Now that Purim's over, it's time to get back to Torah. For some reason, there still seems to be some kind of p'tur from Talmud Torah during December 2004, which is where all of the leytzonusdike posts wind up.

A while back, there was some discussion in the comments (which all disappeared when I went to Haloscan, and which I'm slowly republishing from my own email files) about the propriety of talking about God's 'personality'.

Let's start with some psukim from this past week's haftarah:

כב כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה, אַל-יִתְהַלֵּל חָכָם בְּחָכְמָתוֹ, וְאַל-יִתְהַלֵּל הַגִּבּוֹר, בִּגְבוּרָתוֹ; אַל-יִתְהַלֵּל עָשִׁיר, בְּעָשְׁרוֹ. כג כִּי אִם-בְּזֹאת יִתְהַלֵּל הַמִּתְהַלֵּל, הַשְׂכֵּל וְיָדֹעַ אוֹתִי--כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה, עֹשֶׂה חֶסֶד מִשְׁפָּט וּצְדָקָה בָּאָרֶץ: כִּי-בְאֵלֶּה חָפַצְתִּי, נְאֻם-יְהוָה

22 Thus saith the LORD: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; 23 But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth, and knoweth Me, that I am the LORD who exercise mercy, justice, and righteousness, in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.

WADR to King James, I don't like his translation, but more on that later.

The key word here is the second 'ki' in the second verse. It's suggesting at least that mercy, justice, and righteousness form the content of what it means to know God, and at best gives a reason why it's praiseworthy to know God. Either way, it suggests that it's possible to know God, and that this God-knowledge incorporates a select few key values which God 'desires' for us to embody on Earth.

One implication is that we can only truly become Godlike in action to the degree that we 'know' him. If there's something that we don't really understand about God, then it falls outside of the purview of 'halicha be-drachav'; R' Hutner says s/t very similar in one of his ma'amorim on Pesach.

Granted, there's a pretty severe limitation on the degree to which we can really 'psychoanalyze' God. None of this really tells us who God really is. In a value-driven system of morality (which this certainly seems to be promoting, but lav davka), it suggests that we're capable of discerning and emulating those values - it actually does suggest some type of 'natural morality', at least in some rough form.

A final educational point: we tend to shy away from these types of discussions about God. If we take imitatio Dei seriously, then we really should talk about it, and beyond the elementary levels. I'm not suggesting some kind of WWHKBHD bumper sticker campaign (though that would be pretty funny, no?), but this type of discussion really should be part of the agenda for teaching Halacha and Tanach in particular, but really all aspects of Jewish learning. We really CAN come to know God through the Torah (here's R' Hutner gives way to his antecedents, R' Kook and R' Tzadok), and really ought to keep that in mind during our endeavors in Talmud Torah.


A Purim Riddle for FRUMTEENS Moderator

Q: Why does it take so long to leyn the Megillah in Satmar?
A: Because they also bang at every mention of 'Medinah'!


Pygmies on the Shoulders of Giants? An Attempt to Come to Grips with Yeridat Ha-dorot

I've struggled w/ this one for a long time. So it's a long post.

The understanding of Yeridat Ha-dorot that I think we find so hard to swallow is the notion that our learning is less sophisticated, we are less intelligent, or somehow not intellectually equipped to the same degree as our illustrious forefathers. Apparently, the Ktzos acknowledged that our svaras are superior to those of the Rishonim, but we don't really need the Ktzos to tell us that. I challenge anyone who's disagrees to try learning the sugya of "migo"without R' Elchanan Wasserman.
[Yes, R' Elchanan did more than prohibit secular learning and rail against -isms, but I suspect that there are many our there who only quote his politics because they are ill equipped to learn his lomdus]

It's a no brainer - we, today, have more and better information available, better methods of analysis, better ways of organizing information, etc.
Thus, Yeridat Ha-dorot, I take as axiomatic, does not mean that our intelligence is in any way, shape, or form inferior to that of earlier generations.

There also a common misunderstanding about Yeridat Ha-dorot, especially as it pertains to the Geonim, Rishonim, and Acharonim; namely, that it's not a continuous process, rather it is divided into eras. There's a perceived 'yeridah' between the Rishonim and Acharonim (for example), that would preclude an Acharon from frontally disagreeing with someone from an earlier era. This divides the major eras of the development of the Halacha - Tannaim, Amoraim, Stammaim-Savoraim, Geonim, Rishonim, Aharonim. Every era had its 'tweeners', but it's defninitely fair to talk about different eras, with the crucial distinction being the willingness of the later authority to take on an earlier one.

So why does it happen?

A good postmodern (or Telzer) would tell you that a shift from one era to the next doesn't occur at a single moment, rather it will happen that one day people will become conscious of the fact that things are no longer as they were. The world wasn't any different the day after the printing press was invented; but 50 years after it was invented people were well aware that things were different than they were the day before it was invented. This consensus produces disidentification from that earlier 'era', and identification with a new 'era'. Thus, the dividing line between Rishonim and Acharonim might be very fuzzy, it's clear that by the time the new centers of learning developed in Poland and the Ottoman Empire (16th cent), those communities already felt distant and discontinuous from the original centers in Spain and Ashkenaz. Thus, RY Karo can feel a need to collate and summarize all of the earlier opinions - because he felt there's nothing new to add (see Intro to HoJo = House of Joseph = Beit Yosef).

This type of transition isn't so uncommon. I believe that the agenda of the first Mishna in Pirkei Avot is to label 5 such eras and maintains that the Torah must undergo a process of 'mesirah' and 'kabbalah' between eras; a process of reformulation, understanding, translation, and new application. The transitions that form the 'gaps' in that first Mishna are:
1) Moshe
-Death of Moshe = like death of a parent; end of infancy; must begin to take control of own destiny
2) Yehoshua
- Completion of conquest; Torah no longer governs a semi-nomadic group of tribes, but a settled, agrarian, developing society
3) Zekeinim
- Centralization of government, capital city, central place of worship; no longer distinct tribes but a single nation
4) Nevi'im
- loss of Temple, exile, loss of self-determination, loss of prophecy
5) Men of the Great Assembly

There's also a telling Gemara in Temurah about that first transition, that when Moshe died, the Israelites forgot thousands of Halachot until Otniel ben Knaz came and restored them with his pilpul.

In each of these cases, transition would result in some kind of loss - what Chaza"l would call 'shikcha', forgetting - that would need to somehow be restored. Meanings that we held common by an earlier community would be lost on the next era. The restoration process would, by definition, require a more serious, conscious effort than the intuitive process that characterizes and earlier generations. Contrast the comprehension process of an American student in French class to a native French speaker. While the former may be more precise in his understanding of verb forms and grammatical rules, the latter can speak the language un-self-consciously, intuitively, and without the intermediary process of translation.

Similarly, with regard to intersubjective cultural meanings. Imagine the following conversation between two Jews:

Berel: Would you like some ice cream?
Shmerel: No, thanks. I had a hot dog 4 hours ago.

There's a heck of a lot of information that goes into understanding that conversation - even if every word is understood on its own - which is unavailable to the uninitiated. A later scholar, without the requisite context, would have a very difficult time recreating the meaning of that conversation. In many ways, once we're in a later era reading the word of the earlier era, we're trying to recreate their meanings, which are often inaccessible to us.

Given that each successive process of 'forgetting' and restoring will produce a more detailed but less organic and intuitive whole, there will be a sense of inferiority to the earlier eras, just as we can't hope to appreciate Shakespeare as much as a 17th century Londoner, even if we hold Ph.D. in English Lit.

I think that Dr. Gra"ch's article (Rupture and Reconstruction) is a contemporary application of a process which occurs throughout Jewish history - even back to the Death of Moshe.

An additional element is one of perceived authority. It's natural that at the end of an era, a process of summarization and collation will begin, and that, in effect, 'canonizes' the earlier era. Once that happens, it's tough to re-open anything for debate, certainly not without a boatload of creativity to enlist the implicit help of obscure or pregnant passages. Once the Torah has been 'recieved' by a following era, to question the transmitters is to undermine the foundations of the very ground upon which you tread - again this only happens after a perceived shift in eras, not just from one generation to the next. Thus, it's a bit obtuse to say that an Acharon 'can't' argue w/ a Rishon or an Amora w/ a Tanna, rather, it's probably more accurate to say that they WOULDN'T (I'm not sufficiently holding in yevamot 89-90 to develop this more).

