Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Legends about Yohanan ben Zakkai

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: When the Talmud Replaced the Temple as the Structure at the Heart of Jewish Life Judaism became a religion of laws, haunted and bound by the absence of a home for Jewish sovereignty.
The destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. might easily have meant the death of Judaism. As we have seen again and again in the Talmud, the Temple was the center of Jewish belief and practice in a way that we can hardly imagine today. It was the only place where Jews could sacrifice to God, the only place where God’s spirit dwelled on Earth—not to mention a powerful symbol of Jewish sovereignty. The fact that Judaism managed to survive after the Temple was burned to the ground is the most remarkable of the many acts of renewal and transformation that have preserved Jewish life over thousands of years.

The legend of Yochanan ben Zakkai is a vivid parable of how Judaism managed to endure that trauma. ...
Incidentally, Josephus has a somewhat similar account of his own prophecy that Vespasian would become emperor, an account also told by the Roman historian Suetonius. Also, the departure of the Shekhinah from the Temple described in the final paragraph is modeled after the departure of the divine glory in Ezekiel 10.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.