Friday, April 17, 2009

TRADITIONS OF THE ELDERS

One day while reading in the Scriptures, some words and phrases stood out. What do they mean, exactly? To what things do they refer? Printed below is the passage that was read with the words and phrases of interest underlined.

Mark 7:1-13 1-And the Pharisees were assembled to Him, and some of the scribes, coming from Jerusalem. 2-And having seen some of His disciples eating loaves with unclean, that is unwashed hands, they found fault. 3-For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash the hands with the fist, holding the tradition of the elders. 4-And coming from the market, they do not eat if not they dip themselves. And there are many other things which they received to hold; immersings of cups, and of utensils, and of copper vessels, and couches. 5-Then the Pharisees and scribes questioned Him, Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands? 6-And answering, He said to them, Well did Isaiah prophesy concerning you, hypocrites; as it has been written: This people honors Me with the lips but their heart is far away from Me; 7-but in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. 8-For forsaking the commandment of Elohim, you hold the tradition of men: immersings of utensils and cups, and many other such like things you do. 9-And He said to them, Do you do well to set aside the commandments of Elohim, that you may keep your tradition? 10-For Moses said, Honor your father and your mother, and, The one speaking evil of father or mother, let him end by death. 11-But you say, If a man says to his father or mother, Corban, which is, A gift! Whatever you may profit by me. 12-And you no longer allow him to do anything for his father or his mother, 13-making void the word of Elohim by your tradition which you delivered. And many such like things you do. (emphasis added)


What are these traditions Yahshua spoke against? What are the “such like things”? Is it possible to find out?

The word in Mark translated as “traditions” is the Greek #3862, paradosis, meaning transmission, i.e. a precept; specifically, the Jewish traditionary law.

When Yahshua spoke of the law of Yahweh, it was not the same Greek word. He used #3551, nomos. It is defined as law (through the idea of prescriptive usage), generally regulation, specifically of Moses.

Too many today come into Yahweh’s congregation, but are not totally satisfied. They begin to look for something more because they feel something is missing and that the congregation is not doing enough. After a while, some begin to take a look at Judaism for the way to worship Yahweh. After all, doesn’t Judaism teach the law? The truth? Judaism claims the law was given to them; they have passed it down through generations and continue as the “Chosen People.” People often turn there because they like the rituals and the “feeling” they get as they work through those customs and traditions.

So exactly what are the traditions? Just what does Judaism teach? Let us look at numerous sources – many written by Jews. Then we’ll consider some questions and some Scriptures.

Commentary On The Whole Bible,
by Matthew Henry,
Volume 5 –


Page 170, regarding Matthew 15:2 – “What was the tradition of the elders – That people should often wash their hands, and always at meat. This they placed a great deal of religion in, supposing that the meat they touched with unwashen hands would be defiling to them. The Pharisees practiced this themselves, and with a great deal of strictness imposed it upon others, not under civil penalties, but as a matter of conscience, and making it a sin against God if they did not do it. Rabbi Joses determined, ‘that to eat with unwashen hands is as great a sin as adultery.’ And Rabbi Akiba being kept a close prisoner, having water sent him to both wash his hands with, and to drink with his meal, the greatest part being accidentally shed, he washed his hands with the remainder, though he left himself none to drink, saying he would rather die than transgress the tradition of the elders. Nay, they would not eat meat with one that did not wash before meat. This mighty zeal in so great a matter would appear very strange, if we did not still see it incident to church-oppressors, not only to be fond of practising their own inventions, but to be furious in pressing their own impositions.”

Page 399 – “What the tradition of the elders was: by it all were enjoined to wash their hands before meat; a cleanly custom, and no harm it in; and yet as such to be over-nice in it discovers too great a care about the body, which is of the earth; but they placed religion in it, and would not leave it indifferent, as it was in its own nature; people were at their liberty to do it or not to do it; but they interposed their authority, and commanded all to do it upon pain of excommunication; this they kept up as a tradition of the elders.”

“They added to this the washing of cups, and pots, and brazen vessels, which they suspected had been made use of by heathens, or persons polluted; nay, and the very tables on which they ate their meat. There were many cases in which, by the law of Moses, washings were appointed; but they added to them, and endorsed the observation of their own impositions as much as of God’s instructions.”


The Heart of the New Testament,
by H. I. Hester,
page 63-64 –


“After the Exile the office of Scribe came into existence. These officials exercised a tremendous influence in the time of Jesus. Originally, as the name indicates, they were the copyists of the sacred writings. Gradually their function changed and they were regarded as the authoritative interpreters of the scriptures. They claimed to have great reverence for the Old Testament writings, even counting every word in them. They gradually became a ‘dry ecclesiastical and scholastic class’ who were concerned chiefly with the letter of the law. They even became greedy for power and determined upon selfish aggrandizement. ‘Whatever was most spiritual, living, human and grand in the scriptures they passed by. Generation after generation the commentaries of their famous men multiplied, and the pupils studied their commentaries instead of the text. Moreover, it was a rule with them that the correct interpretation of a passage was as authoritative as the text itself; and, the interpretations of the famous masters being as a matter of course to be correct, the mass of opinions which were held to be as precious as the Bible itself grew to enormous proportions. These were ‘the traditions of the elders.’ By degrees an arbitrary system of exegesis came into vogue, by which almost any opinion whatever could be thus connected with some text and stamped with divine authority. Every new invention of Pharisaic singularity was sanctioned in this way. Peculiarities were multiplied until they regulated every detail of life, personal, domestic, social and public. They became so numerous that it required a lifetime to learn them all; and the learning of a scribe consisted in acquaintance with them, and with the dicta of the great rabbis and the forms of exegesis by which they were sanctioned. This was the chaff with which they fed the people in the synagogues. The conscience was burdened with innumerable details, every one of which was represented to be as divinely sanctioned as any one of the Ten Commandments. This was the intolerable burden which Peter said neither he nor his fathers had been able to bear. This was the horrible nightmare which sat so long on Paul’s conscience. But worse consequences flowed from it. It is a well-known principle in history, that, whenever the ceremonial is elevated to the same rank with the moral, the later will soon be lost sight of. The Sadducees and Pharisees had learned now by arbitrary exegesis and cauistical discussion to explain away the weightiest moral obligations, and make up for the neglect of them by multiplying ritual observances. Thus men were able to flaunt in the pride of sanctity while indulging their selfishness and vile passions. Society was rotten with vice within, and veneered over with a self-deceptive religiosity without.’ (Stalker, Life of Christ, p. 29-30).”


What Do Jews Believe?
by David S. Ariel,
pages 141-142 –


“The Sadducees, many of whom were priests, were contemporaries of the early rabbis. They agreed to the divine origin of the Written Torah but denied the existence of the oral tradition. The Sadducees believed only in what the Torah stated explicitly. They maintained that the Torah was vouchsafed by Moses to Aaron and the priests, and they therefore regarded the Torah as their sacred priestly preserve rather than the possession of all Israel. The rabbis, however, asserted that they – not the Sadducees – were the true heirs of the Torah because they themselves inherited the oral traditions which their ancestors had conveyed through the generations. The Torah, in their view, was open to interpretation and amenable to uncovering new applications to life. The earliest rabbinic manifesto, known popularly as the Sayings of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot), identified this chain of oral authority: ‘Moses received the Torah at Sinai. He transmitted it to Joshua, Joshua to the elders, the elders to the prophets, and the prophets to the men of the Great Assembly’.”

“The rabbis’ belief that the Old Testament could also be traced back through a chain of tradition to Sinai stems from their deep convictions about divine sanction for the mitzvot. The commandments in the Torah, reflecting a different society from the one in which the rabbis lived, often required interpretation, refinement, elaboration, and change in order to render them applicable to new situations. Every legal code generates an evolving system of continual legislation and legal authorities who can authorize the application of the original laws to new circumstances. This is what the rabbis provided in the tradition of Old Testament and in the institution of the rabbinate. Human beings must apply the word of God to life, but only divine authority could make the new laws inviolate.”