Paradoxically, then, one would expect that each successive era would be increasingly explicit, analytical, and even theoretical - but as a direct result of the loss of the intuitive, 'prophetic', original intersubjective meaning on the Torah and the Halakha.

It also means that the imprint of human intelligence upon the application of the Torah to life is ever expanding, at the expense of the original, Divine communication. We're left with a record of human beings attempting to understand God's mind, without all that much input from God Himself. I find this to be theologically satisfying, much as the well-known passage in Bava Metzia 59b, where God smiles and says "My children have defeated me!"


Of Jet-lag, covenants, and BBQ on Yom Ha'atzma'ut

Hanach la-hem le-yisrael; im einan nevi'im heim, bnei nevi'im heim.
Leave it to Israel; if they are not prophets, they are descendants of prophets
-somewhere in the 6th perek of psachim i'm too tired to look it up.
This statement puts a lot of stock in intuitiuve responses of the Jewish people as a whole. It can be very uplifting - attributing a prophetic element to the collective responses, even (especially) unconscious ones - but at the same time threatening to approve of so many movements which have swept up large numbers of Jews but which I for one would be extremely uncomfortable validating.
There are many ways to think about limiting the scope of 'hanach':
  • Maybe it only refers to examples where tension between the demands of halakha and reality are diminished
  • maybe only collective responses qualify
  • maybe it must involve an act of commission, not simply omission

Whichever it is, I'd like to try to explain one contemporary Israeli minhag - that of BBQing on Yom Ha'atzma'ut - as an expression of Israel's collective prophetic experience.

I don't think it's an import of the American July 4 celebrations. Gut feeling; can't say why. I also can't explain the boppers and the shaving cream. But those are nezek and assur, and therefore not really minhagim.

God made 2 different covenants w/ Avraham - the covenant between the parts (bris bein habesarim - BBHB) and the covenant of circumcision (Bris Milah - BM). In each, God promised Avraham that he'd get the Land of Canaan. But there are clear differences between the two 'agreements'.

BBHB was unilateral - God made a promise that wasn't contingent on anything Abe would do or say. The downside was that it would require exile, slavery, and torment. But at the end of the day there is a guarantee that some remnant would return to the land. As we say in the Haggadah, this promise has withstood the test of time, for in every generation there are those who seek to destroy us.

BM was bilateral. It made demands on Avraham and his progeny. He had to live up to the land; it wasn't a foregone conclusion.

Read up on the 2 chapters; a detailed comparison is beyond the scope of my brain at this hour (it's almost 2 AM; I'm writing from Israel)

These covenants can and do form two entirely different bases for Jewish claims of the land of Israel. BBHM promises a refuge. There needs to be one place which we can retreat to. It's a national 'ir miklat' - a national home. It speaks of a promised land - given by God's good grace to a beaten though possibly undeserving nation.

BM is far more ambitious. It envisions a national relationship with God Almighty. It constitutes a national mission and charge that will be expanded to include all of the precepts of the Torah. In this covenant, the land is contigent upon the Israelites living up to their part of the bargain. This is really a major but entirely overlooked theme of the 5 books of Moses. Ve-acamo"l.

BBHM is a prerequisite for BM. It preceded and necessarily precedes - logically and chronologically - the type of vision engendeed by BM. But if the relationship to God and to the land stop at a BBHB level, then it's doomed to failure. The Edward Said is right. The next victim will take it away.

Thus, when we bentch, in the Bracha on the Land (2nd Bracha), Chazal admonish that failure to mention Brit (milah) and Torah, hasn't really fulfilled his obligation. After all, outside of the context of Brit and Torah, the relationship to God and to the land loses all of its momentum.

There's a strong linkl between BBHB and Korban Pesach - in that in many ways KP is an expression of the ulfillment of the BBHB. It's connection to BM is therefore well understood as well (there are all kinds of connections between KP and BM, ve-acamo"l).

