In this teaching, we will pick up with Canto III in Salmon Ben Jeruham’s criticism of Rabbinic Judaism and their views on the Oral Law.
“Canto III: Where do you flee, O Fayyumite (Saadiah), to hide thyself from utter ruin? Let us rather come together for judgment; increase thine army of arguments and come out to battle. I have seen also in the Talmud, which you Rabbanites regard as if it were your main supporting column, and which is made by you a partner to the Law of Moses, and is held beloved and desirable in your hearts,”
“the bellowing of the School of Shammai against the School of Hillel, to controvert their words, as well as that of the School of Hillel against the School of Shammai, to refute their interpretations of the Law. This one invokes blessings, and that one heaps curses upon their heads, yet both are an abomination in the sight of the Lord. The words of which one of the two shall we accept, and the views of which one of the two shall we condemn, seeing that each one of them is attracted a great congregation of adherents, and each one of them turns to say, ‘I am the captain of the ship?'”
“Incline thine ears, if you desire pearls of wisdom; the matter cannot be both ways. If their words require interpretation with words of men of understanding, then this Mishnah cannot be the Law of the Master of masters. If the Mishnah be the Law of Moses, God’s servant, why do they not mention therein the name of Moses only? And why do they mention in each chapter of the Mishnah the names of teachers other than he? And why do they not say, ‘Thus said the Lord’ and ‘Thus said Moses’ after his meeting with the Lord? If you would yet double the rascalities, and would utter more error and falsehood, and would say, ‘They used to engage in scholarly discussion, in awe of him who dwells in glory.’ Remember that many fell slain among them in their stumbling.”
REFUTAION OF SAADIAH’S SEVEN ARGUMENTS
“God forbid that I should remain silent; rather will I establish the strongest proofs in the world, and I will refute you and despoil you of your claims, with the help of him who causes men to become rich as well as poor. The text of the seven written arguments which are set down in your commentary on Genesis, if at all times you did mention them publicly in order to seduce men’s hearts, yet now they will become like spears and swords over the head and the heart.”
“(1) May thy steps be hampered in walking, when you say that my congregation has need of the Mishnah in order to know the precise measurements of the ordinances of the ritual fringe, the lulav and the booth, and that is why they arranged it and set it down in writing. You have written lies, for not all ordinances have a definite measurement, and that is why the length of the fringe is not specified in the Law. If one should forcefully exhibit this argument, how will you distinguish, and what answer will you make to him, out of the words of the Divine Testimony?”
“(2) To heap up more lying words, you have written and set forth further, and has said, secondly, that the Mishnah is ancient, because in it is explained the precise amount of the heave offering, so that Israel might know what part of what part they are to give. This argument is identical with the preceding, and the answer to the former argument applies to the latter as well; no precise amount or sum has been specified for it; rather each person is to give as much as he wishes and will meet with no complaint.”
“(3) You have said, thirdly, that we have a need for the inherited tradition in order that we might know what day of the week is Sabbath, so that we might keep it holy. But the Sabbath is known to all the inhabitants of the world as a day of rest, from the factual knowledge and reasoning, not merely by reckoning by three, five, and six.”
“(4) You have turned from the right road and has labored much, when you have said, fourthly, that we need the Mishnah to know which vessel is capable of becoming ritually unclean. But you have erred, for you have not considered the verse, ‘whatsoever vessel it be, wherewith any work is done’ (Lev 11.32). All such vessels are specified in the Law, if you would but turn thy heart to it.”
“(5) Still you hold fast to broken arguments, and has said, fifthly, that there are ordinances which we must observe, and which are not explained in the Law, such as prayers, and other ordinances, yet the prayers are not mentioned in Scripture. Your mouth has not considered the verse, ‘and ye shall pray unto me’ (Jer 29.12); and prayers are mentioned also in many other places. Thus, you have not remembered, when you have spoken, the prayer of Daniel, the man greatly beloved of God. Therefore, I reject from before me all ordinances and statutes which are not written in the Law.”
“(6) Your flag fell from your bastion when you have said, sixth, that we need the tradition, and pride ourselves upon it, in order to know the number of years elapsed since the destruction and cessation of the Second Temple. I will answer you in this matter, and thy glory will wilt, O you who bindest together silly things without wisdom! In which sacred book is it written that it is our duty to know the reckoning of how many years shall elapse between the destruction of the Temple and the Dread Gathering?”
“(7) With much labor, but uselessly, you have written, seventh, and has said that we need the tradition, and pride ourselves upon it, to know the date of the period of the redemption of Israel, and the appointed time of the resurrection of the dead. In the song of the Prophets and other seers, all these things are already mentioned and are contained therein; they are bound and fastened therein as firmly as with ropes, and they do not follow from thy words and thy worthless traditions. Here ends my words concerning the Mishnah.”
To date, only the first three chapters of “The Book of the Wars of Hashem” have been translated into English. The rest of the book deals with various points of rabbinic law and some of the corrupt calendar practices of Rabbinic Judaism, which are still practiced today. He also deals with their blasphemous personification of God.
Deut 31.24-26 says that Moses finished writing (not oral) the words of this law (Torah) in a book until they were complete (nothing left out, like an “oral law”). The book was taken and placed beside the Ark of the Covenant so that it might remain there as a witness against the people because Moses knows the people would rebel after he is gone.
In Part 32 we will pick up with the next Torah portion called “Ha’azeinu” which means “Give ear.”