In general, one might say that the Talmud exists because of the shortcomings of the Torah; to put it in traditional terms, the Oral Law
was given to explain and supplement the Written Law.
Karaite Judaism generally dispenses with the Oral Law
, as embodied in the Talmud, instead offering its own interpretations of Jewish ritual law by analysis of Biblical verses based on scholars accepted by the movement, especially Anan Ben-David, who lived in Babylon in the eighth century.
In other words, general hand washing was not mandated by the Law of Moses itself but was a custom included in the oral law
which is here called "the tradition of the elders.
Particularly burdensome was the enormous compendium of oral law
that had accrued to the commandments mediated by Moses at Sinai.
To create this living Torah, Berkovits believed that the written law could not be without the oral law
, which must remain oral to preserve its flexibility.
Many essayists refer to the Torah and Oral Law
as revealed by God at Sinai, while Moshe Weinfeld in "Bible Criticism" and Jacob Neusner in "Oral Law
" aim to expose the Jewish scriptures as created in time by humans.
And since we know that there have been corruptions in the Oral Law
(after all, isn't that the very reason given to justify its codification in the Mishnah?
Meanwhile, The Talmud - the comprehensive written version of the Jewish oral law
- advises us: "If one man says to thee 'Thou art a donkey' pay no heed.
His topics include God, demons and evil spirits, astrology, communicating with the dead, and the oral law
Likewise, the Talmud (a repository of the ancient Jewish oral law
and wisdom) states, "whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world.
According to the tradition, Revelation encompassed not only the Written Law, but also the Oral Law
that provided explanations and elaborations upon the Written Law.
But anything else is--like Oral Law
to the written Torah--precisely what is not in the text.