web analytics
December 23, 2014 / 1 Tevet, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘the Talmud’

Photo-Essay: 20,000 Celebrate at Jerusalem’’s Teddy Stadium for the Shas Siyum HaShas

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

20,000 people participated on Tuesday night in the Shas Siyum HaShas (completion of the Talmud) at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem.

Koren Publishers Introduces New English Talmud

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Koren Publishers Jerusalem has launched the first volume of a new English edition of the Talmud with commentary by renowned Talmud scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. The Koren Talmud Bavlioffers a variety of features never seen before in an English edition of the Talmud: Vilna pages with vowels and punctuation, text presented in individual learning units, a clear, concise English translation, background information on history, the sciences and nature, and color photographs and illustrations for the first time since the Talmud appeared in print nearly 500 years ago.

The Koren Talmud Bavli also has been designed as a state-of-the-art iPad app that will enable people to interact with the Talmud as never before. The Koren Talmud App will include in-sync, side-by-side translation, a text-hide function for single language viewing, text zoom and re-sizing, continuous scrolling, vibrant color images designed for Retina display, and more.

According to Publisher Matthew Miller, the Koren Talmud Bavli achieves a balance between tradition and innovation that no other English edition of the Talmud achieves. “The Koren Talmud Bavli preserves the traditional Vilna page, and enables people to engage deeply in the traditional process of Talmud study at the same time that it embraces contemporary scholarship and technology.”

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, who has been on a life-long mission to popularize Talmud study, says, “The Talmud expresses the deepest Jewish spirit. My hope is that the Koren Talmud Bavli will render the Talmud accessible to millions of Jews, allowing them to study it, approach it, and perhaps even become one with it.”

The first volume of the Koren Talmud Bavli, Berakhot, is available online and at bookstores everywhere in Standard and Daf Yomi Editions. Consecutive volumes will be available ahead of the Daf Yomi schedule. The complete set will comprise 41 volumes. Version 1.0 of the Koren Talmud App will be available in the summer from the App Store.

Talmud Underground

Friday, June 29th, 2012

An Ultra-Orthodox man reading the Talmud on the subway from Underground NY Public Library. The photo blog is a project of acclaimed street photographer, Ourit Ben-Haim. In an interview, Ben-Haim said that when she takes a photograph of someone reading she sees “people who are contemplating description of new possibilities. In this way, every book says that its reader is simply great.”

Given the number of Orthodox Jews that take the subway every day, this isn’t their first appearance on the photo blog either.

HaMafteach: A User-Friendly Index Of The Talmud: An Interview With Author Daniel Retter

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

An index of the Talmud with more than 6,000 topical and 27,000 subtopical entries is a major undertaking and its publication a seminal event in Jewish scholarship. Attorney Daniel Retter, who painstakingly compiled the index, titled HaMafteach (“the key”) and published by Feldheim, says his work, which has the endorsement of many prominent rabbanim, fills what had been a longstanding void by making the location of the different topics discussed in the Talmud easily accessible.

Retter, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press who gives a Daf Yomi shiur every morning at the Young Israel of Riverdale, recently spoke with us about his book.

The Jewish Press: When and where were you born and raised?

Retter: I was born in 1945 in London in a bomb shelter. At that time bombs were still falling. I came to America when I was five years old. I attended Chasan Sofer yeshiva on the Lower East Side of New York and then continued to Rav Binyomin Paler’s yeshiva and remained there until after I got married and finished law school.

Describe what HaMaf-teach is about and what it is designed to do.

The book is an index of the entire Shas. There are main entries and sub entries arranged in alphabetical order. The book was designed to be user friendly so that one can find the Gemara he is looking for quickly and efficiently. I realized we would have to make the index in English and Hebrew editions. We are also working on a mafteach of tractates and masechtos. This would incorporate all of the sugyos and memros of that particular masechta or tractate. I think it is a useful work. My personal feeling is that every personal library that has a Shas should have an index for it.

Why did you feel a book of this kind was needed?

The book was created to fill several gaps. One example is the difficulty of finding a sugya [topic] or a memra [saying]. The source of all learning is the Gemara. After one has learned the Gemara on a particular topic one can move on to the Rishonim and Achronim. However, there is no methodical way to find that original Gemara.

Talmidim generally have to ask their rebbeim where the Gemara is. But sometimes a talmid might not want to bother his rebbe with a simple location question, and a rebbe is not always available to answer a question at a moment’s notice. And even a rebbe occasionally has to search for a particular Gemara.

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, admires HaMafteach as author Daniel Retter looks on.

The book will also be very helpful to those who, whether frum from birth or baalei teshuvah, never received a formal yeshiva education. They love learning – and with the explosion in popularity of the Daf Yomi, many of them are now learning regularly. Some of these people communicated to me their frustration in not being able to recall the correct locations of Gemaras they had previously learned.

