Advanced Search

Oral Law


I read in an online newsletter about the “Oral Law” as being part of the Torah. Where did it come from and why is it needed in addition to the Written Law (Written Torah) that we have? Thanks. answered:

The Oral Law, which explains and clarifies the Written Torah, was also given by God to Moses. The Five Books of Moses are incomprehensible without additional explanation. Even a commandment as apparently simple as “You shall not murder” requires clarification: What is the definition of death? When does life begin? Is self-defense a justification for killing someone? Is it right to defend your property with deadly force?

Some commandments are simply impossible to fulfill without additional information beyond what is found in the text. The Torah tells us, for example, to “Bind them (tefillin) as a sign upon your arm and let them be ornaments between your eyes. What are we expected to do? Tattoo the Torah on our biceps? What is an “ornament”?

It is a fundamental principle of our belief that God did not leave us in the dark about how to fulfill the Torah. Rather, He gave us all the information that we need, and will ever need, to observe His commandments. He also gave us the necessary rules and methodology to apply the Torah to changing times, places and circumstances. All of this information is known as the Oral Torah, because it was transmitted verbally from God to Moses and by millions of fathers to their sons, mothers to their daughter and teachers to their students, until most of it was committed to writing in about 189 C.E., when Judah the Prince compiled the Mishnah.

Similar Questions
Philosophy > Guidance of Torah Leaders
King Solomon’s Wisdom
Kohen and Rabbi
Love Thy Neighbor
"Anger and Anti-Semitism"
The Need for Torah
Da'at Torah
Ruach HaKodesh
Be My Guest
Our Father and Our Teacher
A Word to the Wise
The Ten Tenets
Facing Terror in Israel
Being a Good Jew
Choosing a Rabbi
Reaction to Terror
What Would America Do?
Safety First
Praying for National Unity
The High Standard of Leadership
Branches of a Jewish Government
Open for Business
Pursuing Peace
Getting Drunk
“Prosperity” II
Blessings and Rabbi Photos
A Carpet Caper
Good Intentions and Good Results
Mitzvot > Rationale
Purpose of Commandments
Yizkor on Joyous Holidays
Ark Direction in Synagogue
Growing Beards
Salt – The Spice of Life
A Sabbatical for the Land
Covering Eyes and Shabbat Candles
Clean Hands at Last
Women’s Exemption from Time Bound Mitzvot
Forbidden Fabrics?
Blue Tsitsit
Day of Rest
The Ten Tenets
Dome of the Kippa
Mitzvah Methodology
Doing a Mitzvah with God
Being a Good Jew
Forgiveness Without Regret
Making Tzitzit – Number of Twists
Red, White and Not Blue
Why Wine?
Why So Many Commandments?
Love Your Neighbor
Why Do a Mitzvah?
A Meaningful Mitzvah
Tefillin Shape
The Jewish Wrap
Negel Vasser – Morning Washing
The More Important Mitzvah
Have a question?
Gateways - Your Key to Jewish Continuity is a service of the Gateways Organization © 2022
Technical problems? Please contact the AskTheRabbi Support team