When I was Ten Years old, I knew to declaim by heart all of tractate Avot, and I loved to believe to everything that I was declaiming. Specially I loved to believe to the first sentence: "Moshe received Torah in Sinai, and delivered it to Joshua, and Joshua delivered it to the Elders, and the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets to the People of the Great Assembly..." The People of the Great Assembly, so I believed in those days, received from the Prophets, from the Elders, from Joshua, and from Moshe not only the written Torah but also the oral Torah, that is to say the Mishnah, the Talmud, and all the Halachic literature that was created between the conclusion (the end) of the Talmud and 1960.
Three years later, in spring 1963, I declaimed my Bar-Mitzvah Drasha (sermon) in front of a hall full with important guests. I didn't love my recited sermon, and I didn't believe to my words. According to the Bar-Mitzvah's tradition, the sermon dealt with some boring Halakhic issues of Tefilin. It was much longer and much more alienated then tractate Avot.
Until this very day I remember by heart most of Avot. On the other hand, I can't recall anything from my Bar-Mitzvah' Drasha, besides three words - Halacha Lemoshe MeSinai. Those three words were probably the 'moto' (motive?) of my lost Bar-Mitzvah's Drasha.
The Halachic literature use often the expression Halacha Lemoshe MeSinai in the context of Tefilin. The word Tefilin is not mentioned in the Torah, and there is no hint in it to the hundreds of tiny Halachic details about the black and square Tefilin that Jews used to put on many many years. in spite of that, and may be because of it, one may find many times in the Talmuds quotations like:
"Square Tefilin Halacha Lemoshe MeSinai" ; "(the letter) Shin of Tefilin Halacha Lemoshe MeSinai" ; "Black strip(s) of Tefilin Halacha Lemoshe MeSinai" ; "(the letter) Dalet of Tefilin Halacha Lemoshe MeSinai" ; "(the letter) Yod of Tefilin Halacha Lemoshe MeSinai" ; Tefilin on parchment Halacha Lemoshe MeSinai", and so on.
All of those Halachic details were given to Moshe in Sinai together with the written Torah. They were delivered orally to the Talmuds through Moshe, Joshua, the Elders, the Prophets, the great Assembly people, the Tana'im and the Amora'im.
One may relate to this presentation as to an attempt to restore my lost Bar-Mitzvah's Drasha ; One may relate to it as a personal journey in the footsteps of my lost Tefilin which I started to put on in the same day of the Drasha ; One may relate to it as a journey in the footsteps of the lost belief that not only Tefilin, but also the rest of the many thousands Halachot was already given to Moshe in Sinai...
A journey like this may contribute something beyond my personal urge (drive?). It may help to understand what is happening to a total belief on its way towards the 'Myth'. Understanding like this, so I hope, may contribute to understand what is there behind the Myth about the premordiality of the Halacha.
Today I relate to the Briliant idea that Moshe recieved the oral Torah in sinai as to a giant Myth. I'm almost sure that those who created this Myth between the 2nd and 5th B.C gave rise to the phenomena of Halachic Judaism. I can hardly see how this
type of Judaism can survive without a successful plantation of this Myth into the hearts and minds of the Jewish people. But when I was Bar-Mitzvah I could'nt relate to this idea as to a myth, but to a drowning belief. Not only because I did'nt know what is myth when I was 13, but because that in those days I was hoping with all my heart that I'm going to save my drowning belief.
My hope to save the belief that Moshe received the Oral Torah in Sinai resulted from the fact that in age 13 I still believed that Moshe recieved the Written Torah in Sinai. God, so I tried to convince myself, would not let Moshe go down from the mountain with unexplained written Torah. He would'nt couse him such a thing On every written word he must give him hundreds of explanations. Those explanations must be the Oral Torah.
There was something very promissing in this kind of rescue, but it was still problematic. I liked very much the idea that God added oral explanations to the written Torah, but who said that those explanations must look 'davka' like the empty arguments of my Bar-Mitzvah Drasha? Is it possible that God would give to Moshe such a boring Bar-Mitzvah's sermon?...
By the way, the term 'Bar-Mitzvah', like the term 'Tefilin', is not mentioned at all in the written Torah. Only in tractate Avot we read the first time about the age 13 as an 'age of Mitzvot'. - "At five years old (one is fit) for the Torah (Miqra. Scripture), at ten years for the Mishnah, at thirteen for (the fulfilling of) the commandments (Mitzvot), at fifteen for the Talmud, at eighteen for the Chupah (bride chamber)..."
At the age of ten, when I declaimed by heart this Baraita, I did'nt imagine that Bar-Mitzvah is not mentioned at all in the Torah. I did'nt imagine it also three years later, when I prepared my Bar-Mitzvah's Drasha about Tefilin. "What happend", I asked myself many years later, "between the biblical era and the Halachic era, that brought down to the Jewish world Bar-Mitzvah and Tefilin?"
This question is relevant of course to most of the thousands Halachot that we find in the Mishnah and in the rest of the Halachic literature. The Mishnah - the first and the most important Halachic book has 63 tractates. each one of those tractates (besides Avot) is related in a very detailed way to a very general biblical law. Tractates like Pe'ah, Nedarim, Eruvin and many others includes hundreds of Halachot which are related to one biblical verse. The Mishnah itself describes the many Halachot of three other tractates (Shabbat, Hagigah (Festal Offerings) and Me'ilah (Sacrilege)) as "mountains hanging by a hair, for (their relevant) Scripture is scanty and (the) Halachot are many". (Miqra Mu'at VeHalakhot Merubot).
