One of the remarkable things about the Talmud is the way it can jump, without a pause, from the most technical, legalistic arguments to the largest philosophical questions. For the rabbis, the how of the law is not separate from the why; both are ways of asking about God’s will, and so both belong in the same discussion. A good example of this came in last week’s Daf Yomi reading, in chapter four of Tractate Avoda Zara. Most of the chapter has to do with whether Jews may drink (or derive other kinds of benefit from) wine that has been handled by gentiles. To answer this question, the rabbis spend many pages considering real and hypothetical cases and parsing the differences among different kinds of handling—stirring with the hand versus treading with the feet, for instance.
And then, in the Mishna in Avoda Zara 54b, we suddenly find ourselves confronted with the most basic questions about God and sin. ...
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.
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