Thursday, January 9, 2020

What Is The Talmud

What Is The Talmud


THE Talmud is the work which embodies the civil and canonical law of the Jewish people, forming a kind of supplement to the Pentateuch—a supplement such as took 1,000 years of a nation’s life to produce. It is not merely a dull treatise, but it appeals to the imagination and the feelings, and to all that is noblest and purest.

Between the rugged boulders of the law which bestrew the path of the Talmud there grow the blue flowers of romance—parable, tale, gnome, saga; its elements are taken from heaven and earth, but chiefly and most lovingly from the human heart and from Scripture, for every verse and every word in this latter became, as it were, a golden nail upon which it hung its gorgeous tapestries.

The fundamental law of all human and social economy in the Talmud was the absolute equality of men. It was pointed out that man was created alone—lest one should say to another, ‘I am of the better or earlier stock’.

In a discussion that arose among the Masters as to which was the most important passage in the whole Bible, one pointed to the verse ‘And thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’. The other contradicted him and pointed to the words ‘This is the book of the generations of man’ (Gen. 5. 1)—not black, not white, not great, not small, but man.

‘The law given on Mount Sinai’, the Masters said, ‘though emphatically addressed to one people, belongs to all humanity. It was not given in any king’s land, not in any city or inhabited spot—it was given on God’s own highway, in the desert—not in the darkness and stillness of night, but in plain day, amid thunder and lightning. And why was it given on Sinai? Because it is the lowliest of mountains—to show that God’s spirit rests only upon them that are meek and lowly in their hearts.’

The Talmud taught that religion was not a thing of creed or dogma or faith merely, but of active goodness. Scripture said, ‘Ye shall walk in the ways of the Lord’. ‘But the Lord is a consuming fire; how can men walk in His ways?’

‘By being’, the rabbis answered, ‘as He is—merciful, loving, long-suffering. Mark how on the first page of the Pentateuch God clothed the naked—Adam; and on the last he buried the dead—Moses. He heals the sick, frees the captives, does good to His enemies, and is merciful both to the living and to the dead.’

The most transcendental love of the rabbis was lavished on children. All the verses of Scripture that spoke of flowers and gardens were applied to children and schools. The highest and most exalted title which they bestowed in their poetical flights upon God Himself was that of ‘Pedagogue of Man’.

Indeed, the relationship of man to God they could not express more pregnantly than by the most familiar words which occur from one end of the Talmud to the other, ‘Our Father in Heaven’.

I have been able to bring before you what proves, as it were, but a drop in the vast ocean of Talmud—that strange, wild, weird ocean, with its leviathans, and its wrecks of golden argosies, and with its forlorn bells that send up their dreamy sounds ever and anon, while the fisherman bends upon his oar, and starts and listens, and perchance the tears may come into his eyes.

Excerpt From A Book of Jewish Thoughts By Dr. J H. Hertz

Beautiful Moments Journal Paperback