12 June 2006

A Lil' About Academic Talmud (Seriously, Not A Lot)

One of the first year's classes this year was a class I would like to have called our תורה לשמה (Torah for its own sake) class, but was officially entitled Academic Talmud. I think the purpose of it was to expose some of the students to more of an "academic methodology" towards Talmud. While there might have been one or two students who weren't really into it, I found it to be stuff of which I was largely aware (especially having taken Elman this semester). As per the "academic methodology" (or, at least, one of them), I have largely adopted it, so it wasn't hard to apply to the paper for the class. The paper was supposed to be an analysis of a particular סוגיא (Talmudical pericope). I chose the bit about hand-washing on Shabbas 108b-109a, mainly because I was interested in it, but also because I had already looked into the manuscripts of it, so I had some of my homework already done. For the posting of my paper, I've decided to add in hyperlinks, which may aid the reader in checking things out.
I figured I might quote a paragraph of my paper here to give a taste of the paper in case some people couldn't be bothered to go to the link. Although one can find my take on the subject mainly from the post from November, I focused a little more on what I called in my paper the "Free Person Beraita (FPB)" - the beraisa where Rabbi Natan (or in some MSS, Rabbi Yose) speaks:
Moving on to the next section, the FPB, is the least clear of the statements found within our סוגיא. The question which strikes one is firstly who is this free woman? Secondly, why the switch in gender? Thirdly, who would be the man to whom this statement is obliquely referring? My contention is that it is quite simple, considering what preceded it: a free, married woman is very careful to have her husband clean his hands thrice before he engages in any activities upon his return from his day’s work, whether it be to touch his food, or anything else. Otherwise, the lack of cleanliness would be disgusting to her. One remaining question is why was this statement brought into the סוגיא? In addition to being the least clear of the statements, it is also seemingly the least connected with ocular hygiene and is only connected by the reference to the washing of hands. Did the arranger of this סוגיא have in mind that FPB was discussing washing in the evening just like SOS and TNHB1 or was it about some other washing?
Anyways, so that's that.
In related news, there's been a little flurry about academic study of Talmud, originating with Gil's posting about Rabbi Schacter's unhappy comments regarding the subject, followed by Steven's reflection post at the Canonist, and, finally, for now, Josh posts about R' Aharon's Lichtenstein's take on the subject. Also, someone mentioned to me at the graduation on Sunday that a comment of mine on the comments string on the original posting had many people saying nasty things (which makes sense that when I checked the comments after shabbas they had been deleted after some apparent nastiness - I had been left wondering what happened until this person mentioned it to me). For now, that's all on this topic, but there will be more posts about this topic.
Tags: , , , , , ,


Tzvee Zahavy said...

1. I don't understand why you co not cite other academic treatments of the passage in your paper, e.g. Neusner.

2. If you want to read the comments Gil "deleted" they are here: http://www.haloscan.com/comments/hirhurim/114982539496391508/?a=28562

Drew Kaplan said...

R' Tzvee,
The most honest reason is that I was unaware that Prof. Neusner had dealt with it (is it in his translation of the Bavli?). Aside from that, I already ran over the maximum size alotted for the paper. I really was just thinking of describing the sugya and not really using much other secondary sources.
Wow, how'd you find that link? That's great! I hadn't had the chance to see all of the stuff after my two cents-worth until R' Gil had deleted the stuff. Thanks!

Drew Kaplan said...

Wow, having read that comments thread, I definitely shouldn't've used the word "ignorant".