What is Talmud Tweets?

What is Talmud Tweets? A short, personal take on a page of Talmud - every day!

For several years now, I have been following the tradition of "Daf Yomi" - reading a set page of Talmud daily. With the start of a new 7 1/2 year cycle, I thought I would share a taste of what the Talmud offers, with a bit of personal commentary included. The idea is not to give a scholarly explanation. Rather, it is for those new to Talmud to give a little taste - a tweet, as it were - of the richness of this text and dialogue it contains. The Talmud is a window into a style of thinking as well as the world as it changed over the centuries of its compilation.

These are not literal "tweets" - I don't limit myself to 140 characters. Rather, these are intended to be short, quick takes - focusing in on one part of a much richer discussion. Hopefully, I will pique your interest. As Hillel says: "Go and study it!" (Shabbat 31a)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Shabbat 138 – Fears of the Future

The destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in the year 70 CE represented a tremendous danger to the future of Judaism. It was the brilliance and courage of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai who managed to obtain permission from the Romans to found an academy of Jewish study; which reinvented and saved the future of the Jewish people. This academy at Yavne managed the move from Priestly to Rabbinic Judaism; from the sacrificial cult to the study and practice of Jewish law.

On this page, the rabbis express the fear – perhaps during a later time of repression – that all of their work will be forgotten, leaving the future of Judaism once again in doubt:

Our Rabbis taught: When our Masters entered the vineyard at Yavne, they said, “The Torah is destined to be forgotten in Israel, as it is said:

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. And it is said, And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.” (Amos 8:11-12)

“The word of the Lord” they understood to mean the halacha – Jewish law. But:

R. Simeon b. Yohai said: 'Heaven forfend that the Torah be forgotten in Israel, for it is said, for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed.' (Deut. 31:21)

The reinterpretation and engagement of Jewish study keeps the Jewish people alive.

In every generation, it seems, there is a cry that the future of Judaism is at risk. And in every generation it seems there is kind of reinvention which keeps Judaism alive. Today it is coming in the form of blogs, social media, on-line study, local and international "days of study." It is happening in synagogues and in informal gatherings. The renaissance we are seeing in Jewish learning, in creating new ways of connecting our Jewish past and future is a continuation of that trend and counter to the talmudic rabbis' fears. They could not have imagined it - but perhaps they would have recognized it.

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