From the Talmud


From the Talmud


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From the Torah to the Talmud to us

by Larry Krone

From the Talmud, we learn many things. We learn the insights into the laws of the Torah, the rational behind them; we learn about laws that the Rabbis enacted and their reasons. But we also learn proper behavior, how to act and how to behave. The rabbis learned proper behavior from the Torah, and taught it to us via the Talmud.

One such instance is the teaching based on a very simple verse. If you were to glance at Leviticus, chapter 1, verse 1, it simply states that "…And He (G-d) called to Moses, and G-d spoke to him from the Tent of the Assembly, saying (to say)."

The Talmud (Yoma) tells us that from the first part of the verse we learn that it is proper that before a person speaks with another, he must first call him and then afterwards speak to him. It is not proper to just begin to speak to another with out first calling him. That is what we learn from the first part, "…And He (G-d) called to Moses, and G-d spoke to him." First G-d called Moses and only afterwards he spoke to him.

From the second part of the verse we learn another aspect of correct behavior, that being that once you are told something by another person, it is forbidden to reveal what you have been told to another unless permission has been given. This we learn from the second part of the verse, "…and G-d spoke to him from the Tent of the Assembly, saying (to say)." We see that G-d spoke to Moses, and followed it with the verb (in the infinite form) "… saying (to say) " which then gave Moses permission to relate the information that was related to him personally to others. thus we learn that whenever we are told some information, it is forbidden to give over that information to others unless we have the express permission from the source of our information.

Sounds nifty, right?

The question here is basically, if we were to sift through the Five Books of Moses, we only find a few examples of the "calling" part of this lesson scattered about the various books. However, if we search for all the places that it states, "and G-d spoke to Moses to say…" we would come up with close to a hundred examples scattered throughout the Five Books of Moses. So if the Talmud teaches us from this verse, not to relate information to others with out permission, we can find this very same wording in many other verses, yet the first teaching, to call the person before beginning to speak to him, can only be learnt from one place. Why is this?

Why is one phrase repeated so many times, and the other phrase only written once?

In reality it seems that the Torah being the blueprint for the world and man has understood man better than we do. To call some one before you speak with him is not just good behavior, it is also common sense. If we are going to begin to tell some one something, we must first get his attention. There is not much of a desire on the part of the speaker not to do this therefore it is only mentioned once.

On the other hand, when we are told some information we have a tremendous desire to tell other people, yet when we were told the information; we were not given permission to pass out this info to everyone. How many times have people confided in you, problems that they have, doubts that they have, even confessions about what they did when they were younger. For us to tell a third party that which we were privy to hear will give us an importance in that we know "inside information". Yet it is just this that is forbidden. Relating private and personal information can be disastrous for people's lives. It will and does ruin relationships. It causes mutual distrust and separation between people.

Now we can understand why when G-d spoke to Moses, he added, "…to say". He gave him permission to reveal what had been told to him. This is a clear message to us; we are not to reveal what is spoken to us unless it is clear that the party who gave us the information gives permission to do so.


from the September 2003 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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