Basically, the reason for the index is there was none until now. Necessity is the mother of all invention.

There has never been a mafteach on Shas?

To the best of my knowledge, there has not. There have been encyclopedias of Shas, but an index is much different. An encyclopedia has many volumes. Our generation expects quick results and a one-volume index is the solution. An index is not a teacher – it’s a locater. There are no editorial comments. We made it as simple as possible to find the location of the Gemara you are looking for. Simply, it is a tool to find the mikoros instead of wasting time looking for them. In fact Rav Mordechai Willig mentioned in his haskama that looking for mikoros is not included in yige’as haTorah, and it is bitul Torah.

Did you have the encouragement of rabbanim?

I had been working on this project for some time and very few people knew about it. I am fortunate to have a smart wife who advised me not to work on the book until I received the approval of rabbanim. She reasoned that if I were to wait until the book was completed to look for haskamos, perhaps someone would find something wrong with it. By that time I had good samples to show and I took them to gedolim. They not only encouraged me but they said the faster the better. It is for this reason that my haskamos are about five years old. And when I brought them finished copies they were very pleased.

Do you feel that there is a still a need for a paper book like this, given all of the technology available today?

Yes, for several reasons. Search engines are literal word searches; they cannot search for a sugya or even the meaning of a word. This sefer is like a talmid chacham because it contains different words the Gemara uses to refer to topics. For example, the Gemara refers to a pidyon haben as “shua ben.” A search engine would not retrieve that Gemara since it is not the same literal word. Generally people expect relevant results, and that is not always available on a word search engine. Once one finds one relevant Gemara he can locate other relevant sources via the mesoras hashas; however, you need to locate that first relevant Gemara. Additionally, search engines cannot be used on Shabbos and most yeshivas do not allow for the use of computers in the beis medrash.

World Renowned Rabbis Publish New Books with Maggid

Monday, November 21st, 2011

World-leading rabbis have found a new home for their written works in Maggid Books, a division of Koren Publishers Jerusalem. Created in 2009 to publish books that offer new approaches to traditional Jewish texts and themes, Maggid Books has quickly become the publisher-of-choice for a wide range of Jewish authors.

Britain’s Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks–whom many consider the most articulate voice of Judaism today–has made Maggid the publisher of his books of Jewish thought. His Covenant & Conversation, a collection of essays on the weekly Torah reading, was Maggid’s inaugural title. It received widespread critical acclaim and went on to win the National Jewish Book Award.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, the teacher, philosopher and spiritual mentor Time Magazine hailed as a “once-in-a-millennium scholar” has brought his vast collection of writings to Maggid. Maggid recently published Rabbi Steinsaltz’s first new book in several years, Change & Renewal, has published new editions of his bestselling books The Thirteen Petalled Rose and The Essential Talmud, and is re-issuing dozens of his books that have been out of print for many years, enabling Rabbi Steinsaltz fans to acquire the entire Steinsaltz Library for the first time.

Books by one of the twentieth century’s most influential Jewish leaders, Rabbi Joseph B. Solovetichik, have also come out under the Maggid imprint. Maggid has recently issued a newly revised edition of Rabbi Soloveitchik’s classic essay, The Lonely Man of Faith, and will release other enduring titles by “The Rav,”

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin has published his popular five-volume series on the weekly Torah reading, Torah Lights, as well as his acclaimed memoir, Listening to God, with Maggid, and historian Rabbi Berel Wein has authored Patterns in Jewish History and Vision & Valor: An Illustrated History of the Talmud through Maggid.  Rabbi Norman Lamm, Dr. Erica Brown and others have followed suit.

Leading Israeli rabbis and scholars are delighted by the opportunity Maggid affords them to reach readers around the world, often for the first time.  Through Maggid’s “Voices from Jerusalem” program, Jerusalem’s Rabbi Binyamin Lau, Yeshivat Har Etzion’s Rabbi Ezra Bick, Beit Morasha’s  Rabbi Dr. Yehuda Brandes and many others have found a way to export their scholarship to the US and Canada.

Major educational institutions have sought out Maggid as a publishing partner. Yeshiva University, Yeshivat Har Etzion, the Eretz Hemdah Institute, and other schools and yeshivas are publishing works with Maggid, enabling their scholars and educational approaches to reach a broad audience. The Orthodox Union Press also partners with Maggid to bring out books that represent the best of contemporary, Orthodox Jewish thought.

Look for new books from Maggid online and at Jewish bookstores everywhere.

Is The Talmud Anti-Christian?

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Jews have long been accused of studying anti-Christian texts supposedly contained in the Talmud. Such allegations have been made for so many centuries that even some civilized and fair-minded individuals accept them at face value.
 
Needless to say, the allegations are the staple fare of anti-Semitic organizations and websites. And it was because of such allegations that volumes of the Talmud often were burned, sometimes at the instigation of the Church.
 
