21st Century Talmud

I was just asked to reflect on the relationship between faith and online social networking. I don’t think I offered any radically new insights, but here’s what I said:

Online social networking has allowed for the flourishing of a style of discourse that can be very Jewish and that is the hallmark of the Talmud. Hyperlinks to different sources to enhance a conversation, a rather “open door” for new participants to enter a conversation, tangents, drilling down deep on a specific question — all these phenomena can enable a manifestation of holiness that comes through human sharing and an honoring of others’ views that is at the core of the Talmudic enterprise. Of course, there is much more room for abuse in today’s more open venues and such abuse can severely diminish the holiness. But the expanding of the walls of the “Beit Midrash” (study hall) where such conversations have taken and can continue to take place — to include people from all walks of life and all levels of knowledge — is, even with its potential pitfalls, an exciting development in the world of interpretation and interactive learning that I think fulfills the best intentions of the Rabbis of old.

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