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15 The basic division of Jewish law is between the written and the oral. The "written" law is the Torah, the first five
books of the Old Testament, which constitute the heart of the Jewish Bible. The Torah is sometimes called the
Chumash, from the Hebrew word for five. The word Pentateuch, which is used in English to denote the first five
books of Scripture, is taken from the Greek word meaning five. The term Torah, coming from the Hebrew root
meaning "to instruct," is the one most frequently used for the written law, although the same term may also be used
in a broader sense, to include both the Written and Oral Law. Modern Biblical scholarship, especially by non-Jewish
scholars, conjectures that there were several stages of transmission, both oral and written, of the material finally
recorded in the Old Testament. See e.g., BERNHARD W. ANDERSON, UNDERSTANDING THE OLD TESTAMENT 18–21,
198–225, 267–70, 422–36 (3d ed. 1975). However, in orthodox Jewish legal discourse the Torah is called the
written law because, in the traditional accounts, Moses wrote it at God's behest. See, e.g., PENTATEUCH WITH
TARGUM ONKELOS, HAPHTAROTH AND RASHI'S COMMENTARY, Exodus 24:4, at 129 (A.M. Silbermann ed., 1973);
id. at Deuteronomy 34:5, at 177; see also Deuteronomy 31:24 (Moses "[wrote] the words of this law in a book").

           The "oral" counterpart of the written law is the Talmud. The word Talmud itself means learning. Of course,
the Talmud now exists in written form as well, but it is called Oral Law because the Sages and Rabbis transmitted it
by word of mouth for centuries after the Torah was written. According to orthodox Judaism, the Oral Law was also
given at Sinai—thus the adjective "Sinaitic"––though unlike the written Torah, it was passed on orally thereafter.
This account of its origin is itself an indication of the Oral Law's present authority. In Hellenistic and Roman times,
the binding character of the Oral Law was rejected by the Sadducees, who accepted only the written Torah. By the
end of the first century C.E., however, their opponents, the Pharisees, who adhered to Talmudic tradition as well as
the Written Law, had prevailed. Judaism since then has followed the Pharisees.

           While the Torah is the central authority of Jewish law, the oral tradition of the Talmud is not merely
interstitial. Rather, it interprets and complements the Bible and is a comprehensive codification of the meaning of
the Torah, and of Jewish customs, traditions, and precedents. It is fully binding on the Orthodox Jew. Indeed,

           [i]t is clear, in principle, that every written code of law must be accompanied by an oral tradition. .
           . . [T]he oral tradition is inherent in the very act of transmitting the use of words, in the very
           preservation and study of a language. Every idea, every word in the written law must be handed
           down from generation to generation and explained to the young. . . . [E]ven in the most
           conservative society, language evolves and changes and the written documents of one era may be
           unclear to the next generation.
ADIN STEINSALTZ, THE ESSENTIAL TALMUD 11 (1976) [hereinafter STEINSALTZ, ESSENTIAL]. See generally ZEVI
CHAJES, THE STUDENT'S GUIDE THROUGH THE TALMUD 1–16 (J. Shachter trans., 2d rev. ed. 1960) (discussing
relation of oral and written law); DAVID FELDMAN, MARITAL RELATIONS, BIRTH CONTROL, AND ABORTION IN
JEWISH LAW 3–15 (1974) (describing in chronological order authorities of Oral Law).
16 The word Mishnah stems from a verb root meaning "to repeat," and suggests oral teaching, that which is learned
by repetition. For centuries after the Bible was written, the traditions later codified in the Mishnah were transmitted
without being written down, except perhaps for hidden personal manuscripts of individual scholars. There was
indeed an early prohibition against writing the Oral Law. See BABYLONIAN TALMUD, supra note 3, Gittin 60b.
Ultimately, however, the Tannaim (literally meaning "teachers"), that is, the Mishnaic scholars who were active
during the early Roman empire, found it necessary to organize and collate this body of law, and then to reduce it to
writing. It was deemed essential to do so, because of, inter alia, the political strife of the times which made learning
difficult, the voluminous quantity of material that had been generated, and the emergence of different schools of
interpretation that threatened to undermine the uniformity of the law and to impede its effective conveyance. This
process of organization, collation, and redaction, begun in the first century C.E., was finished by Rabbi Yehuda
Hanassi, who codified the Mishnah and completed its written version in about 200 C.E.
           The Mishnah is arranged in six orders, entitled "Seeds," "Holidays," "Women," "Damages," "Sanctities,"
and "Purities." Each order consists of tractates, the total being sixty three, each tractate is divided into chapters, of
which there are approximately 520, and each chapter in turn is divided into paragraphs.
           Although exceedingly terse, the Mishnah does include both majority and dissenting opinions. It does not,
however, incorporate all the material surviving from Mishnaic times. Some of these excluded statements, called
Braitot ("that which is external," or "outside material"), are referred to and relied on in the subsequent Gemara
debates concerning the meaning of the Mishnah. Another collection of Mishnaic era material, systematically ar-
ranged, is known as the Tosefta, meaning "supplement" or "addition." It is used to shed light on the Mishnah
proper. See generally Boaz Cohen, foreword to ABRAHAM COHEN, EVERYMAN'S TALMUD xvi-xxxi (1949)
[hereinafter A. COHEN TALMUD]; JOSEPH HERTZ, foreword TO BABYLONIAN TALMUD, Baba Kamma (I. Epstein ed.
1935). For a more detailed version of the history and origins of the Oral Law, see ME’IR TSEVI BERGMAN,

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