While Judaism may appear to be a religion with many holidays and an interesting history, those who explore the religion more deeply soon realize that it is a lifestyle based on a complex set of laws. It is then that they discover that the incredible energy of Jewish life is drawn from the fact that questioning, and answering the questions, is the driving force of Jewish learning.

Looking through the Talmud, which is a written discussion of the law (known as the Oral Law), one would notice that quite a large portion of the text is in a question and answer format that analyzes the many different aspects of the law.

An excellent example of this parry and thrust format is the very section of the Talmud that discusses the importance of explaining the law:

Rabbi Akiva asked: From where is it understood that a man must continue teaching his pupil until he [the student] has mastered the subject? [This is derived] from…(Exodus 31:19): “And teach it to the children of Israel.” And from where is it understood that it must be taught until the students are well versed in it? From …(Exodus 31:19): “Put it in their mouths.” And from where is it understood that it is also one’s duty to explain to him [the student] the reasons? It has been said (Exodus 21:1): “Now these are the ordinances which you shall put before them”(Eiruvin 54b).

As important as it is to explain the reasons behind the law, it must be remembered that, when all is said and done, the laws of Judaism are observed because they are God’s commandments.

Copyright © 2010 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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