Torah Study

        Rabbi Chaim Coffman:  Rabbinic commandments on how they do violate the prohibition of adding to the Torah by Rambam in his Mishneh Torah.

These 613 mitzvot were given to Moses on Mount Sinai together with their general principles, particular points, and details. These general principles, particular points, and details represent the Oral Law, which each court received from the previous court.

There are [also] other commandments that were instituted after the giving of the Torah. They were established by the Prophets and Sages and spread throughout Israel, for example, the reading of the Megillah, [lighting] a Chanukah candle, fasting on Tish'ah b'Av, [setting up] Eruvim, and [washing one's] hands [in preparation for prayer and eating]. Each of these commandments also possesses explanatory aspects and details. All of this will be explained in this text.

We are obligated to accept and observe all these commandments which [the Rabbis] instituted, as [implied by Deuteronomy 17:11]: "Do not deviate from the instructions that they will give you, left or right."

They are not considered to be additions to the commandments of the Torah. [If so,] what was the intention of the Torah's warning (Deuteronomy 13:11): "Do not add to it and do not detract from it"? That a prophet is not permitted to introduce a new measure and say that the Holy One, blessed be He, commanded this mitzvah to us and that it should be added to the Torah's mitzvot, or [say that He commanded that we] eliminate one of the 613 mitzvot mentioned above.

However, if a court, together with the prophet of that age, adds a commandment as an ordinance, a lesson, or as a decree, this is not considered as an addition. He is not saying that the Holy One, blessed be He, commanded us to make an eruv or read the Megillah at its [appointed] time. Were he to say so, he would be adding to the Torah.

Instead, we are saying that the prophets and the courts ordained and commanded that the Megillah be read at its [appointed] time in order to recall the praise of the Holy One, blessed be He, the salvation He wrought for us, and His response to our cries, so that we will bless Him, extol Him, and inform the future generations of the truth of the Torah's promise (Deuteronomy 4:7): "What nation is so great that it has G-d [close to it....]"

The wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet with the letter - Beis

The Beis is the second of the Holy Letters.  G-d began the Torah with it, in the beginning --for it is the initial, blessing and Creation.

The Midrash relates that the beis was chosen because every being --from the heavenly hosts, to man, to the tiniest creature --blesses G-d with the beis saying, "Blessed is Hashem forever, amen and amen [Psalms 89:53]

With its gematria [numerical value] of two, beis represents the concept of duality, for there is diversity in every part of Creation.  Only in the Creator Himself does the absolute Oneness prevail. Literally, beis means house and alludes to the focal point of holiness on earth --the [Beis HaMikdash], Sanctuary of Holy Temple in Jerusalem; and to the of man, which he can transform into a miniature sanctuary.

Maharal connects the beis of plurality with the beis of blessing and the beis of creation: G-d created the world with beis and imbued it with blessing, for He is blessed and from him true blessing emanates.  but true blessings is possible only when opposite work together to achieve  a common beneficial purpose.  The harmonious interaction in creation involves such contrasting phenomena as

1. heaven and earth

2. light and darkness

3. and male and female

Some Phenomena  seem to complement each other while others seem to oppose each other, yet all opposite are woven into a complete unity which guarantees the function of the universe.

Adam and Eve were a pair in which one was not complete without the other --as such they were the prototypes of all husband and wives, who fulfill one another.  Man  must accumulate merits in this World so that he  can merit eternal life in the World to come.  Indeed, only to provide man the opportunity to reach this height was the world created.

The proper functioning of nature, however, is contingent on man's capacity to overcome the duality of his nature by subordinating his inclination for evil to his inclination for good, in accordance with the Creator's covenant  -- as depicted by the Prophet Jeremiah: If not for my covenant  day and night, I would not have established the statutes of heaven and earth.  [Jeremiah 33:25]

As its upper left corner, the beis points upward to Heaven, symbolically acknowledging the existence of the Creator, and testifying that the marvelous, intricate patterns of nature and the universe did not come about by chance, but were woven by One G-d.  

The base of the beis also points back to the aleph, the letter that symbolizes G-d's Oneness [Bereishis Rabbah 1]  This indicates that man can best achieve an understanding of impossible to comprehend the almighty in his Essence by pure intellectual prowess [malbim]

The Torah begins with a large Beis, as if to emphasize that the creation of the Universe is only the second factor. It is up to man to go in quest of the first factor, which is aleph the Creator, the cause of everything [Kol HaTorah]

Beis, with its gematria of two, symbolizes our world, since everything earthly is embedded in plurality.  All that was created for man's use came in pairs:

1. Torah - Written Torah and Oral Torah

2. Mitzvos - Positive precepts and Negative precepts

3. Intermediaries - Moses and Aaron

4. World -  Heaven and earth

5. Luminaries -Sun and moon

6. man -male and female

The Oral Torah is like a detailed commentary to the Written Torah which reveals the innermost meaning that is hidden in the written text [R' Bachya]

The Talmud teaches that the Holy One, Blessed is He, establish a covenant with Israel only on the basis of the Oral Laws -- as Scriptuure reads;

For on the basis of these spoken words have I establish a covenant with you and with you and with Israel [ Exodus 34:27]Two Tablets: The Ten

Two Tablets: The Ten Commandments

G-d present the Ten commandments to Israel engraved on the, two Tablets of the Testimony [Exodus 31:18]  

One Tablet contained five commandments governing ma's duty toward G-d, and the second tablet contained five delineating inter-human obligations.

The word two, indicates that the tablets were equal to one another in every way; physically they were of the same size and weight; spiritually, they correspond to each other and are of equal importance.  That they are halves and constitute a whole only in  combination is implied by the torah defective spelling of[without the vav of plurality] as if it were meant to be pronounced, one tablet.

As the Tablets formed one singled physical unit when they were placed together, so both together constitute the One Divine law [R' Hirsch].  This implies the dual nature of the torah, in which duties toward G-d and those towards man are inseparable.  The discharge of only one kind of obligation without the other is not considered a fulfillment of Judaism.    

Since there are five commandments on each of the tablets of the law, the midrash seeks a relationship between each commandment and one parallel to it on the other tablet.

The first commandment and the sixth commandment:

Paralllel to the first commandment, I am Hashem your G-d, is the sixth, you shall not kill, for anyone who murders a human being detract, as it, from the image of the King.  Therefore it is written: Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of G-d He made man [Gensis 9:6].

The second commandment and the seventh commandment:

Opposite the second commandments, you shall not have strange gods, was the seventh, you shall not commit adultery, for he who leaves G-d to  worship strange gods is like an adulteress, who betrays her husband.  This is a theme that runs through the Prophets.

The third commandment and the eighth commandment:

The eight commandment, you shall not steal, corresponds to the third, You shall not take a false oath, for an accused thief will feel compelled to swear falsely to protest his innocence.

The fourth commandment and the ninth commandment:

Remember the Sabbath day corresponds to  You shall not bear false witness, for he who observes Sabbath by desisting from creative work testifies to the fact that G-d created the world in six days and rested on the seventh;  whereas he who desecrates the Sabbath tesifies to the opposite and thus bears false witness.

The fifth commandment and the tenth commandment:

Honor your father and your mother corresponds to You shall not covet. This proximity teaches that one who covet will bear children who will curse their parents and honor those who are not their parents [just as one who covets shows disdain for his own possessions by favoring that which belongs to others, so will his children disregard for him while honoring strangers] [R'chanina ben Gamliel, cited in Mechilta]

 Commandments and Prohibitions

The commandments of the torah represent another duality:

1. Positive commandments -the 248 positive commandments corresponds to the organs of the human body to which their observance gives life [Sanhedrin 23b].

2. and Negative commandments - 365 prohibition correspond to the days of the earth orbit around the sun, a process that is sustained by the Jew's observance of these commandments.

The ten commandments appear twice in the Torah.

1. Exodus records the text of the first pair of tablets which were subsequently broken by Moses.  There the Fourth commandments -- the Sabbath -- is introduced with the words, Remember the day of Sabbath to sanctify it [Exodus 20:8]

2.  Safeguard the day of the Sabbath to sanctify it [Deut 5:12] Midrash teaches that when g-d presented the fourth comandment to Israel, He uttered the two words [zachor] positive commandment and [shamor] negative commandments in a signle utterance 'ina manner which no human tongue can pronounce nor human ear comprehend [Mechilta] yet the listeners heard it as two words .

 Two leaders: Moses and Aaron  

Moses as a teacher ,receive the Torah and taught it to Israel and Aaron as a  high Priest, demonstrated the actual observance of the law through his service in the Temple [Maharal, Tifers Yisrael].

