Wednesday, November 28, 2007

derush: contemplating morality, not history

Interesting kashe raised by the Yerushalmi (Ta’anis 24, here with peirush of Yedid Nefesh): The gemara says that Rebbi darshened 24 aspects of the churban, but R’ Yochanan darshened 60. The gemara asks how it could be that R’ Yochanan, who lived after Rebbi, could possibly have had more to say about the churban than Rebbi, who was closer to the actual event. I don’t recall seeing a similar question ever asked in the Bavli and I’m not sure I fully understand the question. Would anyone be surprised if a gifted writer living who-knows-where 10 years from now could write a better description or analysis of the events of 9/11 than I could, even though I worked 10 blocks from the World Trade Center? Perhaps my analogy is flawed because while our understanding of history may improve in hindsight, our moral sensitivity to events dulls over time and we become less outraged, less upset, less sensitive. Derush is a contemplation of morality, not history.

I wonder if any beki’im out there have noticed a trend in the Yerushalmi to be more sensitive to these type of historical questions. If you are following the daf and continue into Megillah, the gemara asks (daf 3 here) how the takana of reading megillah for the kefarim could have been instituted to take place on “yom hakenisa” of Monday and Thursday when the Megillah predates Ezra’s takanah designating these as days for kriyas hatorah. Again, I don’t recall the Bavli being bothered by this issue.

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