9. I believe with perfect emunah
that this Torah will not be changed,
nor will there be any other Torah from the Creator,
blessed be His Name.
Notice that Rambam places two important points together concerning Torah. 1., that the entire Torah now in our hands is the same Torah that was given to Moses our teacher and 2., that this Torah will never be changed, nor will there be any other Torah from the Creator.
This crushes the false notion that since the biblical Hebrew used by Moshe Rabbeinu was the Paleolithic form the Hebrew of the Torah "now in our hands" is not the same text. This is inaccurate. Torah is not fundamentally a written series of five books. As discussed in previous lessons Torah is "the Mind of G-d" recorded in the Five Books. Rambam lived thousands of years after Ezra and the Men of the Great Assembly and he assures us here that the Torah "now in our hands" is the original. Nothing has been altered in any way.
In whichever time period a Jew might live, under whatever external conditions he/she may be experiencing currently, he can know with perfect emunah that the Torah now in his hands is the exact same Torah given to Moshe Rabbeinu by HaShem and passed on to our people throughout the many generations. Further, Jews should be assured that his/her descendants will always have access to the exact same Torah he places his/her emunah in. Upon this firm conviction we find the promise of HaShem's continuing Presence among us. While we may at times question interpretations and translations, the Torah "now in our hands," in its original Hebrew language form, is the same Torah our ancestors embraced. THIS Torah sustains us and inspires us.
Of course any and all translations are potentially subject to error. This is the case, in part, because biblical Hebrew is context dependant. For example from the Shema we have, "HaShem Elokeinu echad," HaShem our G-d is One." While there can be 'one group' of something, like one bunch of grapes, we must pay careful attention the textual context, there is one bunch etc. The Shema proclaims that HaShem IS echad, not that He is part of a single collective as some religions inaccurately teach. In addition to the textual context, we must factor in the historic and rabbinic context. Avraham Avinu's revelation declared clearly that in opposition to the collective gods of the people of Babel, HaShem IS echad in His own right. His Oneness is not modified. To properly understand the context one needs rabbinic assistance in his or her studies rather than interpreting 'on the fly'.
Interpretations of the Hebrew texts, not to mention the myriad translations, is an ongoing issue of course. The good news is that we have not been abandoned by HaShem in this seeming labyrinth of books and traditions. No, a sure way has been preserved for us generation after generation through Moshe and Aaron, the priesthood, the judges, the kings,the prophets, and their successors, the rabbis (pharisees). This is the biblical way of understanding.
In every Jewish shul around the world you will find an heichal ("chamber") near the front of the shul. The Ashkenazim use the term aron kodesh, ("holy ark") for this cabinet. Within the heichal is one or more Torah scrolls. No matter what shul one visits around the globe the Hebrew content of these scrolls are virtually identical. There is no question about what these sacred Hebrew scrolls say. The bound book forms of the Torah contained within the Tanach are taken from these scrolls and are likewise virtually identical (in the Hebrew). But what they mean and their current applicability in any given situation is a different question, one that is sometimes difficult to answer whether one is Orthodox or non-Orthodox. For example, no one advocates stoning prostitutes today as Torah directs. Rabbinic authority leads us in so many fundamental ways, always harmonious with the Written Torah. In this case, the command stands however the Rabbinic conditions for carrying it out are demanding it would be all but impossible to do. The same is the case with many "harsh" judgements. Harsh legal codes like Islamic Sharia have no places within Rabbinic Judaism.
As discussed in lessons seven and eight the rabbis alone hold the authority to interpret these sacred documents and to guide our people and legal codes. Where their interpretations differ we hold to one (or more) rabbinic stream of understanding that resonates with us. Personally I look to Rashi and Rebbe Nachman of Breslov first, then if needed, confirm my understanding with my Rebbe, Rabbi Aryel Nachman ben Chaim Shlit"a, who is a direct descendant of Rashi through one of his pious daughters. All Jews (and Noahidim) need to place themselves under rabbinic authority and guidance.
