Isn’t A Law Still A Law When It Ceases To Be A Law?

The manslayer laws are extremely useful in demonstrating the principles upon which the finite Torah argument is based. In order for the manslayer laws to be functionally valid, the context in which they exist must allow for two types of death:

  1. Accidental death of one man caused by another
  2. Natural death of the high priest.

In other words, the validity of the manslayer laws is directly related to death being a logical possibility.

We have already discussed that when the Messianic Age is completely established, death will be abolished. The abolition of death means the abolition of accidental homicide as well as the abolition of a naturally caused death of the high priest. Therefore, the abolition of death means the abolition of the manslayer laws, because in the absence of death they are functionally invalid and serve no purpose.

It is at this point, where those who want to support an eternal Torah against all odds, will make this declaration:

A law is a law even when it ceases to be a law.

Once someone who believes in an eternal Torah has been presented with clear and unambiguous data demonstrating the Torah of Moses to be finite, and they refuse to accept what Tanakh says, the only remaining recourse is for them to declare that irrelevant laws are still laws. By classifying irrelevant laws as laws, they are able to keep the Torah eternal.

But we know that to keep the Torah eternal in this way is an act of obfuscation. Since the Torah of Moses was given as a body of law to be followed by the people of Israel in a specific context, a context where each and every law had relevance and application, to impose that same body of law on a different age with a different context defies logic and is not supported by Tanakh.

The choices seem clear. If you believe in context, you will believe in a finite Law of Moses. If you disregard context, you will believe the Law of Moses is eternal. Which choice, do you think, is consistent with Tanakh and honors the G-d who gave Moses the Law?

But Didn’t Moses Teach An Eternal Torah?

Despite the straightforward and unambiguous way in which we have presented a positive case for a finite Law of Moses, those devoted to Orthodox doctrine will undoubtedly ask the following question:

But didn’t Moses teach an eternal Torah?

And they will point to these words:

Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it. (Deuteronomy 13:1)

The argument we have made for a finite Torah also quotes from Moses, so in this debate the words of Moses are being set against the words of Moses. Since it is impossible for Moses to contradict himself, because his words are from G-d, we can only conclude that someone is misinterpreting his words in support of their position.

How then do we who advocate for a finite Torah harmonize the words of Moses, which declare the Law should not be added to or subtracted from, with our argument, which has shown that 43% of the positive commands of Torah will be irrelevant in the Messianic Age? To put it simply – we believe that the Law is contextual, not acontextual. Deuteronomy 13:1 only applies in a context where the Law of Moses is the governing body of law. And the Mosaic Law only governs the Age of Moses. The 613 commandments do not govern the Messianic Age. This concept of a contextual Torah command is found just a little bit after Deuteronomy 13:1.

It shall come about if he says to you, ‘I will not go out from you,’ because he loves you and your household, since he fares well with you; then you shall take an awl and pierce it through his ear into the door, and he shall be your servant forever.

When Moses writes that the servant will belong to the master forever, does Moses mean that even after the Resurrection of the Dead and the start of the Messianic Age, that man will remain a servant? No, certainly not. Rather, the servant is a servant “forever”, meaning for the rest of his life in this age.

What is the conclusion then?

Rabbis beg the question when they quote Deuteronomy 13:1 to support an eternal Torah. Because they presuppose an eternal Torah, they presuppose 13:1 has an eternal and acontextual interpretation. But we have just demonstrated those words can have a finite and contextual interpretation. In fact, a finite and contextual interpretation is demanded by Tanakh, when considering all the data we have already put forth regarding finite commands – commands that are relevant in the Age of Moses but irrelevant in the Messianic Age. If 43% of the positive commands are irrelevant in the Messianic Age, there is simply no way to conclude that the Law of Moses is eternal, and there is no basis at all for believing when Moses wrote the words of Deuteronomy 13:1 he was making a truly perpetual declaration.

Are The Laws That Deal With Sin Eternal?

What do the prophets tell us about the Messianic Age? It will be an age of unending peace:

…For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of Hashem from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war. (Isaiah 2: 3 – 4)

There will be no end to the increase of his government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. (Isaiah 9: 7)

And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them…The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of Hashem as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11: 6 – 9)

This prophetically painted picture of a peaceful kingdom calls into question the relevancy of laws that deal with sin. Consider these ten laws of Moses and how they make no sense in the world to come:

Command Description
185 Idolatry and its trappings must be destroyed.
186 A city which has become perverted must be treated according to the law.
192 The military camp must be kept in sanitary condition.
193 To this end, every soldier must be equipped with the necessary implements.
194 Stolen property must be restored to its owner.
205 You are required to reprove the sinner.
218 He who violates a virgin must marry her and may never divorce her.
220 The rapist must be punished according to the law.
223 A woman suspected of adultery has to submit to the required test.
239 Thieves must be punished.

These laws, a sample of the 78 laws dealing with sin, address idolatry, corporate sin, militaries, thieving, and sexual immorality – things that will not exist in the age to come. Following the logic and argumentation already offered for laws dealing with death and disease, we can easily conclude that in like manner these laws dealing with sin will not be needed in the Messianic Age and are therefore finite in duration. When we take the 78 sin commands and add them to the 15 death commands and 13 disease commands, we get a total of 106 finite commands, equating to nearly 43% of the positive commands of Moses.

Here, in full, is the list of 78 laws of Moses that we have identified as relating to sin and being finite in duration:

Command Description
17 The king must write a special copy of the Torah for himself
18 Every Jew should have a Torah scroll
22 The temple must be guarded at all times
38 The high priest may marry only a virgin
48 Additional sacrifice must also be made on the Day of Atonement
49 The Avodah must also be performed
64 It is a commandment to perform the ritual of the sin offering
65 It is a commandment to perform the ritual of the guilt offering
68 Should the Sanhedrin err in a decision its members must bring a sin offering
69 A sin offering must also be brought by a person who has unwittingly transgressed a karet prohibition
70 When in doubt as to whether one has transgressed such a prohibition a suspensive guilt offering must be brought.
71 For stealing or swearing falsely and for other sins of a like nature, a guilt offering must be brought.
72 In special circumstances the sin offering can be according to one’s means.
73 One must confess one’s sins before God and repent for them.
89 The priests should eat the flesh of sin and guilt offerings
94 A person must honor his/her vows.
95 A judge can annul vows only in accordance with the law
118 If one unwittingly derives benefit from Temple property full restitution plus a fifth must be made
120 When you reap your fields you must leave the corners.
121 When you reap your fields you must leave the gleanings.
122 When you reap your fields you must leave the forgotten sheaves.
123 When you reap your fields you must leave the misformed bunches of grapes for the poor.
124 When you reap your fields you must leave the gleanings of the grapes for the poor.
130 In the third and sixth years of the seven cycle you should separate a tithe for the poor instead of the second tithe
137 You must set all slaves free and sound the Shofar on Yom Kippur in the year of Jubilee
164 You must fast on Yom Kippur
165 You must rest on Yom Kippur
175 In the case of division, yield to the majority
178 Whoever is aware of evidence must come to court to testify
179 Witnesses shall be examined thoroughly
180 False witnesses shall have done to them what they intended to do to the accused
181 When a person is found murdered and the murderer is unknown the ritual of decapitating the heifer must be performed.
185 Idolatry and its trappings must be destroyed
186 A city which has become perverted must be treated according to the law
189 Remember what Amalek did to Israel
190 The regulations for wars other than those commanded in the Torah are to be observed
191 A priest should be appointed for special duties in times of war
192 The military camp must be kept in a sanitary condition
193 To this end, every soldier must be equipped with the necessary implements
194 Stolen property must be restored to its owner
195 Give charity to the poor
196 When a slave goes free the owner must give him/her gifts
197 Lend to the poor without interest
199 Restore a pledge to its owner if he/she needs it
200 Pay the worker his/her wages on time
201 Permit the worker to eat of the produce with which he/she is working
205 You are required to reprove the sinner
208 Your weights and measures must be accurate
218 He who violates a virgin must marry her and may never divorce her
219 If a man unjustly accuses his wife of premarital promiscuity he shall be flogged, and may never divorce her
220 The rapist must be punished according to the law
221 The female captive must be treated in accordance with her special regulations
222 Divorce can be executed only by means of a written document
223 A woman suspected of adultery has to submit to the required test
224 When required by the law you must administer the punishment of flogging
226 Capital punishment shall be by the sword, as specified
227 Capital punishment shall be by strangulation, as specified
228 Capital punishment shall be by fire, as specified
229 Capital punishment shall be by stoning, as specified
230 In some cases the body of the executed shall be hanged
231 The body of the executed must be brought to burial the same day
232 Slaves must be treated according to the special laws for them
233 The master should marry his Hebrew maidservant (if he doesn’t redeem her)
234 The master should redeem his Hebrew maidservant (if he doesn’t marry her)
235 The alien slave must be treated according to the regulations applying to him/her
236 The applicable law must be administered in the case of injury caused by a person
237 The applicable law must be administered in the case of injury caused by an animal
238 The applicable law must be administered in the case of injury caused by a pit
239 Thieves must be punished
240 You must render judgment in cases of trespass by cattle
241 You must render judgment in cases of arson
242 You must render judgment in cases of embezzlement by an unpaid guardian
243 You must render judgment in cases of embezzlement by a paid guardian
244 You must render judgment in claims against a borrower
245 Judgment must also be rendered in disputes arising out of sales
246 Judgment must also be rendered in disputes arising out of inheritance
247 Judgment must also be rendered in disputes of other matters generally
248 You are required to rescue the persecuted even if it means killing his/her oppressor

Are The Laws That Deal With Disease Eternal?

