Bo: Why Do Rabbis Make Rules?

January 13, 2021

Throughout Jewish history, the rabbis have enacted takanot, or Rabbinic ordinances, to safeguard Jewish observance. Shabbat begins at sundown? The sages extend it by eighteen minutes. The evening Shema must be recited by sunrise? The rabbis said midnight. Where did they learn this behavior? Why are the Torah’s commands not enough?

Part 1 | What is a Takana?

Torah Sources: The first Mishnah describes a takana—the obligation to recite Shema before midnight to ensure that the real deadline, i.e. dawn, is not transgressed.
Rabbeinu Bachya explains the difference between enacting takanot and adding new Mitzvot, which is forbidden.

Part 2 | Is It a Rabbinic Invention?

Torah Sources: Halachic authorities discuss whether a takana can exist within Torah itself.
The Rebbe, part 1: The first segment of the Rebbe’s talk outlining the topic.

[Part 3] | A Potential Proof

Torah Sources: The various Torah verses commanding us to get rid of all chametz during and before Passover.
The Sicha, part 2: The Rebbe explains how the prohibition for chametz by midday before Passover is derived from those verses and proposes that this prohibition is a takana. The Rebbe then rejects that idea and shows how it is a self-standing commandment.

Part 4 | When Torah Sets Safeguards

The Sicha, part 3: The Rebbe brings a different law of Pesach—”bal yera’eh” and “bal yimatze”—and cites the Ran that it is a safeguard against the accidental consumption of chametz. Clearly, this is a takana within Torah, and in fact, the Rebbe says, this is the source for all future takanot of the sages.
The full class is geared for in-depth study. For a shorter class, skip part 3.



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