But is there any truth to it?
 
As it turns out, every allegation about Talmudic anti-Christian texts is basedon the creative deconstruction of references to various sinners and alleging that these actually refer to Christian figures. The deconstruction operates even when the sinner in question has a completely different name, or no name.
 
(An invaluable resource on this subject is the webpage “Jesus in the Talmud,” by Rabbi Gil Student, at www.angelfire.com/mt/talmud/jesus.html.)
 
There are no explicit references to Christianity anywhere in the Talmud, nor to Jesus or Mary, though there are references to people who have names somewhat similar to theirs. There are mentions of several people named Yeshu (the traditional Hebrew name for Jesus), but these were people who lived in different eras, either long before Jesus or long afterward.
 
There is also a story about an immoral woman named Miriam, but again there is no reason why anyone should assume this is referring to the New Testament’s Mary. The names Miriam and Yeshu appear in the Jewish Bible, where they obviously do not refer to the Christian figures, and both names were evidently commonly used in the era of the Talmud.
 
The most lurid and common accusation involves a single passage in the Talmudic tractate Gittin, which generally focuses on laws of divorce. Anti-Semites claim the page describes Jesus in the Afterworld being punished by being boiled in excrement.
 
But Jesus is not mentioned there, nor is anyone with a name resembling that of Jesus. What actually is on the page is a long discussion of legends concerning Roman emperors, starting with Caesar and ending with Titus. The immoral behavior of Titus is discussed at length. The various indignities and punishments Titus suffered later in his life are described, with the presumption that these are divine retributions.
 
Having discussed Titus’s life at length, a relative of Titus is then discussed. The nephew of Titus was named Onkelos son of Kelonikos, and he converted to Judaism, becoming one of the leading scholars of his age. One of the earliest translations of the Bible (into Aramaic) was undertaken by this same Onkelos and is still an indispensable tool for understanding the Bible.
 
In the Talmudic digression about the life of Onkelos, a story is cited to the effect that when he was at first contemplating converting from Roman paganism to Judaism but had not yet made up his mind, he conjured up his dead uncle, Titus, from the Afterworld. Titus describes his torments there to his nephew. Onkelos then conjures up two other dead sinners: one is the evil Balaam, who lived many centuries earlier, and the last is a nameless Jewish sinner who had mocked the teachings of the sages. Both are suffering torments in the Afterlife, with the last sinner being boiled in feces. The first two sinners advise Onkeles not to convert, while the last sinner advises him to embrace Judaism.
 
Anti-Semites claim, somewhat inconsistently, that Balaam in this page of the Talmud is a secret code word used to mock Jesus and also that the nameless Jewish sinner being discussed is Jesus. But of course they cannot both be referring to Jesus. Actually, neither is.
 
Balaam was never a Jewish code term for Jesus or Christianity. In later Jewish texts, when Jews living under Roman or Christian rule wished to criticize or protest the behavior of the rulers, they used “Edom” and the “descendents of Esau” as code for Romans or Christians. The nameless Jewish sinner included in the story is clearly added to illustrate the torment of a disrespectful Jew compared with the punishments doled out to pagan sinners.
 
In short, nothing here refers to Jesus or any other Christian figures.
 

Other segments of the Talmud cited by anti-Semites as “evidence” are even sillier.

   In a different Talmudic portion there is a reference to a nameless immoral woman, a descendent of princes, who hung out with carpenters. Evidently because of the carpenter reference, anti-Semites claim this is referring to Mary. There are no Christian sources that claim Mary was descended from any princes. The woman in question is mentioned in the Talmud as someone who practiced sorcery like Balaam.
 
   Anti-Semites claim the original text here, later removed by censors, named the woman “Miriam the Hairdresser.” Just why anyone would think a hairdresser descendent of princes was referring to the Mary of the New Testament is unclear.
 
One Yeshu discussed in the Talmud is the wayward pupil of a Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Perachiah, and they lived long before Jesus was born, spending much of their lives in Alexandria, Egypt. This Yeshu’s sin was that he made a comment about the eyes of a married woman. The Talmud elsewhere says that this Yeshu had close ties with the government. No one claims Jesus was politically well-connected with the Romans.
 
If this were some sort of Talmudic diatribe against Jesus, surely the sages involved could have come up with something better than disapproval of a comment made about a woman’s eyes. And from the biographical details, it is clear it could not be referring to the Jesus of Christianity.
 
A different Yeshu is mentioned in the Talmud as having five disciples, four of whom have names that do not resemble any of the disciples of Jesus, while one is named Matai, a common name that some claim resembles Matthew.
 
