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Daily PilPul


Introduction

One who wishes to comprehend the religious experience of Jews must delve into its most intimate areas -- Talmudic discourse, the rabbis' questions and answers, and the sophistry of yeshiva students. Therefore this section will bring selections from the Talmud and the rest of the "religious Jewish" literature in free translation, with nothing added or taken away. This will teach us and remind us what occupies yeshiva students and their teachers in the Charedi and religious school systems, funded from the public coffers, and in what yeshiva students invest their energy, strength, and youth instead of going to the army and to work. This section is based on the spirit of Salomon Maimon's philosophy. One of the things which swayed the balance and led him to abandon Talmudic nonsense and to shelter in the shade of wisdom was the extreme pedantry and daily sophistry and nitpicking about irrelevant and insignificant issues. Salomon Maimon (1753-1800), a Jewish philosopher, had been a Talmudic genius and then left the Yeshiva world. In his autobiography he writes: In his study my father had a cupboard filled with books, but he forbade me to read any but the Talmud. But prohibitions were of no avail…The dry topics of the Talmud…The odd, unparalleled imaginations of the rabbis and the nonsensical investigations are discussed over many volumes in painstaking detail and with the greatest courage. For example: how many white hairs do not invalidate a red heifer from being a red heifer? Is one permitted to kill a louse or a flea on the Sabbath? Is an animal to be slaughtered from the neck or the tail? If the man giving a levirate marriage falls off a roof into the woman he is taking in levirate marriage [his sexual organ penetrates her sexual organ], is he thus quit of his obligation for a levirate marriage, or is he not? Compare these delights, I beg, which are placed on the tables of the youth and fill them with disgust, with books of history in which natural occurrences are related wisely and pleasantly, with books about the build of the world, which expand man's vision about nature -- and I am certain that you will justify my choice. ["Autobiography of Salomon Maimon." Hebrew edition published by LeGvulam in cooperation with Mossad Bialik, Tel Aviv, 5713]