Skip to main content

The Talmud and the Internet: A Journey Between Two Worlds


The Talmud and the Internet: A Journey Between Two Worlds

The Talmud is the collected writings that make up Jewish civil law. Every conceivable ancient issue is supposed to be contained within this holy book: commerce, marriage, ritual, etc. For millennia, pious Jews have paid for their religious devotion with their lives. (Rabbi Akiva, one of the most revered scholars in Jewish lore, was flayed, wrapped in Torah scrolls and burned at the stake by the Romans because he insisted on teaching young Jews about their religion.) The tenets within these sacred pages are a constant source of argument and interpretation. As soon as you think you have the an swer to one problem, you are off looking for solutions to ancillary situations.

Sounds remarkably like the Internet, doesn't it? You have come to this particular site because you want information on books. Maybe something you see here will trigger a curiosity about other topics, and off you go, looking for further answers. Rosen's comparisons of the Talmud and the Internet as sources of information and, to a degree, comfort, are unusual, to say the least. Both the Web and the Talmud "link" to information, referring the reader to other data. The sum of all knowledge, theoretically, could be said to dwell in these two "houses."

The Internet, "like the Talmud, [holds] the promise of a book that is more than a book," writes Rosen. On the other hand, "unlike the Talmud, [it] has no moral center. It is a vast, crass, chaotic organism..."

But this book is also about family, a paean and a requiem. Rosen's search for meaning was brought on by the death of his beloved maternal grandmother (whom he feels the constant need to differentiate from his father's mother, who perished during the Holocaust). In seeking solace, he scours the Internet, finding different sites that open his sensitive eyes and soul to the plight of his people in general and his family in particular, beginning with a site devoted to long-destroyed synagogues virtually recreated on-line. The crux of THE TALMUD AND THE INTERNET is more of the former and less of the latter, but the mix of spirituality is, nonetheless, most thought provoking.

Rosen, whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, The American Scholar, and several anthologies, is also the author of the acclaimed EVE'S APPLE.

Reviewed by Ron Kaplan ( on September 1, 2000

The Talmud and the Internet: A Journey Between Two Worlds
by Jonathan Rosen

  • Publication Date: September 1, 2000
  • Genres: Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 132 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
  • ISBN-10: 0374272387
  • ISBN-13: 9780374272388