Modern Zionism, from its inception, was torn between two camps - there was the Herzlian camp who saw a Jewish State much as it's envisioned in BBHB. Others saw it as the staging ground for the flowering of a Jewish culture - a positive content to that national vision. This is somewhat akin to the BM approach, that occupancy of the land is contingent upon living up to its standards. Ahad Ha'am didn't get it right, but he was thinking beyond BBHB. Bialik was a bit closer, methinks. There was a similar split within the early Religious Zionist movement as well.

As it turned out, the founding of the State of Israel was, IMO, a fulfillment of BBHB. I also believe that, somehow, deep down in the recesses of our collective identity, we came up with the idea of eating meat cutlets on Yom Ha'atzma'ut as a celebration of God's fulfillment of His promise.

Now comes the hard part, for us. Can we succeed in building a state whose laws, culture, army, government, media, education, etc. lives up to these lofty expectations? I'm not talking about theocracy, but about that high and holy place where democracy and theocracy merge (that's a whole other post).

I've lived in Israel, and will do so again in the not-too-distant future. I've seen a lot of change here in the 16 or so years that I've been observing and participating in life here. And the place doesn't cease to amaze me every time I come back. It's constantly taking baby steps forward. I love noticing the subtle changes that take place over time - in my case it's my first time here in about 15 months. I believe we'll get there someday. I fear what would happen if we stopped moving forward.

Zion will be redeemed through justice; and her returnees through righteousness


If one were to set their ShasPod to 'Shuffle'...

...would it really make that much of a difference?

And on the video shas-pod, is there a little ball bouncing over the words as they're read?

Need some Torah content, quick!
Here's an old post on an aspect of Pesach.


Ad De-Lo Yada

There's a dispute amongst the later commentaries regarding the obligation to become intoxicated on Purim until one can no longer distinguish between 'Blessed be Mordechai' and 'Cursed be Haman' - whether one must get up to the point where he doesn't know the difference, but not cross over into a realm where good and evil are blurred, or whether one must go beyond that limit to where he actually can't distinguish good and evil.

Here's how I explain the 2 positions (the short version):
The first position starts with a relatively bright person, intellectually sophisticated, and, by habit, non-judgemental. He sees most things in shades of gray. He probably went to Gush.
Granted, there's much value in refraining from making value-judgements and remaining non-commital and neutral, but if it becomes a value on its own then there's a danger of complete dispassion and inability to distinguish right from wrong. Take the Democratic Party, for example. I think that Bush won (both times) not because people necessarily agree with his definitions of good and evil, but because he's willing to label something as good or evil in the first place. There's a danger in going too far with that as well, so balance, as usual, is the order of the day.
Thus, one day a year, we are enjoined to erase the gray areas and force them into identifying as balck or white. Are you with us or against us? Are you Israel or Amalek? In this model, by abandoning the rational, we are able to see good and evil for what they are and thus make real value judgements. That's not to say that I need to run around making those value judgements the other 353 days a year; it's ok to be a Gushie on most days. But on Purim we all need to be Frumteens moderators. Nothing gray. Just all black or white.

The second position would then advocate that one must even go beyond that and enter into a world of perception where there's no distinction between good and evil. Coincidentally, Nietzsche wrote a book called 'Beyond Good and Evil' in which he argues that one may achieve a degree of authenticity where one must, perforce, act out that which is criving him and not pay attention to conventional categories of good and evil. Self-actualization is the over-arching rule of the ubermensch. Good vs. Evil gives way to real vs. fake. This distinction has become a linchpin of modern phsychology and philosophy, generally overused by the likes of Michel Focault to pretty much encourage every whim or fancy out there. Very few have actually transcended the categories of good and evil; most who claim to are in fact regressing to an infantile non-disctinction of good and evil, which can't really distinguish between the real and the fake either. But I digress.
In the Ishbitzer school of Chasidus, the category of 'aveirah lishmah' is invoked to describe this category of beyond-good-and-evil. Once one acheives a state of consciousness where all is perceived as pure manifestation of God, one no longer experiences himself as an autonomous being, rather as a being of pure, instinctive 'retzon Hashem'. It perceives even Haman as 'retzon Hashem'. The goal of this type of intoxication is to temporarily experience this going-beyond-good-and-evil. Of course if one is unsure that deep-down he's unmotivated by retzon Hashem (like in a Freudian model - but unmitigated rezon Hashem serves as the 'id'), then it's probably not a good idea to go there. I know I won't.

I think that both opinions are great. Eilu ve-Eilu, and whether one minimizes or maximizes, one should remember to focus his thought toward the Heavens.


Jewish Evangelism Revisited

To qualify the post on the Yehei Shmei Rabbah of 20,000:
After looking into the applications of 'b'rov am' and thinking about this issue further, I can refine the critique.

Had a big deal been made about the fact that 20.000 people were in a gigantic room, and while everyone was davening shmoneh esrei you could hear a pin drop, then I would have been really impressed and inspired.

Interestingly, MB applies 'rov am' to tefilla be-tzibbur (i.e., davening 18 together) but not to 'dvarim she-bikedusha' (kaddish, kedushah, barchu) which makes it entirely consistent w/ the mishna in Brachot. Acamo"l.

And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake and after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

I Kings 19:11-12


Historical Twins: Canon and Heresy

There are certain phenomena that are born at the exact same moment in history. One can't be understood without the other. Since the following concepts are often very difficult to get a handle on, I've found that relating to parallel phenomena as 'twins' can be very useful. I'll relate to two sets of twins. One now, and another in a later post. The twins are:

Canon and Heresy
Translation and Mysticism

I'll discuss the first now; the second is a bit longer and trickier.

Canonization isn't as much a process of definig what's 'in' as defining what's 'out'. Admittedly, there are different types of canons (normative, formative, curricular). Canon (formative) defines the shared beliefs, values, practices, and interpretations of a community. Thus, whatever presents an alternative is heresy. Declaring books to be apocryphal means that to accord them religious status is heretical (see Minshna Sanhedrin 10:1 - I read' ha-korei be-sefarim chitzoni'im' to mean that one who reads from an apocryphal work AS ONE WOULD READ FROM THE TORAH then one has cut himself off from the Jewish (i.e. Rabbinic) community. The Mishna couldn't give a darn about reading Harry Potter or even the New Testament for leisure (though it's anacronistic to talk of reding for leisure, reading from a scroll was not the norm - it was still an oral culture).

Thus, creating a canon defines who is a heretic, and is often done for the PURPOSE of defining who is a heretic. The flip-side is that a heretic is one who doesn't recognize the exclusivity of the normative (i.e. legal) or formative status of the canonized document.

There are also layers of canonicity. There were many groups who accepted the canonicity of the 5 Books of Moses, but not the Prophets. Or the Prophets but a different set of Hagiographic writings (Ketuvim), or the full Tanach but not the Babylonian Talmud (as normative canon), and so forth. Even today, acceptance of certain works as 'canonic' in the normative (e.g. Mishna Berurah) or curricular (e.g. the secret shiurim of the Brisker Rav) will define a person as being 'in' or 'out' of a particular community. It's small scale. but of the same phenomenon.

Acamo"l. Stay tuned for more useful tautologies.


Cutting Inspiration Down to Size

When discussing (and berating) with a friend (let's call him Pheobus) the shrill claim of the MSG party's organizers that when 20,000 people say 'yehei shmei rabbah...' together it has an incredible effect in the heavens, we came up with a strong basis for our discomfort with those types of claims.

משנה מסכת ברכות פרק ז

ר' יוסי הגלילי אומר לפי רוב הקהל הן מברכין שנאמר(תהלים סח) במקהלות ברכו אלהים
ה' ממקור ישראל

אמר רבי עקיבא מה מצינו בבית הכנסת אחד מרובין ואחד מועטין אומר
ברכו את ה'

רבי ישמעאל אומר ברכו את ה' המבורך

...R' Yosi of Galilee says: The blessing corresponds to the size of the crowd, as it says (Tehillim 68) 'Bless ye God in full assemblies, even the Lord, ye that are from the fountain of Israel.'

