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Shir ha-Shirim XVII Part Four: Sefirah 34

The Scholars said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: The injunctions of the Scribes are more beloved than those of Torah, as it says, “For Your loved ones Dodecha, are better than wine.”


If a man says: There is no command to put on Tefillin, thus transgressing a Mitzvah of the Torah, he isn’t subject to a (human) penalty. But if he says there are five compartments in the Tefillin, thus going against the teachings of the Scribes, he is subject to a penalty (See Sanhedrin 88b: THERE IS GREATER STRINGENCY IN RESPECT TO THE TEACHINGS OF THE SCRIBES THAN IN RESPECT TO THE TORAH. [THUS,] IF ONE [A REBELLIOUS ELDER] SAYS, THERE IS NO PRECEPT OF TEFILLIN, SO THAT A BIBLICAL LAW MAY BE TRANSGRESSED, HE IS EXEMPT. [BUT IF HE RULES THAT THE TEFILLIN MUST CONTAIN] FIVE COMPARTMENTS, THUS ADDING TO THE WORDS OF THE SCRIBES, HE IS LIABLE.)

(Shir Hashirim Rabbah 1.2.2:1)

This Midrash teaches that the teachings of the Sages are not “as” precious as the words of the Written Torah, but, in fact, more precious! We pay greater honor to the way we apply the Torah’s teachings than to the laws of the Written Torah, and by doing so, we honor the preciousness of the gift of the Oral Law; our involvement in, and application of, the Written Law.

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