What Do the Talmud and the Internet Have in Common? More, and Less, Than One Might Think

Dec. 20 2019

The sprawling nature of the Talmud, where discussion of one topic leads seamlessly to another, sometimes with only the loosest of connections, has invited comparison with the Internet, where a reader can follow one link after another to roam farther and farther afield from the subject with which he or she began. But the comparison only goes so far, writes Gil Student:

While there is some truth to this abstract comparison, [the differences] deserve our attention as well. [The Talmud] begins with page 2a of Tractate Brakhot and continues for 2,711 pages until it concludes with Nidah 73a. Of course, you can start anywhere in the middle, particularly at the beginning of any of the 37 tractates. But it has a discrete beginning and end. . . . By contrast, the Internet has no entrance or exit. Every article contains links to many others. Every person has his own beginning and only stops when other concerns beckon.

[In studying the Talmud], we study the text, perhaps with additional tools when available, but always remaining on, or at least returning to, the page. The Internet, [by contrast], has no anchor, sending you across the globe with endless links.

Finally, notes Student, while the Internet encourages social isolation, the Talmud is customarily studied communally—with a study partner, or in a class, or even individually in the public space of the synagogue or study hall.

Read more at Jewish Action

More about: Internet, Talmud


The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy