The rabbis may claim that they observe the “Law”, but the truth is that they never observed the Law of Moses. They don’t even try to. What they call “The Law” is actually the teachings and traditions invented by the Sages, many thousands of years after Moses. See for example the foreword by the famous Orthodox author and lawyer, Chaim Schimmel, in his book “The Oral Law”, which says: “The Jews never followed the literal words of the Pentateuch, but rather the rabbis’ traditions, while believing that God gave an additional Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai, the “Oral Law”. However, this doesn’t stop certain rabbis from accusing us, the Messianic Jews, of abolishing the Law… while they observe it, so they claim. But this is far from the truth, as we shall see.
Here is what Rabbi Ravid says: “There is no new Law, and there will be no new Law… Obviously, one of the main things about the Law is that it doesn’t change; nothing is omitted from it, and nothing is added to it. Even a prophet is not allowed to renew things within the Law… The only ones who believe the Law has changed are the Christians. We are completely different from them. It is obvious to us, that our Law will never change.”
It would be interesting to see how he defines the obligations of the Talmud, if not as an addition? Perhaps Rabbi Ravid is not familiar with the Pentateuch, and possibly not even with the Sages’ words. In the Pentateuch, God did remove certain commandments; for example, commandments that were given in Leviticus, and were relevant during the time of wandering in the desert, were changed in Deuteronomy, so they would fit the life of the settlement in the Land of Canaan. In Leviticus 17, it was commanded that animals that were slaughtered for food should first be brought to the tabernacle, so that the people of Israel would avoid using them for sacrifices. But in Deuteronomy 12, this prohibition was cancelled, and permission was given to slaughter the same animals at home, since the distance to the central tabernacle was considerable for many. So, the Law did change, and was subject to omissions and additions.
Those who will continue and study the list of “do” commandments in the Pentateuch, will find that it’s impossible to observe almost half of them, as most of them deal with issues that are not relevant today, like the temple, the priesthood, the kingdom and the sacrificial system. They also deal with specific situations, such as living in the desert, laws regarding lepers, tribes, slaves, and so on. This leaves us with very few “do” commandments that are possible to observe. For example, stoning to death someone who kindles a fire on Shabbat. I for one have never seen any rabbi or Orthodox person, stoning secular people to death for defiling the Sabbath. This situation creates a problem for us, since in Leviticus 19:37 God says: “And you shall observe all my statutes and all my rules…” Not some, not only what’s possible, not what’s convenient or what we feel like doing, but everything. In Derech Eretz Sota 8, the Sages agree and say: “Anyone who abolishes even one thing from the Law, must be put to death.” Also, in Midrash Tomer Devorah to Rabbi Moshe Cordovero it says: “But even the perfectly righteous man who commits a single sin, is seen in the eyes of God as one who burned the whole Torah.”
The Sages were aware of the fact that it’s impossible to observe the Law, so they had to find a creative solution… and so here enters the invention of a new law, which they call “The Oral Law”. With this new “Law”, they are the ones who make the rules, while God is left out. And this is exactly what the rabbis are learning and teaching in the Orthodox academies (yeshivas). They study the law that they invented – the “Oral Law” – and not the Biblical Law of the Old Testament. The truth is, you will not find even one Orthodox yeshiva in the entire world that is committed to studying Old Testament Law. They might call what they are learning “The Law”, but they don’t really touch the Law of the Pentateuch. When the rabbis say “The Law of Moses” and “The Commandments of the Law”, they don’t really mean “The Law” in the same way the common Israelis think of… Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. To them, this Biblical Law is just for kids.
Pay attention to what is written in Tractate Avot 5 of the Babylonian Talmud:
“Five years is the age for the study of Scripture. Ten, for the study of Mishnah. Thirteen, for the obligation to observe the commandments. Fifteen, for the study of Talmud.”
So the Biblical Law, according to them, is just like stories for five year olds, while proper adults should be following the instructions that the Sages invented in the Talmud.
This might be surprising to someone who is not familiar with the Orthodox world, but unlike modern rabbis, the Sages of old never hid the fact that they don’t even try to observe the Laws in the Old Testament. They willingly admitted that. See for example Minhat Eliyahu, chapter 2:
“Since we disobey the entire Law from A-to-Z, the world should have ended… and when we see that even though we disobeyed the entire Law the world did not turn into chaos, it seems that the meaning of the verse ‘If I have not established my covenant’ is not referring to the Law… And now, they did not disobey, as the Oral Law is in masculine form… And if they disobeyed the Oral Law as well, which is in feminine form, I would have destroyed the rest of the world.”
In simple language, while on one hand the Sages admit that the people of Israel were never able to observe the Law of Moses in the Bible, on the other hand, they think that we didn’t transgress the “Oral Law”… since if we were to disobey the “Oral Law”, God, in their estimation, would have destroyed the world by now.
In Bava Metzia 33 in the Babylonian Talmud the Sages say this: “They who occupy themselves with the Bible are but of indifferent merit; with Mishnah, are indeed meritorious, and are rewarded for it; with Gemara – there can be nothing more meritorious.”
In other words, the Sages claim that whoever wastes their time studying the Old Testament will get no reward for it. Only one who studies the Mishnah and Gemara will receive reward and profit. The real Law of the Bible means nothing to them. There is no reward for it. Only what they invented, thousands of years after Moses; the “Oral Law”, is important to them. We can summarize the words of Rabbi Daniel Balas in hidabroot.org in the following way:
“The Holy one, blessed be His name, promised that the Law will not be forgotten by his people. After all, when you trust the Sages, you are actually trusting the promise of the Creator of the World. And when you study the Halacha books, you can trust that the promises of the Pentateuch are forever and ever.” Rabbi Balas claims, that in order to be under Mt. Sinai’s covenant, we have to observe the “Oral Law”, which they, the rabbis, invented. Do you understand? These are two completely different sets of laws, but the nickname, “The Law of Moses”, they left the same.
If you didn’t get it yet, here is a good example for their attempt to confuse you, which can be found in a message, like this one, which quotes from Leviticus 30:3:
“If you’ve observed the commandment of lulav … Your victory will be known among the nations of the world…”
But let’s do a little experiment: Open your Bibles to Leviticus, chapter 30. You must have been surprised to find out that chapter 30 doesn’t even exist in Leviticus and you will not be able to find this verse anywhere else in Leviticus, or in the entire Bible. Those who dig deeper, will find that this is a rabbinic teaching, not found anywhere in the Law of the Old Testament. They are pulling the wool over your eyes!
So, before they accuse us, the Messianic Jews, of abolishing the Law of Moses, they should look in the mirror first. Like a wise man once said: “If Moses came to visit today to observe the Judaism which the rabbis developed, he wouldn’t be able to recognize it at all.” The truth is that a similar story appears in the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Menachot 29:72. Moses, who lived many thousands of years before Rabbi Akiva, paradoxically arrives at Rabbi Akiva’s academy, and can’t understand what they are studying there at all. But when the students ask Rabbi Akiva where he learnt all the things he was teaching them, he answers them that it was the “Oral Law”, which he supposedly received from Moses. Did you get it? Moses doesn’t understand what Rabbi Akiva is teaching, while Rabbi Akiva claims that it’s the “Oral Law”, which Moses supposedly received on Mt. Sinai!
In conclusion, there are two sets of Laws in Judaism today, one was written by Moses, and is called “The Law of Moses”, and the other is the law of the Rabbis. And that one is also called “The Law of Moses”. It’s interesting to think about why… What are they trying to hide?