Sacred Writings

A grammar of the Hebrew language by William Henry Green

By William Henry Green

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Sample text

After all, Akiva is murdered because he violated the Romans' law and did teach Torah. Nonetheless, I am left with an uneasy feeling. And a different, 30 Tradition almost heretical interpretation comes to mind: Is it possible that Akiva is being punished for his innovative interpretations of Torah? Perhaps the whole slant is exactly the reverse of what we have been suggesting up to now: The rabbis, through means of this parable of Moses on Sinai, are suggesting that Akiva went too far. In interpreting Torah so that even Moses could not understand it, Akiva went beyond the range of interpretation "permitted" by tradition and for that he is punished-hence, "Be still!

We guard it and protect it, and from one generation to the next it remains the same. Indeed, that is the nature of its beauty and value-its stability over time. Is that what we mean by tradition, the careful preservation of the past? For the classic Jewish writings, as we shall see, this is a complex and central problem. It is at the very heart of what our ancestors were about-trying to figure out what is being "handed down," what is the nature of tradition? The question of tradition goes beyond the issue of permanence and change.

By turning toward the old ways we can cut through the confusions of our times. One talmudic text tries to deal with this issue: If Torah is increased through the interpretations of its teachers, what then is the relationship between the weight of the past and the demands of the present? Rav Judah taught in the name of Rav: When Moses ascended the mountain, he found the Holy One, blessed be He, occupied in attaching little crowns to the letters of the Torah. " "Turn around," God said. Moses found himself in Akiva's academy and sat in the back to listen to the class.

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