Tuesday, June 05, 2018

The Talmud on inferential exegesis

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Myth and Meaning. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, the ancient rabbis take personal ownership of their Torah interpretations, as they map the spaces that separate the holy from the mundane.
In this week’s Daf Yomi reading, in Zevachim 48a, the Gemara introduced a concept that helps to illuminate the worldview of the rabbis. A certain teaching, we read, “is dear to the tanna”: he has a special attachment to a particular point of law. And the reason is that this point is “derived through interpretation”: that is, it is not stated explicitly in the Torah, but has to be worked out by the rabbis themselves. Evidently, the rabbis had a particular fondness for laws that they had to figure out on their own, and liked to teach such laws first, because they were “dear.” I found this a moving idea, since it shows how the rabbis invested their feelings (and their egos) in what might seem like an abstract or technical process of legal reasoning. A tanna who solved a problem must have felt a certain pride of ownership in it, the way a mathematician might feel about an especially difficult proof.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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