(c) 2000 Dr Hendel; 1st appeared in Torah Forum (c) Project Genesis

Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2000 01:42:40 -0500 (EST)
From: Russell Hendel <  rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu>
Subject: Re: Genesis

QUESTION: what exactly do we accept
between the literal and oral tradition. For example,if we
accept the sanctity of both the written word and its interpretation then
how far (how many interpretations) do we accept?

This is a doctrinal question and is answered by the Rambam in his
introduction to his commentary on the Mishnah. Basically we accept as
Divine (a) The written text of the Torah, (b) the specific oral laws that
were transmitted to Moses at Sinai (such as the fact that Tefillin has to
be square and black), (c) the principles by which new laws are derived from
the Torah (such as the principle of the a fortiori or the principle of

According to Rambam our traditions on the written text of the Torah and the
oral laws from Sinai is without controversy. Controversy however can arise
on matters inferred from the principles for new laws.

Finally, everyone agrees that even though controversy arises in laws that
are derived, nevertheless there is a Biblical commandment to listen to the
Sanhedrin after they have decided on one law thru a process of debate and
majority rule.

I hope this succinct summary helps.

Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA; Math; RHendel@Towson.Edu;
Moderator Rashi Is Simple; http://www.shamash.org/rashi/