Written by: Marc A. Krell
In the medieval period, rabbinic commentators perpetuated the divine revelation of Torah with their own midrashic or interpretive techniques to develop legal, philosophical, and mystical commentaries that would further uncover new meanings of God's word.
The 18th-century pietistic movement Chasidism would further extend the meaning of the Oral Torah beyond the earlier rabbinic commentaries to include the writings of zadikim, righteous individuals in every generation, particularly the Chasidic leaders themselves who even had the right to "cancel" a divine decree when necessary.
The medieval philosophical and legal interpretations also paved the way for modern and contemporary innovations of Jewish theology and legal observance including traditional, liberal, and feminist approaches. While the Hebrew biblical canon has remained sacrosanct throughout history, Jewish thinkers in every generation have continued to create "scripture" anew by participating in the ongoing process of interpretation.
1. Why was an oral tradition important to the transmission of Judaism?
2. What is the Torah? How are its sections divided?
3. What is midrash?
4. Why is midrash important to the oral Torah? How does it influence the text in contemporary settings?