It has been heartwarming to read the warm responses to Rabbi Waxman’s post asking Beliefnet to reconsider its decision to cancel Virtual Talmud. Virtual Talmud offered an alternative model for internet communications: civil discourse pursued in postings over a time frame of days (rather than moments) predicated upon the belief in the value of and respect for alternative viewpoints.
We hope we have showed through our debates that Jewish tradition offers a rich resource that can help us find answers to all of today’s questions: from finding contemporary meaning in ancient Jewish rituals, to making sense of the political and cultural issues leading the headlines, to exploring our personal roles in repairing the world.
We hope we also showed that there is value in weighing alternative positions: that it is only in seeing different sides of an argument that wisdom can be gained. This is the brilliance of the Talmud that debates every question from many angles and is even willing to live with ambiguity and the option of more than one legitimate answer.
Over 1800 years ago, Rabbi Tarfon taught: “The day is short, the work is great…it is not your task to finish the work but neither are you free to exempt yourself from it.” (Ethics of the Fathers 2:15-16)
Even if the “powers that be” (as one post put it) are closing this venue, the interaction between modernity and tradition can continue through the reading, study, conversations, and community involvement of all of you who have so faithfully read our debates over the last few years.