- What comes to mind when reading these passages?
- What do you think about the nature of there being a learning academy in Heaven?
- Why do you think this is the discussion occurirng there?
THE TAKEAWAY: THE POWER OF LEARNING AND DISAGREEING
Chaim Saiman, Halakhah pgs.2-3
What is being argued about in this academy? The mysteries of the cosmos? The answers to life's true meaning? The secrets that emerge when theology meets physics? Is this where God's ultimate purpose is revealed from the divine throne itself? Not at all....Skin? Hair? Blotches! Not only does the Academy of Heaven forgo any discussion of the cosmos, but it studies halakhah, which is nearly always translated as Jewish law....And not just any of Judaism's laws, but some of the most obscure and technical issues found in the entire rabbinic canon. The question debated at this ultimate institution of higher learning relates to the laws of tzaraat, the skin malady outlined in Leviticus 13, and commonly translated as leprosy....
One might think that in a well-functioning heavenly academy, God would be sitting on a throne teaching authoritatively, while the angels sit in rapt attention below. But the Talmud's Academy of Heaven is different, for when it comes to debating the nuances of Jewish law, the angels have the audacity to challenge God, and God treats them as equals.
The Talmud then goes one step further. God is not even the final authority. That role is instead assigned to a talmudic rabbi who must be called up to the Academy to adjudicate....
What we have seen here is surely not the only view of heaven in the Talmud, but it is a view of heaven that only the Talmud could fathom. And in a few short lines, the Talmud has told us quite a bit about how it understands both heaven and halakhah.
First, not how the natural state of halakhah is an argument about rules that have meaning regardless of whether they are used to decide a case. We can only presume that there are no mortals and certainly no lepers in heaven -- and even if there were, God certainly knows whether blotch of hair comes first. But the legal rule reflects something important beyond its applicability to a given case or controversy. That is why God and the angels debate these incredibly specific details.
The second point follows: laws is something intrinsically worthy of study -- so worthy and important that it is the central activity that takes place in heaven. To the Talmud, ultimate perfection is God and the angels arguing over the intricacies of halakhah.