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  • March 27, 2011

    Talmud Study now Mandatory in South Korea

    [The following fascinating article was translated by The Muqata from YNET.]

    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. And this is how “Rav Papa” became a more well known scholar in Korea than in Israel.

    It is doubtful if the Amoraic scholars, Abbaye and Rava imagined their discussions of Jewish law in the Beit Midrash in Babylon would be taught hundreds of years later in East Asia. Yet it turns out that the laws of an “egg born on a holiday” (“???? ?????? ???? ???”) is actually very interesting to the South Koreans who have required that Talmud study be part of their compulsory school curriculum.

    Almost every home in South Korea now contains a Korean-translated Talmud. But unlike in Israel, the Korean mothers teach the Talmud to their children. In a country of close to 49 million people who believe in Buddhism and Christianity, there are more people who read the Talmud – or at least own their own copy at home – more than in the Jewish state. Much more.

    “So we too will become geniuses”

    “We were very curious about the high academic achievements of the Jews,” explains Israel’s ambassador to South Korea, Young Sam Mah, that was a host on the program “culture today.”

    “Jews have a high percentage of Nobel laureates in all fields: literature, science and economics. This is a remarkable achievement. We tried to understand what is the secret of the Jewish people? How they – more than other people – are able to reach those impressive accomplishments? Why are Jews so intelligent? The conclusion we arrived at is that one of your secrets is that you study the Talmud.”

    “Jews study the Talmud at a young age, and it helps them, in our opinion, to develop mental capabilities. This understanding led us to teach our children as well. We believe that if we teach our children Talmud, they will also become geniuses. This is what stands behind the rationale of introducing Talmud Study to our school curriculum.”

    Young says that he himself studied the Talmud at a very young age: “It is considered very significant study,” he emphasized. The result is that more Koreans have Talmud sets in their homes than Jews in Israel.

    “I, for example, have two sets of the Talmud: the one my wife bought me, and the second was a gift from my mother.”

    Groupies of Jews

    Koreans don’t only like the Talmud because they see it as promoting genius, but because they found values that are ??close to their hearts.

    “In the Jewish tradition, family values ??are important,” explains the South Korean Ambassador.

    “You see it even today, your practice of the Friday evening family meal. In my country we also focus on family values. The respect for adults, respect and appreciation for the elderly parallels the high esteem in my country for the elderly.”

    Another very significant issue is the respect for education. In the Jewish tradition parents have a duty to teach their children, and they devote to it lots of attention. For Korean parents, their children’s education is a top priority. (YNET)

  • Posted by Ted Belman @ 5:22 pm | 29 Comments »

    29 Comments to Talmud Study now Mandatory in South Korea

    1. yamit82 says:

      This reminds me of the Japanese aid to the Jews fleeing the Nazis because they thought that the Jews controlled the worlds wealth. The believed the protocols and thought that aiding the Jews would give them some benefit.

      In the early 1930s, a plot known as the Fugu Plan was thus hatched, in which this small cadre of “Jewish experts” convinced the government and military to arrange for the re-settlement of thousands of Jews from Europe in the Japanese Empire. The underlying belief behind this plan was that a population of Jews could create amazing economic benefit for Japan, and that the power of Jews in other parts of the world, particularly in the United States, was great enough that the rescue of Jews from the Nazis could benefit US-Japan relations.

    2. yamit82 says:

      Jacob Schiff and Japan:

      During the Russo-Japanese War, in 1904 and 1905, in perhaps his most famous financial action, Schiff, again through Kuhn, Loeb & Co., extended a critical series of loans to the Empire of Japan, in the amount of $200 million. He was willing to extend this loan due, in part, to his belief that gold is not as important as national effort and desire, in helping win a war, and due to the apparent underdog status of Japan at the time; no European nation had yet been defeated by a non-European nation in a modern, full-scale war.

      It is quite likely Schiff also saw this loan as a means of avenging, on behalf of the Jewish people, the anti-Semitic actions of the Tsarist regime, specifically the then-recent pogroms in Kishinev.

      This loan attracted worldwide attention, and had major consequences. Japan won the war, thanks in large part to the purchase of munitions made possible by Schiff’s loan. Some within the Japanese leadership took this as evidence of the power of Jews all around the world, of their loyalty to one another, and as proof of the truth of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In 1905, Schiff was awarded the Japanese Order of the Sacred Treasure; in 1907 he was honored with the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, which represents the second highest of eight classes associated with the award. Schiff was the first foreigner to have been personally awarded the Order by Emperor Meiji in the Imperial Palace

    3. yamit82 says:

      Ted my comment related to my first comment got blocked Pls post.

    4. Andy Lewis says:

      I suspect Schiff pissed the Rooskies off no end, eh wot?

    5. birdalone says:

      With all due respect, Korea was a Japanese colony, and while I admire the Japanese in many ways, this post is about South Korea.
      Good for the South Koreans, assuming this report is true. and that they avoid the dilemma of too many lawyers, not enough engineers…
      And, Israel may need a Russian veto in the UNSC soon, so maybe we should not remind the Russians that Schiff helped the Japanese in Russia’s greatest military humiliation :)

    6. yamit82 says:

      With all due respect, Korea was a Japanese colony, and while I admire the Japanese in many ways, this post is about South Korea.

      I brought up the Japanese in this context because of the reasons orientals give for adopting Jewish stereotypes. If they only knew that stupidity
      more than genius characterizes most Jews. Smart Jews tend to be exceedingly smart and dumb Jews are really dumb and the majority are as average as most non Jews. Jewish women tend to be on average smarter than Jewish men but have fewer geniuses.

      Also Jewish antisemitic stereotypes in certain circumstances have worked in Jews favor. I wonder how the christian fundamentalists react to learning the Talmud in Korea. They reject the Talmud out of hand and consider it a work of Satan. I wonder if they learn the whole Talmud or a highly abridged version? Who teaches it, as it must be learned not just read? Having a qualified teacher is essential. How can one learn the Talmud without having a pre-knowledge of Tanach first?

    7. yamit82 says:

      Rabbi preaches teachings of Talmud

      To the eyes of an orthodox rabbi who recently revisited Seoul after four decades, the sprawling capital was losing its soul, though it seemed it had undergone an entire rebuilding.

      At that time, he had seen few prominent structures other than Bando Hotel near the Seoul City Hall. Now he sees many high-rises but misses traditional values that he says are vanishing.

      “Forty years ago, Korea was very poor and just coming out of the war. Then I sensed the wonderful soul in Korean people and they respected their ancient history. Returning now to Korea, yet I worry that as Korea advances with technology and with the computer, Korea is losing its soul,” Marvin Tokayer told The Korea Herald.

      “Korea, as a future technology leader, should always look backward to its tradition and ancient history and not abandon its past,” the rabbi said, “Korean culture vanishing along with the technological advancement was one of my concerns.”

      Tokayer’s first stint in Korea was as a rabbi at an air force base. This past Friday, he returned for a lecture on teachings from the Talmud. In the rabbi’s eyes, it seems like the right time for Koreans to learn the Talmud.

      He suggested that Korean parents break from the John Dewey method of teaching and resort to the Talmud’s character building: asking good questions and becoming the best teacher to children at home. The Talmud is a central text in Judaism containing discussions by rabbis about history, ethics and law.

      “Teach by asking good questions. When a child comes home from school, a Korean mother would ask, ‘What did you learn today?’ while a Jewish mother will ask ‘What question did you ask today?’”

      The rabbi said that the best student is one who asks the best questions in class.

      “The Koreans emphasize listening, where a teacher becomes a dictator in class, whilst the Jewish Talmud way of teaching emphasizes asking questions,” he added.

      To gain the mentality of asking questions, Tokayer says, students, parents and teachers should practice and adopt what is called the “cooperative learning method.”

      “There is a concept of cooperative learning ? in the school when they study Talmud, it is not the teacher who gives the lecture, it is the two or three students studying together, reading it together, questioning each other together, which produces a mentality of asking questions,” he said.

      He added that the cooperative learning method could be even more efficient than studying with a teacher.

      “Education at home is important, too,” he said. The “Talmud is not a book that you read overnight, it is a lifetime study, and Jews study it for life,” he said.

      However, Tokayer pointed out another problem with the Koreans. “Koreans study only when they are in school and they do not study as much when school is over.”

      The rabbi emphasized that Korea should move education out of institutions and move it into homes.

      “I want to see every parent not only provide toys and money for the family but also play a role as a teacher who studies for himself.”

      Fathers should set a good example for children by reading silently beside them, rather than watching TV and leaving the children working alone, he said. “Fathers are the best teachers.”

      The rabbi strongly believes that through Talmud study, Jews are able to kill two birds with one stone ? that is to adopt new technology while at the same time preserve ancient traditions in their lives.

      “It would be wise for Koreans to learn lessons from the Talmud and as a result be able to blend in new technology and old traditions. If many schools do so here in Korea, they will start to excel,” he said.

      According to Tokayer, the Chinese government sent an official to England and Israel to earn a Ph.D. in Jewish studies, come back to China and teach the future professors of Jewish studies from major universities of China.

      “The Chinese precedent should be something the Koreans should look carefully upon and learn from.”

      “Freud, Marx and Einstein all came from Jewish families. Like the Jews, I want to see Koreans study the Talmud and take up 30 percent of the Nobel Prize,” he

    8. BlandOatmeal says:

      The South Koreans are apparently outstripping Israelis in every field, including Judaism. This seems to pique Yamit to no end, hence the many posts. The simple fact is that the mostly Christian Koreans seek truth and knowledge, even if its origins are Jewish.

    9. Jerry says:

      The Jews, Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese are right. Intellectual improvement of the nation is possible within a single generation. The field of epigenetics has shown that social activity can change protein expression that in turn can turn genes on, leading to their expression within the cell. The induced expression can affect subsequent generations. I do not understand how long that new gene expression lasts if the environment does not continue to support it. Can a population return to dumbness in a single intellectually unchallenged generation? I would guess ‘yes’, but that is an experimental question.

    10. Ted Belman says:

      It has been suggestred to me that this may be tongue in cheek i.e. Purim Spiel. Afterall it was Purim last week.

    11. Shy Guy says:

      Jerry says:
      March 28, 2011 at 9:32 am

      The field of epigenetics has shown that social activity can change protein expression that in turn can turn genes on, leading to their expression within the cell.

    12. Jerry says:

      Elder of Ziyon wrote, “I thought this was a Purim joke…but it’s not.

      Here’s an article in the Korean Herald about a rabbi who teaches Talmud in Korea.

      Here’s a message board posting from 2005 in a Christian forum where a visitor to Korea is trying to figure out why all Korean kids are learning Talmud.

      Here’s a Korean website filled with Talmudic sayings and stories.

      And, most convincing to me…pictured here is a Korean children’s book called “Splash Into the World of Talmud”. I found other books filled with Talmudic stories for kids.

      If only Jewish parents would be as interested in teaching Judaism to their kids as Koreans are!”

      Maybe someone should call the Korean Embassy for a discussion. Maybe I will do so later in the day.

    13. Bert says:

      The Koreans are mistaken if they think that study of the Talmud is the reason for Jewish genius. Most Jews do not study the Talmud and in America most Jews know very little about their own heritage. If we take a survey of gifted Jews I suspect that we will find the vast majority as secular. There could also be a downside for the Koreans who study Judaism if they develop leaders who are as stupid as ours and who become self-hating.
      I do admire the Koreans for their attempts to improve themselves and I wish that more Jews would do likewise.

    14. yamit82 says:

      Jerry says:
      March 28, 2011 at 2:19 pm
      Here’s an article in the Korean Herald about a rabbi who teaches Talmud in Korea.

      See #7 ;)

    15. Jerry says:

      Burt wrote, “The Koreans are mistaken if they think that study of the Talmud is the reason for Jewish genius.”

      Your view is short-term. How many generations does it take to produce an essentially different organism. Clearly, you are not a farmer. All farmers know that you save your best animals and seeds for breeding and replanting. Eat the ordinary and save the special! Intelligence can be “selected for”. In the case of the Jews, Talmud study was a self-selection process whereby the best male brains married the best (and prettiest) women. This process is inexact and may have resulted in an increase in the number of “lemels (lambs)” as well leading to all the Woody Allen stereotypes; and an increase in “pervasive development disorder” akin to autism. Many Jewish males with really high IQs are “on the spectrum” of autism.

      So, generations of Talmud study probably selected for various traits – intelligence, good concentration, PDD, altruism, decreased aggressiveness, and perhaps dyslexia. The secular souls you are looking at are the consequences of a number of generations of self-selection. Those traits can be lost by intermarriage – both good and bad traits. Israel clearly has “hybrid vigor” given its wide range of phenotypes, but it retains Talmud study and emphasizes university education.

      By the way, you may not like this reasoning, since it borders upon eugenics, but the continuation of the Jewish People (with study of the Talmud) remains a source of intelligence for the entire world community. University studies are good for that purpose too, but not all studies require the effort that puts into gear the epigenetic changes that I referred to in my earlier post.

    16. yamit82 says:

      More on Korean Talmud studies – not quite as it was reported
      As a follow-up to this post, I just spent a bit of time puzzling out Korean auto-translations from Google, and I have discovered that in no way are Koreans “studying” the Talmud.

      When they say they are studying it, they mean that they have taken a small number of proverbs and Rabbinic stories that have been translated and they are reading and discussing just those stories. .

      The Korean Talmud webpages I have seen treat the Talmud the same way one treats Aesop’s Fables, as a shorthand way to gain insights into morality and how to live as well as plain entertainment. The bulk of the Talmud – as a basis for an all-encompassing legal system – is not mentioned.

      I cannot find any indication of any real Talmud study. I can’t find any translations of Talmud into Korean, nor any indication of scholarly study of the Aramaic/Hebrew original by Korean students. And in no way are the Koreans taking advantage of the parts of the Talmud that have sharpened the minds of Jews for centuries – the intricate pilpul, the careful reading of texts for legal ramifications, the hours it takes to reconcile two seemingly opposing source-texts.

      As far as I can tell, the Koreans think that the brief snippets of translation they have access to is the Talmud. They do not seem to understand what the Talmud really is, hence the confusion about so many Korean people think they own copies of the Talmud.

      So while it is still a fascinating topic, YNet seems to have overblown it a bit.

    17. Shy Guy says:

      I knew it! Stupid Koreans!


    18. 1American says:

      I believe the fact that such a high percentage of jews receiving awards has more to do with the people bestowing them, than the people receiving them.

    19. Shy Guy says:

      1American says:
      March 29, 2011 at 3:53 pm

      I believe the fact that such a high percentage of jews receiving awards has more to do with the people bestowing them, than the people receiving them.

      Well goody for you!

    20. encausticus says:

      So was Lysenko right ?
      March 28, 2011 at 9:32 am

      “The field of epigenetics has shown that social activity can change protein expression that in turn can turn genes on, leading to their expression within the cell.”

    21. Shy Guy says:

      encausticus says:
      March 29, 2011 at 5:41 pm

      So was Lysenko right ?

      But of course! After all, some guy on IsraPundit named Jerry said it was so. It has to be!

    22. yamit82 says:

      Shy Guy says: So was Lysenko right ?

      But of course! After all, some guy on IsraPundit named Jerry said it was so. It has to be!


      Jewish Genius
      Charles Murray — Commentary

      A Jewish Gene for Intelligence?

      By Kiryn Haslinger
      Scientific American

      Are Jews Smarter?
      Ashkenazi IQ Gene Study Stirs Debate

    23. Shy Guy says:

      Yamit, I don’t have time to delve. Do the articles you link to claim that the gene improves after every Daf Yomi lesson (“epigenetics”) or that the gene is constant and benefits its carrier intellectually?

    24. Dennis Cast says:

      I like this positive note from Korea. Thanks Ted for posting it.

    25. yamit82 says:

      Shy Guy says:
      March 29, 2011 at 8:18 pm

      Yamit, I don’t have time to delve. Do the articles you link to claim that the gene improves after every Daf Yomi lesson (“epigenetics”) or that the gene is constant and benefits its carrier intellectually?


      “People would like every group to be exactly the same,” Cochran says, “but they’re not.” The study claims that intelligence evolved in this genetically isolated population because, historically, Ashkenazim had cognitively demanding occupations such as financiers and merchants. Prowess in these fields provided prosperity and, so the theory goes, more success in reproduction. Thus, the “IQ gene” passed down through generations.

      At the same time, the researchers noted that genetic diseases common to the group, including Tay-Sachs and Gaucher’s, result from increased levels of a chemical that also promotes neuronal growth. After assessing the genetic clustering of mutant genes and correlating these with IQ scores, the researchers contend that the genetic diseases are linked to a propensity for greater intelligence. The survival edge conferred by higher IQs in the group makes up for individual penalties from the diseases.

      Most scientists insist that cultural factors play critical roles in the development of a person’s intelligence. But Cochran is convinced that across generations, a person’s environment is insignificant compared with strong biological factors. “As genetics marches on, there are a lot of things people think are cultural, and they’re turning out not to be,” he says.

    26. Jerry says:

      Yamit, ShyGuy,

      Most epigenetic work seems to focus on production of disease. For example, identical twins are more likely to suffer from schizophrenia, given that one member of the dyad is schizophrenic; less true to fraternal twins if one is so afflicted. Thus, schizophrenia has a genetic basis. However, though both identical twins have identical genetics, even if one twin develops schizophrenia the other twin may not do so. Therefore, there are environmental factors that determine if the trait of schizophrenia will be expressed.

      As with disease, positive traits like intelligence may also be expressed in future generations, but I cannot locate the epigenetic studies bearing on this presumption. We know that children who have had their hearts broken (emotionally – by abandonment, for example) turn out differently – more disease prone than children who have not been so visited with adversity. By deduction, a benign childhood produces a better outcome. That is well established.

      I will try a bit longer to find more directly relevant studies.


    27. Jerry says:

      Yamit, ShyGuy,

      A relevant study to exposure to Talmud:

    28. John Michael Klein says:

      I have just done a Google search on this topic. EVERY hit that came up had exactly the same text as being shown above. This really does suggest a practical joke by someone. I think we ought to be a bit sceptical about this as it does seem highly unlikely that the entire Korean school system is required to study something as complex and esoteric as the Talmud. I don’t know how to verify my claim, but I really think someone needs to check a reliable source.

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