In other pages of the Talmud one can find references to a Son of Stada, who was a sinner executed on the eve of Passover in Lud after being judged by a Jewish court for sorcery. Anti-Semites have claimed this is a code reference to Jesus. But according to three of the four Gospels of the New Testament, Jesus was not executed on the eve of Passover but on Passover itself; the execution was not in Lud; his father was not Stada; he was judged by a Roman court and was not accused of sorcery; and the Son of Stada evidently lived a century after Jesus.
 
The Talmud cites a dissenting source which claims that Stada was actually the name of the mother of the Son of Stada, and that she left her husband to have an affair with a man named Pandira. This is the section where Stada is also referred to as the Hairdresser Miriam. The first husband of this hairdresser is discussed elsewhere in the Talmud and is known to have lived a century after Jesus. So none of this can be considered to be referring to Jesus.
 

The sages had their theological disagreements with Christianity, but these were not things they discussed in the Talmud. And while Christianity in its earliest phases was a minority movement of Jews who otherwise practiced Judaism, the rabbis who participated in the debates in the Talmud were preoccupied with other matters.

 

 

 

   Steven Plaut is a professor at the University of HaifaHis book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.comHe can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.

May The Brain Death ‘Controversy’ Die A Dignified Death

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

There has been a bizarre, unfortunate and hurtful conversation taking place in the public domain (including every imaginable forum) regarding the halachic viewpoint on brain death.

This has undoubtedly been spurred by a comprehensive halachic work of great effort and significance that was recently published through the Rabbinical Council of America’s Va’ad Halacha. Written by wonderful and accomplished talmidei chachamim, it takes its place in our beautiful “yam shel Torah” with many other fine halachic works, including those that strongly disagree with it.

Having cared for patients, been at their bedside as a physician and clergyperson, and sadly at times had to pronounce their death, I think it is very unfortunate that the ensuing debate from this critique has not produced a greater kiddush Hashem. And even more regrettably, that it has engendered the opposite.

It would be arrogant of me, despite my rabbinical position and many years of medical practice, to try to elucidate the halachic questions and answers regarding brain death. Other, much more qualified individuals (no false modesty) have already done so. Suffice to say, to me, brain death is a very clear medical and halachic issue. Great gedolim have paskened on each side of this controversy.

This controversy does not, and cannot, have a simple scientific resolution, despite what anyone may claim. Science does not and cannot answer metaphysical questions. The definition of death according to science is, however, open for debate and can change by popular vote of the appropriate academies or respective legislative bodies.

On the other hand, halacha is immutable, although its ramifications, based upon the available facts, may change. The “halacha lema’aseh” may in fact be different today than years ago for many issues, because of technological advances and/or better understanding of the problem. Halachic analysis requires taking the best scientific evidence available and using the halachic process to provide “lema’aseh” answers to real questions posed.

Based on this unbiased straightforward approach, indeed the only possible current resolution to the brain death halachic controversy is “Ailu ve’ailu divrei Elokim chaim.” There simply is no overriding clear-cut halachic reaction that all gedolim agree is the correct lema’aseh response. And that is the one incontrovertible fact that seems to be forgotten amid all the tumult. Therefore it is very sad for me to see this beis midrash “controversy” itself take on a life of its own.

Why have I spoken up now? It is extremely difficult for me to remain silent when I see gedolim disparaged in the lay press (or worse, by other rabbis and talmidei chachamim) because of a presumed lack of either halachic or medical knowledge. None of the eminent poskim quoted on either side of this controversy would ever pasken a shailah without speaking with knowledgeable physicians who actually treat and care for such patients.

A posek must obtain state of the art medical information, upon which he then paskens. “Da’as Torah” alone does not give a rav the right to pasken something he does not understand or have knowledge about – and, in fact, no gadol would ever conceive of doing so. I have heard from my rebbeim that the Rav (HaRav Y.D. Soloveitchik, zt” l) took a watch apart in shiur one day to understand its physical workings so he could pasken a shailah regarding its use on Shabbos. People forget that physicians disagree, and our understanding of science is not foolproof. Contradictory medical opinions will lead to different piskei halacha.

However, strong differences of opinion should never culminate in strong language against individuals, regardless of how wrong one believes their position to be. BeisShammai and Beis Hillel argued about even greater practical questions of their day – questions that affected the core of Jewish life – yet I defy anyone to find a single offensive personal castigation by these “ba’alei machlokes” against another individual. Their machlokes was never personal; it was a machlokes lesheim shamayim, not a machlokes lesheim personal aggrandizement or secondary gain.

Not every person (or rav) is entitled to a halachic opinion. Having knowledge in one area of science or halacha does not automatically provide expertise in another area. How much more so (kal va’chomer), then, the need for individuals to refrain from proffering opinions on matters about which they are not qualified. And the vast majority of Jews are simply not qualified to render a halachic opinion on brain death.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/may-the-brain-death-controversy-die-a-dignified-death/2011/02/02/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: