Another activity through which God preserves the unified national consciousness is the living discussion. Through participation in the ongoing living discussion, a discussion that spans the centuries and millennia, the individual Jew joins with the national consciousness of the eternal nation. When the Jewish people were centralized in the Land of Israel, this discussion touched the entire community in a pool of common thought. The throngs that gathered in Jerusalem during the three pilgrimages were hubs of interaction that impacted the nation. During the times of the Second Temple, the weight of the central communities of Babylon and Israel maintained the interconnectedness of the living discussion. In the centuries following the destruction of the Second Temple, various circumstances forced Jews to wander far from the bastions of Torah scholarship. This situation necessitated the writing of a book which would unify the nation’s thought process – not only throughout the communities scattered around the globe – but one that would also join the nation throughout the corridors of time. This book is the Talmud.
The Talmud is not written as a record of facts or as a chronicle of events. The Talmud is written in the format of a run-on discussion. An intricate and involved discussion, with questions and answers, proofs and counter-points, arguments and explanations. The Talmud is not a book that can be read as a leisurely diversion. Study of the Talmud demands complete involvement, and generates intense discussion. Since the writing of the Talmud, the Torah discussions of the Jewish nation centered on the Talmud. Through the study of Talmud the 21st century American Jew is joined with his brethren in Israel today, with the Jew who lived in 16th century Poland, in 13th century Spain, in 10th century France, in 5th century Iraq and in Israel of the3rd century B.C.E. Although they are strewn throughout the realms of space and time, countless Jewish communities are linked together to stand before God as one entity – Eternal Israel. This living discussion spanning the generations joins the elements that make up the body of Eternal Israel.
By maintaining the identity of Eternal Israel, the only true context of the Law is preserved. But the relationship does not end there. Just as the Law needs Israel to act as the living setting for its own vitality, Eternal Israel needs the Law for its own existence. It is only to the degree that the individual Jew bears the Law in his heart (Isaiah 51:7) that he is united with the eternal community. Israel is only eternal to the measure that she discharges her duty in relation to the Law.