Altering the Torah
Moshe Ben-Chaim
Reader: Of the RaMBa'M's thirteen foundations, I'm finding that the eighth and ninth are causing me much concern. I believe my concern grows from a fear that I do not know the concept of Torah to which these foundations refer. Am I correct in presuming that the eighth and ninth foundations refer only to the Pentateuch, and not to the Tanach and the Torah Sheb'al Peh? If the foundations refer to the Torah Shebiksav and the Torah Sheb'al Peh, then please explain the meaning of the Deuteronomical prohibition, "you shall not add to it, nor diminish from it"?
Mesora: These do refer to both, the Written and Oral Law. This is stated openly in the Ninth Principle. The prohibition not to add or subtract from the Torah means not to do so outside the guidelines also included in the Torah.

It is written, "al pi haTorah asher yorucha", "In accordance with the Torah that they (the Rabbis) teach you". This passage teaches that one must follow the Rabbis interpretation, meaning, the Rabbis are the teachers of the law, and should be followed. It should be understood that this process of attending to the Rabbi's teachings is an essential principle in the fabric of Torah. The Torah is not supposed to be a static system of laws. It is in reality supposed to be a method of study, of enjoyment in uncovering deeper ideas, concepts, and appreciation of the methods of the Torah's disclosure process. Much different than what most think, but most are not spending their days in deep study, so how can they have such appreciation?
Yes, the Torah warns not to alter the text, but it gives authority to the Rabbis to interpret in accordance with principles given to Moses. Learning is the goal, not mere perfunctory actions of following commands. Maimonides states this.
So the Torah must not be altered in form, but the Rabbis have authority to establish fences around laws feared of being broken. They cannot however establish new mitzvos.

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