Bringing the Jerusalem Talmud to the Digital World

The Jerusalem Talmud, or as it known in Hebrew, Yerushalmi, is the compilation of some seven generations of rabbinic scholarship, roughly spanning the years 225 to 425 CE. It has long been sidelined by its more frequently studied successor, the Babylonian Talmud, or Bavli. Recently, the late Heinrich Guggenheimer’s English translation of this massive work was added to Sefaria’s online library of Jewish texts. To Zachary Rothblatt, this constitutes “a watershed moment in history”:

Now, Yerushalmi can and will have a place in the cultural conversation of the average [student]. While it remains a difficult text even in translation, its newfound accessibility is unprecedented. . . . Yerushalmi preserves hundreds of [rabbinic] traditions absent in Bavli. Bavli contains many more statements from the first four generations of Eretz Yisrael Amoraim, [that is, the sages active in Roman Palestine from circa 230 to 350 CE], but much less material from the fifth generation and onward.

The numerous traditions common to both Talmuds also present a rich opportunity for direct comparison. As [the medieval sage] Yom Tov ben Abraham Assevilli wrote, “We always rely on their Talmud (i.e., that of the scholars of the Yerushalmi) and interpret and codify our Talmud (the Bavli) based on their words.”

Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: Talmud, Translation


Israel Can’t Stake Its Fate on “Ironclad” Promises from Allies

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of the Gazan city of Rafah yesterday, suggesting that the campaign there is progressing swiftly. And despite repeatedly warning Jerusalem not to undertake an operation in Rafah, Washington has not indicated any displeasure, nor is it following through on its threat to withhold arms. Even after an IDF airstrike led to the deaths of Gazan civilians on Sunday night, the White House refrained from outright condemnation.

What caused this apparent American change of heart is unclear. But the temporary suspension of arms shipments, the threat of a complete embargo if Israel continued the war, and comments like the president’s assertion in February that the Israeli military response has been “over the top” all call into question the reliability of Joe Biden’s earlier promises of an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Douglas Feith and Ze’ev Jabotinsky write:

There’s a lesson here: the promises of foreign officials are never entirely trustworthy. Moreover, those officials cannot always be counted on to protect even their own country’s interests, let alone those of others.

Israelis, like Americans, often have excessive faith in the trustworthiness of promises from abroad. This applies to arms-control and peacekeeping arrangements, diplomatic accords, mutual-defense agreements, and membership in multilateral organizations. There can be value in such things—and countries do have interests in their reputations for reliability—but one should be realistic. Commitments from foreign powers are never “ironclad.”

Israel should, of course, maintain and cultivate connections with the United States and other powers. But Zionism is, in essence, about the Jewish people taking responsibility for their own fate.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship