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In literal realization of an ancient Talmudic pun, our students have become our builders.

I've found this sentence here. I can't understand what the author wanted to express by writing it.

I know the meaning of each separate word, but I don't know the underlying (maybe culture-related) meaning of an "Talmudic pun". I also wonder what does realising it "literally" mean.

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A little more context:

We have seen our students take the ideas and programs in this book and build them in as the core of new computer systems and languages. In literal realization of an ancient Talmudic pun, our students have become our builders.

The authors are referring to a passage from the Talmud, an ancient compilation of rabbbinical commentary on Jewish scripture and law:

Rabbi Elazar said Rabbi Hanina said: Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as it is said: 'And all your children [banayich] shall be taught of Adonai, and great shall be the peace of your children.' (Isa. 54:13) Do not read your children [banayich], but your builders [bonayich]." —Talmud Brakhot 64a, quoted here

Rabbi Elazar employed a "pun" [bonayich/banayich—vowels were not represented in the orthography of Biblical Hebrew] to lend Biblical authority to the notion that students of Torah are builders. The authors say that their students ("scholars") have made this Talmudic play on words a literal reality by becoming actual builders of systems and languages.

  • Please clarify: did Elazar use points to contrast two readings of the unpointed word? Or maybe insert ו between בנ ? – Anton Sherwood Jul 3 '16 at 6:44
  • @AntonSherwood Alas, I'm not a Talmudic scholar and cannot answer this. Try Mi Yodeya. – StoneyB on hiatus Jul 3 '16 at 12:32
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A pun is using a word or phrase which can have different meanings

When I was born they threw away the mold, well some of it grew back.

is a pun on "mold" being both a form from which things are made and the green furry stuff that grows on spoilt food.

A

Talmudic pun

is a pun on or in the Talmud (Judaic doctrine).

The Talmudic pun the author is referring to is here:

The Talmud in Tractate Berachot famously takes the word banayich, your children, and interprets it as bonayich, your builders, indicating that students of Torah build and preserve the Jewish people through their study.

It has been interpreted to mean that

our children become our builders
our children are our future

The author of your passage has paraphrased it to be

our students have become our builders

Both sayings point to the fact that the next generation is the future.

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