Virtual Talmud

Virtual Talmud

Some Parting Reflections

Well, loyal readers, all good things must come to an end and we’ve been informed that this particular experiment in blogging as a forum for creating wide-ranging discussion on topics of interest to contemporary Jews has run its course. Maybe it’s that blogging doesn’t lend itself so well to the longer and more thoughtful reflections we tried to put out, or that multi-person blogs do better when they involve ruthless smackdowns rather than nuanced responses. Whatever the case, I’ve certainly enjoyed the opportunity to enter into discussion with such thoughtful colleagues and, especially, to read your responses-–both those that were positive and those that were, perhaps, less so.
What I saw is that there is great interest in the topics we discussed, in using our Jewish lenses to look at contemporary life and issues to engage core questions of values and meaning. I saw passionate responses from readers that suggest, as is the case with me, that these questions aren’t merely of academic or intellectual interest but are issues that really matter, and the way we in which discuss them matters as well.


This, after all, was the point of connecting our blog to the original Great Debate, the one between the classical rabbis of the Talmud. For those rabbis, the topics that they were debating mattered greatly because they were rooted in ultimate significance. But the way the topics were debated and presented mattered as well, as the Gemara reworked their arguments into a freewheeling debate where the strongest positions rose to the top on their merits but where minority positions were recorded for future generations as well; where multiple points of view were allowed to stand side by side and difficult dilemmas were not always neatly resolved; where the process of argumentation itself was as much a part of the purpose as the specific content of the debates because the authors understood that it is through open exchange of different positions and interpretations that we most closely approach Truth.
In our own poor way, we have tried to pay tribute to this spirit and I dearly hope our blog has been received in this manner. It has been a privilege to enter into conversation together and we should remember: While the Talmud itself is finite, the discussion is not.
Tam v’nishlam: hadran alach–this task is completed; may we merit to return to it and continue to glean new understandings and meanings.

Comments read comments(39)
post a comment
Annapurna Moffatt

posted March 31, 2008 at 4:02 pm

I’ve really enjoyed reading this blog. It has made me stop and think about various topics, and since it was written from a Jewish perspective it made me think about those topics in a different light (I’m a Gentile). I will miss it dearly.

report abuse

Ba'al Teshuva

posted March 31, 2008 at 7:56 pm

I’m sorry to see this blog go. I really enjoy reading about contemporary issues through a Talmudic lens. As a Ba’al Teshuva it really sheds light on modern topics. I’ve just started a blog of my own in which I take the teachings of my beloved Rabbi and try to apply it into a form for other Jews trying to become more observant. The title of Shaolin Shalom came from my Rabbi’s Rabbi – Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz who said when he started becoming religious or observant that he had to “Fight his way in!” Anyone who is in this position will know that feeling. Anyway, I’m really sad to see this blog leaving – Zey Gezunt!

report abuse


posted March 31, 2008 at 8:05 pm

Fortunately the real authors of the real Talmud had this tenacity thing. Anybody know where it is?
And with the huge growth in the numbers of the ultra-Orthodox, even more people will study the real Talmud.

report abuse


posted March 31, 2008 at 10:40 pm

I second everyone’s comments except Dave’s, who apparently hasn’t cracked the “real Talmud” (I’m thinking of about a million passages on respecting other people, showing ahavat Yisrael, etc.)…
I’m sorry to see this blog go. And I think its leaving has more to do with Beliefnet’s becoming more focused on “soft,” uncritical spirituality than dealing with complex, sometimes-obscure issues, like this blog has dealt with — and I’m very sorry to see that side of Beliefnet leave as well. This world needs more hard religion news and discussions.
“Yasher koach” to everyone involved with this blog, and here’s hoping Beliefnet tries a similar Jewish venture in the future, and that more people will get involved with it.

report abuse


posted April 1, 2008 at 12:32 am

I loved the diversity of beliefnet and I subscribed to Virtual Talmud for that very reason. I am sorry to see the diversity being whitewashed, perhaps my Mohawkness will be less unique and more odd now.
I am sad. asakwa

report abuse


posted April 1, 2008 at 12:44 am

Sorry to see you go – I enjoyed the thoughtfulness of your writings as well. Perhaps you will find a different venue – when a door closes another opens.
Good luck

report abuse


posted April 1, 2008 at 10:46 am

I join with the others who have expressed their disappointment, and their hope that this blog will continue at a new location.

report abuse


posted April 1, 2008 at 11:03 am

What is intended for “longer and more thoughtful reflections” often times is quickly returned with an angry knee-jerk reaction. The frustration must be overwhelming.

report abuse

Mitchell R.

posted April 1, 2008 at 11:50 am

Sorry to see you go. I only just began reading your blog, and was finding it interesting. Unlike many things, the internet poses “unique” challenges for dialogue and discourse, and lack of participation is just one of them.
Sometimes you have to “push” everyone’s “hot button” to get them to respond, and sometimes it only takes a warm invitation or a vibrant discussion. Sometimes you have to take a stand, and sometimes cut and run. Apparently your editors prefer the latter, and if their good reason (usually economic) was not countered by some good reasoning on your own part, then I can see that it is economics that “shall set you free”, which it did.
I personally think that you’re one of the most interesting sections of this online post, and will miss you here.

report abuse


posted April 1, 2008 at 11:59 am

could not believe that the one thing on the internet i actually looked forward to is not going to be there any longer. i feel i’ve learned a lot reading this blog. thanks to everyone!

report abuse


posted April 1, 2008 at 1:08 pm

The Virtual Talmud is being terminated almost without notice. Who decided (and how) that “that this particular experiment in blogging as a forum for creating wide-ranging discussion on topics of interest to contemporary Jews has run its course”? As far as I am concerned, this is not true. I do not alway agree with what the rabbis had to say. But what they had to say was always of interest to me. Are other, non-Jewish blogs also being terminated or is the Jewish audience too small and inconsequential to Beliefnet?

report abuse


posted April 1, 2008 at 3:17 pm

This is terrible. I’m so sorry to see you go. Any chance you will start it up again at a different location?

report abuse


posted April 1, 2008 at 4:04 pm

Will miss this blog terribly. Won’t miss Dave though.

report abuse

laura mushkat

posted April 1, 2008 at 5:20 pm

sorry to see you go but you can not really be surprised because the new owners are going to try to do things that appeal to them.
been interesting-but there are always the forums!

report abuse


posted April 2, 2008 at 10:19 am

Even tho I am not Jewish (anyway not to my knowledge) I have enjoyed reading all the comments. Gail

report abuse


posted April 2, 2008 at 10:34 am

I will miss the blog very much. I love reading the comments and the flaming comments & opinions. I was good to the end.

report abuse

Cynthia Cohen

posted April 2, 2008 at 10:46 am

Sorry to see you go. Hope you can re-open in another venue.

report abuse


posted April 2, 2008 at 10:53 am

Make it into an e-mail listserv and I’ll join right up…

report abuse


posted April 2, 2008 at 11:05 am

I so so very much wish that this blog could continue.
Everyone who benefited from it did not respond in ways that can be quantified. Some activly participated by merely reading and reflecting.
Can we not continue, allowing space for reflection, and speaking out when struck with burning questions or inspired questions (or smackdowns)?
Please. At least consider. Please.
In parting, thank you ever so much!

report abuse


posted April 2, 2008 at 11:12 am

This was one of the few things that drew me back to beliefnet in the wake of the changes to format a year or so ago. Most unfortunate.

report abuse

Karen S

posted April 2, 2008 at 11:52 am

I am sorry to see that this is leaving, as I just found it recently. The format and the (few) discussions I have looked at were quite interesting and informative.
All things come to an end, but there are other similar (not the same, but in the same spirit) online discussions, most notably, for me, Eilu V’Eilu on the Union for Reform Judaism website:
Best to all,

report abuse

Al Eastman

posted April 2, 2008 at 4:09 pm

Closing this blog is a grave error on the part of the “powers that be”. I invariably held a differing point of view than the rabbis and many of the responders. I will miss their comments, points of view and the discussions. If this concept is carried in a different venue, please post information about it OFTEN. Best to all I agreed and disagreed with.

report abuse

Janaki Kuruppu

posted April 2, 2008 at 4:59 pm

I am very sorry to see the end of this “experiment”. This discussion has frequently been spirited, thoughtful and interesting, and has led me to many new ideas and new ways of looking at topics that i thought i “had nailed down”. i think it’s been wonderful to see the sometimes surprising points of view expressed by the rabbis of different traditions, in contrast to the opinions that we, the audience, coming from our own biases, might impose on those outside our perceived perspective. all three participants have provided thoughtful, intelligent contributions, and have maintained an admirable spirit of “Shalom Bayit”.
Yasher Koach, and hoping that you may reconsider!

report abuse

miss emma

posted April 2, 2008 at 6:08 pm

I love this blog. I read it regularly and have for over a year, maybe two years? I wish it was continuing, so very much.

report abuse


posted April 2, 2008 at 8:23 pm

This is indeed sad news. I was hoping to see growth that would include exchange with our Rabbis in some of the discussions. Everyone here has been so gracious and candid – I will miss you all.

report abuse


posted April 2, 2008 at 10:25 pm

Like many others, I am saddened to see this valuable opportunity for learned discussion disappear. Although an infrequent commenter, I was a regular reader and was always intrigued by the rabbis’ commentaries and the variety of response. The discussions make Jewish thought and Jewish ethics a real and vibrant addition to my daily decision-making. Quite unfortunate decision on the part of the owner-managers…Myra

report abuse


posted April 3, 2008 at 4:38 am

I guess people do not want to hear what Jewish people have to say. Hmmmm It must sound a little different from the other side of the fense. Oh Well, life goes on and we are left to keep our opinions to ourselves and not have a separate blog on a religious site. Doesn’t make any sense to me. I guess somebody ticked somebody off somewhere. Go figure!

report abuse


posted April 3, 2008 at 12:31 pm

I was unaware of the ‘Virtual Talmud’ till now but why is this blog shutting down? Is there truly no way to stop it? Can someone fill me in here?

report abuse


posted April 3, 2008 at 12:39 pm

I am extremely diappointed that this blog is disappearing! I cannot understand why. I visit this blog several times a week and find the respectful interchange of differing ideas very enlightening, refreshing, and interesting. It’s a mistake to end this column – it was probably my favorite place to come.
Perhaps if the rebbes were more like previous columnist Charlotte Hays, the column would continue on. I guess the rabbis were too respectful to draw as much attention? Do they need to be more like Hannity and Combs?

report abuse


posted April 3, 2008 at 12:44 pm

I am sad to see the Virtual Talmud go. I’m a student of all religions and although not Jewish I have a deep appreciation for Jewish perspectives – blessings to all of you and I hope to see you back!

report abuse


posted April 3, 2008 at 12:51 pm

This is really incomprehensible. Isn’t the Virtual Talmud blog exactly the sort of thing that Beliefnet is supposed to be about?

report abuse


posted April 3, 2008 at 12:52 pm

If one person benefits–really truly benefits from The Virtual Talmud, why does it have to end?

report abuse


posted April 3, 2008 at 9:46 pm

Thank you for being there for that ray of sunshine in this sometimes very dreary world. You have always stimulated my thoughts and let me feel connected. You will be missed. Thank you for your contribution to my life.

report abuse


posted April 4, 2008 at 12:39 am

Thank you for all the articles and discussions. I love this blog and will me sorry to see it end :(

report abuse

Mik Moore

posted April 4, 2008 at 12:40 am

It is too bad to read that Virtual Talmud will be closing up shop. There are not enough thoughtful blogs out there.
If you are interested in continuing to blog, consider It has been relaunched as a community blog, open to all. Your voices would be most welcome there.

report abuse

Rachel Barenblat

posted April 4, 2008 at 9:04 am

I’m so sorry to hear this; VT has been a terrific part of the J-blogosphere. May you and your colleagues be blessed as you move into your next endeavors.

report abuse

Kol Ra'ash Gadol

posted April 11, 2008 at 7:47 am

You do know that it’s possible to simply move the whole blog, lock, stock and barrel to another host site?
If you are willing to continue the conversation, there is no reason you couldn’t do it elsewhere.
And we would certainly be happy to have you on Jewschool. Contact me if you wish it.

report abuse


posted April 17, 2008 at 7:19 am

I am very sorry to hear that this blog will not continue. If you decide to move it, please ask Beliefnet to let us know where to find you.

report abuse

portal www

posted May 13, 2015 at 1:29 pm

Hurrah! In the end I got a weblog from where I know how to truly
obtain valuable information concerning my study and knowledge.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

The Task Is Never Finished
It has been heartwarming to read the warm responses to Rabbi Waxman's post asking Beliefnet to reconsider its decision to cancel Virtual Talmud. Virtual Talmud offered an alternative model for internet communications: civil discourse pursued in ...

posted 12:31:46pm Apr. 03, 2008 | read full post »

Obama's Lesson and The Jewish Community
There are few times in this blog’s history when I have felt that Rabbi Grossman was one hundred percent correct in her criticisms of my ideas. However, a few weeks ago she called me out for citing a few crack websites on Barak Obama’s ...

posted 12:09:08pm Mar. 31, 2008 | read full post »

The Future of Race Relations
As a post-baby boomer, it is interesting to me to see how much of today’s conversation about racial relations is still rooted in the 1960s experience and rhetoric of the civil rights struggle, and the disenchantment that followed. Many in the ...

posted 4:04:41pm Mar. 25, 2008 | read full post »

Wright and Wrong of Race and Jews
Years ago, as a rabbinical student, I was one of a group of rabbinical students who visited an African American seminary in Atlanta. My fellow rabbinical students and I expected an uplifting weekend of interfaith sharing like we had experienced ...

posted 12:50:11pm Mar. 24, 2008 | read full post »

Spitzer’s Mask
It may be a twist of fate that Eliot Spitzer faced his downfall a few days before Purim, the Jewish holiday that entertains how people are often not what they appear. Spitzer appeared to be someone who defended and upheld the law of the land. He ...

posted 1:54:05pm Mar. 20, 2008 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.