web analytics
August 23, 2014 / 27 Av, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

People Of The Book


A constant theme of Rabbi Berel Wein’s writings and lectures is that the Torah is about people, not events. The Torah was never intended to sit on a shelf somewhere as so many books do. In fact, its laws and traditions were intended to be transmitted orally, evidence of the fact that it is people to whom and for whom the Torah was given.

So while great importance is given to the events of the Tanach, it is really impossible to understand the story of the “people” of the books without learning about the character and personalities of the people themselves. And it is the oral tradition that gives us this understanding.

While the Tanach provides us with a thumbnail sketch of many of the great men and women of Jewish history, it is in the Talmud, midrashim and other rabbinic writings where their personalities are developed. The Talmud, written in the period between the second and sixth centuries C.E., is certainly the written repository of the oral law and tradition given on Sinai to Moses. But it is also a window into the hearts and souls of our biblical heroes and villains and an archive of people, events, traditions, customs, disputes, and relationships from biblical times onward.

Imagine the excruciating choice faced by Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, the second-century “great redactor” of the Mishna. Painfully aware of the biblical prohibition against codifying the oral law, he nevertheless was convinced that unless it was preserved in writing, the oral tradition would not survive the cataclysm of Israel’s imminent dispersion. And yet, by miracle or design (or both), the rabbinic writings authored over the next several hundred years as well as the pedagogic approach to learning them have preserved the “people-to-people” focus of the oral transmission.

Perhaps no one understood the importance of oral law as the basis for religious authority in Israel more than Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai, the leader of the Jews during the most tumultuous period in Jewish history. During the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 66 C.E., which led to the destruction of the Temple, Ben Zakkai arranged to be spirited out of the walled city and found his way to Vespasian, the Roman commander. He was nearly executed for greeting Vespasian as “Emperor” (Vespasian was a mere general), but, according to Rabbi Yonason Goldson,

As he finished speaking, messengers arrived informing Vespasian that the emperor had died and that the Roman senate had proclaimed him Caesar. Vespasian was so impressed by Rabban Yochanan’s insight that he offered to fulfill three requests.

“Give me Yavneh and its sages,” asked Rabban Yochanan. He also requested special protection for the family of the sage Rabban Gamliel, and a doctor for Rabbi Tzaddok, who had been fasting daily for the sins of his generation and had grown dangerously weak and frail.

And so Rabban Yochanan asked for Yavneh, a yeshiva in an obscure village to be sure, but one sufficiently distant from the centers of Roman authority for the sages to seek refuge and rebuild Torah for the next generations.

It was Rabban Yochanan’s foresight that preserved the oral Torah, established the academies that served as a foundation of rabbinic authority, and ensured that Torah could become great once again.

The stories of Rabban Yochanan and Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi exemplify the centrality of people with great character and personality in the transmission of Torah. This is not to deny that Heavenly forces are at work, for surely divine inspiration and divine intervention played a central role in these events. Nevertheless, man is not just a created being but a creative one as well, and it is men and women of great intellect, personality, character and commitment that have spelled success for the Jewish people.

The Tanach and the great rabbinic works tell us of the great figures in Jewish history without whom it would be hard to imagine our survival. But the story of the Jews and Torah is also the story of Jewish men and women we don’t know, even in our generation, who quietly and tirelessly work on behalf of the Jewish people, saving lives, feeding children or sheltering families.

Like the Friends of the IDF in Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem, who in their free time raise money and collect clothes, toothpaste and other sundries, then drive north to distribute them to soldiers and reservists (it seems like such a small thing, but try going without toothpaste and toilet paper for a day).

About the Author: Scott Italiaander is a financial adviser and an attorney in Atlanta.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “People Of The Book”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
4 yr old Israeli Daniel Tregerman, murdered by Hamas rocket on Aug. 22, 2014.
IDF: Israeli Toddler Murdered by Rocket Fired Near UNRWA School/Shelter
Latest Indepth Stories
Charles Krauthammer

Wye would be seen to have set the groundwork for the creation of a Palestinian state

David_Grossman

Blaming Israel for the violence in Gaza, he ends up justifying Hamas’s terrorism.

488px-WielkaSynagoga3_Lodz

In the Thirties it was common for anti-Semites to call on Jews to “go to Palestine!”

Netanyahu-Obama-030212

Obama never hid his contempt for the Israeli government or the majority of Israel’s voters.

“This arbitrary ban is an ugly stain on our democracy, and it also undermines the rule of law.”

We take US “aid” for psychological reasons-if we have an allowance, that means we have a father.

ZIM Piraeus isn’t Israeli-owned or flagged, incidentally, it is Greek operated.

Foolish me, thinking the goals were the destruction of Hamas thereby giving peace a real chance.

The free-spirted lifestyle didn’t hold your interest; the needs of your people did.

And why would the U.S. align itself on these issues with Turkey and Qatar, longtime advocates of Hamas’s interests?

Several years ago the city concluded that the metzitzah b’peh procedure created unacceptable risks for newborns in terms of the transmission of neo-natal herpes through contact with a mohel carrying the herpes virus.

The world wars caused unimaginable anguish for the Jews but God also scripted a great glory for our people.

We were quite disappointed with many of the points the secretary-general offered in response.

Judging by history, every time Hamas rebuilds their infrastructure, they are stronger than before.

His father asked him to read Psalms from the Book of Tehilim every day.

More Articles from Scott Italiaander

On his radio program last week, Rush Limbaugh touted Norman Podhoretz’s excellent new book Why Jews are Liberals. As the title suggests, Podhoretz attempts to answer a question that is often asked of Jewish conservatives. Limbaugh distills his analysis down to its essentials: Liberal Jews are liberals first, last and always, and their political liberalism trumps all their other “isms,” including Judaism.

Dear Senator Menendez,

As a politically conservative Jew with a strong attachment to Israel, I commend you, a liberal non-Jewish Democrat, for your strong public stance in favor of the Jewish state. Your recent speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, widely circulated on YouTube, directly contradicts the sentiments of our president vis-à-vis Israel as expressed in his June 4 Cairo speech and in other contexts.

A constant theme of Rabbi Berel Wein’s writings and lectures is that the Torah is about people, not events. The Torah was never intended to sit on a shelf somewhere as so many books do. In fact, its laws and traditions were intended to be transmitted orally, evidence of the fact that it is people to whom and for whom the Torah was given.

A drama is slowly but steadily unfolding in Israel that is rare for that nation or any other civilized country. Fresh from the Lebanon battlefield, Israel’s citizen-soldiers, joined by families of the fallen as well as ordinary citizens, are mobilizing again – this time for a campaign of marches, letters, petitions and other public activities in regard to the recent unpleasantness up yonder.

The reaction to Israeli president Moshe Katsav’s reported “snub” of Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, has almost uniformly focused on the propriety of Mr. Katsav’s apparent refusal to address Mr. Yoffie as “rabbi” and on its implications for Israel-Diaspora relations. But what’ s being missed is a bigger story, which is the failure of the Reform movement to create “facts on the ground” in Israel necessary to gain the attention and respect of Israel’s leaders it so dearly craves.

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/people-of-the-book/2006/10/18/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: