Why Isn't the Torah Enough?
God's word should be seen as a launching pad, open to many different interpretations.
Q. I am a purist when it comes to Islam. I follow the Quran and ONLY the Quran. I ignore the Hadiths and Sunnah as they come from the mind of man and not God. I understand that in Judaism there are different holy books such as the Torah and Talmud. Why is not the Torah enough if it is information from God? Can God not explain his position and laws by himself?
Both Judaism and Islam, like all great traditions, have developed and expanded the insights of their primary sacred text. The questioner remarks that as a Muslim, he "...is a purist. I follow the Quran and ONLY the Quran." But true literalism is impossible. Were it possible, it would ensure extinction.
Literalism is impossible because any single sentence in the world, however seemingly unambiguous, will be interpreted differently by different minds. "Thou shalt not kill" (or, more properly translated, murder) seems pretty unambiguous. But does it apply to war? Can one bomb a military base knowing that civilians nearby will be killed? Is it murder to kill someone who is torturing you, but will not kill you? Is it murder to take a breathing tube from someone whose brain wave is flat but whose heart is still beating? How certain does one have to be to impose capital punishment without it being considered murder? These questions are not clearly answered by text alone.
Judaism is a tradition of interpretation. Indeed, the one group in the history of Judaism that sought to follow only the text of the Torah, called the Karaites, died out (save a small remnant) in the Middle Ages. Founded by Anan (d. about 800 CE), the Karaites tried to live by the laws of the Torah alone but even they found that it is indeed impossible to follow the Torah without some interpretation. They soon introduced the ideas of "speculation" or "analogy" because they found the Torah text inadequate to all the situations of life.
Though one may believe himself a follower of the letter of a sacred text, I suspect if I questioned any believer carefully enough, we would discover that he is enmeshed in many interpretations. It is an inevitable process of growth and life. The Torah says we should not perform "melachah" on Shabbat (Exodus 20:10, Leviticus 23:3) -- and then does not define melachah. The Rabbis had to determine based on the text and their own wisdom, what melachah meant. (They determined it to be work or other purposeful interactions with nature that were prohibited on Shabbat, such as cooking, plowing, or kindling a fire.)