the most candid so far, albeit incorrect.

    Thank you.

  3. Please allow me to point out that the “oldest temple” in Israel is not a Karaite synagogue. I think that what you meant to say was that the oldest active synagogue is a Karaite synagogue that dates back to the eight century. Even that is not strictly accurate as it was destroyed at some point during the Crusades and rebuilt. And it was not active after the Old City of Jerusalem was evacuated during the 1948 war. It only became active again after the Israeli army conquered the Old City in 1967 during the Six day War. Israel is replete with synagogues from much earlier periods than the eighth century that have been uncovered during archeological digs and they all precede the Karaite movement.

    Be that as it may, the Karaite approach of ignoring the Oral Torah is one that is untenable. As I mentioned before, the commandment to wear Phylacteries is clearly written in the Torah. However, there is absolutely no indication in the Written Torah of what Phylacteries might be. Their description and the
    complex and detailed laws surrounding them are only found in the Oral Torah and, yet, Karaite Tefillin look exactly the same as “Rabbinic” Phylacteries. The same is true of the Karaite laws and customs regarding marriage. The basic laws and customs follow those found in the Oral Law in Tractate Kiddushin – the tractate that deals with the laws of marriage. These are just two of countless examples. How is it that the Karaites don’t stay only within the parameters of the Written Torah? Because, as I wrote, it is not possible to understand or to keep the majority of the Laws as they appear in the Written Torah because there is hardly any detail.

    It is a fundamental principle of our belief that God did not leave us in the dark about how to observe the Torah. Rather, He gave us all the information we need to observe His commandments. He also gave us the necessary rules and methodology to apply the Torah to changing times, places and circumstances. All of this information is known as the Oral Torah because it was transmitted verbally from God to Moses, and then by millions of fathers and mothers to their children, and by teachers to their students. This process continued until most of it was formally written in 189 CE by Judah the Prince who compiled the Mishnah.

    For a greater understanding of the Oral Torah I would suggest a book by Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch’s Collected Writings, volume five and a book by Harry C. Schimmel called The Oral Law.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team