Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Oh, that's only rabbinical...

When my family and I first began studying Torah, I would hear the phrase "Oh, that's just rabbinical..." repeated constantly. I really didn't understand what it meant, but after a few years I got the drift that the speaker was trying to discount whatever topic was being discussed due to the fact it was "rabbinical" because it was a talmudic topic.
For those who might need a little introduction, Torah means the first five books of the Bible and the Talmud is a compilation of commentary on the Torah. Basically, in the Talmud the rabbis and sages go through each commandment found in the Torah and discuss what it means and how to apply it to daily life.
For example:
ME: "I was reading that some Jewish people stay up all night on Shavu'ot (Pentecost) to read the Torah. I was thinking of doing that myself..."
SOMEONE ELSE: "Oh, that's only rabbinical."
For the first few years of this, it didn't bother me. I guess I believed that since something was "talmudic" or "rabbinical", it didn't have anything to do with me or my life.
That all changed when I went to Israel for the first time, however. I felt something different as I watched all the yeshiva boys hurrying to their Torah classes and the young modestly-dressed girls walking around with their prayer books. I thought maybe there was something I was missing...
So I bought the Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding the Talmud. It was a wealth of information, and very surprising to me. What I didn't find was the "scary" and "boring" Talmud that I had been warned of, but a surprisingly witty book of proverbial wisdom and interesting logical thoughts.
Now, am I saying that we should follow the Talmud or that it is equal to the Bible? Of course there is no other book like the Bible! The Bible alone is the inerrant, inspired Word of the living God!
However, does the Talmud hold valuable information and traditions worthy of study? I say, "Certainly!" As with anything, we must always, always do the "Scripture litmus test." If something lines up with God's Word, then keep it. If it goes against or detracts from the Scripture, then don't.
I was pleasantly surprised to see a similar post on this subject on Messianic Musings.

1 comment:

robyn said...

I agree with your sentiments. I don't have a copy of the Talmud, but I'm reading (very slowly) through Pirke Avot, and finding that it is full of wisdom. What's also really cool is finding cross references to the "Newer" Testament in this Jewish book!