R' Akiva says: It is just like the precedent that is set in our synagogues - whether there are many or few we say 'Bless ye The Lord'

R' Yishma'el says: 'Bless ye The Blessed Lord'

This Mishna (Berachot 7:3) is at the conclusion of a list of different formats for making a mezuman. There's a different format for 3,4,10,11,100,101,1000,1001,10000, and 10,001 people bentching together. The Gemara presumes that the entire list accords only with the opinion of R' Yosi, who believes that the benediction ought to reflect the size of the crowd. R' Akiva and R' Yishma'el, whom the halacha follows, conclude that once a quorum is achieved, the liturgy doesn't recognize the size of the crowd.

The way I understand this dispute, R' Yosi was, understandably, focussed on the magnitude of the event as reflected in the #s. It's a very intuitive and easy way to measure success and quantify an experience. we all do it.

R' Akiva and R' Yishma'el insist that quantity is not the way to measure a religious experience. A minyan is a body that represents all of Israel (relate the laws of Kri'at Ha-Torah to Nechemiah 9-11; Torah reading must be 'public' in order to demonstrate that the torah is public property. 10 adult males constitute that 'public' symbolically. I believe that RYBS has a piece on this in Shiurim Le-zecher Abba Mari Z"l - if someone wants to post an exact mareh makom, by all means). Once there's an acknowledgement of the 'publicity' of the event, it's as though all of Israel is represented, and greater #s don't make it more representational in that respect. #s may be valuable in other respects, but ultimately the #s alone, quantity for quantity's sake, isn't significant in the halakha and its underlying values, at least according to the way we pasken.

Phoebus connected this to the two givings of the luchot in the parshiyot that we read recently. The massive 'publicity' that surrounded the first giving resulted in a type of evangelical quantity-fetishism (my term - almost as good as new-age eco-feminist Judeo-Wiccans, no?) that ultimately led to the people building a golden calf. The second luchot, by contrast, were given privately (be-tzin'a) and stood the test of time

Compare also to the incident w/ Elijah on Mt. Carmel, where God was the greater evangelist on that day, but Ba'al ultimately captured the hearts of those who look for evangelism; shma minah - Judaism isn't an NCSY Shabbaton. Evangelism and Judaism is a bad mix. It's not what we're really about, and we can't beat the Bible-thumpers at their own game anyway (just like God's representative - Elijah - 'couldn't' defeat the Ba'al Movement (oy, vey; terrible pun; but letzonusa de-Avoda Zara is permissible. Just ask the Godol Hador) at this game.

And besides, Phoebus also pointed out (at the last Siyum 7.5 years ago) that the ma'ariv minyan at the end of the Simon & Garfunkel concert in Central Park had a much more impressive yehei shmei rabbah.


...Bayamim Ha-hem, Ba-zman ha-zeh

I've been inspired by this brilliant post from the Godol Hador to write the true version of another famous Jewish story:

A bunch of Yeshiva students were sitting around the Beis Medrash, playing cards, smoking, and gambling with some stupid little toy tops. All of a sudden, a fellow who hadn't been drinking (for just such emergency) noticed a stern-faced man in an Israeli Army uniform walking toward the Yeshiva.
reacting quickly, he spun around and ran through the Beis Midrash, informing everyone that a representative from the 'Lishkat Ha-Giyus' (Conscription Office) was paying them a surprise visit to insure that those who deferred because 'their Torah is their livelihood' are actually learning.
Immediately, the cards, liquor, and toy tops vanished (but not the cigarettes) and the ancient tomes of the Talmud and commentaries appeared on the tables.
In this way, the Holy Shababnikim were spared from having to serve in the Evil Army of the Freye Medina.


A Lesson in Basic Talmudic Vocabulary

This will sound like a nit-picking point, but it's not. It revolves around the meaning of the Talmudic word 'teiku', which was apparently invoked by R' Matisyahu Solomon at the Siyum Daf Yomi last night. While there's much to be said about his speech, which encourages the bracketing of any somewhat difficult question, I'd like to address his implied meaning of the term 'teiku', why it's wrong, and why that's dangerous. I'll leave the rest of the deconstruction and critique to others.

His implication is that 'Teiku' is a non-answer. If we don't know the answer, we throw up our hands and say 'teiku', which leaves the question open. This understanding is corroborated by the myth that I grew up with, namely, that 'teiku' stands for 'Tishbi yetareitz kushyot ve-ibayot" - 'Tishbi (i.e., Elijah the Prophet) will answer challenges and questions'. The implication is that our knowledge is insufficient, but at some point the tools for discovering a correct answer will be restored to us.

