Saturday, March 05, 2005

The Talmud Begins

The Talmud cannot really be said to have a beginning or an end. As Michael Katz & Gershon Schwartz note in the prologue to their book, "Swimming in the Sea of Talmud,"
The Talmud is compared to a sea (yam ha-Talmud in Hebrew, 'the sea of Talmud') for many reasons: The Talmud is as massive and as deep as a sea. Like the sea, much of the Talmud is hidden from the eye, beneath the surface. Ironically, the sea is both a source of life and of nourishment and a dangerous, forbidding place.
And, of course, it is impossible to find the beginning or the end of it. And an inexperienced swimmer will soon be over his or her head-- unless he or she has some sort of flotation device.

I am reading the Talmud according to the plan of the daf yomi calendar, but I did not begin at the beginning, so that now, as the daf yomi cycle is beginning anew, I have already completed my first reading of the last 43 volumes of the 72-volume ArtScroll translation of the Babylonian Talmud. Of course, this hardly makes me a master of Talmud.

I call this blog Daf Am Haaretz as a disclaimer, lest anyone enter this site thinking they will find traditional wisdom. (Daf is the term for the two-sided folio of Talmud that is the daily portion of those who systematically read the Talmud in a seven-year cycle. Am Haaretz is the term the Gemara uses to describe common people whose ignorance makes them poor models for anyone who wishes to observe the tradition meticulously.) I do not read the Talmud as an authoritative text, but as an extraordinary literary creation. My notes will reflect this perspective and may at times be irreverent, but they will never be gratuitously blasphemous and they will be rendered honestly, with no intention to offend.

It is my hope that this blog will attract comments and become as multivocal as the Talmud itself. Your reflections on the text and on my comments on the text are most welcome here.


Post a Comment

<< Home