Sunday 18 September 2022

400) Was it forbidden to write down the Oral Tradition?



This article, based extensively on the work by Professor Yair Furstenberg,[1] explores the very notion of the well-known ban against writing down the Oral Tradition. It is generally accepted that rabbinic literature essentially remained in an oral form since Sinai; and that only from around the period of the redaction of the Mishna in 210 CE was it finally permitted to be written down for the first time.

However, Furstenberg writes in his Abstract that:

“multiple Talmudic anecdotes point to a complex reality that does not align with what seems as an explicit prohibition.” 

To resolve this complexity, Furstenberg suggests that we need to understand that two distinct “book cultures” existed between the rabbis of Palestine and Babylonia at that time.

Sunday 11 September 2022

399) Why Did Ramchal Write Mesilas Yesharim?

A Guest Post by Rabbi Boruch Clinton 

Mesilas Yesharim: Perhaps it really is nothing more than a magnificent guide to Torah perfection

No one who’s spent serious time learning Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato (Ramchal)’s ethical masterpiece Mesilas Yesharim can walk away uninspired. It’s possible to return to sin after being confronted with Ramchal’s powerful arguments, but it won’t be easy.

There’s no doubt that Ramchal gave the world his Mesilas Yesharim out of a genuine desire to have a positive impact. But what was the precise impact he hoped for? A simple reading of the book suggests it’s nothing more than a guide to perfecting our observance of the Torah’s timeless principles. But some claim the book was also designed to subtly introduce esoteric kabbalistic ideas into mainstream Jewish culture.

Sunday 4 September 2022

398) Maimonides’ view on the parameters of ‘faith in the sages’


Dr Avi Harel

Guest post by Dr Avi Harel

[Translated from the Hebrew by Gavin Michal  אבי הראל: אמונת חכמים והיקפה על פי הרמב"ם - ייצור ידע (]

Dr Avi Harel holds a PhD in Jewish philosophy and history. He served in the IDF, Border Police and Israel Police for three decades in various command positions. In his last position, he was the historian of the Israel Police. He has published four books and dozens of articles.



In the weekly portion of Shoftim in the Book of Deuteronomy, there is a general biblical overview of the style of governance which is to be established in Canaan when the Israelites eventually enter the land. Firstly, there is a reference to adherence to an appropriate system of law. Then there is an injunction to establish a form of law enforcement, along the lines of an efficient policing body, that is ethical and effective. And finally, the Torah specifies the principles that pertain to the appointment of the ruler of the people - the king. This came with the ethical requirement that his power is to be limited so that his rule is not supreme.