Moses the chief of all the prophets and Aaron the chief of the priest but both were of equal importance [Bereishis Rabbah 1:5]  To indicate this equality, the torah gives precedence sometimes to moses and sometimes to Aaron [Exodus 6: 26-27; Rashi].

The Two complemented each other through their specific character traits Moses instructed the people about right and wrong behavior, and did not refrain from acting with firmness in admonishing then when necessary.

Aaron went out of his way to act with compassion by bringing people into harmony with one another.  Therefore, the attributes of justice acribed to Aaron [Shemos Rabbah 5:10 see Pslams 85:11].  In their harmonies brotherly unison they formed a leadership which is unequaled in history.

 Two Genders: Adam and Eve

In Regard to duality in living beings the fundamental duality is male and female, as R' Yehudah taught in the same name of Rav, all that G-d created in his world, He created as male and female [Bava Basra 74b]

This dichotomy is not limited to the animal kingdom, for we even find a distinction between male and female in the vegetable world [Bereishis Rabbah 41].   The Talmud cites the cedar and palm as examples of trees with male and femal natures, which complement each other in their growth [Shabbos 157a; Pesachim 56a].  In all of nature, with the exception of mankind, the harmonious interaction between male and female components is innate and result from the circumstance of their creation.  Both sexes sprang from the earth simultaneously and independently.  Neither requires the presence of the other except for purposes of breeding.

Woman was separated from man to become an helpmate [Genesis 2:18], literally, a helper against him -- that is a helper who, at times, must oppose him [Yevamos 63a].  Maharal elaborates:

Man and Woman represent two opposites which, if they are worthy, merge into a unified whole.  but when they are not worthy the very fact that they are opposites casuses her to be against him.

In order to bring about completeness of the man-female unit, the woman must be ready to act as an opponent.  This apparent contradiction that she must both asist and oppose -- is expressed by the Sages as;

1. If he is worthy, she is a helpmate;

2. or If he is unworhty, she is an opponent [Yevamos 63a]

That is, if man carries out his mission properly, his wife should encourage and assist him, but if he goes wrong, it is her duty to stand up to him, making him aware of his weak points and offering constructive criticism.  For all people have a blind spot when it comes to seeing their own flaws objectively -- as the Talmud states:

Thus we see that a wife can be an in two ways:

1.  in a direct manner, by suggestion and encouragement;

2. by adopting an adversary approach which ultimately will be for her husband's benefit.

According, the Sages comment that the expression, G-d saw that all He had created was very good [Bereishis 1:31] refers also to the creation of the evil inclination, [Bereishis Rabbah 89] for its ultimate goal, too serves man's attainment of perfection.

 Two drives -two Hearts

There is another pair created by G-d which is meant to be unified:  The  [yetzer hatov], good inclination  and the [yetzer hara] evil inclination.

Man is commanded to subugate his yetzer hara [evil inclination] to the service of G-d as we read in the Shema, You shall love Hashem, your G-d with all your heart [Deuteronomony 6:5] the double beis implies that we are to love G-d with both inclinations [Rashi].  

You shall love G-d with your physical as well as your spiritual existence, and suball your desires to Him as an offering of love [R' Hirsch]

Man has two  drives so that he can choose to which he wants to give priority -- as the torah says: See I place before you this day blessing and curse.  The blessing -- if you will heed the mitzvos... and the curses if you will not heed the mitzvos. [Deuteronomy 11:26-28]

In order to make the right choice, man must first distinguish good from evil and identify evil masquerading as good.  To this end, he was endowed with [binah] understanding, the power of differentiation and deduction .

 Two Worlds

Our task in This World is to prepare ourselves for the World to Come or as the mishnah express this concept:  This World resembles a vestibule before the World to Come.  Prepare yourself in the vesitbute so that you may enter the banquet hall [Avos 4:21].

