How big is the Talmud

Talmud and Internet. A story of two worlds

It is comforting for him to find the echo of an ancient medium in a modern medium. The narrator seeks consolation in a comprehensive, spiritual sense when he finds out that his electronic diary with the records of his grandmother's death has been erased. The data can be saved. The diary entries remain strangely pale compared to the memory. The death and the survival of knowledge in the book are the two diametrically opposed pillars on which the author unrolls the history of the Jewish people in the centuries of exile. The Talmud, the late recorded oral interpretation of the five books of Moses, the Torah, is full of ambivalences. It's a book, but again, it's not. "Turn it over and over again, because everything is contained in it," is a rabbinical saying. A Talmud page contains in the middle the reproduction of the oldest discussions on legal questions which scholars have had. Below are the discussions of later rabbis about these disputes and these are also commented on on the same page by the descendants. As Rosen writes, the Talmud is a kind of "drift net in search of God". Everything else is washed into it. Legal questions, questions about clothing and food, agricultural and calendar problems, epistemological questions - the "Talmudic counterparts to dolphins, turtles and old boots, so to speak," either / or "is not a Talmudic category in view of this diversity of voices. And Rosen's essay succeeds too to dissolve opposites again and again.

The artistic structure of the essay can be admired. Two couples face the two big themes of "death" and "book" and the possible resurrection of the book declared dead on the Internet. One pair is made up of the author's two Jewish grandmothers, whose lives could not have been more different Concentration camp, the other led a life of relative prosperity in New York, without existential hardships, as the grandson thinks -

The other pair are two historical figures who are of great importance for the history of Judaism. One, Josephus, was a former general who defected to the Roman opponents in a hopeless situation. There he wrote the "History of the Jewish War" and Rosen calls him "the most famous historian of all time". The other, Jochanan ben Sak-kai, was carried out of the besieged Jerusalem in a coffin to found a school in exile. It became the most important place in the early discussion of the Torah and its disputes have found their way into the books of the Talmud.

The here - American in the best sense of the word - personalization of history is known by Rosen as a somewhat too large parallel: "I am undoubtedly forcing my personal paradigms on the world and transforming Josephus and Jochanan ben Sakkai into the historical counterparts of my grandmothers with their different ones Legacies, "comments Rosen on the delightful undertaking. In this consideration he gains a surprising twist from both couples. The historian Josephus, for all his fame, remains frozen in the face of the catastrophe he has to report. But the lesser-known rabbi has overcome the limits of time. He lives on in a future-oriented, just developing tradition. There are also new aspects in thinking about the grandmothers: not only is the terrible end of the European woman who perished in the concentration camp up for discussion, but she is also presented as a young woman. The narrator learns from the seemingly so carefree American that she never got over the loss of a stillborn child in her life.

On the Internet, which in the contingency of its knowledge and the communication aimed at long spatial distances in many ways resembles the driving network of the Talmud, a re-encounter with the lost places of Jewish life is also possible. The author visits virtual synagogues. Here, however, he is also confronted with the limits of the medium. All fantasies of perfection are doomed to failure when viewed in terms of the Talmud and the Internet. Like the underworld for Odysseus, who tries in vain to hug his dead mother, the Internet remains "a realm of intimate encounters, where what we long for can ultimately always elude us."