“The rabbis knew that many of the laws, rituals, and practices they developed were innovations. They believed, however, that these were logical extensions following from the biblical laws. They were aware that they were innovating but at the same time denied that they were introducing anything new. Their legal justification for innovation was the principle of ‘vested originality’ (asmakhta). This is the practice that permits originality and innovation as long as it is vested in or subsumed under an earlier precedent, practice, or text. An innovation that is justified by being related to or derived from an earlier law, ritual, or practice is halakhically legitimate. The innovation can go no further than what the precedent, practice, or text can sustain. The rabbis limited this legal concept by another that prohibited introducing anything that was pure innovation.”


The Talmud: The Steinsaltz Edition,
by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz,
page 199 –


[yadim aspaniot hen] “Lit., hands are busy. The Halakhic principle explaining the requirement for washing hands even though one is not sure whether they have contracted ritual impurity or come in contact with dirt. Since a person constantly handles and touches things without necessarily paying attention to what he is doing, it is presumed inevitable that his hands have become dirty or ritually impure.”


To Be A Jew,
by Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin,
pages 78-79 –


“Following the Kiddush, everyone ritually washes for the meal. This is done by filling a glass, cup, or other vessel with water and pouring the water over the right hand, then over the left hand.”

“Before the hands are wiped dry on a towel, the following benediction is said: Blessed art Thou, Lord our God, King of the universe who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us concerning the washing of the hands.”


http://www.hebrewyeshua.com/in_search_of.html
In Search of the Hebrew Roots: Phariseeism or Biblical Judaism?
by Nehemia Gordon

“If Yeshua did not come to do away with even one jot or tittle of the Law, why did he defend his disciples when they ate food without washing their hands? To answer this question we must first determine where the Torah commands washing the hands before eating. Actually there is no such commandment in the Torah! This is surprising because when Orthodox Jews wash their hands they make the blessing, ‘Blessed art thou Lord, king of the universe, who has... commanded us to wash the hands’."

“Why would Orthodox Jews all over the world and throughout history bless God for commanding them to wash their hands when no such commandment can be found in the Torah? I was raised as a religious Orthodox Jew and this is a question I asked my Orthodox rabbis when I was growing up. My rabbis explained to me that the obligation to wash the hands is an enactment instituted by the Rabbis more than 2000 years ago. They explained further that the ‘Oral’ Torah commands us to obey the Rabbis and by obeying the Rabbis we are indirectly obeying God. So the blessing that God commanded us to wash our hands is really a declaration of our obedience to the God-given authority of the Rabbis to enact new commandments.”

“The Oral Torah commands obedience to the Pharisee Rabbis and gives them the prerogative to create new commandments called takanot (‘enactments’). Modern Orthodox Jews and ancient Pharisees consider obedience to these Rabbinical enactments as obedience to God and in some respects even more important than the commandments of the Torah. The Talmud says concerning these Rabbinical commandments: ‘Be careful concerning Rabbinical enactments even more than the Torah. Because... anyone who violates a Rabbinical enactment is worthy of death’ (Babylonian Talmud, Eiruvin 21b).”

“The problem with Rabbinical enactments is that the (written) Torah itself commands: ‘You shall not add unto the matter which I command you today nor shall you diminish aught from it’ (Deuteronomy 4:2). But man-made Rabbinical enactments are an addition to the Torah! This is apparently what Yeshua meant in Matthew 15 when he sharply contrasted the ‘traditions of the elders’ with the ‘commandment of God.’ The man-made ‘traditions of the elders’ make the ‘commandment of God’ of ‘none effect.’ Isaiah 29:13 calls these man-made laws ‘learned commandments of men’ or as it is paraphrased in Matthew 15:9 ‘teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.’ Yeshua was not opposed to the ‘commandment of God’ in the Torah but the ‘commandments of men’ and ‘traditions of the elders’ invented by the ancient Pharisees and still taught by modern Orthodox Judaism. Yeshua upheld Biblical Judaism but rejected the innovations introduced by Phariseeism.”
Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible,
edited by Herbert Lockyer, Sr.,
page 830 –


“PHARISEES (separated ones) – a religious and political party in Palestine in New Testament times. The Pharisees were known for insisting that the law of God be observed as the scribes interpreted it and for their special commitment to keeping the laws of tithing and ritual purity. “

“The way in which the scribes spelled out the meaning of the Mosaic Law, the ways in which they adopted that Law to suit the needs of their day, the time-honored customs which they endorsed – all these became a part of the ‘tradition of the elders’ (Mark 7:3). Although these traditions were not put into writing, they were passed on from one scribe to another and from the scribes to the people. From this tradition, they claimed, the Jewish people could know the way God’s law should be observed. The Pharisees agreed, and they were known for supporting and keeping the ‘tradition of the elders’.”


What Do Jews Believe?
by David S. Ariel –


Page 140-141 – “Not only did the rabbis of the Mishnah expand the concept of divine authorship from the Ten Commandments to the entire Torah; they also believed that there were other divine communications to Moses that had not been written down in the Torah. The rabbis called this the Oral Torah (Torah she-be-al peh). They maintained that this oral tradition dates back to Sinai and has as much authority and antiquity as the written text. According to the rabbinic tradition, the revelation of God at Sinai was not the final word. Revelation of God’s teaching continues in the process of deliberation through out history by competent and learned Jews who meditate upon God’s word and law. This interpretative tradition invests the continuous unfolding of the divine revelation not in God but in the wisdom of the rabbis and the rabbinic tradition. The basis for this is the belief that everything that was, is, and can be known from God was revealed at Sinai but that much of the content of the revelation was implicit, rather than explicit, within Torah. Jews can derive new insights, laws, and interpretations after Sinai, all of which are implicit within the Torah text or are part of an oral tradition that supposedly dates back to Sinai. This conveys the idea that Torah is a living document rather than a static code.”

Page 161 – “Jewish law is called Halakhah, which means the ‘path’ or the ‘way.’ It is the system of Jewish behavior codified as religious law. It has its origins in the Torah, but is the product of rabbinic Judaism. It covers religious behavior, such as the observance of the Sabbath and festivals, and directs the normative practices for daily prayer – what to say, when to pray, and the proper ways to pray. It prescribes the moral conduct we are required to follow in relation to other people. It establishes the laws pertaining to family and community life, including business, political conflict, and war, down to the smallest details. It is the comprehensive system of regulated Jewish behavior.”

Page 163 – “Custom (minhag) also played a significant role in Halakhah. Local or regional customs or folk practices were often followed at particular times and places, and achieved the status of law. One of the earliest examples is the custom of bundling the lulav (palm branch) and etrog (citron) on the holiday of Sukkot in commemoration of the fall festival.”

Page 164 – “Halakhah represents the culmination of oral traditions and legal practices of Jews living in the Land of Israel and Babylonia. The mitzvot were generally agreed-upon practices that did not require written codification until after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. The destruction of the primary center of Jewish activity shifted the emphasis on practice from the Temple, which included sacrifices and tithes, to new centers of religious activity, including the home, prayer house, and study house. The domestication of Jewish observance after the destruction of the Temple turned every head of household into a priest, every table into an altar, and every meal into a ritual sacrifice. The focus shifted from the priesthood to the rabbinate, which stressed public teaching, learning, and communal worship in institutions that came to be known as the prayer house (bet kenesset) and study house (bet midrash).”
Living Judaism,
by Rabbi Wayne Dosick –


Pages 94-95 – “The articulation of the Oral Law marked a sweeping change in Judaism – the beginning of a whole new era of Jewish life.”

