Friday, May 24, 2013

"An idolator of reason"

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Who Can Follow These Rules? This week’s Talmud reading prompts strikingly contemporary questions about observance and belief.
In reading the Talmud, I have been especially interested in the glimpses it offers of how its complex rules were, or were not, actually observed in real life. It’s hard to imagine the average Jew in fifth-century-C.E. Babylonia—a farmer, soldier, or merchant—mastering the knowledge required to make judgments on every aspect of Jewish law. The question then becomes, did the majority of Jews consult experts frequently, or did they proceed by custom and rule of thumb, or did they simply ignore the law altogether? Was strict observance the exception, as it is among American Jews today, or the rule?