Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Madonna Can Cite Talmud For Her Purpose

(channeling Shakespeare from The Merchant of Venice.)

So we finally find the quote from the Talmud Madonna used when inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
"There's a saying in the Talmud," she began, "for every blade of grass there is an angel that watches over it, saying, 'Grow, grow.'"
The actual citation is from Bereishit Rabba, which contains the aggada of the Amoraim of the Jerusalem Talmud. But it is not from the Talmud. It is Rabbi Simon, in a midrash which expounds and expands on a verse from Ben Sirah 38:4 and thereabout.

א"ר סימון אין לך כל עשב ועשב ברקיע שאין לו מזל ברקיע שמכה אותו ואומר לו גדל

Though a parallel reference in made in the Zohar (though not attributed to Rabbi Simon, for the Zohar is supposed to be Tannaitic), and perhaps that was her exposure to it.

But it is indeed popularly attributed to "the Talmud." It appears, for example, on Wikiquote. And on mugs and T-shirts, and in email forwards, attributed to "the Talmud." One would expect that Madonna would have been exposed to the pop version of it, just as she has to the pop version of the Zohar and kabbalah. When it comes to Talmud, she does not know Rabbi Assi from Rabbi Chelbo. But perhaps an editor at the Jerusalem Post might have tried to fact check the quote, rather than taking Madonna's word for it and making it a headline?

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