web analytics
March 2, 2015 / 11 Adar , 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Home » Judaism » Parsha »

Adding And Subtracting From The Torah

Rabbi Avi Weiss

Rabbi Avi Weiss
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

This week’s Torah portion gives us a curious mitzvah. It tells us not to add or subtract to the commandments (Deuteronomy 13:1). This seems to go against the idea of the ongoing development of Jewish law on the part of the rabbis (Deuteronomy 17:8-13).

Consider, for example, one of the dietary laws. The Torah states that one may not eat meat and milk together. The rabbis take this prohibition and extend it to include the consumption of fowl and milk. Does this extension violate the prohibition of adding to the Torah?

Rambam feels this in fact may be the case. He codifies that if one maintains that fowl and milk are enjoined by Torah law, this extension is a violation of adding to the Torah. However, if the rabbis declared that as an added precaution, because of the similarity between fowl and animal food, fowl together with milk is rabbinically forbidden, then including fowl as a rabbinic prohibition is perfectly legitimate (Laws of Mamrim 2:9).

This idea helps explain a well-known midrashic comment on the Garden of Eden narrative. According to the text of the Torah, Eve tells the serpent that God had commanded that the tree of knowledge not be touched. Eve, however, adds to the decree. As the Midrash explains, God had only forbidden eating, not touching. The serpent then pushed Eve against the tree, declaring, “as you have not died from touching it, so you will not die from eating thereof.” In the words of Rashi: “She added to the command [of God]. therefore, she was led to diminish from it” (Rashi, Genesis 3:3,4).

One could argue that Eve acted properly; after all, she, like the rabbis, only tried to protect God’s commandment by extending the prohibition to touching. Her mistake, however, was saying that God had actually issued such a command. She should have declared that while God forbade eating from the tree, she decided as a precaution – as a “fence” around the law – not to touch it as well.

Thus, rabbinic law is pivotal. Still, it is important to understand which laws are rabbinic and which are biblical in nature.

One final note: Separate from rabbinic legislation and interpretation is the halachic realm of chumra. Chumra is imposing a very stringent observance of the law. While stringency can elevate spirituality, it is essential to know when a practice falls into the category of chumra and when it does not. Failure to make this distinction can often lead to the chumra becoming the only accepted practice. This can be dangerous because it can lead to a lack of understanding and intolerance of the sometimes-wide range of practices within a certain rabbinic law.

So rabbis can extend the laws when there is a critical need, but they must do so with the realization of their responsibility not to blur the lines set out in the Torah.

Throughout the ages rabbis have done so with the hope that their interpretations and legislations will bring people closer to God and to one another.

About the Author: Rabbi Avi Weiss is founder and president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and senior rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Adding And Subtracting From The Torah”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Americans have a more favorable view of Netanyahu than they do of Obama.
Americans’ Favorable View of Netanyahu at Record High, Says Gallup Poll
Latest Judaism Stories
Esther Denouncing Haman

Purim is the battleground of extremes, Amalek and Yisrael, with Zoroastrian Persia in between.

Niehaus-022715

One should not give the money before Purim morning or after sunset.

Mendlowitz-022715-Basket

The mishloach manos of times gone by were sometimes simple and sometimes elaborate, but the main focus was on the preparation of the delicious food they contained.

Winiarz-022715-Kids

Does Hashem ever go away and not pay attention to us?

In other words, the Torah is an expression of the Way that we must follow in order to live a divine-like life and to bond in the highest way possible with God or Being Itself.

The Chasam Sofer answers that one of only prohibited from wearing a garment that contains shatnez if he does so while wearing the garment for pleasure purposes.

The avodah (service) of the kohen gadol is vital and highly sensitive; the world’s very existence depends on it.

Moreover, even if the perpetrator of the capital offense is never actually executed, such as when the fatal act was unintentional, Kam Lei applies and the judge cannot award damages.

Forever After?
‘Obligated for Challahh and Not Terumah’
(Kesubos 25a)

Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

“We really appreciate your efforts in straightening the shul,” said Mr. Reiss. “How is it going?”

This was a spontaneous act of rest after the miracle of vanquishing their respective foes. The following year they celebrated on the same days as a minhag.

The way we must to relate to our young adult children is to communicate with genuine loving-kindness

Jewish prayer is a convergence of 2 modes of biblical spirituality, exemplified by Moses and Aaron

In holy places it’s important to maintain a level of silence permitting people to dialogue with God

More Articles from Rabbi Avi Weiss
Rabbi Avi Weiss

In holy places it’s important to maintain a level of silence permitting people to dialogue with God

Rabbi_Weiss_Speaking500

A 3rd option: No demarcation between bein adam laMakom & bein adam lechaveiro; they’re complementary

The truth is that a mitzvah may not be the result of belief but rather the means to come to believe.

“Where is God?” asked the Kotzker Rebbe “God is not everywhere but only where you let Him enter”

In fact, wherever you see soldiers in Paris today, you pretty much know you’re near Jewish site

Recouping $ and assets from Germans and Swiss for their Holocaust actions is rooted in the Exodus

The plagues don’t reveal a God of vengeance but of compassion; after each triplet Egypt can repent

“He looked this way and that way” means Moses looked within to see whether he was Egyptian or Jewish

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/adding-and-subtracting-from-the-torah/2014/08/21/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: