Translation:Arukh ha-Shulchan/Author's introduction

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“The Lord God of gods, he knows, and let Israel know” (Joshua 22:22)

The Oral Torah

Our Holy and Pure Torah is "longer than the earth is its measure, and broader than the sea" (Iyov 11:9), "higher than the highest", (Kohelet 5:7) and "it is very deep, who can ever plumb its depths?" (ibid 7:24).

And how could it not be so? [For the Torah] is the daughter of the living God, and is the essence of supernal wisdom, and there is the secret of its strength [that it is hidden away inside wisdom], and He is praised; His Name and wisdom are one. Just as there is no beginning to His beginning or no end to His end, so too is there no beginning or end to His wisdom [it is without limit]. Concerning this, the pleasant singer of Israel (Psalms) says: "your commandment is exceedingly broad" (Psalms 119: 96). That is to say: there is no boundary [to your commandment; to the study of Torah]. And he pleaded saying, “open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things in your Torah” (Psalms 119: 18).

Also [the Torah] is the very source of all wisdom; and in this [fact] the six branches of the Menorah [in the Temple] hint, for they all were facing towards the middle branch, and this is what the great sages have noted in their books.

And the primary greatness of the Torah we come to know through the Oral Torah, as the sages of blessed memory said: God made a covenant with Israel only for the sake of that which was transmitted orally, as it says, "For by the mouth of these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” (Exodus 34:27; quoted from Talmud Bavli, Gitten 60b). And this is the great and holy Talmud, overflowing with all wealth, beautiful pearls and stones of desire covered with sapphires. And to a person with eyes to confirm it, he will see jewels hidden in every single matter.

Now this oral Torah gives life to the written Torah, just as the soul gives life in the human body, so too the oral Torah gives life to the written Torah, because the written Torah is closed-off and sealed, and there is not even one commandment explained.

For example [the commandment of] Shabbat, as it is written (Exodus 20:9; Deuteronomy 5:13): "Do not do any work" - What is the boundary of work? And what is specified in the portion of "Vayakhel" ("assembled") the work of burning a fire by itself, as it is written (Exodus 35:3): "You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day"... [not finished]