“Biblical Judaism – which began with the making of the covenant between God and Abraham, was highlighted by the giving of the law at Sinai and the entrance into the Promised Land, and continued with the centrality of the Holy Temple as the place of worship and the prophets as God’s messengers – was over.”

“No longer would God’s word be ascertained through prophets, with individuals claiming Divine revelation. Instead, God’s word would come only through the rabbis and the sages – who, according to their own proclamation, would be the sole inheritors and transmitters of God’s continuing revelation. Judaism as it had been known in the Biblical Period was entirely overhauled and changed, and the new era – Rabbinic Judaism – began and continues to this day, characterized by the sages’ articulation of ever-developing, ever-evolving law.”

“In addition to the vast changes revolving around the law, the early Rabbinic Period (200 B.C.E.—200 C.E.) was fraught with both internal and external challenges and upheaval that threatened Judaism’s very existence.”

Pages 95-96 – “In response to the birth and growth of Christianity, the rabbis and sages (through the Oral Law) articulated new Jewish theology and newly developing ideas about God.”

“In response to the destruction of the more than 1,000-year mode of worship, prayer was developed to replace animal sacrifice, and the synagogue was developed to replace the Holy Temple.”

“In response to the loss of the priesthood –- the central religious functionaries, engages in the central religious activities – an academy of learning was established (70 C.E.) where the study of sacred texts would become the supreme expression of Jewish life, and scholar-rabbis would take the place of the cultic priests.”

“In response to the exile, the rabbis and sages articulated new law (in final compilation by 200 C.E.) that would help the Jewish People survive and flourish as guests in host countries, while at the same time, the few who were permitted to remain in the land of Israel would learn to maintain Jewish life under foreign rule.”

Page 202 – “The first systematic prayer book was outlined in the year 870 C.E. by Rav Amram ben Sheshna Gaon, in the Academy of Sura in Babylonia. Less than a century later, the great Rabbi Saadya Gaon (882-942) compiled a more complete, more logical, and better organized prayer book. Saadya’s prayer book – called in Hebrew a siddur (literally: ‘order’) – serves as the model of the Order of the Service until this day.”

Page 222 – “At the time in history other people began wearing clothing that did not have corners on which to tie the tzitzit, in order to fulfill the command, they began wearing a four-cornered undershirt-like garment called arba kanfot (literally ‘four corners’) or alternately, the tallit katan (literally ‘the small prayer shawl’). It has a hole in the center for the head and drapes over the shoulders down the front and back. The tzitziyot are tied on the four corners.”

“…liberal Jews (except for some Reform Jews) along with traditional Jews wear a large shawl-like garment over their regular clothing. This prayershawl is called the tallit, and it has tzitzit tied on its four corners.”


Sketches of Jewish Social Life,
by Alfred Edersheim –


Page 28 – “From the New Testament we know, that to enter the house of a heathen defiled till the evening (John 18:28), and that all familiar intercourse with Gentiles was forbidden (Acts 10:28). So terrible was the intolerance, that a Jewess was actually forbidden to give help to her heathen neighbour, when about to become a mother (Avod. S. ii. 1)! It was not a new question to St. Paul, when the Corinthians inquired about the lawfulness of meat sold in the shambles or served up at a feast (I Cor. 10:25,5 27, 28). Evidently he had the Rabbinical law on the subject before his mind, while, on the one hand, he avoided the Pharisaical bondage of the letter, and, on the other, guarded against either injuring one’s own conscience, or offending that of an on-looker. For, according to Rabbi Akiba, ‘Meat which is about to be brought in heathen worship is lawful, but that which comes out from it is forbidden, because it is like the sacrifices of the dead’ (Avod. S. ii. 3). But the separation went much beyond what ordinary minds might be prepared for. Milk drawn from a cow by heathen hands, bread and oil prepared by them, might indeed be sold to strangers, but not used by Israelites. No pious Jew would of course sit down at the table of Gentiles (Acts 11:3, Gal. 2:12). If a heathen were invited to a Jewish house, he might not be left alone in the room, else every article of food or drink on the table was henceforth to be regarded as unclean. If cooking utensils were bought of them, they had to be purified by fire or by water; knives to be ground anew, spits to be made red-hot before use, etc.”

Page 98 – “…traditionalism in its worship of the letter, really destroyed the Spirit of the Divine law. An instance here will suffice; and that which we select has the double advantage of illustrating an otherwise difficult allusion in the New Testament, and of exhibiting the real characteristics of traditionalism. No commandment could be more plainly in accordance, alike with the spirit and the letter of the law, than this: ‘He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.’ Yet our Lord distinctly charges traditionalism with ‘transgressing’ it (Matt. 15:4-6). The following quotation from the Mishnah (Sanh. vii. 8) curiously illustrates the justice of His accusation: ‘He that curseth his father or his mother is not guilty, unless he curses them with express mention of the name of Jehovah.’ In any other case the sages declare him absolved! And this is by no means a solitary instance of Rabbinical perversion. Indeed, the moral systems of the synagogue leave the same sad impression on the mind as its doctrinal teaching. They are all elaborate chains of casuistry, of which no truer description could be given than in the words of the Saviour (Matt. 15:6): ‘Ye have made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition’.”

Page 229 – In the Talmud “we are told (Ber. 6 a), that the prayer which a man addresses to God has only its proper effect if offered in the synagogue; that if an individual, accustomed to frequent every day the synagogue, misses it for once, God will demand an account of him; that if the Eternal finds fewer than ten persons there gathered, His anger is kindled, as it is written in Isa. 50:2 (Ber. 6 b); that if a person has a synagogue in his own town, and does not enter it for prayer, he is to be called an evil neighbour, and provokes exiles alike upon himself and his children, as it is written in Jer. 12:4; while, on the other hand, the practice of early resorting to the synagogue would account for the longevity of people (Ber. 8 c).”

Page 230 – “The origin of the synagogue is lost in the obscurity of tradition. Of course, like so many other institutions, it is traced by the Rabbis to the patriarchs. Thus, both the Targum Jonathan and the Jerusalem Targum represent Jacob as an attendant in the synagogue, and Rebekah as resorting thither for advice when feeling within her the unnatural contest of her two sons. There can be no occasion for seriously discussing such statements. For when in 2 Kings 22:8 we read that ‘the book of the law’ was discovered by Shaphan the scribe in ‘the house of the Lord,’ this implies that during the reign of King Josiah there could have been no synagogues in the land, since it was their main object to secure the weekly reading, and of course, the preservation, of the books of Moses (Acts 15:21).”

“…there is not a hint of synagogue-worship either in the law or the prophets…”

Page 231 – “…the attentive reader of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah will discover in the period after the return from Babylon the beginnings of the synagogue. Only quite rudimentary as yet, and chiefly for the purposes of instructing those who had come back ignorant and semi-heathenish – still, they formed a starting point.”


Jesus and the Judaism of His Time,
by Irving M. Zeitlin –


Page 11 – “The Pharisees, Josephus informs us, concerned themselves with the strict observance of the Torah in all its details. They ‘are considered the most accurate interpreters of the laws’ (War 2:162). They pride themselves on their adherence to ancestral customs and the Law of the fathers (Antiq. 17:41). They ‘simplify their standard of living and make no concession to luxury’ (Antiq. 18:12). Their ideal was to live in accordance with the Torah, but not necessarily with the letter of the Law as it is found in the Pentateuch. Their ideal was rather to live in conformity with the Law as interpreted by their forefathers from the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, and the return of the Jews from the Babylonian exile. The Pharisees were therefore the representatives of the course followed by Judaism as it continually adapted itself to the changing socio-historical circumstances of the post-Exilic epoch. Their ‘party’ was an important and highly influential movement within the body of Palestinian Jewry in the first century.”

