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Exodus 19:9 – Mesorah – Chain of Transmission


6 Sivan 5783 – 26 May 2023

וַיֹּ֨אמֶר ה’ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֗ה הִנֵּ֨ה אָנֹכִ֜י בָּ֣א אֵלֶ֘יךָ֮ בְּעַ֣ב הֶֽעָנָן֒ בַּעֲב֞וּר יִשְׁמַ֤ע הָעָם֙ בְּדַבְּרִ֣י עִמָּ֔ךְ וְגַם־בְּךָ֖ יַאֲמִ֣ינוּ לְעוֹלָ֑ם וַיַּגֵּ֥ד מֹשֶׁ֛ה אֶת־דִּבְרֵ֥י הָעָ֖ם אֶל־ה’׃

And Hashem said to Moses, “I will come to you in a thick cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after.” Then Moses reported the people’s words to Hashem.

Emunah in G-d and Moses and the Prophets and…

People who believe, and trust not only in G-d but also in Moses. In Hebrew, the word here is יַאֲמִ֣ינוּ which comes from the word emunah. Emunah can be translated as “full of trust”.

Having Emunah in Moses means that the people listen to Moses’ explanation of the Words that G-d has spoken. We see people coming to Moses in large numbers with their questions. In such large numbers that it is no longer feasible for Moses, and for the people, to proceed in this way. Jitro then advises Moses to appoint elders to relieve and support him. (Exodus 18:4-27)

Emunah in Moses – and subsequently in the elders – is more than always understanding with reason everything that is explained or advised. Emunah also means trusting that if you ask what to do or how to live, in short, if you ask for any advice, you will get the advice that is best for you.

Now you may say that was good for the people who lived in the time of Moses, but that was a long time ago. To whom should we go today to seek advice on important life questions, or on explaining the details of the Seven Noahides Laws etcetera? We should turn to orthodox rabbis (preferably those who specialize in the 7 Noahide Laws).

Now you may wonder how I can trust, how can I have Emunah, so that they will give me the right advice, that they will give me the right teaching.

Mesorah – An unbroken Chain of Transmission

First, we should always focus our trust, our Emun, on G-d. When we turn to an Orthodox rabbi with a question, we have faith that the answer or advice we receive is that which G-d gives us. For everything is according to His will.

Secondly, we are dealing with what is called Mesorah in Hebrew. An unbroken chain of transmission from Moses to the present day.

Moses taught Aaron and his sons and then to the elders of the people. The chain of transmission then went to Joshua, as we read in Pirkei Avos 2:1:

Moses received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua, Joshua to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets transmitted it to the Men of the Great Assembly.

After the Men of the Great Assembly. It is passed on through the scholars of the Mishnah and the Talmud and eventually comes to us through the Rishonim and the Achronim in the Shulchan Aruch.

The Shulchan Aruch

The Shulchan Aruch was composed about 500 years ago by Joseph Caro (1488-1575). Caro was part of a Sephardic family expelled from Spain in 1492. After his father’s death, Caro was adopted by his uncle, Isaac Caro, the author of a commentary on the Bible.

The Shulchan Aruch was initially intended for those who were unable to study more complex legal works. His code of law became the primary and most influential code of Jewish law. It became the main textbook for most traditional Jewish schools and Yeshivas.[1]

If we seek advice from orthodox rabbis, they will use the halacha as given in the Shulchan Aruch.

It is important to have a personal rabbi, who knows you and your situation, in order to give the best advice.

Trusting the Mesorah

It is clear that Moses had an explanation of the Torah at Sinai, which he passed on. The Torah text itself cannot always be properly understood only from the text itself.

Consider the prohibition of work on Shabbat. It says not to work, but nowhere does it explain what exactly is meant by that. That requires explanation.

Also concerning kosher slaughter, the Torah tells us that there is a method of correct slaughter (Deuteronomy 12:20-21). Yet, the Torah does not define this method, which requires explanation.

The Shulchan Aruch for Noahides

In response to the Lubavitscher Rebbe Menachem Schneerson’s call to teach the Noahide Code to All Mankind, Gentiles around the world began to seek information about how to correctly fulfill the precepts of these seven Noahide commandments. The Rebbe made efforts to start a project to codify the Noahide Commandments. This was accomplished through the efforts of Rabbi Moshe Weiner. He produced an in-depth codification of the Noahide precepts – Sefer Sheva Mitzvot Hashem – which resulted in the English version – The Divine Code.[2]

By Angelique Sijbolts


[1] Shulchan Aruch
[2] The Divine Code 4e edition p. 19 by Rabbi Moshe Weiner and Dr. Michael Shulman.

The full chain of transmission can be found here.
The Chulchan Aruch

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