Talmud this Shabbat: What Messy Compromises Does Life Exact From You?


How should we think about messy compromises, the times we have to go along to get along, the times we have to look the other way, the times when we have to suppress our conscience for some greater good, the times when we are not proud of what we are doing, but we do it anyway. And we justify it to ourselves, sort of.

Our point of departure is Rebbi Yehuda Hanasi, about whom two things are true.

One, the Talmud twice points out (Gitten 59A and Sanhedrin 36A) that Yehuda Hanasi was the single greatest Jew since Moses in terms of combining Torah scholarship and political leadership. He knew the sources cold. (He was the editor of the Mishna, the very foundation of rabbinic Judaism.). And he was personally connected to the emperors of Rome. He was undeniably the leader of the Jewish community to the outside world.

Two, his connection to Roman emperors, according to the Talmud’s own testimony, undeniably corrupted him. On Shabbat we will encounter an artful story of the gradual descent of this great Rabbi and leader into more and more compromise, more and more corruption. He gets further and further away from who he wanted to be.

In All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren has his Huey Long protagonist, Willie Stark, a corrupt governor of a southern state, say: “You have to crack some eggs to make an omelet.” Was Yehuda Hanasi’s gradual and serious corruption just the cracking of eggs that allowed the omelet of the Jews to have a rabbi in a position of power?

What eggs do we crack to make what omelets? It’s Elul.

See you Shabbat morning at 8:30. So excited to be back learning together.

Shabbat shalom,
Wes