Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Talmud without Judaism?

TALMUD WATCH: Why Talmud Is the Way To Be Jewish Without Judaism (Shulem Deen, "My Heretical Year," The Forward).
For two millennia, our icons were the scholars. “If not for this day,” one Rabbi Joseph says in the Talmud, referring to the day of Shavuot, which occurs during this month of Sivan, and is traditionally held to celebrate the giving of the Torah, “there are many Josephs in the market.” If not for his knowledge of Torah, Rabbi Joseph would be just another Joseph; no other profession could earn him the same esteem.

Not every Jew was learned, but even the lowliest water carrier or illiterate cobbler might, at the end of a long day, listen to a reading of Mishna or the legends of the Talmud; if he could not grasp its legalistic complexities, he could be captivated by its tales, its fantastical musings, its tidbits of historical trivia — real or imagined — scattered between pietistic homilies. For centuries, nearly every Jewish male child could recite at least the beginning of the first passage of Talmud, “From when do we recite the Shema in the evening?”

Today, many of us don’t care about that prayer. Jews in the 21st century are experiencing what is by all accounts a shift unseen since the destruction of the Second Temple. The primacy of the rabbinic paradigm — creed, practice and synagogue; the tripartite nature of traditional Judaism — is no longer relevant to many of us.

But our texts remain — and they remain to all of us.
In recent years the Talmud has been attracting interest from a very wide range of people, including not only both religious and non-religious Jews, but also many others. Some relevant posts are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here (longstanding Daf Yomi series), and here, with many links.