Biblical Judaism is based loosely on the Hebrew Bible, but
Fri Nov 9, 2018 12:38pm

has not been practiced for millennia. Even during the Biblical Period, it was honored more by the breach than by the observance. For example: Moses told Joshua NEVER to make treaties with the Canaanites, yet, even before Moses was cold in his grave, Joshua began making treaties with them. Moses told the Israelite never to intermarry with any of the peoples of the area, yet even King David was a product of such intermarriage. In fact, careful reading of the Hebrew Bible proves that the Israelites did not so much CONQUER the Canaanites, as to ASSIMILATE with them. In fact, today's "Jews" are primarily of Canaanite ancestry.

So Moses' laws were pretty well ignored even from the beginning. One Mosaic Law that was NOT ignored was the proscription against idols. Archeological research has shown that the wooden, metal, and ceramic figurines that were common among all other Levantine cultures were simply absent during the Israelite period. For the most part, despite the violence of the era, there were certain parts of that were evidently followed: For example: Hebrew Law forbade going into a person's home to arrest him. The "Home Is One's Castle" was rather strong. That is why, when King David was asked by the widow one of whose sons murdered the other, he told the woman NOT to bring her son out to the court.

However, once being exposed to the highly civilized Babylonian Culture, a change was needed. There were many penalties that were absurdly harsh, including the death penalty for the most trivial offenses. The Rabbis responded by total cancellation of all death penalties with the exception of willful, premeditated murder. Right there was a huge improvement. Of course, penalties were not totally abolished, but commuted to monetary fines, which could be severe, up to several years' income, for "death penalty" crimes.

Also, there are parts of the Hebrew Bible whose meanings were lost during the chaos of invasion, occupation, and deportation. Israelites from all over asked their leaders what these things meant. For example: The Phylacteries are utterly undefined in the Bible, so people had to have their meaning clarified. The same was true regarding to the coloration of the ritual prayer shawls. The Bible says that the fringes were to be dyed with Tchelet (Royal Blue), but this had become almost unobtainable by the time of the exile and what was available was prohibitively expensive for nearly all. This dye was obtained by the Phoenicians from a local sea snail, Murex trunculus. It consists of 6,6' dibromoindigo, which is not found in the snail itself, but is produced when the snail's glands are exposed to sunlight. The Rabbis ruled that, in the event that Tchelet could not be obtained, vegetable indigo could be used as a substitute. There were so many customs that were lost of muddied by the chaos that they needed to be re-established by research.

What constituted the "work" that was prohibited on Sabbath?
How were animals to be slaughtered for both ritual use and for common consumption?
What constituted a valid marriage? What kind of documentation was required to prove that a valid marriage took place? How could a marriage be dissolved?
What was the proper treatment of slaves? Some of the wealthy actually had slaves. The Rabbis proceeded to formulate onerous laws that made keeping of slaves, while not impossible, very uneconomical. Example: When the slaves served food to the family, the slaves had to be fed FIRST, and from the same food as the family. Etc.

Then there were the laws concerning property, sales, purchases, etc. For example: the Hebrew Bible tells nothing about the process of property transfer. The Rabbis defined it in detail, in some ways that were similar to today's property laws, and in other ways were different. For example: In American Law, a purchase is complete when both sides have signed the appropriate documents. Not so in Rabbinic Law. To buy a cow in Rabbinic Law, one must lead the cow away. Until this has been done, the seller can demand the cow back, returning the purchase price, of course. To purchase land, the buyer must walk around on the land, usually around the perimeter to demarcate the boundaries.

Quite a number of Rabbinic decisions were later adopted by Anglo-Saxon Law. Simple example: "Bailey for Hire". If a person is asked by the owner to watch the owner's property and this property is subsequently destroyed or lost, the owner has no recourse, unless the watcher was paid. In this case, the watcher is 100% responsible. This comes straight out of the Talmud. The same is true for many other property laws.

So there are two major differences:
1. Rabbis clarified much of the Biblical Law that was unclear.
2. Rabbis moderated and humanized the excesses of Biblical Law.


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