- Altering the Torah
- Moshe Ben-Chaim
- Reader: Of
the RaMBa'M's thirteen foundations, I'm finding that the eighth and
ninth are causing me much concern. I believe my concern grows from a
fear that I do not know the concept of Torah to which these
foundations refer. Am I correct in presuming that the eighth and ninth
foundations refer only to the Pentateuch, and not to the Tanach and
the Torah Sheb'al Peh? If the foundations refer to the Torah Shebiksav
and the Torah Sheb'al Peh, then please explain the meaning of the
Deuteronomical prohibition, "you shall not add to it, nor
diminish from it"?
These do refer to both, the Written and Oral Law. This is stated
openly in the Ninth Principle. The prohibition not to add or subtract
from the Torah means not to do so outside the guidelines also included
in the Torah.
It is written, "al pi haTorah asher yorucha", "In
accordance with the Torah that they (the Rabbis) teach you". This
passage teaches that one must follow the Rabbis interpretation,
meaning, the Rabbis are the teachers of the law, and should be
followed. It should be understood that this process of attending to
the Rabbi's teachings is an essential principle in the fabric of
Torah. The Torah is not supposed to be a static system of laws. It is
in reality supposed to be a method of study, of enjoyment in
uncovering deeper ideas, concepts, and appreciation of the methods of
the Torah's disclosure process. Much different than what most think,
but most are not spending their days in deep study, so how can they
have such appreciation?
- Yes, the Torah warns not to alter the text,
but it gives authority to the Rabbis to interpret in accordance with
principles given to Moses. Learning is the goal, not mere perfunctory
actions of following commands. Maimonides states this.
- So the Torah must not be altered in form, but
the Rabbis have authority to establish fences around laws feared of
being broken. They cannot however establish new mitzvos.