Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Action adventure tales in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Talmud: We Don’t Negotiate With Terrorists. This week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ features captives, kidnappers, and extortionists; ransom, escape, and stonings—and black magic.
If you were to make a movie about the Talmud, the hero would have to be Reish Lakish. Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish, usually referred to as Reish Lakish, had a biography more typical of an action hero than a sage. His first career was as a gladiator in the Roman circus, before Rabbi Yochanan convinced him to devote his life to Torah. In this week’s Daf Yomi reading, in Gittin 47a, there was a story about Reish Lakish that testified to his combination of strength and cunning. Apparently, there was a tradition among gladiators that before one was put to death, he was granted any wish he asked for. When Reish Lakish was about to be killed, then, he asked he asked his captors, “I want to tie you up and have you sit, and I will strike each of you one and a half times.”

Probably they should have smelled a rat ...
Probably. Good story though.

As Mr. Kirsch notes, the attention to the subject of hostage-taking for ransom indicates that it was not an infrequent occurrence. We have seen many stories, not least in these columns, which have shown how difficult it is for us moderns to imagine the brutal and degrading world the ancients took for granted.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.