Halacha Moshe MiSinai - הלכה למשה מסיני

Halakhah le-Moshe mi-Sinai (Hebrew: הֲלָכָה לְמשֶׁה מִסִּינַי, lit. Law given to Moses at Sini) is an Halachic law or matter that are not stated in the Scripture nor derived from the Talmudical Hermeneutics, however, known from the Jewish Tradition. Hence, The law given to Moses at Biblical Mount Sinai, not included in the written Torah, that was transmitted since time immemorial from one generation to the next, orally, with no other sources.

These laws are considered by the Talmud to have the force and gravity of Biblical law as if they were stated explicitly in the verse. A classic example is the laws of ritual slaughter upon which Kosher meat is based. They are not stated explicitly in any verse, and are merely referenced in passing in Seder Devarim 12:21.

As part of the Torah Shel Baal Peh, a number of laws, possessing biblical authority but neither stated in Scripture nor derived by hermeneutical principles, are stated in rabbinic literature to be Halacha Lemoshe M'Sinei. The term occurs only three times in the Mishnah (Pe'ah 2:6; Eduy. 8:7; Yad. 4:3) but is found frequently together with terms of similar import, in the other sources of rabbinic Judaism, particularly in the Talmud (such as – there is a received Halachah; there is a received tradition; or simply received). Similarly, according to Talmud Yerushalmi (Shab. 1:4, 3b) the expression in truth they said also belongs to this category (however, see BM 60a and Rashi S.V. be-emet).

Among the laws said to have been given to Moses at Sinai are:

  • The 18 defects which render an animal Terefah (Ḥul. 42a)
  • The duty of walking round the altar with willows and the feast of water drawing, both on the festival of Tabernacles (Suk. 34a)
  • The underside and duct of the tefillin, the parchment of the tefillin, that the straps of the tefillin be black and the tefillin themselves square (Men. 35a), and that they should have a knot (Er. 97a)
  • The minimum quantities of forbidden foods to constitute an offense and the rules regarding interpositions on the body which invalidate a ritual immersion (Er. 4a)
  • That only half the damage is to be paid when damage is done by pebbles flying from under an animal's feet (BK 3b)
  • And that Sofek of Timah, if occurring in the Reshut Horabim, are to be treated as Tahor (Chulin 9b). [1]

It will be seen that all these refer to long-established rules which could not have been known without a tradition to that effect. The medieval commentators point out that on occasion the term, Halacha Le-Moshe Mi-Sinai, is used of much later enactments and is not always to be taken literally, but refers to a Halachah which is so certain and beyond doubt that it is as though it were a Halacha given to Moses at Sinai (Asher ben Yechiel Hilchot Mikva'ot, 1 (at the end of his Piskei ha-Rosh to Niddah) and his Commentary to Mishnah, Yad. 4:3). In most cases, however, they explain it literally, i.e., that these halakhot were transmitted by G-d to Moses at Sinai.

Modern scholarship is skeptical about the whole question, but it is clear that the rabbis themselves did believe in the existence of laws transmitted verbally to Moses.


Notes

  1. ^ Originally in the Mishnah (Taharot, Perek 4, Mishnah 21):
    ספק ידיים--ליטמא ולטמא וליטהר, טהור. ספק רשות הרבים, טהור. ספק דברי סופרים: אכל אוכלין טמאין, ושתה משקין טמאין, בא ראשו ורובו במים שאובין, או שנפלו על ראשו ורובו שלושת לוגין מים שאובין--ספקו טהור; אבל דבר שהוא אב הטומאה, והוא מדברי סופרים--ספקו טמא.

    Quoted in the Gemarah:
    ספק טומאה ברה"ר ספיקו טהור