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The Rabbinic Tradition Introduction to Judaism: Lecture 6 January 28, 2008.

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Presentation on theme: "The Rabbinic Tradition Introduction to Judaism: Lecture 6 January 28, 2008."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Rabbinic Tradition Introduction to Judaism: Lecture 6 January 28, 2008

2 Goals for Today’s Class What is the relationship between Written and Oral Torah? What are the various modes and forms that Oral Torah takes within Rabbinic Judaism? What other models of scripture and interpretation exist within expressions of Judaism?

3 Written and Oral Torah New Expansive Definition of Torah Import:What is the relationship between two interconnected traditions? –Torah = Scripture (written Torah) + Rabbinic Interpretation (oral Torah) –Tension: Oral Torah roots legitimacy in Written Torah and transforms meaning of the Written Torah

4 Types of Rabbinic Tradition Halakhah- legal or ritual practice Aggadah- historical recollection or theological speculation

5 Forms of Rabbinic Tradition- The Mishnah Mishnah (“repeated teachings”) –Halakhic or aggadic material without reference to a biblical verse –Organized into six legal categories Agricultural Laws, Festivals, Women, Holy Things (Sacrifice and Temple), Ritual Purity Redacted around 200 CE

6 Forms of Rabbinic Tradition- The Talmud Halakhic and aggadic commentary on the Mishnah –Follows order of the Mishnah –Babylonian and Palestinian (mostly halakhic Compiled c. 400 CE and c. 500

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8 Forms of Rabbinic Tradition- The Midrash Halakhic or aggadic traditions transmitted as an explanation of Biblical verse Organized by book of the Bible Multiple compilations

9 Mishnah Avot (p ) Why start with Moses and Sinai? What does “make a hedge around the Torah” mean? What do you notice about the style of writing?

10 Palestinian Talmud (p. 19) How do the rabbis understand the relationship between Written and Oral Torah? Which is more authoritative and why?

11 Hermeneutic Toolbox What are goals for Rabbinic Interpreters? Read with or against the plain meaning Based on Interpretive principles –Inferences based on similar content and analogy –Superfluous words have meaning Bound to a text with wide room for interpreting its meaning

12 Bible on Compensation –“When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman’s husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine. If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” (Exodus 21:22) –Financial or physical Compensation?

13 Mishnah on Compensation How does Mishnah Bava Kamma (p. 15) read Exodus verse? Does it change the meaning? If so,how? Why read against the grain? Does the Mishnah justify its interpretation?

14 Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael (p.16) Midrashic compilation on Book of Exodus How does Midrash justify reading financial and not physical compensation? Note the argumentative style

15 Leviticus Proof Text “If anyone maims his fellow, as he has done so shall it be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The injury he inflicted on another shall be inflicted on him. One who kills a beast shall make restitution for it; but one who kills a human being shall be put to death.” (Leviticus 24:19-21)

16 Rereading Creation Bereshit Rabbah-Midrashic commentary on Genesis (p.18) How does this story relate to Genesis narrative? What does it add to the event? How do the Rabbis “prove” their reading?

17 Rabbinic Domination and Antirabbinic Forms of Judaism Rabbinic Judaism Slow to Dominance –10th Century –Continuously Evolving-Transformations Antirabbinic Forms of Judaism –Medieval and Modern –Still Rooted in Written and Oral Torah

18 Karaites Karaism- “Scripturalism” Baghdad, 8th Century Anan b. David, Talmudic Scholar –What do you think bothered him? –How did he perceive the “Oral Torah”? What did they practice? Rejection of “Oral Torah” or Rabbis?

19 Kabbalah Rabbinic movement (12th Cent onward) Hidden tradition of scriptural interpretation

20 Kabbalah and Scripture Scripture is like a Walnut –Literal Content is Outer Shell –Secret truth hidden within Goal: Go through layers of meaning to find kernal –Example: Divine Emanations –Dangerous Work (Four who enter Garden)

21 Kabbalah and Interpretation Written and Oral Torah and later readers part of on- going process of revelation –Trumpeter analogy in “Sacred Service” –Interpreter has access to divine truth Diminishes Authority of Written Torah –Interpretation has as authority of revelation –Infinite possibilities for tradition Why Madonna/Esther has it wrong! –Confined by Jewish law, but still dangerous!

22 Modern Challenges to Scripture and Tradition Biblical Criticism Critique of Rabbinic Tradition Loss of Interpretive Community –“I” as authority –Secular Knowledge as authority Stagnation of Oral Law among traditional communities –Literal reading vs. fluid interpretation


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