I am currently studying two complex topics in Halacha – Jewish Law – and the books are piling up on my desk. I glanced at the stacks and realized that I have a book from practically every century since the closing of the Talmud.
In fact, what I have on my desk is a recorded conversation between the Jewish People and God over the long course of our history. These are all public dialogues, often debates, and offer powerful insights into dealing with endless issues and challenges, conflicts external and internal.
Let me see: There are Responsa of the Geonim –(late sixth century to mid eleventh Iraq), Talmudic insights of the Rif – (1013 – 1103: Morocco, Tunisia and Spain), Rashi (1040 – 1105: Troyes, during the Crusade of Godfrey), the Rambam (1135 – 1204: Cordoba and Egypt, served as the court physician to Sultan Saladin), the Rosh (1250 -1328: Germany and Toledo), Rabbi Joseph Caro (1488-1575: Toledo, Salonika and Safed), Rabbi Akiva Eiger (1761 -1837: Hungary and West Prussia) the Chafetz Chaim (1838-1933: Radun), Rav Moshe Feinstein (1895 – 1986: Belarus, Russia and 20th Century America) and more.
Each book reflects the whole of Torah while offering insight into the society and struggles of each author. All the books written since Sinai are part of an ongoing conversation between God and Israel. Torah study invites us to eavesdrop on this ongoing dialogue.
We can listen in to the discussions of rabbis dealing with the threats from Karaites and Crusader. We hear them console people frightened of the Inquisition and Chmielnicki. The conversations cover Marranos and Moonies, clothing, marriage, child rearing, love, business, and God.
The Tisha B’Av Kinot – Lamentations – afford us headphones to listen into the intensely emotional talks we have had with God since the destruction of the first Temple.
It is painful, almost torturous, to listen in to these conversations, but there is great wisdom to be distilled, if only we will listen carefully.
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