Judgment & Providence in the Talmud
In these four sessions we will learn sugyot from the Gemara Rosh Hashana and Yoma that develop the concepts of Divine Providence and Divine Judgment and the relationship between them.
Judgment & Providence in the Talmud: Lesson 1
Introduction; When are we judged, and what does it mean?: Welcome to this four-part series for Elul 5776! These four sessions will lead us through a careful examination of texts as the vehicle for exploring certain ideas and developing them. We will examine tannaitic and amoraic texts (Mishna, beraitot, and segments of gemara) that present the concepts of Divine Judgement and Divine Providence and the relationship between the two. We will also examine selections from Rishonim (Rashi, Tosafot, Rambam, etc.), in which these talmudic concepts are clarified and developed further. There are no special requirements for participation in this course, although basic familiarity with the language and thought patterns of talmudic texts is helpful. In any case, we will be translating everything as we read and we will also try to capture the nuances of meaning in the texts. In this first session we will begin with a brief introduction and discussion on the subjects of judgement and providence, to prepare us for encountering the relevant sources. Then we will learn the mishna and related segments found on Daf 16a of Masechet Rosh Hashana, on the subject of Divine Judgement. Time allowing, we will also see the Rambam’s presentation of this subject, in Hilchot Teshuva. I have posted the sources here so that you can read them before the class if you would like. See you Tuesday morning 6:00 AM Israel time!
Judgment & Providence in the Talmud: Lesson 2
When are we judged, and what does it mean? (II): In the previous shiur, after an introductory discussion of the topics of Judgement and Providence, we encountered 5 different tanaitic positions in the Mishna and in a beraita about the timing and nature of divine judgement. We discussed them to some extent but we need to better understand them in depth, the differences between them and the possible ramifications for our lives. Please review the material and be prepared for this discussion in class. In this shiur, we will first have the above discussion, then we will study additional tannaitic material brought in the gemara about the connection between the mitzvot of the various holidays and the nature of the judgementד associated with them, with special focus on the shofar of Rosh Hashana. We will see how the Ra”n (Rabbenu Nissim) explains the relationship between the diferent judgements listed in the mishna. Time allowing, we will also study the Rambam’s presentation of the nature of Divine Judgement, in Hilchot Teshuva, and try to see how it is related to the Talmudic material. Finally (again time allowing–otherwise it will be in the following shiur), we will then study and discuss the gemara’s (amoraim’s) question of questions: why do we need to–or bother to–pray, if judgement has already taken place?
Judgment & Providence in the Talmud: Lesson 3
The Timing & Meaning of Judgement: the Rambam’s take on our sugya; Kavana and Providence: In the previous shiur, we summarized and discussed the different tanaitic positions that we had seen last time, regarding the timing and nature of Divine judgement. We learned further down in the gemara a new beraita that explains the connection between the judgements of the three festivals and a central communal commandment performed in the Beit HaMikdash on each of them. We read the Ra”N (Rabbeinu Nissim) on the Mishna and saw how he understands the interworkings of all the different judgements listed in the Mishna. Finally, we saw and discussed the two answers brought by the gemara to the question: why do we need prayer if judgement has already been passed and our fates are sealed? In this shiur we will learn how the Rambam presents the timing, nature and ramifications of Divine judgement, and what he seems to be doing with the sources that we have studied. Since the Rambam brings up the subject of the mitzvah of shofar, we will then study the Mishna at the end of the 3rd chapter of Masechet Rosh Hashana about shofar and kavana. We will attempt to extrapolate from the Mishna and commentaries insights into the subject of Divine Providence.
Judgment & Providence in the Talmud: Lesson 4
Kavana and Shofar; Our Ongoing Connection with the Almighty: In the previous shiur, we learned the section of the Rambam in Hilchot Teshuva about Divine judgement of man and the meaning of the shofar on Rosh Hashana. We offered an explanation of the Rambam’s position based on the tanaitic positions regarding judgement that we had seen in the previous shiurim. In this concluding shiur for Elul, we will study the Mishna in Rosh Hashana about the kavana required when hearing shofar, and the interesting connection the mishna makes with the stories in the Torah about the war with Amalek and the copper snake (nahash ha-nehoshet). This will open the subject of divine providence, which we will explore further by learning two mishnayot in Masechet (Pirkei) Avot, and a section of the Rambam’s Moreh Nevuchim (Guide of the Perplexed). Time allowing, we will also look at a relevant sugya in Masechet Sukka. As I said in shiur that I would do, I have posted here on the shiur page for your convenience the text of the Rambam in Hilchot Teshuva and you can use it to find the references to the verses quoted by the Rambam.
Rabbi Yitzhak Zuriel has been enjoying guiding students in how to learn and understand Talmud at WebYeshiva.org since its founding. He began his teaching career as a teacher and educational director at Michlelet Bruria in the 1980s. For over 20 years, he has been working as a software engineer in Jerusalem, and during that time has been an editor and contributor to the company NDS's Torah journal, Chiddushei Torah@NDS, that was published annually from 1996-2014 . He and his wife reside in Ma'ale Adumim and are parents to five children and have many grandchildren.