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A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. Highlighted words lead to other posts almost all in my blog. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family (1950's) and went to Orthodox Yeshiva from kindergarten thru High School plus some Beis Medrash.Became an agnostic in my 20's and an atheist later on. My blog will discuss the arguments for god and Orthodox Judaism and will provide counter arguments. I no longer take comments. My blog uses academic sources, the Torah, Talmud and commentators to justify my assertions. The posts get updated. INDEX OF POSTS SEE MAY 2017 or click link above.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Jewish Oral Tradition - Part 1 - Introduction

Updated Thru 9/11/2016

Orthodox Jews claim there is the written Bible and an associated Oral Tradition going back to the Moses. 

Which religious books (if any) are included as the Oral Tradition of Judaism ?

What is meant by the Oral Tradition of the Jews ?

Which Rabbis speak the Oral Tradition ? How do we know their opinion is authentic Oral Tradition ? 

Those questions have no easy answers. I am not sure there are agreed upon answers by Orthodox Jews. If so, the assertion of an Oral Tradition is virtually undefined and almost useless.

Is there an unbroken chain or Oral Tradition back to Moses ? Is it a reliable chain or does it have some weak links ?  

I am going to assume the Mishna and Talmud are essential parts of the Oral Tradition according to Rabbinic Jews. Those books have shaped the beliefs of most of ‘Rabbinic’ Jews, by which I mean ‘traditional’ Jews or ‘Orthodox’ Jews who claim to be following the Oral Tradition.

There is an enormous amount of what is most likely 'nonsense' in the Talmud. This has prompted the ‘rationalist’  Orthodox Jews  to distance themselves  (from at least some of ) the ’nonsense’, usually citing some Rabbi, perhaps Rambam for support.

Too bad the architects of the foundations of Rabbinic Judaism never heard of those Rabbis or Rambam; since the latter are born after the compilation of the Talmud. Moreover,  Rambam was  disparaged by many. and even his books were initially burned by some Rabbinic  Jews.  {ETA 9/11/2016 - Correction -  The actual burning of the books may not have been done by Rabbinic Jews. I am not sure if any Rabbinic Jews actually burned his books. However, it seems clear some Rabbis wanted a ban placed on some of his writings.} Those Jews probably did not consider at least some of Rambam opinions as authentic Oral Tradition.  

 Many Rabbis cited in the Talmud most likely believed their ‘science’, astrology, magic, amulets, demons, apparitions, golems, reincarnations, and probably some of their other assorted legends/fables, previously referred to by me as 'nonsense'. By putting such material into writing the Talmud authors implicitly validated at least some of  it  and so followers of Rabbinic Judaism for the most part accepted it.  It also raises several other issues.

To what degree were those Talmudic Rabbis relating authentic ‘Oral Tradition’ or just making up things or citing information  that is not really part of Oral tradition ? How can we separate the strands ? 

How much reliance and trust should we have in such ignorant people ? That they would accurately understand an Oral Tradition (even assuming an authentic one existed)  and be able to transmit it faithfully ? That they could  make correct deductions from the Torah ? 

We also know that as oral information is passed on and shared it becomes corrupted over time. There is a high probability that even if there was an authentic Oral Tradition it became corrupted. 

It is patently clear that on almost every issue discussed in the Talmud there are divergent and contradictory opinions.  So which one is the real Oral Tradition ? They all can not be correct.

Another major issue is that large portions of the written Bible have no Mishna/Talmud commentary. This is suggestive that Oral Tradition is incomplete and thus there must be portions of the (alleged) authentic Oral Tradition as well as the written Bible that are impossible to be understood fully. It also suggests that there were people 'developing' the Oral Tradition and they never got around to finishing the job. 

There is a section of  Talmud (Menachot 29b) that conflicts with the notion that ‘Oral Tradition’ goes back to Moses.

“Rab Judah said in the name of Rab, When Moses ascended on high he found the Holy One,
blessed be He, engaged in affixing coronets to the letters. Said Moses, Lord of the Universe, Who
stays Thy hand? He answered, There will arise a man, at the end of many generations, Akiba b.
Joseph by name, who will expound upon each tittle heaps and heaps of laws. Lord of the Universe,
said Moses; permit me to see him. He replied, Turn thee round. Moses went and sat down behind
eight rows {and listened to the discourses upon the law}. Not being able to follow their arguments
he was ill at ease, but when they came to a certain subject and the disciples said to the master
Whence do you know it? and the latter replied It is a law given unto Moses at Sinai  he was
comforted. There upon he returned to the Holy One, blessed be He, and said, Lord of the Universe,
Thou hast such a man and Thou givest the Torah by me!  He replied, Be silent, for such is My
decree. Then said Moses, Lord of the Universe, Thou hast shown me his Torah, show me his
reward...” 

If the Oral Tradition goes back to Moses should he not be cognizant and understand the lecture  ? 

Based on this Talmud alone we have reason to be skeptical that the Rabbinic Oral Tradition is authentic and goes back to Moses. 

And if there was an authentic Oral Tradition going back to Moses why is it that the Sadducees, Samaritans, Beta Israel, (and the Essenes ?)  did not accept the Oral Tradition as found in the Mishna/Talmud or were unaware of it or had an alternate oral tradition ? 

Continued Jewish Oral Tradition - Part 2,  Treatment of Women

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