October 23, 2018

The Purpose of Talmud Study

“The rabbinic texts that are the focus of Saiman’s early chapters have a tendency to speak of these Talmudic laws “as if” they were still operative in the real world—as if the Jews were still governing themselves as a civil society. To illustrate this point, Saiman focuses on capital punishment, with a text specifically from the Mishnah, one of the earliest of the halakhic sources. This text specifically addresses how men and women were to be clothed when being stoned to death. These laws are “as if” because capital punishment was not being practiced during this time.

He demonstrates that according to the Talmud, more clothing on the body prolongs the time it takes to die, and therefore, if a woman is clothed, she will endure more physical pain during her execution than a man. The sages who declare that a female should still remain clothed are saying that it is preferable for her to retain her dignity even at the expense of physical pain. In contrast, one rabbi takes the view that lessening the physical pain of death is more important.

In Saiman’s view, this dispute about stoning reflects “core questions about human nature” that are reflected in today’s policy debates over whether support for the poor should be directed more toward ameliorating physical, or emotional, pain. Saiman’s greater point is that because halakhah is the context through which the rabbis of this period focused on the larger questions of human nature, the rules very much matter even if they were, and are, rarely if ever actualized.”

Read more

JJ Best Of The Web

"Now I’m starting to wonder how I can go at all. And I’m also wondering why more Muslims don’t question the powers that control our most sacred site—and how the Saudis have already twisted it to their own political and financial ends."

"It's going to be a letdown. Not only is it likely that the final report will not reveal that the president has been a KGB agent since the late '80s, as at least one mainstream liberal columnist fantasized."

"The JFNA GA may say they want to talk, but there are some parts of Israel which have the feeling that this American Jewish organization is not really interested in hearing what they have to say."

“What responsibility do you think young, famous women have today to be activists?” I asked Bateman. “Are you tempted to leverage your fame for political reasons?”

"For nearly 40 years, the GOP has relied on cutting taxes as an easy way to win votes, even when their plans—like the most recent package—benefit only the rich. "

"On its face, voting by phone makes sense. Nearly ninety-five per cent of American adults own mobile phones, and rely on them for all sorts of secure transactions."

"Allegations of sexual harassment brought down Bill Gothard, a leading figure of the Christian right. But his fall also revealed the diminished influence of fundamentalism in the Trump era."

"Literature — the top-shelf, award-winning stuff — is positively ectoplasmic these days, crawling with hauntings, haints and wraiths of every stripe and disposition."

"Kids have a habit of imitating their parents’ criminal behavior. It’s no wonder, then, that by one measure, 10 percent of families account for two-thirds of criminals."

"SFAH doesn’t make an argument for local or slow food per se, but that’s what we see. The dishes are simple, with few ingredients, made traditionally and with pleasure."

We think of archeological finds as being clues to the ancient past. In a new book from Ulrike Sommer, archeology's effects on present-day national narratives are excavated.

"That the highest God speaks for six days and then has to rest from fatigue at the seventh is a patent absurdity: ‘It is not fitting for the first God to be tired or to work with his hands or to give orders,’ he writes."