“Write it Down… Or Else!”
Moshe Rabbeinu pleaded that the “Oral-Law Chain” continue. This chain lasted a long, long, time, until one sad and frightful period around 2,000 years ago. More and more Jews were leaving Eretz Yisrael, due to the terrible oppression of the Romans. It was only a matter of time until Jews would be spread out throughout the world. Once that happened, the Oral-Law Chain would be broken.
To ensure the survival of Torah, the great Rabbi Yehuda announced, “Eis La’Asos LaShem – Now is the time! We must begin writing down the Oral-Law.”
This brave move of Rabbi Yehudah earned him such respect that he became known as Rabbeinu Hakadosh, our Holy Rabbi. By many, he was simply called Rebbi – my teacher. The ultimate teacher!
And that’s how the Mishnah was invented, a.k.a. Shas, a.k.a. Shisha Sidrei Mishnah – Six Orders of the Mishnah (Zera’im, Moed, Nashim, Nezikin, Kodshim, and Taharos).
Years later, the brief notes of the Mishnah, written in a sort of shorthand style, were not enough. People forgot how to interpret these notes. That’s why the Gemara was written; to help explain the Mishnah.
Now that the ban on writing holy books was lifted Torah books were written. At first it was just a trickle of books, but as time progressed, and especially after the invention of the printing press (in the 15th century), more and more were written, until it became a virtual flood of Torah books! So much so that nowadays there are computer hard-drives with around 100,000 Torah books… and it’s “searchable”! No wonder we’re known as the “People of the Book.” Perhaps, more accurate would be “People of the Books!”