This passage says something important about the way the Talmud regards the transmission of knowledge. One of the key assumptions of modernity is that we are constantly progressing in our knowledge. Every generation knows more about how the world works than the one before, so that a high-school student today knows more about physics than Isaac Newton did in his time. The Talmudists have exactly the opposite view. The time of full knowledge is in the distant past, when great scholars like the Tannaim were alive. The task of the present is to try to preserve what we can of that heritage, even though we will inevitably let most of it slip through our fingers. This way of looking at time helps to explain why Judaism became, to such a large extent, a religion based on commentary. All new thoughts and discoveries had to be presented as retrieving the original meaning of canonical texts.Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and here and links.
Wednesday, May 08, 2013
This world as a wedding and Talmudic varia
THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: You Only Live Once:The Talmudic rabbis saw the world as a wedding—a place of charity and pleasures to be enjoyed while it lasts. And this week's Talmud passage covers a lot more than this. For example: