Virtual Talmud

Virtual Talmud

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 postings over a time frame of days (rather than moments) predicated upon the belief in the value of and respect for alternative viewpoints.
We hope we have showed through our debates that Jewish tradition offers a rich resource that can help us find answers to all of today’s questions: from finding contemporary meaning in ancient Jewish rituals, to making sense of the political and cultural issues leading the headlines, to exploring our personal roles in repairing the world.


We hope we also showed that there is value in weighing alternative positions: that it is only in seeing different sides of an argument that wisdom can be gained. This is the brilliance of the Talmud that debates every question from many angles and is even willing to live with ambiguity and the option of more than one legitimate answer.
Over 1800 years ago, Rabbi Tarfon taught: “The day is short, the work is great…it is not your task to finish the work but neither are you free to exempt yourself from it.” (Ethics of the Fathers 2:15-16)
Even if the “powers that be” (as one post put it) are closing this venue, the interaction between modernity and tradition can continue through the reading, study, conversations, and community involvement of all of you who have so faithfully read our debates over the last few years.

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posted April 3, 2008 at 12:51 pm

Dear Rabbi Grossman – I certainly hope that the “powers that be” reconsider. The best to the three of you, regardless.

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Annapurna Moffatt

posted April 3, 2008 at 2:10 pm

I second eastcoastlady’s comment.

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posted April 3, 2008 at 2:29 pm

I, also, hope you find a way to stay. I enjoy the discourses I read here.

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posted April 3, 2008 at 9:49 pm

Parting is such sweet sorrow. Your thoughts will be missed.

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Su Carroll

posted April 3, 2008 at 10:42 pm

I have been reading Virtual Talmud ever since I found it, and have found it not only educational, but also very easy to understand. You speak to my heart and my mind. If this is ended, where then, will I be able to turn for discourse?

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posted April 4, 2008 at 12:58 am

I will miss Virtual Talmud. I don’t have a great deal of time for reading blogs and commentary on line but I nearly always read (and sometimes commented on) Virtual Talmud. I will really miss this.
I wish there were some way Virtual Talmud could continue.

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DawnRose Hurst-Stultz

posted April 4, 2008 at 12:18 pm

I am not Jewish, but Mennonite, but none-the-less I have often enjoyed reading this feature. I, too will be sad to bid it goodbye.

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posted April 4, 2008 at 1:53 pm

You have written:
“We hope we also showed that there is value in weighing alternative positions: that it is only in seeing different sides of an argument that wisdom can be gained. This is the brilliance of the Talmud that debates every question from many angles and is even willing to live with ambiguity and the option of more than one legitimate answer.”
Yes! Yes! This is it. The very heart of what we urgently need today. I think this is what was so great in the already famous speech that Obama made in response to his pastor’s fiery sermon (dubbed by some as a sermon of hate). Senator Obama touched a nerve running through American culture that few dare speak of. And he spoke to it from different viewpoints. In doing so, his voice rang out around the world as a Voice of Wisdom.
And wisdom it was–and is. For stating our issues and examining them from all possible sides is the very life-breath of democracy. The very life-breath of all human progress toward a better world.
Many thanks for the wisdom that YOU have spoken here in the Virtual Talmud. You will long be remembered. My hope is that the seeds of wisdom that you have sown here will take root and grow!

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posted April 5, 2008 at 6:49 am

I’ve skimmed a lot of different blogs. But this is the only one I’ve read with any regularity.
I’M NOT JEWISH. but I have learned a lot about both your religion and world views from these discussions. I will definitly miss hearing from you.

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posted April 6, 2008 at 12:30 am

May we all remember that we can continue to search for truth — with or without the Virtual Talmud — however, this very interesting forum has made the searching enjoyable, thought-provoking and most of all, pertinent. Hopefully, there will be another time and place for the resurgence of Virtual Talmud (it may come in another format)and we will have the opportunity again to share with each other – regardless of creed, denomination or our place in our personal journeys in faith. Thanks to all the contributing rabbis & other teachers who so generously gave to all of us — and now it is our turn to “pass it on”.

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Barry Marks

posted April 7, 2008 at 1:20 pm

I too will miss Virtual Talmud. It was a convenient way of keeping track of the contemporary Jewish agenda. All of the rabbis did a wonderful job of providing thoughtful comments on the issues of the day. Thanks for your efforts and for sharing your knowledge and your insights.

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posted April 18, 2008 at 1:13 pm

Rabboynu ha Oylum! Who are “the powers that
be” that are closing Virtual Talmud, so they can be asked for their reasons.
Is this an issue of “imprimatur”? Has one or
another rabbinical council brought us to
that point?
Has the case even been argued before these
“powers that be?” What happened to the
Talmudic spirit of inquiry?
I am despondent and almost literally wringing my hands over this decision. Here in the Negev desert, your blogs meant so much to me.
Please reply if only with a few words.
Mattityahu Birnberg
Beer Sheva

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posted April 28, 2008 at 8:57 pm

It is imperitive for people to be aware of, understand and respect the opinion of others. This helps us in forming a more balanced and rounded opinion. The virtual Talmud was a good forum. Although I did not agree with all its views, I did have an opportunity to have a peek at another facet.

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Abbie Kenyon

posted May 1, 2008 at 5:36 pm

I hope you can post on the or for the Virtual Talmud.

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