Thursday, August 20, 2009

All the Torah Sh'Baal Peh from One Pasuk

Rambam Portrait

It is a rare treat that an edifice as large as the Torah Sh'Baal Peh can be boiled down to a single pasuk. Parshat Shoftim manages to do just that! It is better than seeing all of the works of Shakespeare in one 90 minute play. (I think that it is fair game to add a little Torah u'Madda to my blog.) It is better than having almost all of the written religious Jewish word on a single CD-ROM. It is even better than having an LCR (gasp!). This is the greatness of Parshat Shoftim according to the Rambam. The pasuk (Devarim 17:11), "על פי התורה אשר יורוך - According to the Torah that he (a Rabbi) teaches you" is actually that amazing. It states that HaShem commands you to listen to the Torah and to the halakhik decisions that a Rabbi tells you. Five little innocent words, yet more powerful than Superman on steroids.

Now before we get too excited, I am a Rabbi and this pasuk certainly does not refer to any halakhik decisions that I would make. In reality, I have always refused to make decisions, and I prefer to make halakhik deliberations. Less dangerous that way. At any rate, this pasuk most likely refers to halakhot that were created and/or enforced by Chazal. According to the Rambam, Chazal and earlier Rabbinical figures were commanded by HaShem to create and/or enforce the halakhot.

WARNING - The continuation of this blog post may present challenges to your emunah. Read on at your own risk!

Most of you probably know that there are 39 אב מלאכות for Hilkhot Shabbat, but how many of them are actually detailed in the Torah? I would say at most five. That means that Chazal described the other 34 מלאכות in the Gemara. However, there is no halakhik difference between a מלאכה which is listed in the Torah and one which is described by Chazal. All of the 39 מלאכות are halakhot d'oraita, they are commandments from HaShem and not from the Rabbis. According to our pasuk from Parshat Shoftim: if Chazal tell you that a halakhah is d'Oraita - then HaShem also commands you to listen to Chazal, even though that mitzvah/halakhah does not appear in the Torah.

One of the lesser-known treasures in the Mishneh Torah is Hilkhot Mamrim. It is located in Sefer Shoftim, which is the last Sefer in the Mishneh Torah. The title Hilkhot Mamrim, refers to the halakhah of a rebellious Rabbi a זקן ממרה, to be discussed at another time.

In the first perek of Hilkhot Mamrim, the Rambam discusses different types of halakhot and mitzvot: d'Oraita, d'Rebanan, Takkanot, and so on. He also states that this pasuk from Parshat Shoftim teaches us that the Great Sannhedrin in Yerushalayim is the essence of the Torah Sh'Baal Peh.

If you have some time this Shabbat, take a look at Hilkhot Mamrim and learn about the origin and development of the Torah Sh'Baal Peh. I am always here in the blogosphere to answer any questions.

Shabbat Shalom.

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