Page 16 – “Nevertheless, as a religious party, or better yet, ‘brotherhood’ whose spiritual orientation was quite rigorous and demanding, the Pharisees considered themselves haverim, ‘brothers of the covenant,’ who regarded as the true community of Israel only those who strictly observed the twofold Torah. There is evidence in the Mishnah (Mish. Hag. 2:7; Mish. Dem. 2:31; Mish. Toh. 7:4) to suggest that the Pharisees kept themselves apart only from such people as fell short of the Pharisaic standards of purity.”


Page 183 – “We need to recall that one of the major aims of the Pharisaic revolution in the time of the Maccabees was to find a means of ensuring the preservation of Judaism and preventing a recurrence of the type of crisis that had led to the Maccabean uprising. It was with this aim in view that the scholars and teachers sought, in the words of the Mishnah, to ‘make a fence around the Law’ (Mish. Aboth 1:5). It was precisely this fence that Paul’s doctrine threatened to destroy. He rejected the validity of the values and norms of the twofold Law governing the everyday life of the Jewish people. Inasmuch as the adherence to these values and norms accounted for the distinctive religio-ethnic character of the Jewish people, an acceptance of Paul’s doctrine would have been fateful in its effect: either the fence would have been torn down, or it would have rotted away. Intuitively if not consciously this danger was recognized not only by Paul’s non-Christian Jewish contemporaries, but also by James the brother of Jesus and the other ‘pillar apostles.’ That is why they sought to establish an ethical minimum of the Law which would be valid and binding for the Gentile converts to the Jewish-Christian movement; and that is why they were so disturbed to learn that Paul was telling not only the Gentiles but the Jews as well that they need not circumcise their children or observe the customs and ordinances of Moses. Doubtless it was the ‘pillar apostles’ who were in harmony with Jesus’ own understanding of the Law; and it was Paul who unwittingly laid the doctrinal foundation for the separation of Christianity from the Jewish people.”


Josephus,
by Flavius Josephus,
translated by William Whiston –

Page 358 – “…the sect of the Pharisees, who were in a capacity of greatly opposing kings. A cunning sect they were, and soon elevated to a pitch of open fighting and doing mischief.”

Page 376-377 – “Now, for the Pharisees, they live meanly, and despise delicacies in diet; and they follow the conduct of reason; and what that prescribes to them as good for them, they do; and they think that they ought earnestly to strive to observe reason’s dictates for practice. They also pay a respect to such as are in years; nor are they so bold as to contradict them in anything which they have introduced; and, when they determine that all things are done by fate, they do not take away the freedom of man from acting as they think fit; since their notion is, that it hath pleased God to make a temperament, whereby what he wills is done, but so that the will of men can act virtuously or viciously. They also believe that souls have an immortal vigour in them, and that under the earth there will be rewards or punishments, according as they have lived virtuously or viciously in this life; and the latter are to be defamed in a everlasting prison, but that the former shall have power to revive and live again; on account of which doctrines, they are able greatly to persuade the body of the people; and whatsoever they do about divine worship, prayers, and sacrifices, they perform them according to their direction; insomuch that the cities gave great attestations to them on account of their entire virtuous conduct, both in the actions of their lives and their discourses also.”

There We Sat Down,
by Jacob Neusner –


Page 39 – “The rabbis of Babylonia therefore interpreted temporal disasters in such a way as to bank the fire of Messianic fervor and directed the attention of Israel to prayer and to its own spiritual condition as the means for meriting, and thus hastening, the coming of the Messiah. This attitude had characterized Judaism from the time Yohanan b. Zakkai taught that if Israel obeyed the will of its Father in heaven, then no nation or race could rule over them, and that the means of reconciliation in the new age – replacing the destroyed sanctuary and its sacrifices – were prayer, study of Torah, and pursuit of deeds of loving-kindness. By the early third century, these ideas met no significant competition in rabbinic circles.”

Page 58 – “The rabbis authenticated their claim to power not only by their teaching of Torah, but also by their knowledge of the secrets of creation – including the names of God by which miracles may be produced, and the mysteries of astrology, medicine, and practical magic – and by their day-to-day contact as a class of religious virtuosi and illuminati.”

Page 64 – “…the rabbis believed they had inherited the rights and privileges of the priesthood, since study of Torah was now equivalent to the priestly offerings in Temple times.”

Page 79 – “…the belief that the man truly made in the divine image was the rabbi; he embodied revelation – both oral and written – and all his actions constituted paradigms that were not merely correct, but actually heavenly. Rabbis, it shall be seen, could create and destroy men because they were righteous, free of sin, or otherwise holy, and so enjoyed exceptional grace from heaven. It follows that Torah was held to be a source of supernatural power. The rabbis controlled the power of Torah because of their mastery of its contents. They furthermore used their own mastery of Torah independent of heavenly action. They could issue blessings and curses, create men and animals, and were masters of witchcraft, incantations, and amulets. They could communicate with heaven.”

Page 79 – “The rabbi was the authority on theology, including the structure and order of the supernatural world. He knew the secret names of God and the secrets of the divine ‘chariot’ – the heavens – and of creation. If extraordinarily pious, he might even see the face of the Shekhinah, the presence of God; in any event, the Shekhinah was present in the rabbinical schools. The rabbi overcame the evil impulse which dominated ordinary men and was consequently less liable to suffering, misfortune, and sickness. He was able to pray effectively because he knew the proper times and forms of prayer. Moreover, the efficacy of his prayers was heightened by his purity, holiness, and other merits, which in turn derived from his knowledge of the secrets of Torah and his consequent particular observances. He could bring rain or cause drought. His blessings brought fertility, and his curse, death. He was apt to be visited by angels and to receive messages from them. He could see and talk with demons and could also communicate with the dead. He was an authority on the interpretation of omens and dreams, the means of averting witchcraft, incantations for cures, knot-tying (for phylacteries), and the manufacture and use of amulets. In anthropological terms, he was a medicine man.”

Page 132 – “…butchers were subjected to rabbinical control, for the rabbis supervised the markets and had unlimited authority over the slaughter and sale of meat. But the rabbinic prohibition against eating milk with meat was another matter. Many stories exist today about how the rabbis decided what meat was fit and what was not, but there are none about rabbinical supervision over domestic preparation of food (outside of their own homes).”

The Mystery-Religions and Christianity,
by Samuel Angus –


Page 23 – “Of the two centuries (539-333 B.C.) under Persian domination, the first (539-444) was marked by attempts to recolonize Judaea, restore the Temple worship, and purge the nation of foreign accretions, and so create a second centre of Jewish thought beside that of Babylon where the best of the nation remained. During the next century (444-333) ‘Judaism’ developed and Israel became a people ‘fenced in by the Law.’ Alongside the spirituality of the exilic or post-exilic prophets appeared the ritualism, legalism, and traditionalism, so conspicuous in later periods.”

Page 249-250 – “Strange to say, the Jews – the most successful mediators between East and West – became adepts in this illicit form of religion, for whatever reasons – their desire for gain, their propagandist zeal to outbid pagan religions in what were regarded as demonstrations of power, as later the Christian exorcists essayed to outbid Jewish and pagan competitors; their syncretistic capacities, while retaining their own essential character; the antiquity of their religion, and its prominence among Oriental religions; the unique eminence of Jahweh, due to an uncompromising monotheism which permitted no goddess nor son nor satellite deities to detract from his grandeur. No deity ranked so high or is found so often in magical incantations as ‘Jahweh’ in many corrupt forms; also as ‘the God of Abraham,’ ‘the God of Isaac,’ ‘the God of Jacob.’ The Jews were noted for their ability to interpret dreams, to extract the power of enchantments, and to manufacture love-potions, which were in enormous demand.”

Page 262 – “Jewish catechisms and textbooks were adopted by Christianity and incorporated in Christian writings.”


A History of Judaism,
by Daniel Jeremy Silver,
volume 1 –


Page 196 – “The period between Alexander’s conquests and the fall of the Temple produced the Sanhedrin, a rudimentary juridic council with powers to define the community’s Torah obligations. Judaism had a religious calendar, some agreed practices (many practices which are today considered traditional – kashrut, the recitation on Passover of the Haggadah, tefillin – were intensely developed only during this period), a priesthood, a central shrine, a revealed law, and a growing canon of prophetic and historical writings. What would be called rabbinic Judaism was germinating, but Talmudic style and attitudes were not yet normative.”

Page 228-229 – “The Pharisees even claimed authority to regulate priestly activity in the Temple, which was, in their view, ultimately regulated by the twofold law of which they, not the priests, were the authentic interpreters. Some of the debates between Pharisees and Sadducees seem to involve the question of whether nonpriests can exert authority over Temple matters. … The Pharisees won out, and their spiritual descendants set down in their law books chapter and verse of an annual pre-Yom Kippur vigil during which sages instructed the High Priest how he must conduct himself that day in the Holy of Holies.”

Page 288-289 – “The rabbis not only believed in the revelation at Sinai, but looked on Torah as both a divine teaching and a divine power come to earth which could be tapped by faithful study and faithful obedience. There were secrets in the Torah – the secret of God’s names, the date of Judgment Day. There were mysteries in the Torah – a description of the cosmos, physical and metaphysical truths, truths about the nature of God. There was power in the Torah – no illness or accident could befall one who engaged in study. These secrets, mysteries, and powers were discussed privately, not in the classroom; they were taught cryptically, not openly.”

Page 307 – “Rabbinic thought operated within a definable field of religious ideas. In His transcendent glory God was the world’s august Creator, majestic in power and wisdom. God was invoked as ‘the King of kings’ or ‘the Holy One, Praised be He,’ never directly by His special name, YHWH. To name God was to limit Him. The Tetragrammaton carried such awesome power that it must not be spoken.”


Page 311 – “Popular preachers and the teachers of the folk could indulge themselves in legend and theological extravagance because they knew that the liturgy stated unequivocally the central teachings and remained within the definite limits of rabbinic Judaism. The liturgy became the Jew’s catechism. It was spoken thrice daily, and since there were no prayerbooks, prayer was assimilated by repetition, known by heart; thus the prayers provided the idiom and ideology which average folk understood to be Judaism. The liturgy was deliberately phrased and self-consciously cautious in theological matters, precisely where the midrash was uninhibited.”


Dictionary of Ancient Rabbis,
edited by Jacob Neusner,
pages 327-339 –


“The Pharisees formed a league or brotherhood of their own (‘haburah’), admitting only those who, in the presence of three members, pledged themselves to the strict observance of Levitical purity, to the avoidance of closer association with the ‘AM HA-AREZ (the ignorant and careless boor), to the scrupulous payment of tithes and other imposts due to the priest, the Levite, and the poor, and too conscientious regard for vows and for other people’s property (Dem. ii. 3; Tosef., Dem. ii.1).”

“The same sanctity that the priests in the Temple claimed for their meals, at which they gathered with the recitation of benedictions (I Sam. ix. 13) and after ablutions, the Pharisees established for their meals, which were partaken of in holy assemblies after purifications and amidst benedictions (Geiger, ‘Urschrift,’ pp. 121-124). … A true Pharisee observed the same degree of purity in his daily meals as did the priest in the Temple (Tosef., Dem. ii. 2), wherefore it was necessary that he should avoid contact with the ‘am ha-arez’ (Hag. ii. 7).”

“For the decision of their Scribes, or ‘Soferim’, consisting originally of Aaronites, Levites, and common Israelites, they claimed the same authority as for the Biblical law, even in case of error (Sifre, Deut. 153-154); they endowed them with the power to abrogate the Law at times, and they went so far as to say that he who transgressed their words deserved death (Ber. 4a). By dint of this authority, claimed to be divine (R.H. 25a), they put the entire calendric system upon a new basis, independent of the priesthood.”

“On the whole, however, they added new restrictions to the Biblical law in order to keep the people at a safe distance from forbidden ground; as they termed it, ‘they made a fence around the Law’ …”

“After they had determined the kinds of work prohibited on the Sabbath they forbade the use of many things on the Sabbath on the ground that their use might lead to some prohibited labor. It was here that the foundation was laid of that system of rabbinic law which piled statute upon statute until often the real purpose of the Law was lost sight of.”

“Henceforth Jewish life was regulated by the teachings of the Pharisees; the whole history of Judaism was reconstructed from the Pharisaic point of view, and a new aspect was given to the Sanhedrin of the past. A new chain of tradition supplanted the older, priestly tradition (Abot i. 1). Pharisaism shaped the character of Judaism and the life and thought of the Jew for all the future. True, it gave the Jewish religion a legalistic tendency and made ‘separatism’ its chief characteristic; yet only thus were the pure monotheistic faith, the ethical ideal, and the intellectual and spiritual character of the Jew preserved in the midst of the downfall of the old world and the deluge of barbarism which swept over the medieval world.”


Without going on for pages, here is a brief summary of some of the things the Pharisees added, changed or usurped, as addressed by Jacob Neusner:

  • Added the daily recital of the Shema and other parts of the divine service.
  • Made the tefillin a counterpart of the high priest’s diadem and breastplate.
  • At the temple, they introduced the regular daily prayers.
  • Declared that the priests were only deputies of the people.
  • Told the high priest (on Atonement) that he was a messenger of the Sanhedrin and must officiate according to the Pharisees rulings.
  • Introduced rites in the Temple without foundation in Law during Sukkot: water procession of the people, libation of water and the beating of willow trees on the altar.
  • Added so many qualifications on the death penalty that it was rarely carried out.
  • Changed the laws of virginity and the levirate according to decency and common sense.
  • On Atonement, they took the power of atoning from the high priest and put it on the day itself.
  • At Passover, made the lessons of the Exodus story get more attention than the paschal lamb.
  • Replaced going to the Temple on holy days with going to the teacher and listening.
  • Changed the Feast of Weeks from a Feast of Firstlings to a feast of the giving of the Law.
  • Put the offering of the omer on the day after the holy day, not the day after the weekly Sabbath.
  • Started the women lighting candles on Sabbath evening.
  • Accentuated the legal character of divorce, and inserted in the document ‘according to the law of Moses and of Israel’.
  • Placed more stress on purification of the Temple vessels and scrolls and that they transmitted holiness to the hands.
  • Created an aristocracy of learning. Said bastard students of Law were higher in rank than an ignorant high priest.


Jewish Liturgy,
by Ismar Elbogen –


Page 4 – “The format of Jewish prayer was not always the one that is familiar to us today; at first it was neither as long nor as complex. Both the order of prayer as a whole and the individual prayers have changed in the course of time, so that ‘the liturgy of today is the fruit of a thousand years’ development’ (Zunz, Haderashot, 180). At first there was no fixed liturgy, for the prayers were not set down in writing; only the gist of the content was fixed, while their formulation was provided by the precentor in his own words. Public prayer was brief, and when it came to an end, the individual worshiper laid out his own petition in silence. But the prayer of the individual was displaced little by little until it vanished completely from public worship. The ancient prayers could not be lengthy, and their content had to be clear and simple; there was no room for convoluted language or structure. But once these prayers had become entrenched, they were subject to continual unconscious expansion, resulting from the need for innovation, change in taste, outside influences, and the practice of individual holy men. These expansions consisted of wordier development of the existing themes, the insertion of biblical verses and verse-fragments into the text, and poetic embellishment of the established text. They were small in scale, simple in form, and clear in their manner of expressions. Thus, there crystallized little by little a stock of prayers that was in use every day of the year, though with minor changes on particular days; and since these prayers were closely attached to the old nucleus of the prayers, we call them ‘statutory prayers’ (Stammgebete).”

