Heavy Burdens Reprise

Toby Janicki of FFOZ, recently posted some thoughts in regard to the Oral Torah and Yeshua’s statement, “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.” It was a very insightful post that confirmed some ideas I’ve been developing over the last several months. I think his quote from Schimmel’s book, The Oral Torah, is a key to help us understand a basic principle regarding the work of Yeshua. Here is the quote from the book:

Before instituting a decree of enacting an ordinance or inducing a custom which is deemed necessary, Beit Din [House of Judges] must calmly deliberate and make sure that the majority of the community can live up to it. At no time is a decree to be imposed upon the public, which the majority cannot endure. (The Oral Torah, H. Chaim Schimmel, pg. 112)

I posted my thoughts as a comment on the FFOZ blog, but I thought I would include them here for easy reference…

In regard to the spiritual leadership of Israel during the first century, Yeshua did not come to negate the Oral Torah (as many of us already know, but we would do well to emphasize this point here). He came to 1) expose, rebuke & correct hypocrisy and 2) make the Torah accessible to the “am ha’aretz,” the common person – the “average Joe” (so to speak).

At this point in history, Torah study and mitzvot had almost completely been relegated to the aristocracy. There was a great chasm between the “learned” and the am ha’aretz. Yeshua’s rebuke is often quoted ending with the first portion, “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders.” However, the heart of the matter is found in the latter part in which he said, “but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.”

This is huge! Yeshua’s rebuke worked! The word of Hashem that he spoke did not return void. They did not fall on deaf ears. The difference between the “burdens” the common man faced during the time of Yeshua and the Oral Torah of today is this very principle. We cannot equate the Oral Torah with the “burdens” that the hypocrites, during the time of Yeshua, had placed on the general populous.

Although I do not believe we should follow the Oral Torah blindly, nor in its entirety (for various reasons associated with our Master), we have to recognize that these are two different animals, and speak out against the slanderous accusations from those who are ignorant (not “dumb,” merely uneducated in this particular area) of the differences.

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3 thoughts on “Heavy Burdens Reprise”

  1. That indeed was a great post by Toby and your comment is also much appreciated. I agree with the posts yet Im trying to think of what could be the burdens that they imposed which were considered heavy, my knowledge of Rabbinic literature is not extensive so I couldnt come up with much. The only thing I could think of was maybe the halacha as taught by the School of Shammai, since they were known for their overly stringent way of forming laws. Interested in your thoughts,


  2. Daniel – Thanks for the comment. As to exactly “what” could have been the heavy burdens is still a little bit elusive to me as well. I think you are on the right track, however, in regard to the halacha of Shammai. I intend on doing more research in that regard to see what I can come up with. In the meantime, if you run across any insights I would be more than happy to hear from you.


  3. Geert ter Horst

    Perhaps part of the heavy burden was the tendency of some Pharisaic sects to extend the purity laws of the Temple to the domain of daily life. I remember having read this in an article or a book of Peter Tomson. Some of the P’rushim seem to have tried to implement Temple purity in their own homes. That would imply e.g. menstruating women not being allowed to cook a meal, the strict obligation of handwashing before eating bread, &c. This also implied putting very heavy restrictions on the social relations between Jews and Gentiles.

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