The official status of the Torah after the time of Ezra did not entail that it was closely observed. Rather, it had iconic importance, in the sense that people revered it even if they did not pay much attention to its content. This iconic importance can be seen in the Book of Ben Sira, in the early second century BCE. Ben Sira declares that all wisdom is the Torah of Moses, but he does not engage it in any detail.
Attitudes to the Torah changed, however, after the attempt by Antiochus Epiphanes to suppress it. The Maccabees, and their descendants, the Hasmoneans, were not especially pious, but they insisted on the observance of those aspects of the Law that had symbolic importance. During the century of Hasmonean rule, we see a “halakic turn” in the emergence of literature such as the Temple Scroll and Jubilees, that engages the legal aspects of the Torah in great detail. We also see the rise of sectarianism, fueled by disagreements over the details of the Law, as can be seen especially in the Dead Sea Scroll called the Halakhic Letter (4QMMT).
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