Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The rabbis triumph over God in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Not in Heaven. Man’s authority to interpret the Torah in a ‘postmagical age’ is the subject of this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ rabbinical debate.
Before I began reading Daf Yomi, I was familiar with only a few Talmudic episodes—the famous ones that are regularly cited as examples of the Talmud’s wisdom or sensibility. Whenever I come across one of these passages in the course of my reading, there is a thrill of recognition, as though a piece of a puzzle had been slotted into place. That happened this week with one of the best known and most provocative incidents in the whole Talmud, the one known as “the oven of achnai.” This passage, in Bava Metzia 59b, raises profound questions about the nature of Talmudic decision-making and the relationship of the rabbis’ authority to the authority of God.

It's a good story that makes striking claims about the basis of halakhic authority. But first this week's passage deals with the law of supply and demand and the issue of verbal abuse.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.