Page 180 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

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Mishnah 10 o f
Megillat Taanit
“On the 14th day o f Tammuz the book o f decrees was removed
and it is not allowed to mourn.”
The scholiast offers an extended comment which relates this
to the controversies between the Pharisees and the Sadducees
as follows:
“Because the Sadducees had before them a book o f decrees in
which was written: these are liable to stoning and these to burn ­
ing, these to decapitation and these to strangulation. When an­
yone was to be sentenced, a person [a Sadducee member o f the
Sanhedrin] would consult the book. He [the Pharisee] says to
him: On what basis do you know who is liable to stoning or
to burning or to decapitation or to strangulation? He [the Sad­
ducee] could not substantiate his argument from the Torah ( ‘You
shall act in accordance with the instructions given to you and
the ruling handed down to you’ — Deut. 17:11). They do not
record the laws in a book, but rely on the book o f decrees which
is before them. Moreover — the Beothusians would say, eye for
eye, tooth for tooth; if someone knocks out anyone’s tooth, let
his tooth be knocked out; if he blinds anyone’s eye, let his eye
be blinded, so that they shall all be alike; and she shall spread
out the cloth before the elders o f the town — this should be
taken literally; she shall spit in his face —- this should actually
be done. The Sages [the Pharisees] said to them [the Sadducees]:
It is not written — ‘the teachings and commandments which I
have inscribed to instruct them’ [Ex. 24:12] . . . It is written fu r ­
ther: ‘Therefore, write down this poem and teach it to the people
o f Israel’ (Deut. 32:19) — this is Scripture; ‘put it in their mouths”
— these are the decrees. The day on which they nullified
it [the book o f decrees] was made a holiday.’
It would appear from this passage that the Sadducees wished
to fulfill the words o f the Torah literally, and that for them
the book o f decrees was none other than the book o f the Torah.
The Pharisees, on the other hand, sought to conduct themselves
according to the halakhah which was dictated by life. We are
unable to accept this interpretation since the sources that we
shall soon list allude to other books. The Pharisees did not come
to nullify the Torah. Still they issued harsh decrees against the