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23.2.14

Talmudic Wisdom

What people have looked for in Talmud sages  is wisdom.
--not Talmudic ingenious ideas, and not moral lessons.
  

The reason people expect wisdom from Jewish teachers is the great influence in the West of Wisdom literature of the Hebrew people, which consists of the more philosophical parts of the Old Testament. Perhaps the most important of these are the books of Job, Proverbs, and Psalms.

 They differ strikingly from the writings of Greek and Chinese moralists in the closeness with which morality is identified with religion.

The Hebrew sages were all monotheists who held that God fashioned the world, but remained outside it; he had made his will known in the law delivered to Moses. This law set the standard and pattern of goodness for all time; the good man will make it his study and seek to conform his life to it.

Talmudic sages reduced the miraculous element in Jewish history; they made no claim to being inspired themselves, and inclining, indeed, to assume that the sole motive of conduct was self-advantage, they offered their prudential maxims as not only conforming to the divine law but also as the product of good sense and sound reason. There is very little evidence that they were affected by Greek thought, though Greek influence must have flowed around them after the conquests of Alexander. It is possible that in their cool and reasonable note, contrasting so sharply with the visionary fervor of the prophets, there is an echo of the reflective thought of Greece.

  When people ceased to find wisdom Jewish teachers there began the mass movement of psychology which dressed itself in the respectable garments and academic gowns of Science.


What is wisdom? Wisdom in its broadest and commonest sense denotes sound and serene judgment regarding the conduct of life. It may be accompanied by a broad range of knowledge, by intellectual acuteness, and by speculative depth, but it is not to be identified with any of these and may appear in their absence.

When people today look for  sound and serene judgment regarding the conduct of life they can't find it anywhere  except among charlatans that claim this knowledge.

Some people still make good money by pretense to this deep knowledge, though they have no idea about the truth in human life.

This creates a sense of outrage in people that feel they have been defrauded.



[1] Learning Torah is important. The main thing is Rav Shach's Avi Ezri which combines all aspects of Torah and  puts them into a simple to swallow pill form.
The reason the Avi Ezri (אבי עזרי) of Rav Shach is important is the same as when you do math you look at the proofs. You see how it is derived and then you get a true understanding of what is going on. It is like when I read the Handbook of Mathematics which gave me a general picture of the theorems, but not an understanding of any one theorem thoroughly. You need to learn how the law is derived.  





The final result of Torah is as it relates to actions and being a mensch. Get  Musar [Ethics]. 



(Torah in this context means the Old Testament (תנ''ך) and Gemara, Rashi and Tosphot). It is a gateway into the real reality hidden outside the cave.
You have to learn Talmud at home. There are exceptions to this rule. There are sometimes places that could be called a "Beit Midrash" where people have no agenda, and are just there to learn Torah. But these places are rare. In general, it is best to play it safe, and stay home and do your learning without bad influences around. [It is a problem today that the Sitra Achra (סטרא אחרא Dark Side) has penetrated most places of Torah.]


[2] One aspect of my wisdom for the world are ideas about the conduct of life that I received from my parents. One is "Balance." That is that even though it is true that we all need to sit and learn Gemara, but this needs to be done with balance. You still need to go to a technical collage or university and learn an honest profession.
You still need to go to the  learn survival skills and learn how to work together with others.

You need to be self sufficient. and self reliant. It is nice if you have  a community around you to support you, but self reliance was the first commandment of my Dad.

[3] Musar. Ethical books written during the Middle Ages concerning the acquiring of fear of God. The Middle Ages  was a time when fear of God was a primary topic, and the books concerning this aspect of life written during that period are better than anything written later. [Simply because it mattered more, -and because logical reasoning was more valued. Medieval books  never have the problems of circular reasoning that all philosophy and theology books have after that period.] And fear of God is an essential ingredient for human life.


[4] Natural Sciences.  Learning of natural sciences was an important part of life to Maimonides and my parents. I can't account for why they thought this to be so. [Physics is the hidden Torah inside of the world.

That is to say: There is no reason for anyone to say they can't learn Physics or Math. All you need to do is to say the words in order (see the Talmud Tractate Shabat page 63a that says to learn like this. לעולם לגריס אף על גב דמשכח ואף על גב דלא ידע מאי קאמר) and go on until you have finished the whole book four times. The ideas will automatically be absorbed into your subconsciousness. And then they will grow and one day you will wake up and discover that you understood all the material you thought you did not understand. I hold that learning Physics and Math is as important as the Oral and Written Law. When it comes to learning Torah we do not make a difference whether one is good at it or not. We say everyone is required to learn Torah. Once the Rambam included Physics in the category of the Oral Law, the same idea applies. We do not make a distinction whether one is good at it or not. Therefore my idea of saying the words and going on is important because it is the only way for some people to get an idea of Physics at all.

[5] Stay away from cults and false leaders that sprout up like mushrooms. Especially the world of Religious Judaism today is filled with them. And they never go away even when they die. They just get stronger.
[6] Outdoor and survival skills.
[7] I am a fan of sit-ups. There is something about sit ups that helps me concentrate afterwards that no other form of exercise can do.
[8] Hydrogen peroxide with toothpaste for brushing.
[9] Iodine  for wounds and cuts. This was well known in the USA and the USSR. The reason is it stays there and continues its anti bacterial action for longer periods than other kinds of medication.
[10] Boric acid for bacteria on feet or fungus.
[11] Obesity? Have a coffee [or tea] first thing in the morning with one whole raw egg mixed in. Beets with black bread in the morning for breakfast. [These are just my own ideas but based on the Talmudic idea of פת שחרית bread first thing in the morning.]
[12] I used to jog. I found that not convenient any more but I still think it is the best. I think for me sit-ups are important also. At least these are things that do not need a gym.
[13] The Talmud warns us about people that make a show of being religious. Especially people that put themselves forward to show they are teachers of Torah. The Talmud derives this warning from a verse in Tenach. The basic subject in in tractate Shabat "When ever you see troubles come on a generation check out the judges of Israel for all the trouble that come into the world only come because of the judges of Israel." In short that means the religious world is to be avoided at all cost. There is there some kind of unspeakable evil that parades itself as Torah.

() The Gra went did a kind of repentance called "Galut" that is wandering from place to place where people do not recognize you and not to spend much time in  any one place. This kind of teshuva has the aspect to it that it is not good to always be hidden from the way the world really is. people can get disconnected with reality when they are too sheltered. And a lot of the world revolves on status. You can't get married or get a job without status. but too much status tends to be harmful. One forgets his own faults and failings. Thus this idea of Galut is very important.