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AbstractThe dispute over the nature of the Oral Law in the nineteenth century sheds light on fundamental developments in modern Jewish thought. An attitudinal shift can be discerned in the modern period. If in the medieval period, oral transmission was perceived as preserving the accuracy and authentic meaning of the tradition, in modern times it was described, to the contrary, as a crucial means of adapting Jewish tradition to constantly changing environments and to the demands of each generation. This radical new assumption that the existence of an oral tradition reflected the ability of the halakha to change gave rise to countless arguments: if the writing of a text signifies stagnation, when did Jewish tradition lose its vitality? Who was responsible for thus turning the halakha into a fixed or even, according to some, a lifeless system by writing it down? The article addresses these and similar questions raised by the nineteenth-century Jewish scholars throughout Europe and shows how their answers reflect the governing ideologies of the various camps in Jewish society.