Introduction and Guest Book.
Visitors: This was my first post. If you do not feel like commenting elsewhere on a specific post, would you be so kind as to jot a note in my virtual "guest book"? Just post a comment or (anonymous) greeting to this page. Thanks!
Let us try a Daf Yomi commendiary. A running commentary on the daf yomi. Daf yomi is the "daily page" of the Babylonian Talmud read by many Jews in synch with a 7+ year cycle. This reading is a "spiritual exercise" and, for some of us, the reading may veer off-schedule and out-of-synch. In this commendiary, let's bring the textual into the material.
Why Quicksilver? Quicksilver is a living marvel, a mythic protagonist but also an antagonist, a pollutant when "out of place". (M. Douglas) Has it healing properties? Good as gold, or at least as silver. But quicksilver may be more susceptible to impurities like any liquid. It is hydrargyrum, silver water, silverfish. D/b/a mercury, Mercurial, toxic speech, poison. Do not incinerate: flesh and organs are vulnerable to trace amounts of quicksilver, Hg. So always again we ought to divine and interpret the traces, as when quicksilver slips through our flesh and texts, and we have to chase after both the Mercury and the Hermes.
Reading Talmud between the Greek and the Roman, the philosophical and the material, between their Hermes and Mercurius. Yes, it’s an endless hermeneutical Job to fall into both the textual and the toxical depths. A hermercurial critique.
Hermes, a wing-footed, mad-hatted herald, a cunning and clever sort, who also happens to be the god of Commerce and of Science. Yes, and he’s leading us all the way down to Hades. Thus the Greeks.
Mercury, god of merchandising. The sages do know Mercurius, the Roman God of wayfarers, merchants, commerce, mercantilism, free trade zones and Capitalism. The sages “apparently considered [Mercurius] almost synonymous with idolatry.” (Per I.G. of EJ) When the sages fulminate about Mercury, might their texts3 be tackling bigger targets?
- Mercurial commerce invites lex talionis: “He that throws a stone at a Mercurius is to be stoned, because this is how it is worshipped.” (mSanh 7:6)
- Does mercurial capitalism originate in a trinitarianism, like the trilithon (3 stones erected for Mercurius). (Cp. the genealogy of morals .)
- Mercurial commerce also threatens to subvert a pedagogy of the oppressed. Do not teach the wicked. “As one who throws a stone at Mercurius is guilty of idolatry, so one who teaches a wicked pupil is guilty of idolatry.” (tAZ 6:18) Just as in commerce one ought not make stone and silver the ideal/idol, so in education one ought not fashion the material without the moral.
Reading the Talmud between Scylla and Charybdis, between a rock and a hard place. If the rock is the material world, stones flung at the god of commerce, then the whirlpool Charybdis may be found in the sea of Talmud, in the quicksand4 of prior claims and stories. So let’s be slipping into the quicksand, let its traces be slipping through our fingers, grab a handful of quicksilver and “come all the way in… the bottom knows the current better than your feet can.” (~ M. Piercy)
1 Commendiary and hermecurial as amalgams, parshat behukotai.
2 Kaspit’s grandfather worked as a peddler along the coast. Remember Hats for Sale? But the money (= kesef = silver) kept slipping through his fingers.
3 The sages on Mercurius: bBer 57b, tBer 7:2, Sifra Behar 9:5, mSanh 7:6, mAZ 4:1, tAZ 6:18, yAZ 4:1 43d. Source: Encylopedia Judaica
4 The worst case scenario calendar: how to escape from quicksand. Or you can turn the page.