“Safeguard and keep (these rules) since that is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations. They will hear all these rules and say, ’this great nation is certainly a wise and understanding people’”.
Throughout history, in almost every country, the Jews have led in fields of intellect. Through the worst of the ”Dark Ages”, when the only men capable of reading were the clergy and some nobility, just about every Jewish male knew how to read Hebrew, and many were equally proficient in the language of the land. Jews have been at the forefront of every civil movement, every intellectual movement, and have been known as scholars throughout all of history.
Even non-Jews have recognized this, and you can find mention of it in numerous places, and in the writings of many cultures.
What is the source of our wisdom?
The Torah is the source!
Anyone who has ever tried to learn the Scriptures alone knows that they are a closed book, full of confusing and difficult-to-understand statements. The Torah is generally briefly worded, and lacks detailed directions. Obviously, commentary is necessary. This commentary is the Oral Tradition, also known as the Oral Law, or the Oral Torah. The Written Bible is completely incomprehensible without the Oral Tradition.
“And the Lord said to Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the Torah, and the commandments which I have written; that you may teach them.”
The Torah refers to the Written Torah; the Commandments to the Oral Torah, its explanation.
Moses taught the whole of it in his court to the Seventy Elders, as well as to Joshua. Pinchas received it from Joshua; Eli from Pinchas; Samuel from Eli; David from Samuel; Ahiyah from David; Elijah from Ahiyah; Elisha from Elijah; Jehoiada from Elisha; Zachariah from Jehoiada; Hosea from Zachariah; Amos from Hosea; Isaiah from Amos; Micah from Isaiah; Joel from Micah; Nahum from Joel; Hebakkuk from Nahum; Zephaniah from Habakkuk; Jeremiah from Zephaniah; Baruch from Jeremiah; Ezra from Baruch; Shimon HaTzaddik from Ezra; Antigonus from Shimon HaTzaddik; Yoseph ben Yoezer and Yoseph ben Yochanan from Antigonus; Yehoshua and Nittai from Yoseph ben Yoezer and Yoseph ben Yochanan; Yehuda and Shimon from Yehoshua and Nittai; Shemaiah and Avtaliah from Yehuda and Shimon; Hillel and Shammai from Shemaiah and Avtaliah; Rabban Shimon from his father, Hillel. and from Shammai; Rabban Gamaliel the Elder from his father Rabban Shimon; Rabbi Shimon from his father Rabban Gamaliel the Elder; our teacher, Rebbe Yehuda the Prince, from his father Rabbi Shimon; Rabbi Yochanan, Rav, and Shmuel from Rebbe Yehudah the Prince; Rav Huna from Rabbi Yochanan, Rav, and Shmuel; Rabbah from Rav Huna; Rava from Rabbah; and Rav Ashi received the Torah from Rav. All the sages mentioned here were the great men of the successive generations. Besides them, there were thousands and myriads of disciples and fellow students. Ravina and Rav Ashi closed the list of the sages of the Talmud. The Talmud is an exposition of the Mishnah, which was compiled by our teacher, Rebbe Yehuda the Prince. The Talmud elucidates the abstruse points of the Mishnah, explaining what is permitted and forbidden, what is unclean and what is clean, what is unfit and what is fit, all in accordance with the traditions received by the sages from their predecessor in unbroken succession up to the teaching of Moses, “father of all prophets.”
The Torah is ancient, having been transmitted in unbroken succession since the time of Moses, and one can only do harm by disregarding the commandment ”Do not add or subtract from this law” (Deut. 13: 1).
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