Page 158 -- “The most ancient sources do not know of any special prayers before, during, or after the reading of the Torah. The Torah was removed and replaced without any special ceremony, and the reading was not interrupted by prayers. This changed completely in the course of time. Removing the Torah and returning it to the Ark turned into solemn ceremonies with special prayers; the reading itself was accompanied by prayers, and, following the reading, several prayers were inserted before the Torah was returned to the ark.”

A Rabbinic Anthology,
by C G Montefiore and H Loewe,
page 355 –


“Returning to prayer, there are many rules about it, partly because the Rabbis, unfortunately, could not help making rules and fine distinctions about everything, partly because by prayer they often mean statutory prayer – the fixed prayers which a pious Jew is bound, or ordered, or expected to repeat two or three times a day.”


Sacred Origins of Profound Things,
by Charles Panati –


Page 37 – “The Kaddish, part of Jewish doxology, is an Aramaic poem recited during synagogue services, in which the congregation responds: ‘May the greatness of His being be blessed from eternity to eternity’.”

“Originally, the Kaddish was recited in rabbinical academies by a preacher at the end of his discourse, or following the study of the nonlegal part of the Talmud, the Aggadah.”

Page 45 – “Kiddush – this Jewish benediction and prayer, dating from about fifth century BCE, is recited over a cup of wine immediately before the meal on the eve of the Sabbath or on the eve of a festival. The ceremony, which according to the Talmud originated with the ‘Men of the Great Assembly’ and served to celebrate the Creation and the Exodus, acknowledges the sanctity of the day that has dawned.”


Wanderings,
by Chaim Potok –


Page 221 – “In 73 C.E. ‘The Jewish state came to an end. The Sanhedrin was abolished. The high priesthood ceased to exist. The Sadducean party disappeared. The Romans would not permit the temple to be rebuilt. Jews throughout the empire were ordered to continue to pay the temple tax – for the service of the new temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline hill in Rome.”

“In the town of Yavneh a group of masters and disciples met daily to study the law. They met with Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai.”

Page 224 – “All through the decades of the Flavian dynasty, whose great pride had been the destruction of Jerusalem and the crushing of the Jewish rebellion, the sages of Yavneh reshaped the nature of the Jewish tradition, cutting it loose from dependence upon the Jerusalem temple and the sacred system. In the time of Rabban Gamaliel the text of obligatory and communal prayers were fixed. The canonization of the last of the Biblical books may have been accomplished during this period. Christians were taken to be a heretical sect, and contact with them was forbidden. It was declared that Passover could be celebrated without the sacrifice of the paschal lamb. The order, seder, of the Passover eve ritual was transformed; one could eat the unleavened bread and bitter herbs without the meat of the lamb – contrary to the clear stipulation of the Bible. A new text was developed to explain and accompany the Passover evening rituals. That text is called the Haggadah. The Passover molded at Yavneh out of the debris of the destroyed temple is still celebrated by Jews today.”

Everyman’s Talmud,
by Abraham Cohen,
page 24,
regarding the use of the name of Yahweh –


“In the Biblical period there seems to have been no scruple against its use in daily speech. The addition of Jah or Jahu to personal names, which persisted among the Jews even after the Babylonian exile, is an indication that there was no prohibition against the employment of the four-lettered Name. But in the early Rabbinic period the pronunciation of the Name was restricted to the Temple service. The rule was laid down: ‘In the Sanctuary the Name was pronounced as written; but beyond its confines a substituted Name was employed’ (Sot. vii. 6).”

Is Judaism the Religion of Moses?, an article by Ernest Martin, from the Good News Magazine –

Page 13 – “The priests were kept busy in the occupation of teaching the people the Law. For their helpers the priests had the regular Levites who gave them proper assistance in teaching the people. These Levites really did much of the actual teaching, and the priests were the supervisors. It was impossible for the limited number of priests to do all the necessary duties. For that reason, a good deal of the help in teaching, judging, being dieticians and, in a limited way, being policemen, fell to the Levites. In effect, the Levites represented the professional class among the people. They were under the authority of the priests, however, who were the responsible organization for the over-all well-being of the nation. The real leader of the whole nation was the High Priest, who was actually the head of state being the leader of the Great Assembly. The Great Assembly was the one organization that was the governing authority. This religious assembly, as previously pointed out, was composed of the chief priests of the land with the High Priest as official president and over-all ruler. All members of this authoritative assembly in the Persian period were priests AND PRIESTS ALONE (Lauterbach, “Rabbinic Essays,” p. 28). ‘For the priests were the actual leaders of the community, since they alone were recognized by the Law (Deut. 17) as its official teachers and competent interpreters’ (ibid., p.28). These priests were not elected by the people to hold a high office in the Great Assembly. They assumed this position by heredity, as ordained by God (Deut. 17). Actually, no one but the priests, according to the Law of God, could teach or direct the people in their religious life. This is the reason why the Great Assembly was composed exclusively of the priests, with the High Priest being the recognized leader.”

Page 21 – “The conclusion of the Jewish teachers may surprise you. They merely taught that all the customs and practices which the Jews were not observing were actually Jewish in origin! ‘They reasoned this: It is hardly possible that FOREIGN CUSTOMS AND NON-JEWISH LAWS SHOULD HAVE MET WITH SUCH UNIVERSAL ACCEPTANCE. THE TOTAL ABSENCE OF OBJECTION ON THE PART OF THE PEOPLE TO SUCH CUSTOMS VOUCHED FOR THEIR JEWISH ORIGIN, IN THE OPINION of the teachers’ (Lauterbach, “Rabbinic Essays,” p. 211). The Jewish teachers told the people that it was simply not possible for them, being Jews, to have inherited any heathen custom or practice! Since the Jewish teachers accepted these customs as actually being Jewish in origin, it became necessary to carry the theory just a little further. The theory went like this: Since the customs were supposedly Jewish, then they must have been taught by the prophets and the teachers of Israel, even by Moses himself! That is how the customs and practices of the Jews, which in reality they had inherited from the heathen within the period of religious anarchy, were falsely termed the ‘traditions of the fathers’ – handed down from Moses, the prophets and teachers of old! These traditions Jesus condemned. There was, however, one difficulty for the Jewish teachers to overcome in this interpretation. There were no such customs and practices as these mentioned in all of Moses’ Law nor in any other part of the Scripture. This did not dampen the spirit of the Jewish teachers! They also had an answer for this. They maintained that these customs were not put down in written form, and because of this, were not found in the text of Scripture. ‘These customs were handed down ORALLY from Moses,’ was their assertion! ‘They were passed by word of mouth from Moses through every generation.’ By assuming that there was an Oral Law, called the ‘traditions of the fathers,’ this freed the Jewish teachers from having to appeal to the Written Scripture for evidence to back up their statements. ‘Accordingly, the teachers themselves CAME TO BELIEVE that such generally recognized laws and practices MUST HAVE BEEN old traditional laws and practices accepted by the fathers and transmitted to following generations IN ADDITION to the Written Law. Such a belief would naturally free the teachers from the necessity of finding SCRIPTURAL PROOF FOR ALL THE NEW PRACTICES’ (Lauterbach, “Rabbinic Essays,” p. 211). These traditional laws – the Oral Laws – were not from Moses nor any of the prophets. There is not a single reference in the Scripture that Moses gave the Israelites any Oral or Traditional Laws that were to be handed down along with the Written Word. The Bible states just the opposite. It plainly says that Moses WROTE THE WHOLE LAW IN A BOOK. There was no such thing as an Oral Law of Moses.”

