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 […]
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.