As I pointed out in my previous article, Mr. Hoffman begins his "exposé" of the Talmud (article
), with a blatant error: The Talmud is Judaisms holiest book. Its authority takes precedence over the Old Testament in Judaism. The Talmud derives its authority from the Torah, and does not in any way "take precedence" over it. How can this position be reconciled with the Talmudic citation that follows? Evidence of this may be found in the Talmud itself, Erubin 21b (Soncino edition): >>My son, be more careful in the observance of the words of the Scribes than in the words of the Torah (Old Testament).<< First, let's examine the rest of the passage: ...for in the laws of the Torah there are positive and negative precepts; [And the penalties vary -- Footnote (7)] but, as to the laws of the Scribes, whoever transgresses any enactments of the Scribes incurs the penalty of death. -- Erubin, Soncino Edition, p. 148 While the penalties for transgressing against the Scriptures may vary, the penalty of death is certainly among them; so, it would seem that some attention ought to be paid to the Scriptural law regardless! The confusion arises here from not factoring in a basic concept of the Talmud, that of “building a fence around the Scriptures.” The authors of the Talmud realized that certain Scriptural laws incurred the penalty of death when transgressed, and they feared that otherwise innocent souls might transgress by accident or error. The Scriptures do not specifically state that mistakes do not count. So, the Rabbis imposed even greater restrictions than the Scriptures require; the idea being that even if a man transgressed the Rabbinical commandments by accident, he would still be prevented from transgressing a Scriptural commandment, which would have put his soul in peril. Therefore, the point of the passage above is this: If one adheres strictly to the laws of the Scribes, one will never transgress against the Scriptures! The proof is on the page immediately preceding the passage that so offends Mr. Hoffman, where a verse from the Song of Songs (VII, 14) -- specifically the phrase, "New and old," -- is fancifully interpreted: _New and old, which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved;_ the congregation of Israel said to the Holy One, blessed be He, 'Lord of the universe, I have imposed upon myself more restrictions than Thou hast imposed upon me, and I have observed them.' -- Erubin, Soncino Edition, p. 148 Finally, in perusing a volume of the Talmud that I used in my research for this series of articles, I came completely by accident upon this: When doubt arises in a Rabbinical law we are naturally lenient; but where the law is Scriptural we are strict. -- Pesahim, Soncino Edition, p. 42, footnote (2) -- Harry Katz The learned man should judge himself according to his own teaching, and not do anything that he has forbidden others to do. -- The Wit and Wisdom of the Talmud, Madison C. Peters, ed.
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