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From: rhendel@king.mcs.drexel.edu (Russell Hendel) Date: Fri, 20 Sep 1996 13:15:16 -0400 Subject: he Written Law, Orah Law and defintion of Torah Chana Luntz [V24 #96] following Akiva Miller raises some interesing questions about the defintion of Torah. I believe 3 simple points can help answer most of the questions. FIRST: There are three (not two) categories of Torah: TORAH SHEBICTAV: This includes all matters dealing with reading the Tenach (punctuation, laining) as well as meaning (e.g. a Rashi in Megillah explaining the meaning of an obscure word). TORAH SBAL PEH: This has two parts: MISHNAH: This includes all laws and traditions not explicitly found in the Torah. As Chana correctly points out without the Mishnah I would have no way of knowing the 5 invalidations of a Schecitah. GEMARRA (See Rambam for this definition) This includes all matters of analysis, generalization, rationalization and distinction on Torah and Mishnah matters. SECOND: A variety of modern psychological authors have dealt with the concept of self esteem or perception of accomplishment which is very important for emotional health. Using this concept we can analyze a possible **reason** for having 3 categories of Torah by suggesting that it creates a balance between the needs for self esteem on the one hand and humility on the other. Thus Torah Sbal Peh can be mastered by memorizing a finite number of vowel and cantillation signs. A person can say (=self esteem) that they e.g. know how to lain their Bar Mitzvah parshah. The knowledge in this case is complete. Similarly (using Chana's example) a person can say that they know the five (all) methods of invalidating a Schchitah...the knowledge is complete and a person has a feeling of self accomplishment. On the other hand Gemarrah is notorious for being endless and hence engenders a sense of humility since we are constantly made aware of the distinctions and generalizations that we don't know. It also creates self esteem by allowing individuals to create new Torah. THIRD: In an article I wrote, Towards A Definition of Torah, I suggest that the Torah was not meant to be fixed in domain but rather to continually grow. I use the analogy of loveletters. Loveletters grow in effect not by repeating phrases of love but rather by the couple sharing with each other more and more experiences (ie. the loveletters are defined by the *relationship* and not by the *content*). In a similar manner if say I use the proof that the square root of 2 is not rational and *connect it to other Torah such as the measurments of Succah* then that piece of mathematics becomes Torah since I share my worldly experiences with Hashem (see the Tosafoth in Succah which *is* Torah but pure geomery). Using these three concepts we can quickly answer many questions:` 1) A rashi explaining a Biblical word is Torah Shebictav 2) All 24 books are Torah Shebictav 3) Mishnahs collecting laws are Torah Shebal Peh--Misnah. 4) A rashi explaining a meaning of a text is Torah Shebictav 5) A rashi explaining reasons for Posooks may be Gemarrah 6) An internet posting that summarizes known laws or views isMishnah 7) An internet posting that compares and contrasts texts is Gemarrh Some further examples might help 8)A listing of which drugs are ok on Pesach and which you have to watch out for is MISHNAH (like the list of Wicks in Bemeh Madlikim) 9)Similarly a Rabbi who in a Shabbos Derashah connects a Political event to a Torah law is also engaged in Mishnah 10) If the Rabbis sermon has distinctions comparisons and generalizations then it is Gemarrah. If one asks why this is so: Why should dentists and Rabbi sermons be classified as Torah.. we could respond either using the loveletter analogy or the self esteem analogy---the purpose of Torah is to share with God our worldly matters; its emotional affects on us should balance a sense of humility about what we don't know with the self esteem of having mastered old torah or creating new torah. I hope these ideas add clarification to this difficult subject. Russell Hendel, Ph.d ASA, rhendel @ mcs drexel edu