The word "Halakha" is not found in the Scriptures, and not in any pre-mishnaic text. Scholars suggest that the meaning of the term 'Halakhot' in the idiom Miqra Mu'at VeHalakhot Merubot, may point on one of the earliest meanings of this term. The Halakhot related as many to one. around every Miqra Mu'at we shall find Halachot Merubot. Around every general biblical rule in any field, there will apear during the time hundreds of suggestions about how to implement it here and now, in what conditions, and so on. The implementations of the Torah are ma'asey Hatorah (the
deeds of the Torah), the processing of it. There is a built in connection between the processing and procedure of the Torah and the verb Halakh which the term Halakha derived from. It may be interesting to note that modern hebrew translation to 'procedure' is halikh - there are deep connections between the roots of the ancient halakha and the modern halikh.
The Halakha, according to this, is always a concrete implementation procedure of a general biblical law. (Shabbat Law, we may say, has many Halakhot Shabbat...).
The Mishnah, according to this, is a collection of Halakhot. every Tractate is a collection of Halakhot around general Biblical law.
There never was a book like the Mishnah in the history of the Jewish people. none of the Biblical and post-Biblical books is similar to the Mishnah. They are either Agadic or visionary or prophetic or historic or set of general laws. None of them is a book full with endless of concrete detailed implementations. The Mishnah is.
To come out with a book like this immediatly after the Temple's destruction and the Bar-kochva's disaster is a huge statement. This statement is the laying of the cornerstone of the Halakhic Judaism.
While the Mishnah is designed, the new theology of the details is being shaped. This is a theology of "How to do". This is a post-why-to-do theology. The designers of this theology do not want to say nothing besides "how to do" details.
Not only them - God himself is not interesting in anything but "how-to-do" details - "Since the day that the Temple was destroyd God has nothing in his world, but four cubits of Halakha."
What are the origins of the many thousands Halakhot of the Mishnah? - The first answer to this question is : "The Torah". When all was said and done the Torah is a primary source to each one of the thousands Halakhot in the Mishnah. But, as we mentioned before, the Torah is very general and the Halakhot are very detailed, and there is no way to understand the specific Halakhot in the Mishnah from a direct reading in the Torah. So the question that we have to ask has, more or less, to be: How come that the designers and redactors of the Mishnah came out davka with those thousands implentations of the Torah and not with other thousands?
In order to answer to this question we have to start a long journey in the footsteps of each Halakha. A journey like this can end in two complete different destinations. The first destination - the traditional one - is clear: Mount Sinai, or more correctly, the top of Mount Sinai. The other destination - the researchers destination - is unknown. It is secret and confidential like the most classified army base. All that we can say about it is that it exists somewhere in the twilight zone between the Bible and the Mishnah in Eretz-Israel of the Second Temple days. Avraham Geiger and Zecharia Frankfel were the first pathfinders who tried in the middle of the previous century to enter to this dangerous twilight zone, and to pave their way in the virgin forests of the Halakha's sources.
Nobody prior to those pioneers dared to come down from the heights of their belief and to land somewhere between the Bible and the Mishnah, and to search in the real
field for the sources of the Halakha. Not only because of the explicit warning of the Mishnah that any one who reads the "external books" (The Apocrypha) is loosing his share to the world to come, but also because that any penetration to the space between the Bible and the Mishnah is heresy. It is like going against the first rule of the Halakhic Judaism, The rule that Moshe recieved Mishnah in Sinai and passed it further down. The Mishnah was there always. A good Jew has nothing to look for in the "black hole" between the Torah and the Mishnah. It is more dangerous then the "Pardes". Beware of it...
"Five years old for Torah, ten years old for Mishnah - the transition from the Miqra to the Mishnah must be direct and immediate, and in the age of ten. From the age ten and on the young Halakhic Jew will train himself to focus on details. He will start it by memorizing the Mishnah's Halakhot. When he will turn 13, he will be committed to fulfil the memorized Halakhot. Only two years later he will be permitted to learn it. This is going to be his last chance to be rescued, but we shall discuss it later...
"Since the day that the Temple was destroyed God has nothing in his world, but four cubits of Halakha." - The way from the Torah to the Mishnah must go through a destroued temple. It is not true only for God, but also for the ten years old...
Proir to the destruction of the Temple God had in his world more then four cubits of Halakha - He had legends and visions and prophecies. He had history and politics, drama, dance, psychology, gym, poetry and philosophy. even theology. May be after the rebuilding of the third Temple She will expand again Her horizons. Until then the young Halakhic Jew will have to internalize deep into his soul that there is nothing between him and God except four cubits of tiny detailed Halakhot.
The dangerous journey in the footsteps of the Halakha's origins is not only a trip to the virgin forests between the Torah and the Mishnah. It is also a trip towards everybody's early teen-age.
The Book of Jubilees is located deep in the dangerous area between the Torah and the Mishnah. Whenever I read it I fill like the 10 years old from the movie 'Un-ending story'. I am hiding from my 5th grade Torah and Mishnah teachers and join an exciting forbidden trip. The un-ending book of Jubilees is a trip to some secret alleys of Gensis through the top of Mount Sinai. It begins on the 16th of the third month (Sivan) in the year 2410 - a day after the Torah was given. Rekushets and achoes from the Ten Commandments were still in the air, while God told Moshe to climb up the mountain in order to recieve two Torot.