That's not what 'Teiku' means. It most probably is a derivativr of the Aramaic verb 'to stand' (kah), thus 'it will stand', or to the Aramaic verb for weighing (tkl), thus, 'it is balanced'. Either way, the implication is that we have arrived at a stalemate, which is an endgame scenario. Teiku answers the question; the answer is - there is no way to have a definite outcome; tie; stalemate; deadlock. Modern Hebrew reflects that - the term for a 'tie' - like in a soccer match - is 'teiku'.

There's much evidence for this - linguistic, the context in which it's used in the Gemara, and the contexts in which it's not used in the Gemara. Rambam always paskens a 'teiku' as a 'safeik', but often will take a side on an 'ibaya de-lo ifshetta' (unanswered question), which means that he regarded teiku as a bona fide psak. Furthermore, the Taz holds that 'chisaron yedi'ah' (lack of knowledge) doesn't qualify as a safeik - important lesson there: no excuse for doubt that arises from ignorance.

The danger of the first (wrong) position is that it's a cop-out. We don't have access to the answers. We forgot. Woe is us. We're ignorant. Let's rely on a miracle. It's the ultimate in lack of self-confidence, and it's not a way to proceed through life.

The other (correct) understanding acknowleges that there are some questions that simply don't have cut-and-dried answers. Sometimes there are claims that compete with each other in an irresolvable way. Instead of copping out of a difficult situation, the Gemara acknowledges the validity of both claims and declares a stalemate. It's an exercise in true intellectual humility, not this self-effacing pious garbage that sometimes passes for it.

R' Matisyahu stated that teiku is 'a wonderful answer'.

'Hilchesa kavasei ve-lo mi-ta'amei' - he's right that it's a wonderful answer, but he's wrong about what that answer is.


Meat and Wine: A Talmudic Reading of Pesachim 109a

תלמוד בבלי מסכת פסחים דף קט עמוד א

תניא, רבי יהודה בן בתירא אומר: בזמן שבית המקדש קיים - אין שמחה אלא בבשר, שנאמר +דברים כז
וזבחת שלמים ואכלת שם ושמחת לפני ה' אלהיך. ועכשיו שאין בית המקדש קיים - אין שמחה אלא ביין, שנאמר
+תהלים קד+ ויין ישמח לבב אנוש
It was taught: R' Yehuda b. Beteira says. " While the Temple is standing, there
is no joy unless there is meat, as it says (Deut. 27) 'And you shall sacrifice
peace-offerings and eat them there, and you will be joyful before the Lord,
your God'. Now that the Temple is not standing, there is no joy without wine, as
it says (Psalms 104) ' And wine will rejoice the heart of man.'"
This beraita is oft-misquoted and rarely understood. Every meat-and-booze-loving yeshiva bachur can quote 'Ein simcha ella be-basar ve-yayin' - no joy without meat and wine. The passage as normally quoted doesn't exist in the Talmud. Aside from that, there's the whole dichotomy of the Temple times vs. non-Temple times, and the lingering question that this is a superficial view of joy - it's only possible through the vehicle of meat and/or wine?
Clearly, R' Yehuda is setting up two separate paradigms for joy.
One, represented by meat, is the joy in the participation of a good world. When everything is going as it should, when man can feel that morally, nationally, religiously he is not only leading a fulfilling life but that the possibility is there for a real utopia-like existence. Then one can experience the joy that being at peace (shlamim) with himself, with the world, with God, family, nation, etc., etc. It's the good life. It's deserved complasence.
The destruction of the Temple meant that this great experiment between God and the Jewish people had more or less failed. Hope persists that it can and will be resurrected, but until then, the trials and tribulations of an unjust and cruel world are the order of the day. Joy, if found at all, is in forgetting about that which is around you.
R' Yehuda is contrasting the joy of full participation in a constructive endeavor - symbolized by eating the meat of the shlamim, and the joy found in escaping from an imperfect world - symbolized by drinking. In truth, we experience a bit of both - the joy of accomplishment and the escapism from a world that still has so far to go.
Freilichen Purim.