This summer, the National Library of Israel presented the series Meeting at the Bavli, five highly dynamic evening programs featuring the Talmud Bavli.
Hosted by Kobi Meidan, one of Israel’s leading television hosts, each evening explored and reflected a particular aspect of the Talmud – its form, its construction, and its interpretation as highlighted by the invited panelists. The sold-out audiences, numbering over 350 attendees per event, enjoyed performances by the Kalabat Shabat comedy troupe between readings and discussions, which enhanced the content with both humorous and artistic insights.
But why the Talmud and why at NLI?
From its beginnings, classical Zionism dreamed not only of resettling the Land of Israel but also of reviving the Hebrew language and classic Jewish literature, with the focus on the Hebrew Bible. The Talmud, in contrast, was largely considered to consist of intellectual nuance relevant for a narrow segment of in-depth Judaica scholars.
However, in the last several years, Talmud study has seen a renaissance. The Talmud has begun to regain its traditional pride of place in Israeli society, at least among culturally versant audiences. Despite its nascent popularity, the relevance and relationship of this ancient text to contemporary Israeli society remains uncharted.
Dr. Aviad Stollman, Chaim and Chana Salomon Judaica Curator, explained "NLI is the perfect place for these discussions regarding the Talmud Bavli's role in modern Israeli culture to take place. We have become a hub for these kinds of activities -- providing a space for theologians, literary giants and members of Israeli public from all walks of life to engage and reflect upon cultural issues such as the relevance of the Talmud Bavli in modern Israeli society."