One of those two Torot will remain un-known, the other will be published in billions copies.
The un-known Torah is the Torah of the heavenly Tablets ; The famous one is the Torah of the stone Tablets . The latter is a very shortened edition of the former. During 40 days and 40 nights on the top of Sinai Moshe is going to be introduced to the full original edition of the Torah. God and his ministering angel are going to be his very closed instructors.
A small portion from the heavenly Torah found its way somehow to the Book of Jubilees, and this small portion includes thousands of precious details. In this way I learn to know that in addition to Kain, Abel and Seth, Adam and Eve had two daughters - Aven and Azura. I learn that the name of Noah's wife was Amzara, and Avraham's mother was Edna. Reuven's wife was Ada, Shimon's - Adiva, Levi's - Milka, Issakhar's - Hazaka, Zevulun's - Na'ama and so on. Many dozens of new names, mainly women's names, I learn secretely from the Book of Jubilees.
I also learn from the Jubilees about many Biblical events that are not mentioned at all in the shortened edition of the Torah. Adam and Eve, for example, were androgyne before they were splited. Avraham, for example, was third generation to an idols edicted family. Later on he discovered God, and after that he burned his fathers' idols boutiqe. Haran, Avraham's brother, was killed while he was trying to extinguish the fire, and since then Avraham fills responsibility to his orphan nephew Lot. It happend ,by the way, in the year 1936, when Avraham was 60. In one of the hot Babylonian nights of 1951,When Avraham was 75, God said to him "Lekh Lekha", and he went all the way to Israel. Isaac was born in 1986 and was sacrifised in 2002. He was 16 years old, and Avraham was 112. Most of the events described in the shortened edition of the Torah are not dated at all. The book of Jubilees enrich us with endless of important dates and ages which are written in the heavenly Tablets. .
approximately 700 hundreds years later, we find in Genesis Raba many of the Aggadic details first found in Jubilees. For example, different variations of the myth about Avraham's idols background is found in Genesis Raba. The same with the Agadot on the Satan who initiate "Akidat yitzkhak", and so on. Genesis Raba is considerd as one of the earliest Rabbinic Aggadic books.
When I was 4 years old I was convinced that the stories about Avraham burning his father's idols are part of the written Torah that was given to Moshe in Sinai. Later on I was convinced that those stories are part of the Oral Torah that was given to Moshe in Sinai. Many years later I was convinced that they are post-Mishnaic late Agadot. I did not know Jubilees by then. Now I know they are early pre-Mishnaic Agadot, but I don't know, and probably never know what exactly are their origins.
The same is relevant to the many Halakhot which found in the Book of Jubilees. We shall be very surprised to realize that some of the "Halakhot" that Moshe of the Jubilees recieved in Sinai are similar to the Halakhot that the Rabbinic Moshe is going to be recieved from Sinai more than 400 years later. Some of them, on the other hand, are differnt.
The Jubilees, for example, is the first Halakhic source of "Netilat Lulav" and "Arba'at Haminim" ( (Waiving(?) of Lulav and the four species(?)) in Sukot. we learn it from Avraham In Jubilees capter 16. According to the Jubilees, Avraham, Isaac, Yaakov, Noah, Hanokh and other "Pre-Sinai" heroes celebrated all the holidays. they did'nt have to wait for the stone-Tabklet Torah to come down from Sinai - God loved them and revealed to them the heavenly Torah many years before. In this way they also fulfilled all the Mitzvot of the written Torah and much more,
like, for example, Waiving Lulav in Sukot. As it is written in Jubilees 16 ; 31: "And Avraham took palm-branches and fruit from the choirest trees, and he went round the altar every day with the branches, seven times a day in the morning, and he praised and gave thanks to his God with all joy." - 400 years later, the Mishnah in tractate Sukah is going to dedicate two chapters to the description of how to sorround the altar with Lulav and Etrog, while saying 'Hallel' and praising God. From the Torah itself there is no way to understand it. All what is written in the Torah is: "And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of the tree Hadar, branches of palm trees , and the boughs of thick leaved trees, and willows of the brook ; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days." In the days of Ezra they still did not give to this verse the same meaning that we find in Jubilees and the Mishnah. They related to the branches and the willows and the Hadar fruit as part of the Sukah, and they orderd the people to built booths from those factors. The Samaritans followed Ezra and did not fulfilled the Halakha of waiving Lulav. The Mishnah, on the other hand is going to follow Jubilees.
Therefore, we have to find the Halakhic origins of Lulav and Hallel somewhere between the time of the book of Nehemia and the book of Jubilees (around 400-300 B.C). Likewise, there are probably many other Halakhot that can't be found in the days of Ezra and can be found in the Jubilees era.
The noticeable contrast between the Jubilees system and the future Mishna system is obviously the differnt calendar. In the Torah there is an inseparable connection between the Festivals and the days of the year. The Torah gives excact days to all the festivals (except Shavu'ot). Pessah has to fall on the 15th of the 1st month (Nisan), Yom-Kipur on the 10th of the 7th and so on. The Torah devides the year into 12 months but does not suggest how to set them. There is a possibility to understand that the Torah means to set the months according to the moon. This possibility is very problematic because of a gap of 11 (10) days between the year of the sun and the year of the moon. As a direct result of it we must loose the connection between the festivals and the seasons of the year. Pesah, according to this, will not be in the spring, but the Torah says explicitely that Pesah is the "Festival of the spring". (The same with Sukot that has to be in the fall, in harvest time). The Torah does not suggest how to solve this problem. The Author of Jubilees, on the other hand, says categorically that we must set the calendar according to the sun, and ignore the moon. How? - we have to count 13 weeks (Shabaths) for each season - altogether 52 weeks in a year, namely 364 days a year. plain and simple.
Many years later, the Mishnah will suggest another system of implentation that is not to be understood plainly from the Torah.The Mishnah will suggest combination of Lunaric year and intercalation (Ibur) of the year. Two detailed chapters in tractate Rosh-Hashana will be dedicated for that purpose by the Mishnah. The author of Jubilees probably did not know about the "trick" of the intercalation - he is arguing with a total lunaric year system. The Halakhic system of the intercalation, we may say, came down to the Jewish world somewhere between the Jubilees era and the Mishnah's era.
The third and the last case will be the case of Shavu'ot:
Shavu'ot is undoubtedly the most important in the Jubilees' festivals hierarchy. (besides Shabbat). more then any other festival it represent the covenant between God and his chosen. The rainbow covenant between Noah and God was agreed and celebrated on Shavu'ot ; The "covenant between the pieces" and the covenant of circumcision were both agreed between God and Avraham in the midst of Shavu'ot celebration, and so it was with the covenant of Sinai. In the Torah there is no any hint to the connection of each one of those covenants to Shavu'ot. The only source for it is to be found in the heavenly Tabblets via Jubilees. This heavenly source also teach us that the holy day of Shavu'ot is the 15th of the third month (15th of Sivan). In the Torah of the stone Tabblet there is no any fixed date to Shavu'ot.
There is also not any given date in the Torah to the day of the revelation on Mount Sinai. The author of Jubilees is not only providing with Halakhic solution to the problem when to celebrate Shavu'ot. He is also providing us the myth that the Torah was given in Shavu'ot.
in contrast with the strong significant of Shavu'ot in the Jubilees system, there is almost total ignorance to this day in the Mishnah. The redactors of the Mishnah dedicated one tractate to each festival. even Purim were worty in their eyes to have an impotrtant tractate. Not Shavu'ot. Needless to say that there is not any connection in the Mishnah between the day of Torah giving and Shavu'ot.
Only in post-Mishnaic sources like the Talmud we are told about a specific date to celebrate Shavu'ot - the 6th of Sivan. And only in those sources we start to hear about the connection between Shavu'ot and the Torah giving. Later on, the Torah giving will turn to be the central event acociated with Shavu'ot. in the prayer books this festival will be described as "The day of the giving of our Torah".The Cabalists, eventually, are going to redeem this day and give it back its central position in the mind of the Halakhic Judaism.
Such being the case, the book of Jubilees hold a central ancient tradition, which from any reason was absolutely repressed and frozen in the Mishnah, and only later on return to be an active central tradition. The same, as we saw before, happend to many Agadot, and also to many myths. We shall relate here to the most important myth to our topic - the myth about the two Torot that Moshe recieved on Sinai.
This myth, is probably the main myth in Jubilees, and is definetely going to be the main myth in the Rabbinic Judaism. In the Mishnah we do not find it at all. We shall never find in the Mishnah terms like "two Torot" or "written Torah" and "oral Torah", but we are going to find them many times in the post-Mishnaic literature.
The post-Mishnaic redactors did to the Mishnah's Halakhot the same as the narrator of Jubilees thought to do to the "Halakhot" of his circle - they cannonized them. They sanctified the Mishnah and turned it to Oral Torah.
The two Torot myth was in the air of Jerusalem and Israel at least 400 years before the redaction of the Mishnah. During Mishnah time it was frozen. just like Shavuot. Only in post-Mishnaic literature we find the "two-Torot" myth in the heart of the Halkhic Judaism - in the Halakhic and Agadic Midrashim, in the Talmuds, and in
all the post- Talmudic traditonal literature up until the rise of the 21st century.
The similarity between the Jubilees and the Rabbinic "two-Torot" myth, may explain the urge of the Mishnah's redactors to rule that anyone who read the external books is loosing his share in the world to come. It may also explains the obligation of the 10 years old to march like "Kipa Aduma" in the only path between the Miqra and the Mishnah. any attempt to turn aside and pick some flowers in the forrest between the Miqra and the Mishnah will lead to the inevitable confrontation with the wolf.
The presence of the Jubilees is felt very much in the Qumran library. It looks like it was part of the sect's canon. In Damascus Covenant it is written explicitly that the days and festivals has to be set according to the Jubilees system.
The members of the sect talked also about two Torot - The revealed Torah הנגלה and the hidden one .הנסתר Their hidden Torah was revealed to them mostly through learning, and not through traditional chains.
They described their way of learning as Midrash, and they described themselves as "Dorshey Hatorah". "Midrash haTorah" was part of their sanctified daily activity. Every day they had a session of learning through inspiration. The result of this long Midrashic process was a new law. The new law was for them like a direct flowing from Sinai. They did not need mediators. They saw themselves as the exclusive allies (Bnai-Brit) of God, who revealed them his hidden secrets on daily basis.
