THE LAW AND THE CHOSENNESS OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE
Let us now move on to the subject of the Law. Here too, God spares no words in emphasizing the centrality of the Law in our relationship with Him. Abraham was chosen because of his obedience to God’s voice (Genesis 26:5). The chosen-ness of Israel centers on our obedience to the commandments (Deuteronomy 26:18). Obedience to the Law is equated with life (Deuteronomy 30:30), with good and righteousness (Deuteronomy 6:24), and with eternal reward (Psalm 103:17,18). Obedience to the Law leads to humility (Deuteronomy 18:19,20) and to holiness (Numbers 15:40). God explicitly tells us that obedience is better than blood offerings (1Samuel 15:22). These are but a sampling of the passages which stress the significance of obedience to God’s Law. There can be no question that an understanding the issue of the Law is of primary importance.
The Jew recognizes that the commandments of God as expressed in the Torah are eternal (Psalm 119:144). The Jew sees in each of the commandments a God-given opportunity to express faith in God, to express faith in God’s word, and to acknowledge God’s total sovereignty over every aspect of life (Psalm 119:91). Every commandment is a gift of holiness from the divine source of all holiness (Leviticus 20:26). Studying the intricacies of the commandments brings one into contact with God’s own wisdom (Psalm 19:8). Through the study of God’s Law, the Jew attempts to bring the deepest facets of his nature in line with God’s holy will (Psalm 119:9). The Jew sees the Law as the path that God created to enable the Jewish nation to partake of His goodness (Psalm 119:93).
To the Jew, the Law of Moses goes beyond what one would pick up from a superficial reading of the Five Books. The Five Books of Moses contain the basis of the Law, but the fullness of the Law is only revealed in the living Jewish nation. In a community of Jews who live the Law, the primary contact one has with the Law is through living practice. As one participates in the practices of the nation one comes to recognize and to know the spirit of each Law (Exodus 12:26, 27, 13:14). Through involvement in the practical discussions surrounding the Law, one comes to know the details of the Law which would otherwise remain a mystery. Within the society loyal to the God of Israel, one comes to identify a contiguous line of living teachers who embody the spirit of the Law. As one observes the Law in synchrony with the nation, his life becomes a national expression of faith in addition to a personal demonstration of faith. Every individual’s obedience to the Law in the context of the living nation forms a link in the chain of Eternal Israel’s loyalty to God.
The tradition teaches us, that when God spoke to Moses, two types of teachings were imparted. There were the commandments themselves, and there was the understanding that God granted Moses concerning each of the commandments. The commandments are the words that were subsequently written in the Five Books of Moses. The explication of the commandments was taught to the people and was not recorded in a written format. These two types of knowledge – the commandments and their definitions are more commonly referred to as the Written Torah and the Oral Torah. These appellations seem to imply that the Oral Law is simply a continuation or an addition to the Written Law. But this is not so. The role of the Oral Law is categorically different than the role of the Five Books. The relationship between the Five Books and the Oral Law is like the relationship between the written word and a picture. The Five Books tells us the name of every commandment, the Oral Law presents the picture that goes with each name.
The understanding that Moses was granted concerning each of the commandments was much broader than a few bits of static information. Moses was given an apprehension of the spirit of each law. He was taught how each particular law would be observed practically, and the role it played in the overall scope of the commandments. The Oral Law brought each of the laws to life in Moses’ mind and heart. Each of the laws on its own, and the completeness of the Law in general stand as complete personalities who guide the Jew in his relationship with God (Psalm 119:24).
Originally posted on: https://yourphariseefriend.wor...