According to Moses, a man with leprosy must conduct himself in a certain way:

As for the leper who has the infection, his clothes shall be torn, and the hair of his head shall be uncovered, and he shall cover his mustache and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ He shall remain unclean all the days during which he has the infection; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp. (Leviticus 13: 45 – 46)

In the era of Moses, this law makes perfect sense. But in the Messianic Age there is no disease, so it does not make sense to have laws that instruct lepers, who will not exist, how to behave in public. So in the same way that we concluded the laws dealing with death are not eternal, we can conclude the laws dealing with disease are not eternal. There are at least 13 such commands:

Command Reference
Ritually unclean persons must be kept out of the Temple Numbers 5: 2
Cattle to be sacrificed must be without blemish Leviticus 22: 21
A man who has a seminal issue must bring a sacrifice Leviticus 15: 13 – 15
A woman who has a seminal issue must bring a sacrifice Leviticus 15: 28 – 29
A leper must bring a sacrifice after he/she has been cleansed. Leviticus 14: 10
A leper is ritually unclean Leviticus 13: 3
A leprous garment is ritually unclean Leviticus 13: 51
A leprous house is ritually unclean Leviticus 14: 44
A man having a running issue is unclean Leviticus 15: 2
A woman suffering from running issue is impure Leviticus 15: 19
To become cleansed of leprosy one must follow the specified procedure Leviticus 14: 2
To become cleansed of leprosy one must shave off all of one’s hair Leviticus 14: 9
Until cleansed the leper must be bareheaded with clothing in disarray so as to be easily distinguisable Leviticus 13: 45

These 13 commands, when added to the 15 previously identified commands dealing with death, bring the total of finite positive commands to 28, which equates to 11% of the positive commands of Moses.

Are The Laws That Deal With Death Eternal?

In our taxonomic analysis of the laws Moses received, we identified that there are positive commands that instruct Israel how to deal with situations involving death (see Exhibit for list of laws). But death is not only found in the Torah, it is also found in the Prophets and Writings. Isaiah and Daniel foretell the day when death will be abolished.

He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord G-d will wipe tears away from all faces…(Isaiah 25: 8)

Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12: 2)

A day is coming when Messiah will arrive, the resurrection of the dead will occur, and death will be abolished. In light of these prophetic facts, it is absurd to think that the laws of Moses dealing with death will be meaningful in the Messianic Age. For example, consider the manslayer. According to Moses, if a man accidentally kills another man, he must flee to a city of refuge and stay there for the duration of the high priest’s life.

The congregation shall deliver the manslayer from the hand of the blood avenger, and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge to which he fled; and he shall live in it until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil. (Numbers 35: 25)

Since in the Messianic Age there will be no death, there will therefore be no manslaughter. Not once will the situation ever arise when two men are chopping wood in the forest and one man loses control of his axe and fatally strikes his friend. But, if for the sake of argument manslaughter were possible, there is another problem. The manslayer, upon entering the city of refuge, would find himself in what software developers call an infinite loop. He would wake up in the morning, wait for news of the high priest’s death (so he could leave the city), and go to sleep at night, not having received the news. The next day he would wake up in the morning, wait for news of the high priest’s death (so he could leave the city), and go to sleep at night, not having received the news. This daily cycle of waking and waiting would continue ad infinitum, because even if manslaughter were possible in the Age of Messiah, natural death would not be, and therefore the high priest would never die (unless he himself were accidentally killed by a comrade).

This is but one example of how an era with no death makes meaningless laws that deal with death. We can conclude with certainty that the laws of Moses dealing with death are finite, and their point of termination is the Age of Messiah.


Exhibit: Finite Laws Relating To Death1

Command Reference
In honor of certain dead close relatives the priests should make themselves ritually unclean Leviticus 21: 2 – 3
Those who were ritually impure in Nisan should slaughter the paschal lamb on the 14th of Iyar and eat it Numbers 9: 11
Those who were ritually impure in Nisan should eat the paschal lamb on the 14th of Iyar with matzah and bitter herbs Numbers 9: 11, Exodus 12: 8
Anyone who touches a carcass becomes ritually unclean Leviticus 11: 8, 24
Anyone who touches one of the eight species of reptiles becomes ritually unclean Leviticus 11: 29 – 31
Food becomes unclean by coming into contact with a ritually unclean object. Leviticus 11: 34
A human corpse is ritually unclean Numbers 19: 14
You must appoint a king Deuteronomy 17: 15
Six cities of refuge should be established Deuteronomy 19: 3
You must build a fence around your roof and remove potential hazards from your home Deuteronomy 22: 8
You are commanded to destroy the seven Canaanite nations Deuteronomy 20: 17
You are commanded to blot out the memory of Amalek Deuteronomy 25: 19
Should a man die childless his brother must either marry his widow (if he does not release her) Deuteronomy 25: 5
Should a man die childless his brother must release his widow (if he does not marry her) Deuteronomy 25: 9
You must exile the unwitting homicide Numbers 35: 25

1 The wording of the commands and corresponding Scripture references derive from the Torah Checklist at http://bethelcong.org/app/uploads/2015/06/613_commandments.pdf.

