The Oral Law is the name given by the Jews to the interpretation of the written code, which is said to have been delivered to Moses at the same time, accompanied by the Divine command: "Thou shalt not divulge the words which I have said to thee out of my mouth." The Oral Law was, therefore never entrusted to books; but, being preserved in the memories of the judges, prophets, priests, and other wise men, was handed down, from one to the other, through a long succession of ages. Maimonides has described, according to the Rabbinical traditions, the mode adopted by Moses to impress the principles of this Oral Law upon the people. As an example of perseverance in the acquirement of information by oral instruction, it may be worthy of the consideration and imitation of all those Freemasons who wish to perfect themselves in the esoteric lessons of their Institution.
When Moses had descended from Mount Sinai, and had spoken to the people, he retired to his tent. Here he was visited by Aaron. to whom, sitting at his feet, he recited the law and its explanation, as he had received it from God. Aaron then rose and seated himself on the right hand of Moses. Eleazar and Ithamar, the sons of barons now entered the tent, and Moses repeated to them all that he had communicated to their father; after which, they seated themselves, one on the left hand of Moses and the other on the right hand of Aaron. Then went in the seventy elders, and Moses taught them, in the same manner as he had taught Aaron and his sons. Afterward, all of the congregation who desired to know the Divine Will came in; and to them, also, Moses recited the law and its interpretation, in the same manner as before.
The law, thus orally delivered by Moses, had now been heard four times by Aaron, three times by his sons, twice by the seventy elders, and once by the rest of the people. After this, Moses withdrawing, Aaron repeated all that he had heard from Moses, and retired; then Eleazar and Ithamar repeated it, and also withdrew; and, finally, the same thing was done by the seventy elders; so that each of them having heard the law repeated four times, it was thus, finally, fixed in their memories.
The written law, divided by the Jewish lawgivers into 613 precepts, is contained in the Pentateuch. But the oral law, transmitted by Moses to Joshua, by him to the elders, and from them conveyed by traditionary relation to the time of Judah the Holy, was by him, to preserve it from being forgotten and lost, committed to writing in the work known as the Mishna. And now, no longer an Oral Law, its percepts are to be found in that book, with the subsidiary aid of the Constitutions of the Prophets and Wise Alen, the Decrees of the Sanhedrim, the Decisions of the Judges, and the Expositions of the Doctors.
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