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)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Eruvin 19 – Heaven and Hell

Rabbinic texts do not dwell on the afterlife or the images of Heaven and Hell. This can be difficult for those who believe the role of religion is to give confidence about the world to come. Not that it goes unmentioned, though.

A passing reference to “Gehenna” – Hell – on the prior page leads to a discussion of Divine Punishment – and the way it accepted:

R. Jeremiah b. Eleazar further stated: Come and see that human relationship is not like that with the Holy One, blessed be He. In human relationship when a man is sentenced to death for [an offence against] a government, a hook must be placed in his mouth in order that he shall not [be able to] curse the king, but in the relationship with the Holy One, blessed be He, when a man incurs [the penalty of] death for [an offence against] the Omnipresent he keeps silence, as it is said: Towards Thee silence is praise; (Ps. 65: 2)

This is exactly in line with what R. Joshua b. Levi has said:

Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; yea, the early rain clotheth it with blessings, (Ps. 84: 7.)

passing’ is an allusion to men who transgress the will of the Holy One, blessed be He;
‘valley’ [is an allusion to these men] for whom Gehenna is made deep;
‘of Baca’ [signifies] that they weep and shed tears;
‘they make it a place of springs’, like the constant flow of the altar drains;
‘Yea, the early rain clotheth it with blessings’, they acknowledge the justice of their punishment and declare before Him:

‘Lord of the universe, Thou hast judged well, Thou hast condemned well, and well provided Gehenna for the wicked and Paradise for the righteous’.

This passive acceptance of the Divine will is a bit surprising – and perhaps not universally acknowledged:

But this is not [so]? For did not R. Simeon b. Lakish state: The wicked do not repent even at the gate of Gehenna, for it is said: And they shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men, that rebel against me etc.; (Isa. 66: 24.) it was not said: ‘that have rebelled’, but ‘that rebel’ [implying] that they go on rebelling forever?

Whether accepted or not, the reference to “Gehenna for the wicked and Paradise for the righteous” is only one of many views of the afterlife mentioned in rabbinic text. It is interesting to see it so definitively stated here.

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