Learning the power of the Talmud in China and South Korea

According to Jewish tradition, the Torah was revealed to Moses about the time of China’s Shang Dynasty (1766 – 1122 B.C.), more than three thousand years ago.

In fact, the Talmud is an organic interpretation through discussion and debate of what the Torah means and teaches.

In most of Asia, the perception of Jews as expert moneymakers does not have the religion-based antagonism that often accompanies the same stereotype elsewhere in the world. While both Christians and Muslims have persecuted Jews for religious reasons, China hasn’t done this.

Instead, South Korea and China respect what may be learned from the wisdom of Judaism.

The Muqata says, “Close to 50 million people live in South Korea, and everyone learns Gemara (Talmud) in school. ‘We tried to understand why the Jews are geniuses, and we came to the conclusion that it is because they study Talmud,’ said the Korean ambassador to Israel.”

“In my country we also focus on family values,” The South Korean Ambassador said. “The (Jewish) respect for adults, respect and appreciation for the elderly parallels the high esteem in my country for the elderly.”

Another significant issue is the respect for education. In the Jewish tradition, parents have a duty to teach their children and devote a lot of energy and attention to it.

For South Korean parents, their children’s education is also a top priority. For contrast, in the United States too many ignorant and lazy parents blame teachers when their children are not learning, but not in Asia.

How valuable is education to Jewish tradition? “Maimonides (1135 – 1204 C.E.) in his great code of Jewish law has an entire section devoted to teaching, teachers, students and the concept of knowledge and education. The basic value is that teachers are to be respected and given honor.

“One should rise before one’s teacher, speak respectfully to one’s teacher, and treat one’s teacher with greater probity than even one’s parent.” The Talmud teaches, “parents bring a child into this world but a teacher can bring a child into the World to Come” into a world of spirit, creativity, ideas and self-worth and ultimate immortality.

In fact, “the Talmud itself attributes to God, so to speak, the attribute of being a teacher. “He Who teaches Torah to His people Israel.” Even mortal teachers are viewed in Judaism as being engaged in holy work.

These ancient Jewish values have also found a home in China.

Newsweek reported, “The apparent affection for Jewishness has led to a surprising trend in publishing over the last few years: books purporting to reveal the business secrets of the Talmud that capitalize on the widespread impression among Chinese that attributes of Judaism lead to success in the financial arts.”

Newsweek said, “Titles such as Crack the Talmud: 101 Jewish Business Rules, The Illustrated Jewish Wisdom Book, and Know All of the Money-Making Stories of the Talmud share the shelves with stories of Warren Buffet and Bill Gates.”

“The admiration for Judaism stems from a history that goes beyond business,” Newsweek continues. “About half of the dozen or so Westerners active in Mao Zedong’s China were Jewish, and that also led to increased interest in Jewish culture among Chinese intellectuals,” says Xu Xin, professor of Jewish studies at Nanjing University.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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4 Responses to Learning the power of the Talmud in China and South Korea

  1. Thought provoking piece, Lloyd. Enjoyed it and will gladly look for more in the future.

  2. Debbie says:

    Very interesting cultural contrasts, Lloyd.

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