When Jesus admonished his disciples to “do and observe everything they [the scribes and Pharisees] command you” (Matt. 23:3), he was referring to the Pharisees’ oral traditions and interpretations of the Written Torah. The Written Torah itself could not have been in question, for it was accepted by all sects of Judaism, and Jesus himself said,
Heaven and earth would sooner disappear than one yod or even one kotz from the Torah. (Matt. 5:18)
Many rabbinic statements express similar ideas, such as:
Should all the nations of the world unite to uproot one word of the Torah, they would be unable to do it. (Leviticus Rabbah 19:2)
Evidence of Jesus’ Observance
To what extent did Jesus observe the practices of the Oral Torah? Jesus was never charged with breaking any part of it, and although his disciples occasionally were accused of disobeying aspects of the Oral Torah (Luke 6:1-2), only one such accusation was made against Jesus—that he broke the Sabbath by healing the sick (Luke 14:1-4). However, even his Sabbath healings were permitted by rabbinic ruling, as the late Hebrew University professor Shmuel Safrai notes in The Jewish People in the First Century (ed. Shmuel Safrai and Menahem Stern; Amsterdam: Van Gorcum, 1976), 805.