What Types of Laws Did Moses Receive?

Taxonomy is the science of classification. So far we have applied that science to the Torah and have come to the conclusion that all of the laws of Moses must either be eternal or finite in duration.

But there is another taxonomy we can apply to Torah. Rather than classifying laws by their duration, we can group them together by theme. Focusing solely upon the 248 positive commands, we find five main types of laws:

Type # of Laws % of Positive Torah
Sin 78 31.45
Death 15 6.05
Disease 13 5.24
Moral 20 8.07
Ceremony 122 49.19
Total 248 100.00
This data derives from my own personal study of Torah. Although I am confident in the overall accuracy of the survey, I do not guarantee I have classified every law accurately, and therefore the percentages may slightly change if I find the need to reclassify a particular command.

Here is a pie chart, displaying the same data as above in a different way:
torah-pie-chart
Here is an example of each type of positive command:

Type Example Positive Commmand #
Sin A woman suspected of adultery has to submit to the required test Command 223 (Numbers 5: 15 – 27)
Death You must exile the unwitting homicide Command 225 (Numbers 35: 25)
Disease Until cleansed the leper must be bareheaded with clothing in disarray so as to be easily distinguishable Command 112 (Leviticus 13: 45)
Moral The Jew is required to love G-d Command 3 (Deut 6:5)
Ceremony The priests must also light the menorah daily Command 25 (Exodus 27: 21)

One is most certainly on the path to understanding if one can categorize the laws of Moses by both type and duration. After all, can one really say they understand the specific details of a law if they can’t even understand its general purpose and how long it is intended to last?

What Is A Finite Law?

Whereas an eternal law has no end, a finite law does. There are many commands in Torah that Hashem has given, which are meant only for a particular period of time.

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For example, when G-d told Abraham to slay Isaac, that was a unique command. It was not given to all of G-d’s people, and it is not a standing order for fathers to slay their sons. Another instance of a finite command was when Moses made the fiery serpent and set it on the standard, and whoever looked at it would live. That was not something that regularly happened in the days of Moses and throughout the history of Israel – it was a unique command never to be duplicated.

And so now we have discussed the two categories of law, in regards to duration. All laws are either eternal or finite. There is no third option. A law, once it is given, either lasts forever, or it ceases at a certain point in time.

What Is An Eternal Law?

When we speak of a particular law being eternal, we are not saying that it is without beginning and without end. Only Hashem is without beginning – everything else has an origin. And so an eternal law is one that starts at a particular point in time, and then carries on forever. Once it is instituted, it is always required to be obeyed.

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Examples of eternal laws can be found in the ten commandments found in Exodus 20:

You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery.

G-d never approves of murder or adultery. It doesn’t matter the culture, it doesn’t matter the era. It doesn’t matter if it is a Jew or a Gentile, it doesn’t matter if it was 1000 years ago or is 1000 years from now. Such heinous acts are never permissible and always sinful in G-d’s eyes.

So when we hear the rabbis speak about the eternal Law of Moses, we need to realize what they are teaching is that each and every individual law that makes up the whole body of law is eternal in duration. If all of the single laws are not eternal in duration, how then can the entire collection of laws be eternal in duration, since the whole is simply the sum of the parts?

Torah Equivocation and Abraham

What is the Torah?

The answer depends on the context.

Torah can simply mean instruction. Or it can refer to the five books of Moses. Or it can refer to the 613 commandments derived from the five books of Moses.

When rabbis speak of the Torah, they often mean the 613 commandments of Moses. And when they are asked if Abraham obeyed the Torah, they answer “Yes”. But they do not distinguish between the Law of Moses and the Torah that Abraham followed. This is troubling, because we know they were different, if not by a lot, then by a little.

How do we know this?

Abraham did not tithe to the Levites, as required by Moses

Abraham did not observe the Passover, as required by Moses.

Abraham did not observe Yom Kippur, as required by Moses.

Since Abraham predated both the tribe of Levi and the exodus from Egypt, he could not follow commands that had no meaning in his day.

Listen below to Rabbi Tovia Singer explaining how Abraham obeyed the Torah. This is an example of how Orthodox teaching adds to Tanakh, for Tanakh knows nothing of Abraham obeying the Law of Moses.