Sunday, May 17, 2009

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Learning Talmud

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Learning to be a talmid chacham (Talmud scholar) is a lifelong job. The Talmud is very long and very difficult. And then, when you do get through it all, you just turn the books over and start again. There is no end to it. But really, to be a talmid chacham you do not need to know the entire Talmud, although that would be great. Learning Talmud is not just studying the explanation of the written Torah, it is acquiring a way of life.

Often, younger students will ask, “But what practical use is all this?” By far, most of the cases recorded and studied over and over again contain information that we never seem to use. For instance, millions of Jewish students over the years have learned all of the possible ins and outs of the case of two men grabbing a tallis (prayer shawl) at the same time. Each man claims that he owns the tallis. For century after century, Jews have studied and argued this case, trying to figure out who is the rightful owner of what. But probably not a single one of these students ever went on to become one of the guys to grab a tallis and fight over it. Have any of us ever run into that situation? This appears to be true not only for the case of the prayer shawl, but for the vast majority of cases discussed in the Talmud. Those cases seem to have been isolated instances that rarely, if ever, come up. They seem hypothetical. What good is it to master these cases when they do not appear to be applicable to anyone today?

When someone becomes a talmid chacham it means that he has learned to think as the sages thought. This means that when he comes to his daily problems, although they will be totally different than any cases he learned in the Talmud, still, he will approach his solution like the sages approached theirs. This is the meaning of a talmid chacham. He thinks like the sages of old, and he applies their ancient wisdom to his contemporary life.

2 comments:

alice said...
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Keli Ata said...

Such a beautiful post:) TY for posting it.

The story of a two men arguing over the tallis reminds me of my former neighbors and their two little girls. My neighbor just wanted to practice his golf game in the backyard in peace. Each time one of his daugters went to grab a toy on the lawn the other would run to it and the next thing you know...screaming and crying and a tug of war.

And my neighbor yelling for his wife to come out and do something about the girls who moved on from toy to toy to toy; fighting, crying 'mine' and tugging.

Matters of ownership come up often in daily life in matters great and small.

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