Usually one will seek harmony with the authority of ones shul rabbi and movement (all Sephardic Jews are classified as Orthodox even though there are no movements among us). The internet has opened the door to incredible Jewish studies and access to the some of the greatest rabbis of our generation and those past. Never has there been a time when the teachings of our sages have been so readily available, as foretold at Daniel 12:4. A good Chumash (rabbinic commentary on the Torah) is invaluable by the way. Personally I like the Gutnick and Stone editions.
In addition to the Written Torah and Tanach we have the "Oral Torah." According to Jewish Tradition it is impossible to correctly understand and interpret the Written Torah without the Oral. As Orthodox Jews we believe that HaShem revealed the Oral Torah to Moses along with the Written. The Written Torah is intended for the Jewish people at large while the Oral Torah is for the rabbis as they explain the Written. It has been described that the Written Torah is the ingredient list while the Oral Torah is the recipes. This outlook has been maintained at least since the 2nd century C.E., when much of the Oral Law was compiled and written down in a document called the Mishnah. The wisdom contained in the Mishnah however has been employed by the leaders of our people since Har Sinai.
Over the next few centuries authoritative commentaries clarifying the Mishnah were written down to preserve them by the Rabbinic sages in Israel and Babylon. These additional commentaries are known as the Tosefta, the Mekhileta, the Sifra,the Jerusalem Talmud, and the Babylonian Talmud. The last was completed around 500 C.E. The two largest of these works are the Jerusalem Talmud ("Talmud Yerushalmi") and the Babylonian Talmud ("Talmud Bavli"). The Babylonian Talmud is more comprehensive and is the one most people mean when they refer to "The Talmud."
The Mishnah is divided into six sections called sedarim ("orders"). Each seder contains one or more divisions called masekhtot (tractates). There are 63 masekhtot in the Mishnah. Most, but not quite all of these masekhtot have been addressed in the Talmud. Although the various divisions seem to indicate specific subject matters, in truth the Mishnah, like the Talmud, engages in a lot of 'free-association'. Despite the names of the sections, myriad topics are addressed (note 1).
Rabbis are not like Christian pastors or Muslim imams. Rabbis are first and foremost "judges" who rule on various issues based on our Law (Halacha). Congregational and yeshiva rabbis are particularly obligated to rule on the "fitness" of their members/students and prospective converts. They (we) are halachichally required to make determinations for the protection of those under our care and for the continuance of our Sacred Law and people. We are not permitted to judge based on personal opinions or current social mores. All rulings must be harmonious with the Written and Oral Torah and those of past rabbinic authorities. Defending and properly implementing halacha is of prime concern for all Halachic rabbis, especially today when so many people within and without Judaism are trying to alter it, to make it assimilate with the current Agnostic Globalist Western paradigm. We have perhaps not experienced so much heresy and anti-Semitism among our own people since the early days of Hellenism. Consider seriously the following warning from Deuteronomy 13 (Sefaria translation):We must be very careful to interpret Torah in the ways of our fathers, within the limits of our present realities. How to do this is explained by our sages and rabbis. As long as the rabbis do their job and the Jewish people heed their guidance we will continue as a people. Today we are in real danger because of some Jews, even some rabbis, are standing against Torah and against Israel, both our people and our nation. We MUST seriously heed the warnings and instruction of our rabbis even as we keep an out for false teachers. We close this lesson with these words from Rebbe Nachman:
אֵ֣ת כָּל־הַדָּבָ֗ר אֲשֶׁ֤ר אָנֹכִי֙ מְצַוֶּ֣ה אֶתְכֶ֔ם אֹת֥וֹ תִשְׁמְר֖וּ לַעֲשׂ֑וֹת לֹא־תֹסֵ֣ף עָלָ֔יו וְלֹ֥א תִגְרַ֖ע מִמֶּֽנּוּ׃ (פ)
Be careful to observe only that which I enjoin upon you: neither add to it nor take away from it.
כִּֽי־יָק֤וּם בְּקִרְבְּךָ֙ נָבִ֔יא א֖וֹ חֹלֵ֣ם חֲל֑וֹם וְנָתַ֥ן אֵלֶ֛יךָ א֖וֹת א֥וֹ מוֹפֵֽת׃
If there appears among you a prophet or a dream-diviner and he gives you a sign or a portent,
וּבָ֤א הָאוֹת֙ וְהַמּוֹפֵ֔ת אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֥ר אֵלֶ֖יךָ לֵאמֹ֑ר נֵֽלְכָ֞ה אַחֲרֵ֨י אֱלֹהִ֧ים אֲחֵרִ֛ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹֽא־יְדַעְתָּ֖ם וְנָֽעָבְדֵֽם׃
saying, “Let us follow and worship another god”—whom you have not experienced—even if the sign or portent that he named to you comes true,
לֹ֣א תִשְׁמַ֗ע אֶל־דִּבְרֵי֙ הַנָּבִ֣יא הַה֔וּא א֛וֹ אֶל־חוֹלֵ֥ם הַחֲל֖וֹם הַה֑וּא כִּ֣י מְנַסֶּ֞ה יְהוָ֤ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶם֙ אֶתְכֶ֔ם לָדַ֗עַת הֲיִשְׁכֶ֤ם אֹֽהֲבִים֙ אֶת־יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֔ם בְּכָל־לְבַבְכֶ֖ם וּבְכָל־נַפְשְׁכֶֽם׃
do not heed the words of that prophet or that dream-diviner. For the LORD your God is testing you to see whether you really love the LORD your God with all your heart and soul.
אַחֲרֵ֨י יְהוָ֧ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֛ם תֵּלֵ֖כוּ וְאֹת֣וֹ תִירָ֑אוּ וְאֶת־מִצְוֺתָ֤יו תִּשְׁמֹ֙רוּ֙ וּבְקֹל֣וֹ תִשְׁמָ֔עוּ וְאֹת֥וֹ תַעֲבֹ֖דוּ וּב֥וֹ תִדְבָּקֽוּן׃
Follow none but the LORD your God, and revere none but Him; observe His commandments alone, and heed only His orders; worship none but Him, and hold fast to Him.
וְהַנָּבִ֣יא הַה֡וּא א֣וֹ חֹלֵם֩ הַחֲל֨וֹם הַה֜וּא יוּמָ֗ת כִּ֣י דִבֶּר־סָ֠רָה עַל־יְהוָ֨ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֜ם הַמּוֹצִ֥יא אֶתְכֶ֣ם ׀ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֗יִם וְהַפֹּֽדְךָ֙ מִבֵּ֣ית עֲבָדִ֔ים לְהַדִּֽיחֲךָ֙ מִן־הַדֶּ֔רֶךְ אֲשֶׁ֧ר צִוְּךָ֛ יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ לָלֶ֣כֶת בָּ֑הּ וּבִֽעַרְתָּ֥ הָרָ֖ע מִקִּרְבֶּֽךָ׃
As for that prophet or dream-diviner, he shall be put to death; for he urged disloyalty to the LORD your God—who freed you from the land of Egypt and who redeemed you from the house of bondage—to make you stray from the path that the LORD your God commanded you to follow. Thus you will sweep out evil from your midst.
כִּ֣י יְסִֽיתְךָ֡ אָחִ֣יךָ בֶן־אִ֠מֶּךָ אֽוֹ־בִנְךָ֨ אֽוֹ־בִתְּךָ֜ א֣וֹ ׀ אֵ֣שֶׁת חֵיקֶ֗ךָ א֧וֹ רֵֽעֲךָ֛ אֲשֶׁ֥ר כְּנַפְשְׁךָ֖ בַּסֵּ֣תֶר לֵאמֹ֑ר נֵֽלְכָ֗ה וְנַֽעַבְדָה֙ אֱלֹהִ֣ים אֲחֵרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁר֙ לֹ֣א יָדַ֔עְתָּ אַתָּ֖ה וַאֲבֹתֶֽיךָ׃
If your brother, your own mother’s son, or your son or daughter, or the wife of your bosom, or your closest friend entices you in secret, saying, “Come let us worship other gods”—whom neither you nor your fathers have experienced—
מֵאֱלֹהֵ֣י הָֽעַמִּ֗ים אֲשֶׁר֙ סְבִיבֹ֣תֵיכֶ֔ם הַקְּרֹבִ֣ים אֵלֶ֔יךָ א֖וֹ הָרְחֹקִ֣ים מִמֶּ֑ךָּ מִקְצֵ֥ה הָאָ֖רֶץ וְעַד־קְצֵ֥ה הָאָֽרֶץ׃
from among the gods of the peoples around you, either near to you or distant, anywhere from one end of the earth to the other:
לֹא־תֹאבֶ֣ה ל֔וֹ וְלֹ֥א תִשְׁמַ֖ע אֵלָ֑יו וְלֹא־תָח֤וֹס עֵֽינְךָ֙ עָלָ֔יו וְלֹֽא־תַחְמֹ֥ל וְלֹֽא־תְכַסֶּ֖ה עָלָֽיו׃
do not assent or give heed to him. Show him no pity or compassion, and do not shield him;
כִּ֤י הָרֹג֙ תַּֽהַרְגֶ֔נּוּ יָֽדְךָ֛ תִּֽהְיֶה־בּ֥וֹ בָרִֽאשׁוֹנָ֖ה לַהֲמִית֑וֹ וְיַ֥ד כָּל־הָעָ֖ם בָּאַחֲרֹנָֽה׃
but take his life. Let your hand be the first against him to put him to death, and the hand of the rest of the people thereafter.
וּסְקַלְתּ֥וֹ בָאֲבָנִ֖ים וָמֵ֑ת כִּ֣י בִקֵּ֗שׁ לְהַדִּֽיחֲךָ֙ מֵעַל֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ הַמּוֹצִיאֲךָ֛ מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרַ֖יִם מִבֵּ֥ית עֲבָדִֽים׃
Stone him to death, for he sought to make you stray from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
וְכָל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל יִשְׁמְע֖וּ וְיִֽרָא֑וּן וְלֹֽא־יוֹסִ֣פוּ לַעֲשׂ֗וֹת כַּדָּבָ֥ר הָרָ֛ע הַזֶּ֖ה בְּקִרְבֶּֽךָ׃ (ס)
Thus all Israel will hear and be afraid, and such evil things will not be done again in your midst.
כִּֽי־תִשְׁמַ֞ע בְּאַחַ֣ת עָרֶ֗יךָ אֲשֶׁר֩ יְהוָ֨ה אֱלֹהֶ֜יךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לְךָ֛ לָשֶׁ֥בֶת שָׁ֖ם לֵאמֹֽר׃
If you hear it said, of one of the towns that the LORD your God is giving you to dwell in,
יָצְא֞וּ אֲנָשִׁ֤ים בְּנֵֽי־בְלִיַּ֙עַל֙ מִקִּרְבֶּ֔ךָ וַיַּדִּ֛יחוּ אֶת־יֹשְׁבֵ֥י עִירָ֖ם לֵאמֹ֑ר נֵלְכָ֗ה וְנַעַבְדָ֛ה אֱלֹהִ֥ים אֲחֵרִ֖ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹא־יְדַעְתֶּֽם׃
that some scoundrels from among you have gone and subverted the inhabitants of their town, saying, “Come let us worship other gods”—whom you have not experienced—
וְדָרַשְׁתָּ֧ וְחָקַרְתָּ֧ וְשָׁאַלְתָּ֖ הֵיטֵ֑ב וְהִנֵּ֤ה אֱמֶת֙ נָכ֣וֹן הַדָּבָ֔ר נֶעֶשְׂתָ֛ה הַתּוֹעֵבָ֥ה הַזֹּ֖את בְּקִרְבֶּֽךָ׃
you shall investigate and inquire and interrogate thoroughly. If it is true, the fact is established—that abhorrent thing was perpetrated in your midst—
הַכֵּ֣ה תַכֶּ֗ה אֶת־יֹֽשְׁבֵ֛י הָעִ֥יר ההוא [הַהִ֖יא] לְפִי־חָ֑רֶב הַחֲרֵ֨ם אֹתָ֧הּ וְאֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁר־בָּ֛הּ וְאֶת־בְּהֶמְתָּ֖הּ לְפִי־חָֽרֶב׃
put the inhabitants of that town to the sword and put its cattle to the sword. Doom it and all that is in it to destruction:
וְאֶת־כָּל־שְׁלָלָ֗הּ תִּקְבֹּץ֮ אֶל־תּ֣וֹךְ רְחֹבָהּ֒ וְשָׂרַפְתָּ֨ בָאֵ֜שׁ אֶת־הָעִ֤יר וְאֶת־כָּל־שְׁלָלָהּ֙ כָּלִ֔יל לַיהוָ֖ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ וְהָיְתָה֙ תֵּ֣ל עוֹלָ֔ם לֹ֥א תִבָּנֶ֖ה עֽוֹד׃
gather all its spoil into the open square, and burn the town and all its spoil as a holocaust to the LORD your God. And it shall remain an everlasting ruin, never to be rebuilt.
וְלֹֽא־יִדְבַּ֧ק בְּיָדְךָ֛ מְא֖וּמָה מִן־הַחֵ֑רֶם לְמַעַן֩ יָשׁ֨וּב יְהוָ֜ה מֵחֲר֣וֹן אַפּ֗וֹ וְנָֽתַן־לְךָ֤ רַחֲמִים֙ וְרִֽחַמְךָ֣ וְהִרְבֶּ֔ךָ כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר נִשְׁבַּ֖ע לַאֲבֹתֶֽיךָ׃
Let nothing that has been doomed stick to your hand, in order that the LORD may turn from His blazing anger and show you compassion, and in His compassion increase you as He promised your fathers on oath—
כִּ֣י תִשְׁמַ֗ע בְּקוֹל֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ לִשְׁמֹר֙ אֶת־כָּל־מִצְוֺתָ֔יו אֲשֶׁ֛ר אָנֹכִ֥י מְצַוְּךָ֖ הַיּ֑וֹם לַעֲשׂוֹת֙ הַיָּשָׁ֔ר בְּעֵינֵ֖י יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ׃ (ס)
for you will be heeding the LORD your God, obeying all His commandments that I enjoin upon you this day, doing what is right in the sight of the LORD your God.Great atheism is coming to the world as a test from on high. The world's many sins are causing a terrible lack of faith. Happy is the person who stays firm in his faith in these times. The fact that I am predicting this will not prevent the increase of Godlessness and confusion. Long ago Daniel and others made it known that this would happen in the days before the Mashiach. "Many will purify themselves and be refined, and make themselves shining white. But the wicked will do evil. and only the wise shall understand" (Daniel 12:10 ) . Knowing that this has already been foreseen, it would seem that it should not be such a great trial for people to remain strong and firm in their faith. But the truth is that even though the prophets made this known long ago, it will still be a great trial. Many will fall by the way , and that is why it is written: "the wicked will do evil." I am revealing this for the sake of the few pure souls who will remain firm in their faith. They will certainly face great battles even in their own minds. But when they see that this has already been predicted, it will give them greater strength and encouragement -- Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, Sichot Haran #35
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