Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Hoary Tradition

The Sages Speak: Rabbinical Wisdom and Jewish Values, by William B. Silverman, sets out the encyclopedic task of ordering rabbinical opinions about various topics, including, God, Man, Prayer, Holiness, Justice, Faith, Eternal Life, The World to Come, and Hope.  Each of these chapters is divided into sub-chapters, taking an element of the broader topic and exploring one aspect.

There is a hoary tradition in Judaism for such endeavors.  Rabbinical literature is a sprawling corpus, spread across two Talmuds, commentaries, responsa, books and books, and complete command of this literature is for the select few.  So, writers like Silverman take this unorganized material and organize it.  Taking a passage from the Babylonian Talmud and placing it alongside a story about the Baal Shem Tov which share a common theme.

There will always be a place in Jewish life for such a work, since it provides a vital bridge to a past literature this is out of the reach of most.  We need such books to provide a thread leading to the past, giving us sustenance in the present, and a line to the future.

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