Thursday, May 22, 2014

Deductive exegesis in the Talmud — plus four New Year's days

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: On the Impossibility of Over-Interpreting the Bible. Why Talmud study is not reading, in the usual sense of the word, but rather deciphering the true meaning of the text. Excerpt:
This is not reading in the usual sense of the word. Rather, it is using the Bible text almost as a kind of mnemonic, assigning a different category of promise to each phrase in the verse. One of the things I often wonder in reading the Talmud is exactly what the rabbis meant when they said that theirs is the true meaning of the text. Did they think that the references to burnt-offerings and Temple donations and charity could actually be deduced from the apparently unrelated words of the Bible? Or did they believe that God had dictated the text in such a way as to make room for all the necessary legal interpretations? Either way, it’s clear that the rabbis read the Bible not simply as a sacred history, but as a comprehensive guide to law and life. Since every word was divine, and God does nothing without a reason, it was impossible to over-interpret the Bible; everything that one found there had to have been put there.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.