- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
From Barnes & NobleOur Review
A gemlike book, sharply incised and multifaceted, The Talmud and the Internet is not really about either of the two titular entities but about the worldwide web of loss and connection. The book opens with a computer crash that leads to the virtual loss of the author's grandmother (in the form of diaries kept about her final days). This event leads Jonathan Rosen, in thought and meditation, to the actual, physical loss of someone he loved, which in turn leads to his search for a poem by John Donne on the Internet. There is something Victorian about the scope of this book, which encompasses the creation and emendation of the Talmud; the career of the traitorous Jewish-Roman historian Josephus; the sly and symbolically rich story of a famed rabbi's attempt to sneak out of newly Roman Jerusalem; the author's personal family saga; a visit to Chartres; Odysseus' journey to the land of the dead with buckets of blood; and a summoning of the ghost of the eminent Victorian Henry Adams. The prose is deceptively casual, but it carries an immense weight of thought and feeling.
As the title indicates, Rosen finds parallels between the Talmud and the Internet. The core of the Talmud is the Mishnah, a statement of Jewish law. Surrounding the Mishnah are blocks of commentary on the laws written by various scholars and rabbis, in addition to metacommentaries on the original commentaries, spanning in all more than a millennium's worth of deliberation and debate and giving the appearance that a rabbi in the 2nd century is directly commenting on something one of his peers had to say in the 11th. The Internet is similar, in that a page you're currently viewing may have links to jaw-dropping associations of widely varied material. Rosen suggests that the Talmud and the Internet are magical spaces that can connect you with all eras and with a multitude of persons. Both become economical metaphors for serendipity, openness, connection, and knowledge.
Elliptically touching on subject after subject, Rosen beautifully allows one to bear on another, and his themes of Talmud and Internet are subtly woven throughout. Rosen's magic loom spins a skein of association and colorful detail that unweaves and reweaves itself, like Penelope's endless funeral shroud, in ever-changing patterns. So tender and beguiling on first reading, the book leaves traces that deepen and entwine with each successive perusal. Rosen informs us that the rabbis called the Talmud a sea. His extraordinary book is at least a star-filled mountain lake -- bracing, meditative, calm, and wondrous.
Edward Sien, a grant maker to renascent Jewish communities in Russia and Ukraine, lives in New York, where he listens to music, reads, writes all too little, and dreams.