Written Torah vs Oral Torah

Question

What is the difference between the oral Torah and the written Torah
Why are there two
Which one are we required to follow

10 months

Answers

  1. In general it is very important to understand that the Torah and Jewish Law is far more than what is found in the Written Bible. The Written Bible is the “skeleton” but there is another enormous body called the Oral Torah that is the “flesh” and from which the vast majority of Jewish Law is formulated. It is not possible to understand Jewish Law and the obligations of each person by only reading the written part of the Torah.

    1. The Talmud is a little difficult to define as it is both the Oral Law and a compendium of the many teachings of the Rabbis who lived during the Talmudic period. The principles and major ideas of the Oral Law were transmitted by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai together with the Written Law and were handed down verbally, with private notes, and through practice until most of it was written down by Judah the Prince in about 170 CE. There are no contradictions in either the Written or the Oral Law. However there are arguments and differences of opinion in the understanding, application and interpretation of the Oral Law. And clearly, since the system was given by God to humans, He knew that there would be arguments as is stated in Deuteronomy.

    For a better understanding of the Talmud and its place within Jewish Law I would recommend the following books:

    ArtScroll Schottenstein Edition has an excellent introductory volume.

    The Oral Law by Harry C. Schimmel is a fantastic book.

    There is also an English translation of R. Zvi Hirsch Chiyus (Chajes) “Student’s Guide Through the Talmud”

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team

  2. In general it is very important to understand that the Torah and Jewish Law is far more than what is found in the Written Bible. The Written Bible is the “skeleton” but there is another enormous body called the Oral Torah that is the “flesh” and from which the vast majority of Jewish Law is formulated. It is not possible to understand Jewish Law and the obligations of each person by only reading the written part of the Torah.

    1. The Talmud is a little difficult to define as it is both the Oral Law and a compendium of the many teachings of the Rabbis who lived during the Talmudic period. The principles and major ideas of the Oral Law were transmitted by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai together with the Written Law and were handed down verbally, with private notes, and through practice until most of it was written down by Judah the Prince in about 170 CE. There are no contradictions in either the Written or the Oral Law. However there are arguments and differences of opinion in the understanding, application and interpretation of the Oral Law. And clearly, since the system was given by God to humans, He knew that there would be arguments as is stated in Deuteronomy.

    For a better understanding of the Talmud and its place within Jewish Law I would recommend the following books:

    ArtScroll Schottenstein Edition has an excellent introductory volume.

    The Oral Law by Harry C. Schimmel is a fantastic book.

    There is also an English translation of R. Zvi Hirsch Chiyus (Chajes) “Student’s Guide Through the Talmud”

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team