Divrei ben Abuya

In the Babylonian Talmud, Elisha ben Abuya was a great sage who lost his faith in God. So great was he that his and subsequent generations continued learning from him - to the extent that the authors of the Talmud needed to create a story that would serve to legitimise his teachings despite his apostasy. His lesson is a lesson for us all: that great stature is not contingent upon blind faith, nor high learning upon the observation of Torah precepts.

August 23, 2006

A Parable

Once upon a time, there was a boy named Izzie.
Izzie liked girls.
Izzie also kept a diary.
In this diary, Izzie wrote all about his girlfriends.
Whenever he was in a relationship, Izzie would write poetry for his girlfriends, and he would put this poetry in his diary. Izzie would write stories describing his girlfriends' incomparable beauty, and he would put those in his diary as well.

One day, Izzie fell in love.
Izzie's love was so fierce and so jealous that he decided to eradicate every diary entry that spoke of a different girl.
But Izzie couldn't do it.
Izzie's entries were so nicely written that it seemed a shame to simply erase them all. So, do you know what Izzie did?
He edited them.
He changed the details so that it looked as though it was the love of his life of whom he had been speaking all along.
And nobody knew the difference.

At first.

You see, many years after Izzie died, somebody found his diary entries. And, reading them, they noticed various inconsistencies.
References to the love of Izzie's life in one place seemed to describe her in a particular manner, while references to the "same" girl elsewhere seemed to describe her in a manner that was... contradictory.
Not only that, but some of these girls turned up in diary entries written by other boys. And slowly but surely, people pieced together the true history of Izzie's life.

Incidentally, Izzie's diary is available for purchase. Do you know what it's called?


At 8:22 PM , Blogger Billie Jean said...

Well I won't cheat and spoil the fun since we were talking about this yesterday. But nice to see you found your parable.

It's interesting, but is there evidence of the time gap you suggest (speaking from historical ignorance here).

At 8:46 PM , Blogger Simon Holloway said...

Absolutely. Some parts of Izzie's diary are written in an archaic mode of Brouhaha (that's Izzie's native language), while others are written in much later forms of the same. There are sections that testify to an intimate awareness of older historical occurrences (not to mention a blatant unfamiliarity with later ones) and others that suggest a powerful awareness of things that occurred centuries down the line.

There really is no room to suggest that all of Izzie's diary was written at one period of his life, and even the most hardcore Izzie-lites would tell you that Izzie wrote it over time.

At 1:55 PM , Blogger Billie Jean said...

You see, many years after Izzie died, somebody found his diary entries.

I meant this time gap...


At 2:04 PM , Blogger Simon Holloway said...

Oh, no, that was just me being facetious!

In reality, Izzie's diary has been studied most attentively over the millenia. It merely took several years before people began to study his diary with the sort of critical attention to historical detail that would allow for such observations.

At 10:09 PM , Blogger Billie Jean said...

Good to know I didn't miss anything major.


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