The Talmud inaugurated a series of efforts to clarify the Bible that continues to this day. Aptly describing these efforts as "a conversation between generations," Rabbi Elkins adds his commentary to the commentaries, focusing on the implications of the Talmud's teachings for human behavior. Since ethical and moral acts constitute the core of Judaism, Elkins begins by exploring Jews' responsibility for the welfare of others. He goes on to specify the significance of the Golden Rule, following with a chapter on the importance of fairness, humility, flexibility and dignity. Next, Elkins discusses the family, emphasizing the difficulty of finding the right mate, but insisting that it is equally vital to work on maintaining the marital relationship. He also considers connections to parents and children. The penultimate section describes Talmudic views on teaching and learning, stressing the requirement to transmit the Jewish heritage from one generation to the next. Finally, Elkins examines dilemmas humans confront such as the problems of earning a living, rejecting extremism, seeking to grasp too much and recognizing the good things people do despite their imperfections. This introduction to the morality of Judaism contributes significantly to our practical understanding of Talmudic wisdom. (May)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
The Wisdom of Judaism: An Introduction to the Values of the Talmudby Dov Peretz Elkins
Discover the Talmud and its universal values for all people. While the Hebrew Bible is the cornerstone of Judaism, it is the Talmud that provides many central values for living. The Talmud sets out specific guidelines and lyrical admonitions regarding many of life's ordinary events, and offers profound words of advice for life’s most intractable dilemmas.
Discover the Talmud and its universal values for all people. While the Hebrew Bible is the cornerstone of Judaism, it is the Talmud that provides many central values for living. The Talmud sets out specific guidelines and lyrical admonitions regarding many of life's ordinary events, and offers profound words of advice for life’s most intractable dilemmas. This accessible introduction to the Talmud explores the essence of Judaism through reflections on the words of the rabbinic sages, from one of American Judaism’s foremost teachers and writers, Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins. Dr. Elkins provides fresh insight into ancient aphorisms and shows you how they can be applied to your life today. Topics include: Kindness through Giving, Welcoming and Sharing; Human Relationships; Personal Values; Family Values; Teaching and Learning; and Life’s Puzzles. Enlightening and inspiring, the values of the Talmud can be appreciated not just by Jews, but by anyone seeking a greater understanding of life and its mysteries.
Getting to know the Talmud, a source of many day-to-day values for Jews everywhere.
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The Wisdom of JudaismAn Introduction to the Values of the Talmud
By Dov Peretz Elkins
JEWISH LIGHTS PublishingCopyright © 2007 Dov Peretz Elkins
All right reserved.
The Essence of Religion
The Torah begins and ends with acts of kindness.
The Torah bases itself on two stories: in Genesis God clothes the naked-God covers Adam and Eve with a leaf-and in Deuteronomy God buries Moses. (See a similar statement in Judaism's early morning Shaharit service, from Shabbat 127a: Elu devarim she'adam okhel perotayhem ... [These are the deeds that yield immediate harvest and continue to yield in future days ...].)
Clothing the naked and burying the dead are among the acts of kindness frequently mentioned when the ancient Rabbis discuss the daily acts of goodness that every human being may be called upon to perform.
There are several things that stand out regarding this Talmudic passage.
First, it is not the gigantic, heroic, once-in-a-lifetime things we do that Judaism (and all religions, I believe) demands of us. It is the simple daily acts, the repetitive acts of goodness, thoughtfulness, and concern for the other, that make us "religious," that is, ethical and spiritual. Helping a neighbor, providing food for the hungry, giving clothes for the needy, and offering assistance with a life-cycle event-such as a birth, a wedding, or a burial-are the mark of the religious person in Judaism.
Second, what we call "the essence of religion" in Judaism is what we do for others. In a famous passage in the Jerusalem Talmud, God says that, if necessary, it is more important to treat our fellow humans well than it is to treat God well. God says, "I wish that when necessary, my children would forget me, and pay more attention to the Torah's ethics about treating one another" (Jerusalem Talmud, Hagigah 1:7).
As Martin Buber, the Austrian-Jewish philosopher, points out in Hasidism and Modern Man, this is one of the primary characteristics of Hasidic philosophy, which is to say that it is a Jewish doctrine that Hasidism emphasizes. In Buber's words, the core teaching of Hasidism is that "[You] cannot approach the divine by reaching beyond the human; [you] can approach [God] through becoming human. To become human is what [you have] been created for."
Excerpted from The Wisdom of Judaism by Dov Peretz Elkins Copyright © 2007 by Dov Peretz Elkins. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins, award-winning anthologist, lecturer, educator and author, is co-editor of the best-selling Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul. Widely published in the Jewish and general press, he is author of The Wisdom of Judaism: An Introduction to the Values of the Talmud (Jewish Lights), and is editor of Yom Kippur Readings: Inspiration, Information and Contemplation; Rosh Hashanah Readings: Inspiration, Information and Contemplation; and Jewish Stories from Heaven and Earth: Inspiring Tales to Nourish the Heart and Soul (all Jewish Lights). He is rabbi emeritus of The Jewish Center of Princeton, New Jersey, and a former member of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly and the Council for Jewish Education. Visit his websites—www.wisdomofjudaism.org and www.eco-judaism.org—for more information.
Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins is available to speak on the following topics:
- A Taste of Eco-Judaism
- Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul
- Shabbat: A Day for the Rest of Your Life
- Hasidic Wisdom and Modern Psychology
- A Tale of Two Cities—Jerusalem and Washington DC: The Jewish People's Love Affair with the Holy City
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