Q. In a recent lecture you said that one of the criticisms Judaism has of Jesus was that he said, “It has been told you… but I say to you…” What does this mean?A. The Jewish principle is that one speaks in the name of the Torah, not in one’s own name, and cannot contradict the Torah. One does not think or speak independently but within the tradition.
Chiddushim, “novellae” or new ideas, do not reject the tradition but find a new way of understanding it. The new way itself was already latent and awaiting the moment to be uncovered. The Jerusalem Talmud (Pe’ah 2:4) states, “Anything that a student is destined to expound before his teacher was already told to Moses at Sinai”.
It is a great joy to a Torah scholar to arrive at the meaning of a passage and to feel humbly that this was the destined moment for the interpretation to become known. It is also a joy to find that his interpretation had been anticipated by another sage centuries earlier. This gives a special point to the verse, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Kohelet 1:9).