Written Words©

Jewish written tradition begins with the Torah. Dating from 900 to 800 BC, it was taken to be the Word of God, as dictated to Moses. When written onto a scroll and wound around two wooden poles it became a Torah. When printed in book form, these first five books of the Bible (or Tanach), became the Pentateuch or Chumash. The remaining books of the Bible were reduced to writing and organized as the official canon (list of books) by 90 BC.

The Pharisees are said to be the first to proclaim the Oral Law. These were additional dictates from God to Moses that were not written into the Torah. Instead, they were handed down orally through the generations to supplement the Torah and provide specific guidance for Jews as to their Laws and traditions. For centuries, any effort to put the Oral Law into writing was prohibited. But the scholarly culture of the Pharisees, always open to debate and varying interpretations, led to growing disputes about the Oral Law.

Between 900 BC and 300 AD, the Jews were dispersed three times. First, in 722 BC, the Kingdom of Israel was defeated by the Assyrians and its ten tribes dispersed and lost to history. In 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar's Babylonians conquered Judah, destroying the First Temple, and exiling the remaining Jews. In 70 AD the Romans destroyed the Second Temple and began what most now think of as the Diaspora or, dispersal of Jews to the four corners of the world.

Seeking to distill the cacophony of ever more diverse and divisive opinions about the so called 'twofold Law," (the Oral Law and the Pentateuch), and preserve Judaism, in the face of the Jewish Diaspora into minority enclaves around the world, the Pharisees developed the Mishnah over the first to third centuries AD. The Mishnah was intended to codify their interpretation of Jewish religion, and with that, the 'Law" and culture of Jews....

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