Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"The very essence of the Talmud is a paradox"

"The Talmudic Sages were very well anchored in the reality of their times, and reacted immediately to temporal issues and to individual problems.

But at the same time they gave equal attention to major issues a well as to hypothetical questions detached from reality.

In the same spirit in which they discuss basic issues of morals and theology, they also conduct lengthy discussions of tiny details.

The same people who engage in minute discussions on seemingly insignificant monetary issues are also mystics speculating on the Divine Chariot.

In fact, the very essence of this book is a paradox.

There is no more intellectual a book than the Talmud, in which all questions are permitted and even desirable, a book which contains dozens of different terms for various kinds of questions.

Any proof given must be almost mathematical, and the slightest flaw may lead to the rejection of a beautifully reasonable chain of thought.

On the other hand, it is not just a sacred book in itself, but also this everlasting, rigorous mental work is considered a holy occupation, the very study of which is a form of worship.

One definition of it is 'Sacred Intellectualism, communion by reason.'"

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From an essay, "The Talmud" by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz