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Halacha overrides Scriptures

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Question: Publication date: 29-10-2007
Title:   Halacha overrides Scriptures
Content:   Dear Daat Emet,

I read in the book HaDat Kamah al Yotzereihah that Halacha overrode Scriptures but I did not find there any examples of Halacha which changes what is written in the Scriptures.
Could you give some such examples?


Answer: Publication date: 29-10-2007
Title:   Halacha overrides Scriptures
Content:   Dear Ziv,

Halacha has, in practice, relegated the Scriptures to the Jewish bookshelf as a book which no one reads.
First we will bring a number of examples of the many which have already been presented on the site, and then we will bring an additional example.

1. According to the Scriptures children are attributed to their fathers, not their mothers. Halacha came along and changed the Scriptural law, ruling that affiliation is based on the mother. See the answer to In the Scriptures, the children are related to the father.
2. According to the Scriptures a person who is not a Jew yet affiliates himself with the Jewish people has "entered the community" with no let or hindrance. Halacha came along and created new rules for those who wish to join Judaism. See our answer to Is being a Jew based on the mother or on the father?.
3. According to the Scriptures transgressors are to be punished with 40 lashes. Halacha came along and ruled only 39. See our answer to The Sages distort the plain meaning of the Scriptures.
4. According to the Scriptures one should not sow nor reap on the Sabbath day. Halacha interpreted this to mean the Sabbatical year. See our answer to The Oral Torah was not given at Sinai.
5. The Scriptures permit the eating of pure animals without ritual slaughter. Halacha came along and gave the rules of ritual slaughter. See the Daily Pilpul How do we know the throat must be cut in ritual slaughter?
6. And many, many other examples can be found on the site. The sages explicitly ruled "The majority is sages' interpretation and the minority Scriptures" (Gittin 60b). See our words on the portion of Shoftim and on the portion of Vaetchanan.

We have already written about this many times, and there is no study without new material, so we will bring another law which overturns the Scriptures. In the Scriptures it is written "When you come into your neighbor's vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes at your pleasure, but you shall not put any in your container. When you come into your neighbor's standing grain, you may pluck the heads with your hand, but you shall not use a sickle on your neighbor's standing grain" (Deuteronomy 23:25-26). The implication of "When you come" is that anyone, even a passerby, may enter a vineyard and eat grapes as long as he doesn't take a larger amount than he can eat in the vineyard. That is why the Torah warned against gathering the grapes in a container. This is testified to by the historian Josephus in the first century CE, who writes of the Torah laws as they were interpreted and practiced in his day: "Nor are you to prohibit those that pass by at the time when your fruits are ripe to touch them, but to give them leave to fill themselves full of what you have; and this whether they be of your own country or strangers, as being glad of the opportunity of giving them some part of your fruits when they are ripe; but let it not be esteemed lawful for them to carry any away…" (Antiquities of the Jews book 4, chapter 8:21). The sages overturned the plain meaning of the Scriptures and ruled that the Torah meant workers in the vineyard, not passersby (Bava Metzia 92a) as though it were difficult for the author of the Scriptures to write "When you come as a laborer into your neighbor's vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes…"

It is interesting that the Babylonian sages considered an interpretation of the plain sense of the Torah, that passersby may eat fruit in the vineyards and fields, and rejected this interpretation for fear that people would eat too much and cause the bankruptcy of vineyard and field owners. "I found a secret scroll of the School of Rabbi Hiyya wherein it was written 'Issi the son of Judah said: When you come into your neighbor's vineyard -- the Scriptures refer to the coming in of any man'. Whereon Rab commented: Issi makes life impossible for any one" (Bava Metzia 92a).


Daat Emet

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