 For the Sake of Reishis

The fundamental doctrine that the Creation of Heaven and earth is only a means to an end -- the goal of giving the holy torah to the Universe through Israel - is emphasized by the enlarged beis the word Bereishis.  In this sense, the Sages define reishis as anything that pre-eminent and that is worthy of the paramount task of testifying to the greatest of its Creator.  According the Sages teach: For the sake of the torah and for the sake of Israel, which are called reishis, was the world created [Pesikta Zuta 1; Rashi, Bereishis 1:1]

 Torah is Reishis

Torah is called reishis in the verse:  Hashem had aquired [the torah] as His primary path, before His other activities [ Proverb 8:22] .  Torah did not merely precede the Universe chronologically; it was the very blue print of the world -- as the Midrash teaches: G-d looked into the torah and created the world [Bereishis, Rabbah 1] .  The world was created with beis, but the torah was given with the aleph, to teach us that the torah begot the world, for without the torah there would be no world --as it is written If not for my covenant [the Torah], which is to be studied day and night. I would not have establish the statutes of heaven and earth [Jeremiah 33:25; Mishnas R' Eliezer]

 Israel is Reishis

Israel is called Reishis in the verse: Israel is holy to Hashem, Bereishis, the first of his harvest [Jeremiah 2:3] eventually, all nations will recognize G-d sovereignty, but the first to do was Israel, which accepted His Torah when the other nations rejected it.   Thus Israel initiated the realization of the purpose for which G-d created man [R' Hirsch]  This indicates that when Israel forgoes its personal mundane desires for the sake of G-d priorities and dedicates itself to accept and observe His torah, the torah, the purpose of Creation is fulfilled.   

 Challah is Reishis

In addition to torah and Israel as definitions of reishis, the Midrash teaches:  For the sake of challah, the world was created [Bereishis Rabbah 1:6]. Challah is called reishis in the verse: From the beginning of your kneading you shall separate challah [Numbers 15:20].

Challah is a portion of dough to be set from each batch, and given to a Kohen [priest].  The Challah portion, as well as terumah tithes and first fruits [bikkurim], have the status of reishis.  They attain this lofty position becasue the Jew who gives his first produce to the servants of g-d demonstrates his acknowledgement that the bounty of the land is a gift of G-d and not the product of man'sability [see Deutonomy 8:17].

 Aleph and beis; parent and offspring

The letter aleph and beis form a fundamental partnership. aleph represent the indivisible Divine intelligence in torah that it existed in G-d's mind a thousand generation before He created the world with the holy letters [Berishis Rabbah 1:7]

Thus the aleph which represent the torah, preceded beis, which represent the physical creation.  As Mishnas R' Eliezer [chapter 7] puts it: aleph [the Torah] gave birth to beis[ the world] forming a union of beis -aleph as if to express the relationship between father and son.   when this relationship is healthy it symbolizes stability; as Rashi [Genesis 49:24] comments, the word roch [a symbol of permanency] is a contraction of the words father and son.

The Three intellectual           

1. Father represent understanding

2. mother represent wisdom

3. and the son represent knowledge


Beis stands for [lit. between and between], the power of differentiation and deduction. Theses are the intellectual traits that give birth to binah, understanding.

Binah is G-d most precious gift because it represent the ability to draw conclusion and to disclose the truth.  when properly pursued, the quest for binah draws man closer to the essence of truth, the almighty.

 Bayis: House Bayis is a focal Point

The letter beis related to [bayis] house or home.  A home is more than shelter from the elements; it is the place where one has the feelings of belonging, an enclosure in which to develop his personality in he defines himself emotionally and spiritually.

 Bayis is the Holy Temple

Bayis is the symbolic expression for the place where the Jewish spirit prevails [Otzar Chaim].  Thus we find that after our forfather Jacob slept at the site of the temple, he arose and exclaimed of all that he saw before him Mount Moriah and Eretz Yisrael:  this  is none other than the House of G-d [Genesis 28:17].

When Jacob called the place house, it was in anticipation of the holy Temple, in which the Shechinah would find its resting place.  The midrash say that Abraham had called the temple site a mountain, and Isaac had called it a field.  As R' Shimon shalom of Amshinov explain, when Avraham spread the knowledge of G-d in the world, Godliness seemed to be unreachable, just as a high mountain can be scaled  by only a select few.  

Isaac called the site a field for by his time Godliness was more recognized as the source from which mankind ultimately draws sustence.  with the advent of Jacob, however, the Shechinah had found a bayis, a  "home" on earth [Mayanos Netzach, Otzar Chaim]

Indeed the torah refer to the Sanctuary as the Bayis of Hashem [Exodus 23:19-20] the dwelling place of the Shechinah, G-d presence on earth, where all of Israel experience the proximity of G-d and which will in future days become the universal house of Prayer.