Page 30 – “By the time of Christ, the Pharisees had developed the Mishnah-form so extensively that they were teaching for doctrines hundreds of commandments of men without the slightest backing of Scripture (Mark 7:7). ‘THEY INSISTED THAT THEIR DECISIONS MUST BE ACCEPTED AS AUTHORITATIVE…’ (“Rabbinic Essays”, p. 235).”

“The Jews THEN – as many NOW – knowingly taught their new laws and commandments ‘ON THE AUTHORITY OF THEIR OWN REASON AND CONSCIENCE, AND NOT BY SEEKING THEIR AUTHORITY IN THE WRITTEN TEXT [the Bible]’ (ibid. p. 70).”

Page 31 – “The Pharisees, from this time (160 B.C.) stopped teaching the Word of God as had Moses! The Pharisees KNEW they were departing from the truth. They KNEW that they were enacting new commandments which had not the slightest hint of authority in the Law of Moses! Pharisaic Judaism, with its innumerable man-made commandments, was never the religion of Moses! Judaism represents a departure from the religion of Moses, and the Pharisees themselves candidly admit it.”

“The Pharisees were fully conscious of the seriousness of the actions they were taking. They actually knew better! But they went ahead with their designs to teach without any Scriptural support. ‘The teachers who introduced the conception of the Unwritten Torah [the traditional laws] … WERE QUITE AWARE OF THE EXTREME GRAVITY OF THE STEP THEY WERE TAKING’ (Herford, “Talmud and Apocrypha,” p. 113). No wonder Christ rebuked the Pharisees so strongly.”

“The Rabbis, one-to-four-hundred years after Christ, did not dare discuss the origin of the traditional laws nor how the Pharisees came to teach without using the Scripture. These later Rabbis knew quite well where the traditional laws had come from, but they did not want the lay people to know that these laws, which had been falsely taught to the lay people as coming from Moses, were not originally from Moses at all. It would have been disastrous to Judaism to teach that the traditional laws were really not from Moses and that the commandments of the Pharisees were nothing more than the commandments of men, because THE WHOLE FOUNDATION OF JUDAISM rested on these fallacious laws.” (Capitalization in original text)

The JPS Guide to Jewish Traditions,
by Ronald L. Eisenberg –


Page 23 – “Bar mitzvah (lit., ‘son of the commandment’) is the celebration of a boy’s 13th birthday according to the Jewish calendar, when he officially attains his legal and religious majority. Upon reaching this age, the boy is obliged to fulfill all the commandments and observe the religious duties incumbent on a Jew (Yoma 82a).”

“The special synagogue observance of the bar mitzvah as it is known today did not exist during biblical or rabbinic times. In the Bible, the age of 13 was not even recognized as a major milestone in a boy’s life. Instead, the primary age of significance was 20, when a male was fit for military service, counted in the census, and obligated to give a half shekel for the upkeep of the Temple (Exod. 30:14; Num. 1:3). Twenty was also important because those this age and older were condemned to die in the wilderness because of the sin of the spies, whereas those who were younger were permitted to enter the Promised Land (Num. 13:31-33, 14:29).”

Page 137 – “Traditionally, the woman of the house lights at least two candles on Friday evening, corresponding to the two ways in which the Fourth Commandment is phrased –’remember’ (Exod. 20:8) and ‘observe’ (Deut. 5:12) the Sabbath day – two phrases that the Talmud relates were miraculously ‘pronounced in a single utterance’ by God (Shev. 20b). Two candles also symbolize the unity underlying all apparent duality: man and woman, body and soul, speech and silence, Creation and Revelation. In many families, an additional candle is lit for each child in the family; it is customary never to decrease that number.”

“So as not to desecrate the Sabbath by miscalculating the precise time that night falls and the seventh day begins, it is customary to light the candles 18 minutes before sunset on Friday evening. Unlike most commandments, for which the recitation of a blessing precedes the activity and any benefit that can be derived from it, the lighting of the Sabbath candles is performed before the blessing is said. Were the woman to recite the blessing first, she effectively would have welcomed the Sabbath before actually having kindled the candles, which would violate the prohibition against making a fire on this day.”

Page 172 – “Yom Kippur brings pardon for sin if there is repentance (Yoma 8:8). This applies only to transgressions between human beings and God (bein adam la-Makom). For transgressions between one human being and another (bein adam la-chavero), Yom Kippur does not secure atonement unless one has sought forgiveness from the other person and redressed the wrongs done to him or her (Yoma 85b). If necessary, one must attempt three times to seek forgiveness from another. According to the Talmud (Yoma 87a), this is based on the triple repetition of the word ‘please’ in the message that the brothers, fearful of Joseph’s exacting revenge after Jacob’s death, contended was given to them by their father just before he died (Gen. 50:17). If forgiveness is not granted – itself a grave sin – the burden of seeking exoneration is removed from the transgressor. According to Judah ha-Nasi, the Day of Atonement brings pardon for transgressions against God even without repentance, except in cases of very serious sin (Yoma 85b). However, the forgiving quality of Yom Kippur is ineffective if one thinks: ‘I will sin and the Day of Atonement will procure atonement.’ Similarly, the person who says ‘I will sin and repent, and sin again and repent’ will not be afforded any opportunity to repent (Yoma 87a).”

Page 203 – “Tashlikh (you will cast) is the ceremony on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah in which Jews recite special penitential prayers and psalms and throw crumbs of small pieces of bread into a body of water (river, lake, or ocean) to symbolically cast away their sins. It is postponed to the second day of Rosh Hashanah if the first day falls on the Sabbath, because of the proscription against carrying on that day. The name derives from the verse in Micah (7:19), ‘You will cast (v’tashlikh) all their sins into the depths of the sea’.”

“Tashlikh was not a ritual devised by the Rabbis but rather a popular practice among Ashkenazic communities that began during the medieval period and was reluctantly accepted by rabbinic authorities after they had fought against it as a superstitious custom of pagan origin designed to propitiate the spirits of the rivers on critical days of the year. The Rabbis feared that Jews would consider this ceremony sufficient to absolve them of their sins, rather than appreciating the need to change their conduct and return to God’s path. Although the custom is not mentioned by Talmudic or gaonic authorities, it may have originated in antiquity based on the Roman practice of throwing objects representing human wealth (including stalks of grain) into the flood waters as an offering to the gods, who might otherwise resent humans taking food from the earth that belonged to them.”

Page 210 – “Kol Nidrei (All vows) is the opening prayer of Yom Kippur. Chanted by the hazzan in a dramatic and beloved melody, Kol Nidrei annuls all vows made to God.”

Page 211 – “The origin of Kol Nidrei is unknown, but one suggestion is that it may have originated during the gaonic period (9th and 10th centuries) as a magical formula to remove evil spirits threatening to interfere with the sacredness of Yom Kippur. This may account for its being strongly condemned by many of the sages as a pagan-like custom totally inconsistent with traditional Jewish practice. Nevertheless, the popular appeal of Kol Nidrei was so great that it remained in the liturgy as one of the most beloved of all prayers.”

Page 374 – “’Kippah’ (plural, kippot) comes from the Hebrew word ‘kaf’ (palm), which describes the shape of the typical head covering worn by Jews in modern times. Also known by its Yiddish equivalent ‘yarmulke’ (skullcap), the kippah has become a universally recognized symbol of Jewish identity.”

“Although the custom of covering the head at home, outdoors, and in the synagogue extends back several thousand years, there is no explicit biblical commandment to cover one’s head for prayer or other religious functions. In Temple times, the Kohen Gadol wore a special head covering (mitznefet; miter), and regular Kohanim donned a turban (migha’at) (Exod. 28:4, 37, 40). However, ordinary Israelites were not commanded to cover their heads.”