Some of the scholars claim that the Midrash method of the sect is completely new technique in the post-Biblical view. The founders of the sect, according to those scholars, imported this technique from some Hellenistic hermeneutical methods that they learned in Damascus. Other will claim that the Midrash method by its definition cant be imported, since the Torah is to be Drushed by its very essence. anyway, there is no reason to query the fact that many years prior to the Mishnah we find already two systems of Torah's implementation - the traditional way that was demonstrated here through the Jubilees, and the renovating way - the way of Midrash, which is found in some of the Dead Sea Scrolls.Each system of implantation define its system as an additional Torah.
There are two kinds of additional Torah - the traditional non-written Torah, and the "drushed"-non-written Torah - the first one is more popular, and aimed to everybody, the second one is more esoteric, and aimed to those who are able to learn the Torah and drush it. There is an inevitable conflict between the two additional Torahs - many years later we are going to find this conflict in every page of the Rabbinic literature. This is going to be the conflict between the traditional mind of the "Mishnah" and the innovative mind of the "Talmud".
The terms Mishnah and Talmud, like the term Midrash, are to be found already in some ancient paragraphs of the Mishnah (at least 1st century CE). Only later on they are going to be identified also as the three main parts of the final Rabbinic literature - the many books of Midrash, the 63 tractates of the Mishnah, and the two Talmuds. The term Mishnah derived from the verb lishnot (to recite. to repeat) which
connected to the number shna'im (two). Mishnah, if so, is a set of recited Halakhot, but it is also going to be associated as a second to the Torah. The term Talmud derived from the verb lilmod (to learn), and the term Midrash from the verb lidrosh (to search. to interpret). Talmud and Midrash in early Rabbinic literature has, more or less, the same meaning. The activity of Talmud and Midrash is mainly an affort to bridge between the Torah and the Mishnah. i.e between the Verses and the Halakhot. The way of the young child, according to Avot, is therefore very meaningful. Five years old for Miqra, ten for Mishnah, fifteen for Talmud. When he is five he is introduced to his first Torah, when he is ten he is introduced to the second Torah, and since he is 15 he is destined to be in an eternal two-way-trip between two Torot - the Biblical Torah of the verses and the Mishnaic Torah of the Halakhot.
The act of Midrash is not only a bridging between Miqra and Halakhot but also between Miqra and Agadot. Not only thousands of Halakhot were there in the first century CE but also thousands of Agadot. One of the ancient Mishnayot (Paragraph from a Mishnaic chapter) is talking about three different branches of reference to the Miqra - Halakhot, Agadot and Midrash.
The term Agadot, like the term Halakhot is to be found the first time in the Mishnah. It derived from the verb lehagid (to say. to talk). Agadot in the early Rabbinic literature are usually to be found together with Halakhot. We may suggest here that in the same way that we can talk about Miqra mu'at veHalakhot merubot we can also talk about Miqra mu'at veAgadot merubot.
Beside the pair Miqra-Midrash we can place the pair Halakhot-Agadot. The Midrash is Drashing the Miqra as well as the Miqra is to be niqra (to be read) from within the Midrash. The Miqra and the Midrash has an open relationship. it make sense, and it has its own logic and rules. On the other hand, the attitude of the Halakhot and Agadot to the Miqra is somehow arbitrary and unexpected. The Halakot and Agadot insist on their close relationship to the Torah without having any kind of obligation to prove it. All that justifies their insistence is a long tradition, and loyalty to prior generations.
We may also put it like this: The Midrash (The Talmud) from its very essence is not independent. He must explain himself. He must always proove the connection between himself and the Torah. The Agadah, on the other hand, is free and independent. She has her own autonomous life. So does the Halakha. In a very mysterious way those two princess are inseparable part of the Torah, but they are exempt from prooving it. They are too royal for that.
The Midrash has no age limitation - He can be thousand years old or one day old. Every 15 years old that knows the rules of Midrash can drash the Torah, i.e learn her, and renovate Khidushei Torah (Innovations) that never heard before.
The Halakhot and Agadot has an age limitation. There are no young Agadot as well and no young Halakhot. It is possible, however, that some Agadot and Halakhot were not there before the creation of the world, it might also be that some of them came to the world after Sinai Covenant. In any case they must be ancient.
The main interest of the Mishnah's designers was to come out with one final collection of Halakhot. They were not intersting in Agadot. Very few of the Agadot will enter somehow to the Mishnah, many of them will have to wait hundreds of years in order to be written down in one of the late Rabbinic collections, but most of them are going to be lost and found, i.e to remain an authentic Oral Torah.
In contrast with the success of the Mishnah designers to push aside the Agada, they failed to do so to the Midrash (Talmud). The tension between Halakha (tradition) and Midrash (Talmud) is to be found in most of the pages of the Mishnah. The proclaimed goal of the Mishnah was indeed to collect ancient Halakhot, but the Midrashic-Talmudic attitude won at last. The proof is the post-Mishnaic books. All of them are written in a Midrashic-Talmudic style.The designers of those books, however, contributed their Talmud skills to the service of the Halakha. It may be illustrated by the famous debate: Ma Gadol - Talmud o Ma'ase? (What is more important - Talmud or Halakhah?). The famous answer is even shorter then the famous question: Talmud. mishum shemevi lidei ma'ase (Talmud. because it cause to perform (to know?) the (right) Halakhah.
In the Yerushalmi we read: (very free translation)
"dealing with Miqra is not so good ; dealing with Mishnah is good ; dealing with Talmud is the best... Indeed, prior to the redacting of the Mishnah by Rabbi, dealing with Mishnah was more important, but since then, one should always rather the Talmud upon the Mishnah."
Reading just Miqra is very problematic because it does not lead to the right Halakhot of the Mishnah. Reciting Mishnah is good for the ten years old, but not enough for the grown-ups - they need to give sense and logic to those arbitrary Halakhot, and they need to strengthen them by drashing them, and anchoring them to an explicit Biblical verse or word or letter. By doing so they bring sense and logic to the whole halakhic system, and transfer it to an inseparable part of the canonized Torah. They are the leaders of the Halakhic system - the legislators, the judges and the ideologists of it.
This characteristic is typical to the redactors of the Yerushalmi as well to the redactors of the rest of the post-Mishnaic literature between the 3rd and the end of the 5th centuries - Tosefta, Sifra, Mekhilta deRabi Ishma'el Mekhilta deRabbi Shimon, Sifrei Bamidbar, Sifrei Devarim, Genesis Raba, Leviticus Raba, and Pesikta Derav Kahana. it is not characteristic to the redactors of the Bavli.
In the end of the 6th century the redactors of the Bavli broke through the whole Halakhic system, and changed the meanings of many basic terms, including Torah, Mishnah, Talmud and Halakha. This break-through was so sharp and sophisticated that until today very few are willing to admit that it realy happend.
On the surface they used the same techniques as their predecessors. They even quote them ceaselessly. Their basic raw-material was the Miqra, the Mishnah and the post Mishnaic literature. But while quoting them, they went against their stream.
To start with, the redactors of the Bavli were probably not belong to the Haklakhic establishment. Many close readings of the Bavli cause me to claim it. Here I shall
bring only few:
The Bavli in Baba Metzi'a quote the same Yerushalmi that we brougt before - "They who occupy themselves with The Miqra (alone) are but of indifferent merit ; in Mishnah are indeed meritous, and are rewarded for it ; With Talmud - there can be nothing more meritorious.."
Up until here it is word by word as in the Yerushalmi, but few lines later the redactors of the Bavli came out with their own additional Midrash to this topic:
"...What is the meaning of the verse 'Hear the word of the Lord, you who are solicitous to his words (haharedim lidvaro): your brothers that hate you, (and) excommunicate you etc... - 'you who solicitous to his word' are the Talmidei Hakhamim (Talmud learners) ; 'your brothers' are the Miqra owners (Ba'alei Miqra) ; 'those who hate you' are the Mishnah owners (Ba'alei Mishnah) ; 'those who excomunicate you' are the people (Am-Ha'aretz).
The terminology of this Midrash stemming from common psychological sectant terminology. Seven hundreds years prior to this Midrash the members of the dead sea sect saw themselves as Dorshey haTorah and as yere'ey El, who are solicitous to here the word of God. They felt chased by the Halakhic establishment of their days, which was supported by the lay people. They opposed the establishment's ownership on the Halakha and claimed their exclusive right on Torah's interpertation. Now, the designers of this Babylonian Midrash see themselves as the Haredim who are hated by the owners of the Mishnah, and excomunicated by the people.(Haredim, by the way, is the current terminology used by the ultra-orthodoxy to define themselves).
The redactors of the Yerushalmi never spoke about owners of Mishnah as oppose to owners of Talmud - they talked about those who occupies themselves with Mishnah versus those who occupies themselves with Talmud. They, indeed, preferred doing Talmud than Mishnah, but it was in order to support to the Halakhic establishment of their days. The redactors of the Bavli, on the other hand did Talmud in order to do Talmud. period. They sanctified the process of learning. They claimed that learning abilities are necessary conditions in order to achieve the original Halakha that was given in Sinai. Tradition was not enough for that.
The ideal Talmid-hakham in their eyes was the one who can combines learning skills with Yir'at Shama'im (God-fearing. Harediut) Such a talmid-Hakham could always aim his arguments exactly to the original Halakha which was given on Sinai. The right Halakha will always be according to a Talmid-Hakham like this.
In the Bavli we find two ideal Talmidey-Hakhamim that the right Halakha is always like them. One of them is David, and the other is Rabbi Eliezer Ben Hurkenus. Prior to the Babylonians David and Rabbi Eliezer no one in the Rabbinic literature has an eternal direct-call and direct access to Sinai. No one prior to them was described as someone that the right Halakha is always like him.
The very essence of the statement 'Halakha is always like him' turn the whole traditional system of the Mishnah upside down. A statement like this declares: There is no need in tradtion and in generational chains. So what if Moshe passed all the
Halakhot to Joshua who passed it to the Elders and so on - Rabbi Eliezer can go through this whole process by himself...
That's exactly the reason why would owners of Mishna hate Talmidei Hakhamim like this. Their very existence is a huge threat to their governing. And that's exactly why would Am-ha'Aretz chase them and excomunicate them.
And that's why the Babylonian David was chased by the Halakhic establishment and Rabbi Eliezer was excomunicated by it, and Raba Bar Nahmani was chased by it into his death. God of the Bavli were totally with those three, but the Halakhic establishment was against them!
The direct connection between the redactors of the Bavli and God on top of Sinai thretened the whole dependent relationship between the Halakhic establishment and the Am-ha'Aretz.
Between the 2nd and the 5th centuries CE the owners of the Mishnah mediated between the am-ha'aretz and God. The amha'aretz, by its definition, has an ambivalent relationship with its God. On the one hand, it can not live without God's dominant presence, but, on the other hand, it is not able to create a direct link with Him. Therefore it needs intermediaries. In the days of the Temple the priests and the prophets were mediated between the Israelite amha'aretz and their God. The priests raised the sacrifices of amha'aretz towards God, and the prophets brought down God's commandments to amha'aretz.
With the destruction of the Temple the Tanna'im (the designers of the mishnah), and the amora'im (the designers of the post-Mishnaic literature) took over the roll of the priests and prophets and turn to be the new mediators between God and the Israelite amha'aretz. The tanna'im and amora'im prepared for the amha'aretz the six orders of the Mishnah, arrenged a set order of prayer, and organized an intricately detailed daily agenda. In this way they enable it to continue to have a lengthy and orderly Halakhic system of relationship with its God. They also brought to amha'aretz the whole credited chain of tradition. They re-opened for them all the way up to Sinai.
Despite all the meaningful changes that the Biblical Torah went through on her way to the Mishnah, she remained a mediating mean between the Israelite amha'aretz and its God. Since the day that the Torah was given in Sinai until the end of the 6th century she remained a mediating mean. And then, almost out of the blue, apeared in Babylonia an anonimous post-amoraic avant-garde stream, and tried to turn the Torah from an intermediate means to an end in itself. They stopped designating themselves delegated elite mediators. They created an entirely new creation for themselves. They created the style of Torah Lismah - Torah for her own sake.
Instead of being one more anonimous link in the traditional chain, they prefered to have a direct connection with Sinai. Every day the Torah was desirable to them just as the day that she was given in Sinai. The Torah was desirable to them like a love Godess. The Place where they learned her was their Olympus, and God, so they claimed, was totaly with them. actualy, he was one of them. Just like them he was studying complicated Talmudic Sugyot with Rabbi Me'ir, or Rabbi Evyatar, or Rabbi Yonatan, or Raba bar Nahmani or the rest of the Talmidei-Hakhamim.
God's favorite Havruta (learning partner) was David. When David asked to precede his death in one day, God refused vigorously and said: "I prefer one more day of listening to your Torah learning then thousand burnt offerings, that Shlomo, your son, is going to offer me (during one day) on the altar.
The future re-building of the 'flaishic' (fleshy) Temple is an inevitable nightmere. God knows it more then every body else. The 'flaishic' Temple is a post-Talmudic Temple(!), and God is the Greek chorus of his inevitable destiny to smell thousand of burnt-offerings every day. He canot prolongs his Havruta's life, but he is going to enjoy every minute with him before the Temple's disaster.
Now we may return to one of the most revolutionary statements of the Bavli's redactors: "Since the day that the Temple was destroyed God has nothing in his world but the four cubits of Halakha alone".
apparently, this statemnt can strengthen the hands of the Mishnah owners as well as every generation's Halakhic establishments. So, indeed, did their speakers in every generation, and so did I before, when I took this statement out of its Babylonian context. Here, I would like to claim that the meaning of this statement is: Since the day that the Temple was destroyed God has nothing in his world but four cubits of Talmud Torah alone. The redactors of the Bavli, as we mentioned ago, changed the key-codes to many basic Halakhic terms, including the term Halakha itself. Let examine it through close-reading of the four parts of this context.
"1. Rav Hisda said: What is the meaning of the verse: 'God loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of jacob'? - God loves the gates that are distinguished (me-tzuyanim) through Halakha more than Batei-kenesiyot and Batei-Midrashot (Synagogues and Houses of study).
2. And this conforms with the following saying of Rabbi Hiya bar Ami in the name of Ulla: Since the day that the Temple was destroyed the holy one, blessed be he, has nothing in his world but the four cubits of Halakha alone.
3. So said also Abaye: At first I learned at home prayed in the Synagogue. Since I heard the saying of Rabbi Hiya bar Ami in the name of Ulla: 'Since the day that the Temple was destroyed the holy one, blessed be he, has nothing in his world but the four cubits of Halakha alone', I pray only in the place where I learn.
4. Rabbi Ami and Rabbi Assi, thuogh they had thirteen Synagogues in Tiberias, prayed only between the pillars where they used to learn."
- In the first part we read about three different houses. Two of them - Beit Keneset and Beit Midrash - are known as the Rabbinic substitutes to the Biblical house - the Beit Mikdash. The third hose is not known to us, but God prefers it on the other two. More than that: from the second part we realize that God does not visit at all any Beit Kneset and any Beit-Midrash, and every minute in his long days he is to be found within those gates.
Not only God - Abaye also - never enter to any Synagogue or Beit-Midrash. Once, indeed, he used to pray in Synagogue, but since he heard that God is never to be found in any Beit Kneset and any Beit Midrash, he saved precious time and many hours of Bitul Torah, and prays always where he learnes.
The same with Rabbi Ami and Rabbi Assi. There were thirteen Synagogues in "Tveria-Babylonia", but they never entered to each one of them. Like Abaye and God they prayed where they learned. They did not have any other space in their world, but their four cubits of learning.
We may asume that the lay people (the amha'aretz) and their local Rabbis went to pray in the Synagogues. But who were in the Batei-Midrash, what did they do there, and why Talmidei-Hakhamim such as Abaye, rabbi ami, Rabbi assi and God never entered inside?
My suggestion is that the permanent residents of the Batei-Midrash were Ba'alei HaMishnah, the owners of the Mishnah, the haters of the avant-garde Talmidei Hakhamim. Those Ba'alei Mishnah were, according to this suggestion, the Rabbis of the establishment. They were the official Poskim who were nominated by the Exilarchy (the government of the Jewish community in Babylon). Those Rabbis were the official mediators between the Babylonian amha'aretz and their God. They were the historic successors of the Tannaim and the Amoraim. One more link in a glorious traditional chain between Moshe and the Halakhic establishment of all the generations.
Those Mishnah owners continued to do Talmud in the style of the Mishnah and the Yerushalmi. They learned and dradhed the Mishnah Halakhot in order to supply more relevant matter to the judges of their generations, and to the judges of the generations to come. They are the eternal Torah Lawyers
Torah lawyers hate Torah lovers. (Lawyers, to start with, hate lovers. The lawyer within me hate everything that I'm doing out of pure love. Such a waste of time and money, he panics, you are destroying yourself. I do. I am self-destructive. I am in love...)
Torah lawyers hate those Torah lovers who are interesting in the Torah as a source of inspiration and not as a source of relevant and current law. Torah lawyers hate those Talmidei-Hakhamim who are interested in the Tahalikh (process) more than in the Halakha. Specially they hate those Torah lovers when they use the term Halakha and mean by that everything but final and relevant law. Not to speak about the fact that they dare to claim that the right Halakha is always like them, and worse of all, God is always with them.
That is why those post-amoraic-Torah-lawyers did not want those post-amoraic- Torah-lovers in their Beit-Midrash. And that is why the post-amoraic-Torah-lovers did not want to be mediators between the people and their God, and left this job to their haters. They were in love in their Torah and they wanted to be just with Her. So they seclude themselves in their houses with their Torah. And so did God. They did not have in their world anything but four cubits of Talmud-Torah alone.
Since then there are two Torot - the commanding Torah of law and the inspiring Torah of learning. The first one is directed to the amha'aretz by the Torah lawyers ; The second one is dedicated to the Torah lovers by themselves. Amha'aretz, by its definition, would rather the Torah lawyers (Mishnah owners). After all they are always agreeing to mediate between them and God.
Since then the Torah lawyers will claim that their Halakhot were given to Moshe in Sinai. The Torah lovers will claim that the Halakhot Lemoshe Mesinai are the renovated Halakhot which are renewed by them every day.
Since then, the Torah lovers will not be interesting in governing through their Torah, and will not be interesting in becoming main stream.They will not enter to the Batei-Midrash of their haters, and to the Batei-Kneset of their excomunicators. They will seclude themselves with their Torah, and renovate every day many innovations, and write them down. Every day they will take final Halakhot from any Mishnah and re-open it. They would ask many questions and many queries on each opened Halakha, and they would supply many possible answers to each question. They will write everything down and document the whole process and atribute all of it to their predecessors - the Babylonian Amoraim.
The result of it will be the Babylonian Talmud. The Bavli.
Before the end we have one more Mishnah to complete:
" 5 years old for Miqra, Ten years old for Mishnah, 13 for Mitzvot, 15 for Talmud, 18 for Hupah, 20 for pursuing (lirdof), 30 for power (ko'ah), 40 for insight (binah), 50 for counsel (etzah), 60 for to be an elder (zikna), 70 for old age (seiva), 80 for special strength (gvurot), 90 for bowed back and at 100 is as one that has already died and passed away and ceased from the world..."
This is fairly an optimistic way to summarize the last ninety five years in human's life. On the other hand, it completely ignores the first five years, which are, as most of us agree, the most important years. No one's life start at age five, and no life start with reading.
Only the second and last part in human's life start with reading. During this part one developes secondary skills such as reading, declaiming, reciting, drashing, learning and re-reading. Those secondary skills based on the primary intuitions which are acquired in the first and main part in one's life. The two main primary intuitions are walking and talking. Walking is the primary basis to all the actions ; talking is the primary basis to all the reflections.
Walking and talking are halikhot and hagadot (hegedim) ; Walks and talks are halakhot and Agadot. Some of us walked thousands steps before they talked their first word, and some of us talked already too much before they knew how to walk - All of us already walked and talked millions of steps and words when we started to read. All of us came with zillions of Halakhot and Agadot to our first meeting with the Miqra. The designers of Pirkei Avot, like the designers of many other cultures, took it for granted.
Since our first frustrated confrontation with the Miqra, begins an inevitable process of alienation. Again and again we will face a gap between the richness of our agadot and halakhot, and the limited letters of the plain text. Many years are needed in order to recover from this shock - We shall not get them. Instead, few years later we shall go through another shock - moving from Miqra to Mishnah.
If the first transformation destroyed our first temple ; the second one will bring to
the second destruction.
Since the day that our second Temple is destroyd, we, poor children, might have nothing in our world, but four cubits of arbitrary and allianated Halakha. Many Torah lawyers will try everything in order to make us diclaim their own Halakhot. Many law owners will try everything in order to make us march in their only main-stream between their only Miqra and their only Mishnah.
In this stage only Talmud may save us.
It does'nt matter at all what is our specific back-ground. As long as we managed to walk our first any million Halakhot and talk our first any million Agadot, and as long as we were forced to march and declaim them, only Talmud can save us.
Tt will be absulutely up to us to decide what, if at all, kind of Talmud we are going to do - are we going to do Talmud in order to cover up the inevitable contradictions between the Miqra and the Mishnah of our childhood, or in order to face it.
Facing it may re-connect each one of us with her or his original Halakhot and Agadot. Then it will be absulutely up to each one of us to decide what are the origins of her or his current Halakhic system, and how urgent, if at all, it needed to be change.