ו׳ באדר ה׳תשע״ב (February 29, 2012)

Temurah 14a-b – Uprooting the Torah in order to save it


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The Gemara on today’s daf (=page) relates that in the course of discussion a question was raised in the study hall that led Rav Yosef to declare that a line of a given baraita could not be explained and should be erased. Later, when Rav Dimivisited Israel, he heard a satisfactory explanation and declared his intention to have a letter written to Rav Yosef in Babylonia clarifying why the baraita should not be emended.
The suggestion that a letter be written raised a tumult in the study hall, where a number of traditions were quoted indicating that sending such a letter should be forbidden:
  • Rabbi Abba the son of Rabbi Hiyya bar Abba quoted Rabbi Yohanan as saying that “Those who write down the oral teachings are punished like those who burn the Torah, and he who learns from such writings receives no reward.”
  • Rabbi Yehudah bar Nahmani the meturgeman of Resh Lakish taught (based on Shemot 34:27) that matters received as oral traditions you are not permitted to recite from writing and that written things, i.e. Biblical passages, you are not permitted to recite from memory.
  • The Tanna of the School of Rabbi Yishmael taught: Scripture says, ‘Write thou these words’ (see Shemot 34:27), implying that ‘these’ words – the words of the written Torah – you may write but you may not write oral laws.

In response the Gemara explains that a new teaching that may not be remembered can be written down, pointing to the practice of Rabbi Yohanan and Resh Lakish who studied written works of aggadic literature – an area of Torah study with which they were unfamiliar – on Shabbat – They explained their behavior based on the passage in Sefer Tehillim (119:126) “It is time for the Lord to work, they have made void thy law,” should be understood as teaching that it is better that a commandment of the Torah should be uprooted than that the whole Torah should be forgotten.