Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Epochs of Torah Leadership By S'farim

As is well known to anyone studying gemara, there are distinct epochs of Torah leadership.  My introduction to this idea was one shabbos after mincha in Dallas where I heard my first gemara shiur.  After about two minutes I turned to my friend Jacques and said, "What's a tanna?"

I've come a long way since then and have a pretty good picture of Torah leadership.  One thing that has always been striking to me is how sharp the boundary is between different epochs.  Klal Yisrael just seems to know when a new epoch is beginning.  Thinking about it recently, I noticed that at the boundary of each epoch there is a seminal (mostly halachic) work that summarized the current state of affairs.  That work does not become the final word on the topic, but it does become the basis for future commentary.  It seems to me the following are the relevant works:
  • Tanna'im end with the Mishna.
  • Amora'im end with Gemara.
  • Savora'im and ga'onim end with the Rif.
  • Rishonim end with the Shulchan Aruch.
  • Achronim end with the Mishna Brura.
Of course there are other important works, but it seems to me that these works occupy a special place in our history.  Interestingly, one could also say that Chumash ends and era and Na"Ch ends another era.  I have no idea of these works are just particularly clear or if they just happen to appear as the Torah leadership is feeling it is time for a change.  I am actually pretty sure that the two go hand in hand and there is nothing "just" about it at all.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Sometimes a Food Loses Its Identity When It Loses Its Bracha; Sometimes It Doesn't

Let's start with a question: Why are We Allowed to Drink Coffee and Whiskey Made by Non-Jews?  Before you ask,"Why would I think that I shouldn't be able to drink whiskey and coffee made by non-Jews?", I'll tell you. Simple, we all know that Chazal made a decree -- known as בישול עכו''ם/bishul akim -- that particular foods cooked by non-Jews are forbidden.  There are basically two criteria that determines if a dish falls into this category:
Is not consumed raw.Fit for a royal banquet. Cooked carrots, therefore, are not a problem since they can be eaten raw (I actually prefer them that way).  Baked beans are find because the are not prestigious enough.  (For great synopsis of the laws, see the article on the Star-K site, FOOD FIT FOR A KING, by Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita.)  There are lots of cool questions and details (baked potatoes are prestigious, does that make even potato chips and issue?) which are for another time.  Clearly, though, both coffee an…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…