The difference between house =412 and temple 444 amount to 32 which is the numerical value of heart.  This teaches us that only by putting one's heart into a house can it become a sanctuary in miniature.

 Bayis denotes wife

One is his wife [Yoma 36]

This concept is established in the verse: He shall atone for himself and for his house [Leviticus 16:6] The verse refers to the High Priest who on Yom Kippur, before he atoned for the sins of Israel, first had to "atone for himself and his wife.  

Hence the Mishnah deduces that the high Priest from G-d's could not enter the Holy of Holiness to perform the yom Kippur service unless he was married.  without a wife, man is not complete [Yevamos 63a], no matter how lofty his position.

That Bayis alludes to the women is further inferred from G-d command to Moses before the revelation of the ten Commandments.  G-d said, thus shall you say to the House of Jocab [Exodus 19:3]. Mechilta interprets this as a reference to the women of Israel.  The fundamental idea of Israel's service to G-d was to be explained to and impressed upon the family and especially on the pillar of home life, the women for it is their influence that shapes a Jewish home.

 Bayis denotes Hospitality

The form of the letter of beis resembles a house with one side to teach us that our bayis should be open to welcome guests as the Mishnah teaches: Let your house be open wide [Avos 1:4]

The tents of Abraham and Sarah, in which hospitality was practiced in its most profound degree were open on all four sides so that the travelers could enter from any direction. The host and hostess treated them to food, drink and lodging.  through their hospitality, they attracted many people to the belief in one G-d.

Abraham's pursuit of the mitzvah of hospitality was so great that after his circumcision he was more anguish by his lack of guest than by the physical pain from his wound.  when G-d saw Abraham's distress, He sent three angels in human guise to visit him.

Kehillas Yitzchak views the episode from a different perspective.  Why did G-d sent Abraham guests when he was occupied with another mitzvah, circumcision?

G-d did so to tach us the overriding importance of hospitality.  In general, while someone is occupied  with a mitzvah, he is excused from the performance of other mitzvos.  an exception to this rule is hospitality.

 Aleph and Beis; oneness and multiplicity

The message of beis and aleph is in the theme of the traditional simple song which is recited at the end of the Seder.  It is the song, who knows one which describes certain phenomena of the universe and various phrases of Jewish life in numerical fashion

Aleph taught the oneness of G-d; from beis we learned that Creation is replete with pairs - holy and profane, male and female, influencer and influenced.

Gimmel and dalet stand for one of these pairs: benefactor and beneficiary.

                                                                                          Rabbi Chaim Coffman:

Audio: Rabbi Chaim Coffman: Can the Nations Understand the Torah without the Oral Torah?

Rabbi Tovia Singer:  Oral Law Predated the Written Torah:

Critics of the Jewish faith often claim that the Oral Torah was an “after-thought” interpretation of the Written Torah. They argue that the rabbis invented these laws long after the Torah was given, and claimed that its origins were from Mount Sinai. In fact, the giving of the Oral Torah actually preceded the giving of the Written Torah we have today. When the Jewish people stood at Mount Sinai 3,300 years ago, Moses conveyed the 613 commandments, along with the Oral Law, which contained the detailed, practical explanation of how to fulfill them. At that point in time, the teachings were entirely oral.

It wasn’t until 40 years later, just prior to Moses’ death and the Jewish people’s entering the Land of Israel, that Moses wrote the scroll of the Written Torah, the Five Books of Moses, and gave it to the Jewish people. Following the death of Moses, Joshua added the final eight verses to the Book of Deuteronomy.

In fact, this chain of oral tradition dates back long before Moses’ encounter with God at Mount Sinai. For example, God instructed Noah to board the ark with his family, seven pairs of the birds and the clean animals, and one pair of the unclean animals (Genesis 7:1-5). How did Noah, who lived 1,000 years before the Torah was given in written form, know how to distinguish between clean and unclean animals? Nowhere in the Written Torah does God instruct Noah how to identify clean and unclean species. The Laws of the Torah were orally conveyed to Noah and other saints of the distant past long before the children of Israel experienced their national revelation in the wilderness.

(Let's Get Biblical, Volume 1, p. 257)

AUDIO: Rabbi Tovia Singer: Earliest Christians revered the Oral Law before it was committed to writing!