Page 379 – “The exact etymology of the word ‘tallit’ is unclear, but it originally meant a ‘robe’ or ‘cloak.’ In ancient times, most garments (tunics, capes) were rectangular, because they were woven on looms. In accordance with the biblical command, Jews merely attached fringes to the four corners of the clothing they wore every day. Thus the tallit was not a prayer shawl; it was a regular article of clothing whose religious significance lay solely in the fringes attached to it. After their exile from the Land of Israel, Jews throughout the Diaspora generally assumed the styles of clothing worn by their gentile neighbors, who did not wear four-cornered garments. Consequently, the tallit was no longer worn as part of the daily apparel and was used only for prayer.”

Page 516 – “The Rabbis established seven mitzvoth that were not based on any verses in the Torah:

  • Washing hands before eating (Eduy. 5:6).
  • Lighting Sabbath candles (Shab. 20b).
  • Reciting the Hallel psalms of praise on festival days (Ber. 14a; Pes. 117a).
  • Lighting Hanukkah candles (Shab. 23a).
  • Reading the scroll of Esther on Purim (Meg. 7a).
  • Making an eruv (to alleviate some Sabbath restrictions concerning the limitations of movement and transfer of objects (Er. 21b).
  • Saying a blessing of thanksgiving before experiencing pleasure in worldly items (such as for specific foods) (Ber. 35a).”
Now, in all of the sources quoted here, think back over the phrases that you just read, some of them more than once:
  • The scribes interpreted…
  • They claimed…
  • They added…
  • They believed…
  • The rabbis asserted…
  • Their interpretations…
  • The sages declare…
  • We are told…
  • They maintain…
  • Agreed-upon practices…
  • The focus shifted…
  • According to their proclamation…
  • The rabbis and sages articulated…
  • It may have originated…
  • The origin is unknown…
  • There is no explicit biblical command…
  • …lost in the obscurity of tradition.
Do these quotes carry the weight of “Yahweh said”? Where is their authority? Yahweh originally gave it to the tribe of Levi. Where in Scripture did He take it from them and give it to the Scribes, Pharisees and Rabbis? Or did they simply take it upon themselves? Did they simply ignore the following Scriptures?

Deuteronomy 4:2 You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, to keep the commands of Yahweh your Elohim which I command you.

Deuteronomy 12:28, 32 28-And you take heed to obey these words which I am commanding you, in order that it may be well with you and with your sons after you forever, when you do that which is good and right in the eyes of Yahweh your Elohim. 32-All the things that I command you, take heed to do them, and you shall not add to it, nor take away from it.

Proverbs 30:5-6 5-Every word of Elohim is tested; He is a shield to those who seek refuge in Him. 6-Do not add to His words, that He not reprove you, and you be found a liar.

Ecclesiastes 3:14 I know that whatever Elohim does; it shall be forever; nothing is to be added to it, and nothing is to diminish from it. And Elohim does it so that they fear before Him.

Malachi 3:6 For I am Yahweh, I change not. Because of this you sons of Jacob are not destroyed.


As seen in Mark 7, Yahshua did not seem to agree with the Pharisees, did He? His most scathing words for them are found in the entire chapter of Matthew 23, including verse 28 – So you also indeed outwardly appear righteous to men, but within are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Luke 12:1 During which time the myriads of the crowd being gathered together, so as to trample on one another, He began to say to His disciples first, Take heed to yourselves of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

Did Yahweh expect us to follow these traditions? Some people say we should, based on some words in John 4:22 that say “salvation is of the Jews.” They insist that in order to correctly follow Yahshua, we MUST follow what Judaism says to do. In reading how Judaism contradicts Scripture, adds to it, deletes from it, and does not accept Yahshua as Messiah, can you honestly believe that is what Yahweh wants? Or does He ask that we simply follow what He says? Should we do as He says in numerous places – “Obey My voice!”

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 12-And now, Israel, what has Yahweh your Elohim asked of you, except to fear Yahweh your Elohim, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve Yahweh your Elohim with all your heart, and with all your soul; 13-to keep the commandments of Yahweh, and His statutes which I am commanding you today, for your good.

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 15-Behold, I have set before you today life and good, and death and evil, 16-in that I am commanding you today to love Yahweh your Elohim, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commands and His statutes, and His judgments, and you shall live and multiply, and Yahweh your Elohim shall bless you in the land where you are going in, to possess it. 17-But if you turn away your heart, and you do not listen, and are drawn on, even you will bow down to other gods, and serve them; 18-I have declared to you today that you shall certainly perish. You shall not prolong your days in the land to which you are crossing the Jordan, to go in there to possess it. 19-I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore, choose life, that you may live, and your seed, 20-to love Yahweh your Elohim, to listen to His voice, and to cleave to Him, for He is your life, and the length of your days, to live in the land which Yahweh has sworn to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give it to them.

Micah 6:8 He has declared to you, man, what is good, and what does Yahweh require of you, but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your El?


These traditions of the elders continued to be a challenge for the New Testament church. Several Scriptures allude to them.

2 Timothy 2:15-16 15-Be eager to present yourself approved to Elohim, a workman unashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16-But shun profane, empty babblings, for they will go on to more unrighteousness.
Titus 1:10-16 10-For there are indeed many insubordinate men, empty talkers and mind deluders, especially those of the circumcision, 11-whose mouths you must silence, who overturn whole houses, teaching things which they ought not for the sake of ill gain. 12-One of them, a prophet of their own, said: Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, idle gluttons. 13-This testimony is true: for which cause convict them severely that they may be sound in the faith, 14-not listening to Jewish myths and commandments of men, having turned away from the truth. 15-Truly, all things are pure to the pure, but to the ones having been defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but even their mind and conscience has been defiled. 16-They profess to know Elohim, but by their works they deny Him, being abominable and disobedient, and worthless to every good work.

Titus 3:8-9 8-Faithful is the word, and concerning these things I desire you to strongly affirm that the ones having believed Elohim should take thought to maintain good works. These are the things good and profitable to men. 9-But keep back from foolish questions and genealogies and arguments and quarrels of law, for they are unprofitable and vain.

Hebrews 13:9 Do not be carried away by various and strange doctrines; for it is good that the heart be confirmed by grace, not by foods; in which those walking in them were not profited.

2 Peter 1:16, 20-21 16-For not having followed fables which had been cleverly devised, we made known to you the power and coming of our Master Yahshua Messiah, but having become eyewitnesses of the majesty of that One. 20-Knowing this first, that every prophecy of Scripture did not come into being of its own interpretation. 21-for prophecy was not at any time borne by the will of man, but having been borne along by the set-apart spirit, set-apart men of Elohim spoke.


Keep in mind – the Pharisees Yahshua was talking to were some of the ones who helped to form and propagate these ideas that have been quoted. The Pharisees were the source of most of the “great” rabbis that Judaism now quotes; the same ones they reverence and depend upon for answers. Rabbinic Judaism puts the words of these rabbis ahead of the word of Yahweh. They do not acknowledge the sacrifice that Yahshua provided for our sins. They depend only upon their actions and the good that they do. They have no Savior.

So do we today have any need to look to Judaism to see how to worship Yahweh? Or is Yahweh’s word all we need, along with a close relationship with Him and His Son?

Hebrews 12:1-2 1-So therefore we also, having so great a cloud of witnesses lying around us, having laid aside every weight and easily surrounding sin, through patience let us also run the race set before us, 2-looking to the author and finisher of our faith, Yahshua, who for the joy set before Him endured the stake, having despised the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of Elohim.


If He is “the author and finisher of our faith”, what more do we need? We need no traditions or commandments of men.

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In this article the author has used quotes from commonly available books and materials. Every effort was made to correctly quote each source. The conclusions drawn are based on the materials quoted; therefore it is the responsibility of the reader to verify that the materials are true and correct as to content and context.
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