Advice from the Talmud: Without study you’re a dead loss

In the BabylonianTalmud, Kiddushin 40b, we read,

Original Text:

וכבר היה רבי טרפון וזקנים מסובין בעלית בית נתזה בלוד, נשאלה שאילה זו בפניהם: תלמוד גדול או מעשה גדול? נענה רבי טרפון ואמר: מעשה גדול, נענה רע ואמר: תלמוד גדול, נענו כולם ואמרו: תלמוד גדול, שהתלמוד מביא לידי מעשה.

 Translation (Soncino)

 Rabbi Tarfon and some elders were reclining in an upper chamber in the house of Nitza in Lod when this question came up: Which is greater, study or action (literal translation: is study great or is action great תלמוד גדול או מעשה גדול)? Rabbi Tarfon spoke up and said: Action is greater (literal translation: action is great). Rabbi Akiva spoke up and said: Study is greater (literal translation: study is great) The others then spoke up and said: Study is greater (literal translation: great) because it leads to action.

 I understand the original language of the Talmud to be asking, ”which one of the two – study or action – is significant, which insignificant?

 This reminds me of the trite saying, “books aren’t everything,” with the intended meaning of “books are nothing.” I can say with the Talmudist (when he is right, he is right) study (learning of any sort) isn’t everything, but it is surely something; indeed, without it you’ll not only suffer loss but also (as the Talmud means to say) be a dead loss.

7 thoughts on “Advice from the Talmud: Without study you’re a dead loss

  1. The Talmud doesn’t mention Jesus.

    The Talmud doesn’t declare the messiah has come.

    The Talmud promises the eternal Law has never been and will ever be “completed” or “fulfilled” or replaced with a “new testament”.

    The Talmud insists the messiah will not be a divine being, but the son of a Davidic father.

    The Talmud teaches Israel, not Jesus, is the suffering servant of Isaiah 53.

    The Talmud holds that one person’s death can not atone for another person’s sins.

    This document utterly contradicts your primary religious beliefs, and your quotation of it in support of your Christian faith is blatantly cynical.

    • Anon,

      Sid on the roshpinaproject approximates my view on the Talmud:

      “Many Christian ministers quote from Rabbinic sources. There is nothing wrong with quoting “Oral Law” (I say oral law to make it easy for you). Not everything in the “Oral law” is wrong necessarily if you do not ascribe divine authorship to it. I quote many Christian and Jewish writers with whom I agree. This does not mean I recognize them to be divinely inspired !!!! Reading books written by rabbis has given me incredible insight into my Chrstian religion. I definitely do not reject everything related to the “Oral law” or Rabbinic teachings which without doubt contain marvelous spiritual truths.”
      http://roshpinaproject.com/2011/09/05/what-is-messianic-judaism/

      I add that there is much in the Talmud that is, at best, blatantly bizarre, not only to the non-Jew but to vaste swathes of Jews who practice Judaism, or should I say, various kinds of Judaisms.

      • You espouse a religion with key theological underpinnings that all clash directly against the emphatic themes of the Talmud, and at the same time you violate the Talmud by misquoting it and denuding those quotes of their actual Talmudic context. Then you take those cherry-picked lines and argue you’ve discovered pro-Christian wisdom in them.

        Let’s be clear: every central plank of Christianity clashes directly with the Talmud.

        Christianity holds that there are three distinct persons in the collective godhood (one of which created one of the others), that this godhood has a human body which was outlived by all of its contemporary mortals, that it’s proper to mistranslate and otherwise alter the explicit statements of the prophets, that prayer should be routed to one god via another, that the Five Books of Moses as passed down through the generations have not been faithfully preserved by the Jewish people, that there is no divine expectation that man can and must behave ethically in accordance with the Biblical mandates, that reward and punishment are contingent on worshiping Jesus rather than from a just evaluation of personal conduct, and that the messiah has already come. The Talmud is diametrically opposed to each of these foundations of Christianity.

        Christian usage of the Talmud to “support” their faith is thus the height of cynicism.

        • Anon, you have a hodge-podge understanding of Christianity. With regard to the Talmud (oral law), its fatal flaw is that it considers itself as the ”main rule of obediance to God” (John Owen), and puts itself above the written word of God. Indeed, many of your sages claim that without the Talmud, the scriptures are nothing more than imcomprehensible scrawl; as I put it, bird droppings on the ground.

          John Owen puts ir well:
          ”Moses was commanded to write the whole law that he received from God, and did so accordingly, Exod. xxiv. 3, 4 ; xxxiv. 28 ; Deut. xxxi. 9 —24. Where was this oral law, which they say has not to be written, when Moses was commanded to write the whole law that he had received of God, and did accordingly ? This new law was not then coined, being indeed nothing but the product of their apostasy from the law which was written. The sole ground and foundation of this oral law, lies in the imperfection of the written law. This is that which they plead for the necessity of it.”
          (Oral law of the Jews, Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, volume 1)

          Judaism is very Roman Catholic in this regard.

          • Neither you, nor John Owen, nor Paul the author of the “new testament” are in receipt of a tradition from Sinai as to what was and was not included orally there. Why should anyone consider your opinion on the matter?

            I do have a tradition from Sinai, passed down to me from people who were there, and I have it from them that there indeed was an oral component, a vast one, for which the written piece serves as a table of contents.

            You have previously articulated a conclusion that my circumstantial evidence, this parent-to-child transmission of the oral tradition, is not as strong a proof as, say, a Jew from 3,300 years ago awakening from the dead to recount before your eyes what information he received at Sinai. Fair enough. But even if my evidence is weak, at least it’s evidence. You have none to support your claim that there wasn’t an oral tradition. I have some to support that there was, even if you don’t think it’s strong. Even if we could agree that it’s weak (we can’t, for reasons beyond the scope of this not), weak evidence still trumps no evidence in a rational analysis. Clearly, you’re not applying rational analysis to your consideration of the possibility that the oral tradition that so forcefully refutes Christianity actually exists.

            I’d like to leave you with the following additional evidence that there must have been an extra-Biblical component to the revelation at Sinai.. G-d commanded the Jews to do something in a particular manner, even though He didn’t describe the manner in the text of the Bible: “Set up the tabernacle according to the plan shown you on the mountain” (Ex. 26:30). How were the Jews all of the procedural details of precisely how to set up the tabernacle as G-d demonstrated, without written instructions?

            • Would I be correct in assuming that you are completely in agreement with the following “Torah CPR” of the oral law?

              “The Gemara (Shabbos 88b) teaches in the name of R’ Yehoshua ben Levi, “with every single statement that emanated from the mouth of the Holy One at Sinai the souls of the Jewish people departed from their bodies, as it is stated (Shir Hashirim 5:6), “My soul departed as He spoke”. How did they receive the subsequent statements? Hashem brought down the dew with which he will resurrect he dead in the future and He resurrected them, as found in Tehillim (68:10).”

              “I believe there are two profound lessons contained in this metaphysical teaching. The first is that Torah living engenders a different quality of life. To receive the Torah (aside from the physical preparations found in Shemos 19) they had to undergo a spiritual transformation; they could not be the same people that arrived at Har Sinai. The Zohar teaches that Hashem, His nation Israel, and His Torah are one. Thus, experiencing the prophecy of His Torah was a transformative infusion of Godliness. This is also indicated by the Talmud’s (Shabbos 105a) understanding of the opening word of the Decalogue, “anochi”, to be (in addition to its literal meaning) an acronym for “ana nafshi ksivsa yehivas”, meaning that Hashem not only transmitted commandments to the Jewish nation, but gave part of His soul to them. As part of the dayeinu we praise Hashem not only for the content and teachings of Torah but also for bringing us to Har Sinai per se and inducing this transformation.”

              “The Talmud (Shabbos 146a) further emphasizes this spiritual metamorphosis by stating that at Sinai “paska zuhamasan – they were purified”, enabling them to receive their Sinaiitic souls. The Kuzari expresses this idea by stating there are five strata of beings – the inanimate, plant life, animals, man and Israel. The difference between each stratum is dramatic, including the difference between Israel, imbued with this Sinaniitic soul, and the rest of society. Being on this higher stratum enables us to imbibe Torah into our lives.”

              Rabbi Benjamin Yudin http://www.torahweb.org/torah/2008/moadim/ryud_shavuos.html

  2. Consider Ezra, 10 For Ezra had set his heart to [c]study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel. Ezra 7:10 NASB

    Study, practice (action) and teach the law of the LORD.

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