I’ve been looking around for an Election Day item to share today, but nothing has really snagged my attention.
Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life said: “Last night was a great night for the pro-life movement.”
The Muslim American Society said: “With the 2010 Election results revealing a greater shift to the political right and the rise of the Tea Party, the American Muslim community will need to substantially increase its political participation in Election 2012.”
Nothing that really surprised.
So I’ll share something that has nothing to do with politics or elections or 2010 or 2012.
The Jewish Week has a story about Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, a prominent Jewish scholar who has spent the last 45 years translating the Talmud from Aramaic to modern Hebrew and English.
That’s 45 years.
He’s publishing the final tractate in the series this Sunday. We’re talking about 40 volumes.
The resulting body of work, truly a body of work, is the Steinsaltz Talmud, which is used around the world by Jews from all traditions and even many non-Jewish scholars and others who want to delve into the trove of ancient rabbinic debates that make up the Talmud.
Steinsaltz, who is 73, tells the JW: “Jewish knowledge belongs to everyone. Our goal is not so much to ‘spread’ knowledge, but to give it back to its owners.”
What is Talmud? Here is the JW’s definition: “The Talmud — both the larger, more-authoritative Babylonian Talmud, and the smaller Jerusalem Talmud — is a compilation of debates and discussions that took place in rabbinical academies after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D. Fearing that the oral tradition would be lost, the generation’s religious leaders decided to record the teachings that can be traced, according to Jewish tradition, to Moses on Mount Sinai.”
I should note that Steinsaltz has slipped in a few dozen other books during the past 45 years.
Five years ago, I got to cover him when he spoke at the Mount Kisco Hebrew Congregation. He has a long white beard and looks like he could be one of the rebbes who helped produce the original Talmud.
I got to interview him before his talk. Oddly enough, I must have asked him about politics, in particular about polarization in American politics.
Day and night are dissimilar, but night is never completely dark and day is not everywhere light. Even black is rarely completely black or white completely white. This is reality.
American, as distinct from English, is a language of superlatives, of overstatement. Because of that, in America, when you have a dispute, it is between angels and devils. But even angels, most of the time, are not completely angelic. And devils should be full of self-doubt – even though American devils might be different.
So he wasn’t thrilled with seeing things in black-and-white.
But guess what? He wasn’t too happy with gray, either.
As he put it: “The gray people see the whole world in shades of gray – dark gray, very bright gray. These people are so sophisticated, so clever. They see the nuances, but could lose the quality of knowing there is a difference between right and wrong. It is the other side of the equation. Sometimes you have to take sides, even though you don’t have all the answers.”
So there is your Election Day message, after all.