11 January 2006

Experiencing Some Frustration With The Stam(maim)


Today, while going over the רשב"ם (Rashbam) and the תוספות (Tosafot) on Pesahim 101b & 102a, I began to not only get a better sense of the סוגיא (pericope) in the Talmud, but I also saw how those Rishonim saw what was going on in the Talmud. Both of the aforementioned were trying to deal with not only different גרסאות (manuscript versions of the text), but also what an important term meant (in this case it was דברים שטעונים ברכה לאחריהם במקומן), both of which affect the understanding of determining Jewish practice - in this case, how we deal with saying blessings over food when changing places (oh, yeah, and another thing - the gemarra interchanges freely the ideas of changing one's place of eating with leaving one's place of eating and returning, which is ever so frustrating, as it seems that these are two separate concepts (from the Tannaim, and perhaps early Amoraim), which the בעלי התלמוד (editors of the Talmud) conflate(!)).
When looking at the two aforementioned rishonim, I became increasingly frustrated with the specific way that the gemarra dealt with the earlier texts by retrojecting concepts that appeared after the texts with which they were dealing.
However, after expressing my frustration with my rebbe, Rabbi Katz, he then said to me that, yes, indeed, it can be quite frustrating, but it can also be quite exciting. At this point in the day/night, I have forgotten exactly how that can be exciting/frustrating with how the stam(maim) with the earlier texts, and how the rishonim deal with all of that.
Okay, I need to go to bed now - I'm tired. לילה טוב.
(Oh yeah, BTW, the stam(maim) is(/are) represented in the pictures by the purple and 'peach' highlighting, while the blue-green highlighting represents the tannaitic texts (although on top of 101b, the way it scanned, it mixes some of my blue highlighting (amoraic) with that of my green highlighting (tannaitic), which comes out weird in these scannings).)

13 comments:

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Anonymous said...

And you claim not to be a Revadim-nic... *rolls eyes*

Drew_Kaplan said...

Anonymous,
I'm not sure what you mean. Could you please explain? (Yes, I know that revadim means layers, but I'm not sure when I ever claimed not to appreciate the layering of the gemarra (see parts two and three of my 'Drew & Talmud' series).)

Anonymous said...

http://www.yeshiva.org.il/midrash/shiur.asp?id=1565

"Concerning the "Revadim" Approach"

Drew_Kaplan said...

Anonymous,
Thanks for that link, I appreciated seeing how the anti-layering approach views this method of study.
In response to the material found on the link, I have the following in response:
Don't we say "accept truth from wherever it originates"? It sounds kind of post-modern, actually. I think it's foolish to categorically declare off-limits studies just because "the line of demarcation between the holy and the mundane has not been made adequately clear". Moreover, whatever one's methods are, it can still be "obtained in sanctity and purity through the faithful transmitters of Torah from generation to generation". In fact, one doesn't even need the "Revadim" method to view the teachings of the Talmud without "sanctity and purity". Something also missing from the argument there is that the layering approach to gemarra study may have originated in the University, but it does not mean that it cannot be used in the Yeshiva, such that it's methods must only be used there. Moreover, one can still revere the Talmudic sages (Hazal) through the layering method.
It is simply not true that "in our own age, only leading Torah scholars are capable of converting that which is possible from without, in order to make a home for it within", there are other Torah scholars, not just the "leading" ones that are capable of doing so.
It is a cutesy derash to say that "The Torah is one inclusive and indivisible whole which reveals itself to us one detail at a time", but how that excludes the layering approach is madd sketch - it could be the opposite, such that the layering approach also enables this.
It's true that "when there is a sizable gap between eras, those belonging to the later one do not permit themselves to contradict the earlier", though that's not due to a "decline in generations", but rather because of recognized authority of tradition, otherwise we would be destroying our tradition, has veshalom.
Um, "greater the decline, the more a need is felt for expanding upon things" - um, yeah.... except that there is no decline, sorry.
If he suggests that "we resemble dwarfs on the shoulders of the Torah giants who came before us", though we may be dwarfs, we can still see further than those giants below us, which is fine if he wants to take that route....
Yes, "we find the Vilna Gaon explaining the Mishnah in a manner not recorded in the Talmud", though this is not the only area of his Torah scholarship that he offers changes - he often emended changes in versions of texts without any manuscript evidence, etc. He was one of the more original thinkers in Jewish tradition.
"Any other approach to study is a sure recipe for Torah ignorance" - whoa, holla back, shorty! Talk about clapping back! That sounds like polemical talk!
I have yet to find that "According to the Revadim approach, the 'Me' in the study is what is important, not an openness and willingness to accept what is being related", quite the contrary, I have certainly not found a self-centeredness in dealing with these texts. In fact, I would say quite the opposite!
As to this approach, that "turns the student into an independent exegete of the Bible or the Mishnah", I think that the student is transformed to better view how the Sages viewed these texts - not seeing it as a self-centeredness, but rather, the opposite - to see how the Sages viewed them, rather than it being "an educational, cultural, and intellectual recipe likely to cause the destruction of Torah tradition." I don't find that there is a "disregarding the importance of hearing the word of God" via this method.
What was interesting about the author's approach is that he views the Torah as being some sort of objective thing that is "out there" that we do not have in its entirety - that we have to still unravel it to further get to discovering more of it. While I do find that approach, well, "interesting" (and those are some big bunny ears), our Sages have already told us that "The Torah is not in Heaven", that it is in our hands. Not for us to play with it at will or whim, but, rather, within a systematic framework.

Anonymous said...

"Um, 'greater the decline, the more a need is felt for expanding upon things' - um, yeah.... except that there is no decline, sorry."

Now you're disputing the concept of hiskatnu hadoros?!

Anonymous said...

"Not for us to play with it at will or whim, but, rather, within a systematic framework."

The irony of this statement concluding a positive asessment of revadim is simply stunning.

Drew_Kaplan said...

"you're disputing the concept of hiskatnu hadoros"
-yeah - I'm not the only one, though, for some reason, I think I may recall the Rambam as opining the same. Nevertheless, this is not a fundamental piece of Jewish faith - I don't recall it being in the Talmud, not that I've yet to go through Shas entirely (yet).
"The irony of this statement concluding a positive asessment of revadim is simply stunning"
-You'll have to explain how so, as the system to which I'm referring is the halakhic framework, whereas the approach which appreciates the layering still recognizes that framework, but is simply a different method of approaching the text - albeit not looking at the texts ahistorically, but rather appreciating the development of halakhah, Jewish practice, as well as to see the thought processes taking place.

Anonymous said...

No concept of hiskatnu hadoros?? I'd encourage you to see Shabbos 112b in terms of a textual source. beyond that, the logic is clear -- each subsequent generation is one generation further removed from Sinai; G-d's revelation certainly doesn't get clearer with the passage of time than it was at Sinai.

Drew_Kaplan said...

Well, Anonymous, I found where I was referencing:
Check out Menachem Keller's book on Maimonides not believing in the concept of the decline of generations. I think I'm in good company when I'm with the Rambam.

Anonymous said...

What is the source of the term Stammaim? I ahve long-studied Talmud and never heard of this in any context that I deemed kosher.

Anonymous said...

A little Yahoo search shows that the apikores HaLivni is the source of the term Stammaim.

Drew_Kaplan said...

Anonymous,
While the term stammaim (lit., the plain ones) may be a recent invention, the term stam or stamma degemarra can actually be found earlier (I believe in the rishonim, actually). If I happen to be wrong, I have seen Tos' use the term the gemarra, which is a reference to the stam.
As to Rabbi Professor HaLivni-Weiss, he is not, however, an apikoros.