The Ancient Improved By The Modern

For religious Jews, study of the Talmud can be a lifetime quest toward understanding the word of G-d. This quest made all the more challenging since it is written in Aramaic, not a commonly used language. Yet for centuries Jewish scholars have studied these text and the commentaries written by Rashi and others.

The October 9th edition of The Economist says it better:

“THE Talmud is the bedrock of traditional Judaism: a repository of law and lore, chaotically interwoven with biblical explanation and legend. Compiled in fifth-century Babylon (today’s Iraq), it has since enticed, intrigued and exhausted generations of Jews.

For Orthodox Jews, lifelong study of the Talmud is the supreme religious precept. But for many earnest students through the ages, it has been a frustrating grind. Written in Aramaic (often described as the language of Jesus), it does not easily surrender its textual meaning or inner reasoning. In the 11th century, a French rabbi named Shlomo Yitzhaki, often known by the acronym Rashi, wrote a ground-breaking commentary to make the original text more accessible. But even he is often terse and replete with abbreviations and unelaborated allusions, as are the thousands of commentaries and books of scholarly correspondence that accrued over the ages.”

Due to the work of over 50 scholars working separately but able to be linked electronically, their are new translations in English and modern Hebrew. By having an electronic version, there are search capabilities that never before existed.

Even with these modern techniques, one does not merely read the Talmud but tries to extract meaning. Even computer technology cannot help you there.

One of the coolest things is that “Many follow a universal page-a-day programme: all over the world, people are studying the same text on the same day. It takes them seven years to complete the whole opus.”

I am fascinated that the same world can contain Twitter, instant messaging and still have room for a seven year quest for knowledge.

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