The idea that Jewish law can be unjust, that we have evolved a moral sense more complex and advanced than biblical codes can contain, is not at all a modern invention. Two thousand years ago, Philo of Alexandria was already reading the Exodus story as a philosophical allegory of individual spiritual liberation. Eight hundred years ago, Maimonides theorized that many Jewish laws were instituted solely to distinguish Judaism from paganism, not because they were inherently moral. Yet Philo and Maimonides were equally quick to insist that their revisionist explanations of Jewish law did not compromise the authority of that law: Whatever the reasons for the law, it had to be obeyed to the letter. What is modern is the idea that we have the right to legislate for ourselves. Secure in that freedom, I think it is possible to read the Talmud with the necessary combination of respect and distance.Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Patriarchal injustice in the Talmud
THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: When Jews Were Like ISIS. We, too, stoned our women for infidelity. Patriarchal injustice persists in Orthodoxy. What’s a modern Talmud reader to do? Excerpt: