A dilemma was raised before the Sages: Whose approach is preferable—Rabbi Zeira’s or Rabbah bar Rav Mattana’s? Rabbi Zeira is sharp and raises questions, Rabba bar Rav Mattana is balanced and offers solutions. What was the Sages’ conclusion? Teiku! The dilemma shall stand unresolved.
In Talmudic Aramaic, teiku means, simply, “let it stand.” It is the word the Sages used to indicate an unresolved question or point of debate. Some also suggest that the word is an acronym for the phrase, “Tishbi (or Elijah the prophet) will resolve all difficulties and questions.” That is, Elijah—who, according to tradition, will return to announce the Moshiach—is the only one who can adjudicate the issue.
Teiku signals humility in the midst of dispute—inviting us to zoom out, to acknowledge the limitations of our perspectives, and to hold space for opposing viewpoints. Teiku also reminds us that sometimes we need to let certain questions stand unanswered—at least for the time being. It is this openness to intellectual uncertainty and exegetical polyphony that offers us the space to respectfully disagree and collaboratively imagine a more expansive resolution.
It is in this spirit that we decided to name this column Teiku—a space for bold and creative explorations of Jewish texts and practices.
Teiku is curated by Ayin contributing editor, rabbi, and scholar Shaul Magid.