The Council of My Nation – Law and Chosenness – Adding to The Law

2. The Rabbinic institutions – adding to the Law

We now move to the next Christian objection directed specifically at the Rabbinic institutions which are so prominent in Judaism. Moses specifically commands the people “do not add onto that which I command you” (Deuteronomy 4:2, 13:1). How then can the Rabbinic leaders legislate new decrees and institutions? Is this not a direct violation of Moses’ command?

This question should not be directed at Judaism, but rather, scripture itself should be the target of this objection. Scripture records that the leaders of the Jewish people instituted a festival of celebration and several days of mourning quite some time after Moses had closed the Law. It is clear that the Author of scripture looked at these institutions in a positive light (Esther 9:31). There can be no question that the Law of Moses allows the Jewish people to be guided by their leaders in the acceptance of new observances. As long as these new observances are not given the same weight of authority as the observances explicated in the Law of Moses, then there was no addition to the Law of Moses. The Jewish people recognize a clear distinction between those laws set down by Moses and those set down through the leaders who followed Moses.

3. The arguments of the Talmud

Another Christian argument in support of her rejection of the legacy of the Jewish nation, is that the legacy of the Jewish nation cannot be considered infallible. These Christians point to the many arguments in the Mishna and Talmud. How could this tradition be trusted if there is no agreement on so many basic points? If God meant to preserve these traditions, then why are so many of them clouded in the obscurity of contention and disagreement?

In response to this objection we will first point out that although there is much disagreement, the areas of consensus far outweigh the areas of contention – in terms of both quality and quantity. In terms of quality we cannot lose sight of the amazing achievement of the legacy of our nation – this legacy succeeded in maintaining the unity of our nation’s thought process in the diverse geographical and cultural environments that our nation inhabited throughout her long history. In the ongoing living discussion of our nation every locale and every era which our nation encountered is amply represented. An overall assessment of our traditions must recognize that the unity achieved certainly transcends the differences.

In terms of quantity – it must be noted that every disagreement must rest on a basis of agreement. As a general rule, there is agreement on the basic underlying concept of the law and of her spirit, the disagreements are generally limited to the details of the law. Furthermore, most disagreements relate to areas of the law which have no major bearing on common day to day practice. The disagreements generally center on areas of irregular circumstances. The common practices of the nation of the nation are generally well within the parameters of all the contending opinions.

The disagreements that exist within the ongoing national discussion, actually give force to the areas of unanimity. The fact that so many disagreements were maintained and recorded for posterity tells us how this society values and respects the opinions of individuals. It is obvious that there was no artificial pressure blindly silencing every dissenting voice. When the nation does agree that a given teaching originates with Moses, we can be confident that their testimony is true. Had this teaching not originated with Moses, there would have been no hesitation to challenge the teaching.

There is no question that had our nation not sinned and been exiled from the land, that our nation would have more easily come to a consensus, and the areas of disagreement would be greatly restricted. Because of our dispersal much was forgotten and the unity of the thought process is not what it should be. Still, God’s promise to His nation holds fast. Neither the scriptures nor the traditions put forth a guarantee that every last detail of the Law will be preserved. What the scriptures and the traditions clearly indicate is that Israel will always possess a workable understanding of the Law (Deuteronomy 30:2, Malachi 3:22). It is precisely through this living discussion in which dissenting opinions are heard and respected that this promise is upheld.

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