470 AD to 490 AD, Psalm 71: Talmud of Babylon.

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talmud shutterstock_23082982This generation is that of the 470s and 480s.

In this generation, the twilight of the Western Roman Empire is confirmed.
The last emperor Romulus Augustule is deposed by the powerful German leader Odoacer in September 476. This date is often remembered as the end of the Western empire.

Romulus_Augustulus_and_OdoacerIn Byzantium, Leo I died in 474.

It is Zénon his son-in-law, who succeeds him after his own son officially appointed by Léon gives him power. Zeno makes peace with the Vandals. He continues to reign throughout this generation, having to thwart many attempts of overthrow mainly by his relatives.
At the level of the Persian kingdom, Perôz died in 484 in a new battle against the Hephtalites where the Sassanid army was defeated. Balash succeeded him for four years (484-488) before Qobad succeeded him at his death, both being sons of Perôz.
If the fate of the Jews in the whole world of this generation does not improve, a certain lull is to be noted. This is used to finalize the Babylon Talmud. Its writing, which began at the beginning of the fourth century, is completed by Rabbina (474-499).
The importance of the compilation of Babylonian Talmud for the preservation of Judaism through the ages is paramount:
  • If [1] the Bible is the foundation of Judaism, the Talmud is the central pillar. Spiritually and intellectually, he is the keystone of Jewish life.
  • The Talmud is composed of two elements: the Mishna, first written summary of the Oral Law, and the Gemara (called Talmud in the narrow sense of the term) which, from a formal point of view, is an explanation and commentary of the Mishnah. As a legislative tool, the importance of the Talmud is evident, but it does not explain either its central place or its vital significance for Judaism.
  • In order to grasp what the Talmud has of incomparable, one must first clearly understand the very special Jewish notion of Torah study, of which the Talmud participates.
  • Of course, the study of the Torah (written and oral) can be seen as an indispensable means for defining and understanding the law and the instructions of the Torah. But this approach does not reflect the true purpose of the study and leaves many things unexplained; why, among others, Judaism has developed this veneration of the study of the Torah, which is expressed through rabbinic literature.
  • For example, this verse of proverbs (8:11) states: « all desirable things cannot be compared to it (the study of the Torah) »: And to comment:  » but the desires of Heaven – hear: the commandments – are not worth it « (Mo’ed Katan 9b).
  • Or again: « These are things the fruits of which a man enjoys in this world, while the principal remains for him in the World to Come: Honoring one’s father and mother, acts of kindness, and bringing peace between a man and his fellow. But the study of Torah is equal to them all. « (Mishna Peah 1,1).
  • To say that the study of the Torah is above all these qualities implies that it exceeds the strict fulfillment of the commandments and that it is more than a mere adjunct to observance. For if the study of the Torah was only a reminder, a practical guide to the commandments, how could it be more important than its various applications in religious life?
  • In fact, as its Hebrew ethology indicates, Torah is a form of teaching. It teaches the path to follow but also … a way of thinking about the world, about our earthly life, and looking for the deeper meaning of things! Whether it is a concrete object, material, or abstract and spiritual, that it expresses an immediate reaction, vital or purely theoretical and without direct application, since it has some relation with a Jewish perspective, it can not be foreign to the Torah which participates … the Talmud.
It is this bulwark for the Jewish world that constitutes the Babylonian Talmud that David evokes in the beginning of the psalm of this generation:

(extract of the psalm 71 associated to this generation, verses 1 to 3 to 6 to 8 to 13 to 19 to 24 )

  • In You, O Lord, have I taken refuge; let me never be ashamed.
    • The Talmud represents a refuge for the Jewish people.
  • With Your charity, You shall save me and rescue me; extend Your ear to me and save me.
  • Be for me a sheltering rock in which to enter continually; You commanded [others] to save me because You are my rock and my fortress. 
    • By studying the Torah through the Talmud, the people confirm their full adherence to the divine covenant and trust.
  • My God, rescue me from the hands of the wicked, from the palm of him who treats unjustly and robs.
  • For You are my hope, O Lord God, my trust since my youth.
  • I relied on You from birth; from my mother’s womb You drew me; my praise is always in You. 
    • It is the gift of the Torah that gave birth to the Jewish people who are grateful from generation to generation.
  • I was an example for the multitude, but You were my strong shelter.
  • My mouth will be filled with Your praise, all the days with Your glory.
    • Although we are in an intermediate period when the Jews have some respite in both the Christian empire and the Persian empire, the place of the Jews is more and more precarious because of the strengthening of the theories making the Jews, the fallen people. In spite of this, the Jewish people, instead of being discouraged, strengthen their faith in God, a faith embodied in the final writing of the Babylon Talmud.
  • Do not cast me away at the time of old age; when my strength fails, do not forsake me. 
  • For my enemies said of me, and those who watch for my soul took counsel together, 
  • Saying, « God has forsaken him; pursue and seize him, for there is no rescuer. »
  • O God, do not distance Yourself from me; my God, hasten to my assistance.
  • The adversaries of my soul will be shamed and will perish; enwrapped in humiliation and disgrace will be those who seek to harm me. 
    • This generation also marks the end of the last connections with the land of Israel, where Jews are increasingly in the minority and Christians have appropriated all the high places. The past glory of the people of Israel gradually fades to give way to total exile. Israel has lost its vigor and as an old man wanders helplessly among nations. David prays to God not to leave him in such a propitious moment for his enemies.
  • As for me, I shall constantly hope, and I shall add to all Your praise.
  • My mouth will recite Your righteousness, all the days Your salvation, for I do not know their number.
  • I shall come with the mighty deeds of the Lord God; I shall mention Your righteousness alone.
  • O God, You have taught me since my youth, and until now I shall recite your wonders.
  • And even until old age and hoary hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I tell [of] Your strength to the generation, to everyone who comes-Your might
  • And Your charity, O God, [which is] up to the heights, for You do great things. O God, who is like You? 
    • Sure of divine support for the rest of the night, David renews his materialized trust in this generation by the Talmud that will allow all future generations to proclaim divine glory despite the apparent misfortunes affecting the Jewish people.
  • That You showed me great and evil troubles, You will revive me again, and from the depths of the earth You will again raise me up.
  • You will increase my greatness, and You will turn and comfort me.
  • I too shall thank You with a stringed instrument for Your truth, my God; I shall play music to You with a harp, O Holy One of Israel.
  • My lips will sing praises when I play music to You, and my soul, which You redeemed.
  • Also my tongue will utter Your righteousness all the days, for those who seek my harm are shamed, yea, for they are disgraced. 
    • David concludes by renewing his belief in the final resurrection that will then allow the Jewish people to express their gratitude to God with new celebrations worthy of the ancient Temple of Solomon destroyed.

 

 

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[1] The Talmud – (French) Steinsaltz edition – Guide and lexicons / Chapter: Introduction (French: Le Talmud – édition Steinsaltz – Guide et lexiques/Chapitre : Introduction (p1 et 2) ).