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The Mishna and Talmud - Can we add anything to the word of God?

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The Five Books of Moses say that no one can add anything or take away anything from the Jewish Scriptures. Some people believe that Orthodox Jews add many laws to the Bible with the writings of the Mishnah and Talmud; however there is nothing that observant Jews do today that is not expressly written in the Bible. The Mishnah and Talmud do not add anything to the word of God; they merely explain how to properly perform the written commandments in the Hebrew scriptures. Throughout the Hebrew Bible itself, there is clear evidence of the existence of the oral explanation of Moses and the sages. Let us look at a few examples in scripture that can quantify the existence of the Mishnah and Talmud, the oral explanations of the written Laws of Moses. a. Exodus 25:40 – With regards to the Holy utensils Moses said “make everything according to what I have shown you here on the mountain”. [The written word doesn’t say how to make these items. Do you mean to tell me that since there is nothing written, Moses never told anyone? On the contrary, everything that was “shown” to Israel was passed down in the Oral tradition and testimony of the Jewish people.] b. Numbers 15:38 - Speak to Israel and say to them; “you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel.” [How many tassels are to be placed on each corner? What do they look like? How are they tied? What material should they be made out of? What colors are the other tassels that are not blue? It is utterly impossible to create tassels from this singular sentence, yet all Jews across the world make the tassels [Tzitzit] the exact same way. How is this possible? It’s because the details on how to create these tassels are written down in the oral tradition given from Moses which has been maintained for 3,300 years by the Jewish people. c. Deuteronomy 6:8 –“Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.” [Tie what? What are these things made out of? What do they look like? Again, no explanation or detail is given. Are we to assume that Moses told us to tie these things, yet never even told us what they were, or how to make them?] d. Deuteronomy 12:21 – “slaughter your cattle and small animals, in the manner that I have commanded you”. [How are we to slaughter an animal? There is nothing shown or written down in the Scripture, however the Oral law explains all the details in order to follow this commandment.] e. Leviticus 23:40 – “you shall take on the first day, fruit of trees, branches of palm, boughs of leafy trees, and willows; and you shall rejoice”. [First day of what? What kind of fruit? Can I use apples and oranges? How should we rejoice? Again, no explanation is given in the written word; however the Oral law explains it clearly.] The obvious “problem” with all these verses quoted above is that none of the details are explained anywhere in the Hebrew Scriptures. It's impossible to understand how to follow any of these written commandments just by looking at the verses themselves and this is exactly where the Jewish Mishnah and the Talmud come in. These books explain details that the written Word explicitly left out. It doesn’t add anything to the law; it just explains how to follow them in a precise, detailed manner. When you apply for a driver’s license at the DMV, there is both a written and a practical exam. The driving instructor only wants you to demonstrate what was written on the test, he doesn’t want you to add any of your own knowledge. The instructor himself does not add anything new to the exam either; he doesn’t make up driving laws or rules, he merely shows them to the applicant in real world examples and expects you to demonstrate the same process. He physically shows you what the written words on the exam are trying to tell you. The Talmud is the collective knowledge of the Jewish sages who applied the written word to everyday life. We learn about how to apply the law from their vast knowledge and experience. From the very moment that Moses gave the Jewish people the Torah; we have had practical, everyday awareness of how to apply the laws in every situation in life. As such, the Oral laws never supersede the written word. They are merely a detailed description of how our ancestors applied the word of God throughout history. Without a highly detailed oral and written explanation of the many vague commandments written in the Hebrew Scriptures, it would have been impossible for anyone to follow the word of God based on the text alone. The Jewish people are not only the keepers of the written word, but also the explanation of how to properly follow the written word as well.

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1 Yaakov ben Chaim Tzvi = "These are the fringes or "Tzitzit" in Hebrew which religious Jews wear while daily while praying."
2 Yaakov ben Chaim Tzvi = "These are the Phylacteries, black leather straps and boxes which Jewish males over the age of 13 wear on their head and bicep during morning prayers. The boxes contain scriptures which discuss the Exodus from Egypt and the straps remind us of our betrothal and obedience to God alone."