In the Talmud, it is written “My son, be more careful in the observance of the words of the Scribes [that is, the Oral Torah recorded in the Talmud] than in the words of the Torah [Hebrew scriptures, Old Testament]” (Erubin 21b, Soncino edition). According to Israel Shahak of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and Norton Mezvinsky of Connecticut State University, “The Bible…is not the book that primarily determines the practices and doctrines of Orthodox Jews. The most fundamentalist Orthodox Jews are largely ignorant of major parts of the Bible and know some parts only through commentaries that distort meaning…Judaism, as it came to be known, did not exist during the biblical period” (Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, p. 2).
If Shahak and Mezvinsky are right, it would follow that there exists the “dog” of scripture and the “Tail” of Talmud (oral revelation in written form) and all the other outpourings such as Gematria, Zohar and Kabbalah, where all of these fall under the rubric of Judaism. The question I examine here is: Does the Talmudic Tail wag the scriptural dog? The Tail, if these scholars are right, is not a natural tail but a pin-on tale signifying..signifying…
MACBETH Wherefore was that cry?
SEYTON The queen, my lord, is dead.
MACBETH She should have died hereafter; There would have been a time for such a word. To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time, And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more: it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. (Macbeth, Act 5 scene 5)
Hebrew letters also serve as numbers; for example, ALEPH is One and BET is Two. Here is a little GEMATRIA (assigning a numerical value to a word or a phrase to obtain a meaning not found in the surface text).
Act 5 scene 5
5 + 5 = 10, which is the letter YUD (yiddish pronunciation), or YOD (Hebrew pronunciation).
Here is a mystical explanation of the the YUD from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s “The Hebrew Letters”: (I emphasise the phrase, “little that holds much,” which I shall use later).
“The letter yud, a small suspended point, reveals the spark of essential good hidden within the letter tet. Subsequent to the initial tzimtzum, the contraction of G-d’s Infinite light in order to make “place” for Creation, there remained within the empty void a single, potential point or “impression.” The secret of this point is the power of the Infinite to contain finite phenomena within Himself and express them to apparent external reality. Finite manifestation begins from a zero-dimensional point, thereafter developing into a one-dimensional line and two-dimensional surface. This is alluded to in the full spelling of the letter yud (yud-vav-dalet): “point” (yud), “line” (vav), “surface” (dalet). These three stages correspond in Kabbalah to: “point” (nekudah), “spectrum” (sefirah), “figure” (partzuf). The initial point, the essential power of the yud, is the “little that holds much.” The “much” refers to the simple Infinity of G-d hidden within the initial point of revelation, which reflects itself as the Infinite potential of the point to develop and express itself in all the manifold finite phenomena of time and space.”
The English for YUD is “tittle,” whose paltry meaning does not do justice to the “secret” of the YUD, which for the Talmudist, is “the power of the Infinite to contain finite phenomena within Himself and express them to apparent external reality.”
The way I see it, there’s no way of being sure, other than by mystical excavation, that the YUD, the “little (tittle) holds much.” Unless it is divinely revealed, isn’t it forbidden to add one jot or tittle to Torah? Or does that only apply to written Torah (scripture) and not to oral Torah (Talmud). If so, the YUD will have to remain what it graphically and finitely is: a tittle. Is the tittle YUD little that holds little, and(much of) the Talmud much that holds little, a tale…?