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Home :: Seven Laws :: What Does the Law Begin with?

What Does the Law Begin with?

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Turning over Babylonian Talmud pages, one involuntarily starts getting lost in thought in what tiniest details the Sages of ancient time analyzed each single word of Tora in it, and how much power they spent to show following generations the right way of understanding of what is written in the very first book of mankind. Babylonian Talmud is sixty volumes-tractates of answers to the most difficult and contradictory questions, one can face when making Bible's study of full value.

"Mishne Tora" Religious Code, Laws of Kings and their Wars 9:1 - Maimonides (RAMBAM):

"About six things it was commanded to the first man Adam: about No Idolatry, and about No Blasphemy, and about No Bloodshed, and about No Lechery, and about No Robbery, and about Courts. Despite all those knowledge came to us by tradition from prophet Moses, and the mind is inclined to them - it can be seen from the direct text of Tora that he was commanded about them. Noah was added with No Limb from Living Creature as it's said (Bereshit 9:4): Only flesh with its soul its blood you shall not eat. - Seven Laws come out"

How it can be seen from the direct Biblical text that Noah descendants have to observe Seven Laws? Where did they come from in general? Well, Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 56a:

"Seven Laws are commanded to Noah descendants - Courts, and No Blasphemy, No Idolatry, No Lechery, and No Bloodshed, and No Robbery, and No Limb from Living Creature. Rabbi Hanina ben Gamliel says - about No Blood from Living Creature as well. Rabbi Hidka says - about No Castration as well. Rabbi Shimon says - about No Sorcery as well. Rabbi Yose says - Noah descendants are prohibited with everything what is said about sorcery in the corresponding part of Tora (Dvarim 18:10-12): There shall not be found among you anyone who passes his son or daughter through fire, a soothsayer, a diviner of times, and one who interpretes omens, and a sorcerer, and a charmer, and a pithom sorcerer, and a yido's sorcerer, and a necromancer. For whoever does those things is an abomination to the L-rd, and it's coz of those abominations that the L-rd, Your G-d is driving them out from before you. - And He would never punish them unless it was prohibited to them. Rabbi Elazar says - about Banned Mixtures as well. It's allowed to Noah descendants to wear the clothes sewn from mixed woollen and linen fabrics, and to sow fields with heterogeneous seeds. But they are prohibited to pair animals of different species and to interbreed fruitful trees of different kind. Where it all comes from? Rabbi Yohanan said that it's written in Scripture (Bereshit 2:16): And commanded the L-rd G-d to man, saying, of every tree of the garden eat to eat."

Here it is necessary to do some digression. The matter is no single word in Bible is said for no reason, but there's a definite sense hiding behind each letter in it. Sages knew about that and they were able to dig for hidden between the lines. For that they used thirteen principles of Tora's interpretation. All of them are the part of Oral Tradition (Massora), given from one generation to another since prophet Moses times. Those principles are often used in the whole Talmud when it's necessary to trace the sources of various laws in Tora. One of them is called Gzera Shava (correspondence by similarity - Biblical language translation) that is conclusion out of similarity of words or phrases at two different places of Scripture. That means if there are similar words or expressions in two excerpts of Tora, then written in one excerpt has connection with written in the second one. However, this rule (as well as all other ones) can not be used arbitrary, but only where there's an evident Tradition for it.

Based on the given premise, the Sages concluded each single Law out of each single word and combination of words in the given case. That is on the ground of in which context those similar words and combinations of words are met further in the text of Tora. Here is how they did it (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 56b):

"And commanded - those are Courts, since it's written (Bereshit 18:19): For I have known him coz he commands his sons and his household after him, that they should keep the way of the L-rd to perform righteousness and justice. The L-rd - that is No Blasphemy, since it's written (Vayikra 24:16): And one who blasphemously pronounces the Name of the L-rd, shall be put to death. G-d - that is No Idolatry, since it's written (Shemot 20:3): You shall not have other gods in My presence. To man - that is No Bloodshed, since it's written (Bereshit 9:6): One who sheds the blood of man, in man shall his blood be shed. Saying - that is No Lechery, since it's written (Yirmiyahu 3:1): It's said, here, if a man sends away his wife, and she goes away from him, and marries another man, may he return to her again? Of every tree of the garden (it means it was necessary for Adam that G-d permitted and let him use trees of the garden; but what was not let to him is forbidden to him - RASHI's comment) - that is No Robbery. Eat to eat (what is fitted for food, but don't eat limb from a living creature coz living animal is not fitted for food, but must... - RASHI's comment) - that is No Limb from Living Creature. But rabbi Itzhak came and taught it differently: And commanded - that is No Idolatry; G-d - those are Courts. It corresponds, G-d - that is Courts, since it's written (Shemot 22:7): If the thief is not found, the home owner shall approach G-d (it's said like this about courts - Author's note) to swear that he has not laid his hand upon his neighbor's property. And commanded - that is No Idolatry. Where we can get it from? Rabbi Hisda and rabbi Itzhak bar Avdimay - one says (Shemot 32:8): They have quickly turned away from the path I have commanded them, they have made themselves a molten calf, and they have prostrated themselves in front of it. And the other says (Hoshea 5:11): Ephraim is plundered, broken by judgement, for he desired and followed a command (as far as he desired to follow a command of false prophets of Baal (idol name - Author's note) - RASHI's comment)."

This is Sages opinion. And Halacha (practical law) follows it. But there's also some different opinion. It is Menashe School's teaching, which somehow differs from rabbi Yohanan and suggests its own way of Seven Laws concluding from Tora's direct text. Unlike the previous version, here each Law is concluded from separate Tora's phrases according to their direct sense. The direct interpretation is used for those places in Scripture where G-d on His own speakes to Adam and, afterwards, to Noah about corresponding prohibitions (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 56b):

"Menashe School's teaching. It excludes Courts and No Blasphemy Law, while including No Castration and Banned Mixtures Law. Menashe School's teaching says: Seven Laws are commanded to Noah descendants - No Idolatry, and No Lechery, and No Bloodshed, No Robbery, and No Limb from Living Creature, No Castration and Banned Mixtures. Rabbi Yehuda says - first man Adam was commanded about nothing but No Idolatry, since it's written (Bereshit 2:16): And commanded the L-rd G-d to man (His Divine entity commanded He to Adam, so that he wouldn't be unfaithful to It with others - Rashi's comment). Rabbi Yehuda ben Bteira says - about Blessing of G-d as well (what is concluded out of word G-d; His Divine entity commanded He to him, so that he wouldn't curse Him, since it's written (Shemot 22:27): You shall not curse G-d - RASHI's comment). And according to the opinion of some - about Courts as well (Out of word G-d is also concluded; may My Divine entity be upon you, so that fear of Me would be upon you, and so that fear of Me would be in your heart, but no fear of man from flesh and blood, not to distort judgement, for judgement is upon G-d (Dvarim 1:17), as Rav adduces later on - RASHI's comment). To whose opinion rabbi Yehuda's words are corresponding? Rav said: G-d I am (it's said like this to first man Adam - RASHI's comment), you shall not curse Me (as it's written: You shall not curse G-d - RASHI's comment); G-d I am, you shall not be unfaithful to Me(as it's written: You shall not have other gods in My presence except Me - RASHI's comment); G-d I am, there shall be fear of Me upon you (it's said G-d in the meaning of reigning and judging, as it's written (Shmot 7:1): I have made you the G-d over Pharaoh; may fear of Me be upon you but no fear of man from flesh and blood, as it's written (Dvarim 1:17): And you shall not fear any man, for the judgement is upon G-d; that is Courts - RASHI's comment). According to whose opinion is it? According to the opinion of some."

That means there exists a dispute among the Sages about the opinion spoken out before. Then Menashe School adduces its own interpretation stating that despite interprete we each word of phrase (Bereshit 2:16) "And commanded the L-rd G-d to man, saying, of every tree of the garden eat to eat" as each single Law or not interprete, we can get all Seven Laws a different way. And Menashe School concludes those Seven Laws out of Scripture's corresponding lines according to their direct sense. Here is how (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 56b):

"No Idolatry and No Lechery Law follows from written (Bereshit 6:11): And the earth perverted before G-d. And rabbi Ishmael School teaches - every place where Scripture talks about perversion, lechery and idolatry is meant. Lechery, since it's written (Bereshit 6:12): For all flesh had perverted its way on the earth. Idolatry, since it's written (Dvarim 4:16): Lest you become perverted and make a sculptured image for yourselves. And according to different opinion (the other side's opinion, who participates in the dispute, that is the Sages and rabbi Yohanan opinion - Author's note), it speaks about their behavior (it speaks regarding Flood Generation to inform you about their behavior, which they were punished for - RASHI's comment). No Bloodshed Law follows from written (Bereshit 9:6): One who sheds the blood of man, in man shall his blood be shed. And according to different opinion, it speaks about their Death Penalty (which way of the Death Penalty is used regarding peoples of the world - RASHI's comment). No Robbery Law follows from written (Bereshit 9:3): Like the green vegetation, I have given you everything. And rabbi Levi said - like the green vegetation but not like the green of Eden Garden (where you took without permission - Author's note). And according to different opinion, it speaks about permission to eat meat (for meat was not permitted as a food to first man Adam, but herbs and tree fruits, since it's written (Bereshit 1:29-30): Behold, I have given you every seed-bearing herb, which is upon the surface of the entire earth, and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit, it will be food to you. And to all the beasts of the earth... - herbs and tree fruits may you and the beasts of the earth eat, but not the beasts of the earth themselves are to you; but when Noah Descendants came out of Ark, G-d permitted them to kill and eat animals, He said "like the green vegetation" as far as vegetation was permitted to first man Adam - RASHI's comment). No Limb from Living Creature Law follows from written (Bereshit 9:4): Only flesh with its soul its blood you shall not eat (during all time while in flesh remains its soul aka its blood, don't eat the flesh itself - RASHI's comment). And according to different opinion, it speaks about permission to eat flesh from living Shratzim (swarming - Biblical language translation; as far as the flesh is something which blood can be called soul, and flesh is called flesh if its blood is different from its flesh; but as for Shratzim, their blood can not be called a soul, since it is similar to their flesh - RASHI's comment). No Castration Law follows from written (Bereshit 9:7): Swarm upon the earth and multiply thereon. And according to different opinion, it speaks simply about blessing. Banned Mixtures Law follows from written (Bereshit 6:20): Of the fowl after its kind and of the animals after their kind, of every creeping thing upon the ground after its kind (since Noah was commanded to bring "of every creature two of each", male and female gender of every species, but so that one species would not copulate another; from here it follows No Mixtures Law - RASHI's comment). And according to different opinion, it speaks simply about command."

And although practical law follows the Sages and rabbi Yohanan opinion, as it was said above, Menashe School opinion is taken into account as for Banned Mixtures Law.

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