Written and Oral Torah: A Comprehensive Introduction

Nathan T. Lopes Cardozo

Publisher: Jason Aronson

In The Written and Oral Torah: A Comprehensive Introduction, Rabbi Nathan T. Lopes Cardozo offers those interested in Jewish tradition an explanation of and basic insight into Judaism’s classical sources. Containing a diverse selection of material culled from the Talmud and from the writings of many of Judaism’s most gifted sages, this extensive volume will be a valuable resource for novice students as well as for those with some background in Torah study.

The written Torah, also known as the Pentateuch, or the Five Books of Moses, offers Jews a blueprint for living. Touching on every aspect of the human condition, it is the key to unlocking the mystery of human purpose. Because of its vast importance, every word of the Torah is imbued with great meaning. Jews are taught that hidden within its letters is a Divine totality that can be glimpsed only through careful and conscientious study. To enable people to strive for this level of understanding, tradition teaches that God granted the explanations, textual regulations, formulas, and logical deductions contained within the orally transmitted Torah and through which the Torah’s secrets can be revealed.

Rabbi Lopes Cardozo presents his readers with a concise, understandable introduction to the written and oral Torah. He begins with a general overview of what is meant by Torah, including such important concepts as revelation, the eternal nature of the Torah, its rules of exegesis, the power of the Hebrew language, and the essence of its mystical interpretation. He goes on to explain the mitzvot contained within the Torah, including the Noachide Laws, the Ten Commandments, and the 613 Commandments. Turning to the orally transmitted Torah, he examines its necessity and nature, as well as the authority of the Sages who formulated it and the prohibition against recording it. The categories of the oral Torah are elucidated, as are the all-important rules of interpretation. The role of Aggadah–the material in the Oral Torah that does not determine the practical observances demanded by halachah (Jewish law)–its rules and its relationship to halachah are discussed in detail. To complete this comprehensive introduction, information on halachic midrashim, Mishnah, Beraita, Tosefta, and biblical criticism and its counter-arguments and handy indices of the written Torah, the Mishnah, and the Mishneh Torah are also included.

According to the author, “The Jewish tradition is a multi-faceted phenomenon, and different levels of study reveal different levels of insight into its nature. Just as light diffused through a prism separates into individual beams, Judaism divides into a many-hued but harmonious spectrum of interpretation, all emanating from a single source.” With this book in hand, students have a tool to help them delve into the exquisite rainbow that is Jewish tradition.

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