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1 Even those who professed to support some version of “Torah u-madda,” did not generally extend the definition of madda to include the humanities. See Aharon Lichtenstein, “Torah and General Culture: Confluence and Conflict,” Judaism’s Encounter With Other Cultures: Rejection or Integration?, Ed. J. J. Schacter (New Jersey: Jason Aronson, 1997): 242–47.
2 See Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory (Seatlle: University of Washington Press, 1982).
3 Maimonides, Commentary to Sanhedrin 10:1. Translation from Fred Rosner, Maimonides’ Commentary on the Mishnah, Tractate Sanhedrin (New York: Sepher-Hermon Press, 1981), 150.
Maimonides, “Introduction to Perush HaMishnah,”Mishnah im Perush Rabenu Moshe ben Maimon: Mekor V’Targum, ed. Yosef Kapah, vol. 1 (Jerusalem: Mosad HaRav Kook, 1963), 49. Translation mine.
4 See Yerushalmi, Chapter 4: “Modern Dilemmas.”
5 Within the haredi community, Rabbi Berel Wein and the Artscroll Press’ popular history texts have actually been mobilized in the interests of tradtion.
6 See Jon Bloomberg, “The Study of Jewish History in the Jewish Day School,” Ten Da’at 6/1(Spring 1992), 31–32, who states, in closing, that the Jewish history curriculum is designed “to enrich and enhance the Jewish educational experience of the day school student.” In his doctoral dissertation on the teaching of Jewish history in yeshiva high schools, David Bernstein does note that individual history teachers included among their educational objectives the honing of skills which would carry into other limmudei kodesh classes (namely Talmud); however, this was portrayed as a questionable motive in that it seemed to devalue the study of history for its own sake. See, for example, David I. Bernstein, “Two Approaches to the Teaching of Jewish History in Orthodox Yeshiva High Schools,” PhD. diss. (New York University, 1986), 143. It may be noted that the discussion focused on the use of Talmudic sources and skills in the study of history and not vice versa. At the time of Bernstein’s study, the Yeshiva University High School for Girls did incorporate Jewish history into their ninth and tenth grade “Prophets” curriculum (although the extent of implementation was, as always, dependent on individual teachers); however, the apparent result was the absence of historical methodology from the history course, not the integration of historical methodology into the Bible course. See “Two Approaches,” 112–113.
7 This field of study, often called “history of halakhah,” has been developed in recent years by Professors Yaakov Katz and Haym Soloveitchik, among others. Some historians have argued that throughout the Middle Ages, when Jewish historiography was all but non-existent, the major genre of Jewish historical writing was, in fact, the history of halakhah. See Amos Funkenstein, Perceptions of Jewish History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 10–11 and 16–17, who distinguishes between traditional historiography and historical consciousness, arguing that “though historiography hardly existed in the traditional Jewish literature . . . a modicum of historical awareness existed nonetheless elsewhere—namely in the domain of legal reasoning . . . In the realm of halakha, every ‘event’ was worthy of preserving.” Robert Chazan has suggested that in the absence of papacy and fixed religious hierarchies, halakhah was one of the few institutional “pegs” on which Jews could hang their histories. Robert Chazan, “Medieval Jews and Their Historical Writings: Timebound and Timeless Objectives,” New York University Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program, lecture, New York City, 23 February 2000.
8 Shalom Carmy, “Camino Real and Modern Talmud Study,” Modern Scholarship in the Study of Torah: Contributions and Limitations (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson Inc., 1996), 191.
9 See, for example, Menahem Kahane, “Talmud Research in the University and Traditional Learning in the Yeshivah” [Hebrew], B’Hevlei Masoret U’Temurah, ed. Menahem Kahane (Rehovot, Israel: Kivunim, 1990), 113–42; several articles in Shalom Carmy, ed., Modern Scholarship in the Study of Torah: Contributions and Limitations (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson Inc., 1996); and Chaim Navon, “Yeshiva Learning and Academic Talmud Research” [Hebrew], Akdamot 8 (December 1999), 125–143 and the responses by Michael Abraham, Yehudah Brandes, and Ephraim Oren that his article prompted in Akdamot 9.
10 For example, the yom iyyun sponsored by Yeshivat HaKibbutz HaDati, Ma’aleh Gilboa, “Kolot Hadashim V’Yeshanim B’Beit HaMidrash,” Jerusalem, March 29 2001 (5 Nissan 5761).
11 E. S. Rosenthal, “HaMoreh” [Hebrew], Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research 31 (1963): 15. Translation mine. For an explanation of how these tools are applied to the text and what each contributes to the scholarly endeavor, see Kahane, 116–20.
12 Benzion Dinur, “Wissenschaft des Judenthums,” Encyclopaedia Judaica 16 (Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House, 1972), 578–79: “All the factions in the polemics on religious reforms sought to find support in historical research: either to prove that non-organic and “incidental” strata had been added to the basic structure of Judaism according to time and place, and these should be rejected; or out of a desire to preserve the integrity of historical Judaism and its continuity while accepting the principle of evolution within it and historical change as a fact; or by explaining by means of historical research the changes within the framework of Judaism which was itself stable and immutable.”
13 Ibid., 574.
14 Zekhariah Frankel, “On the Reforms to Judaism,” Zacharias Frankel and the Beginnings of Positive-Historical Judaism [Hebrew], ed. Rivka Horwitz (Jerusalem: The Zalman Shazar Center, 1984), 64. Translation mine.
15 Tsvi Binyamin Auerbach, Ha-Tsofeh al Darkhei Ha-Mishnah [Hebrew], Frankfurt am-Main, 5621. Auerbach’s third objection related to the practical ramifications that such an approach would have on pesak halakhah and on the form of halakhic observance, an important issue which, as noted earlier, cannot be treated in the context of this paper.
16 Zekhariah Frankel, “A Defense of the Book Darkei Ha-Mishnah,” in Rivka Horwitz, Zacharias Frankel and the Beginnings of Positive-Historical Judaism [Hebrew] (Jerusalem: The Zalman Shazar Center, 1984), 126–27.
17 Zekhariah Frankel, “The Debate Over the Hebrew Language at the Second Rabbinical Council,” in Rivka Horwitz, Zacharias Frankel and the Beginnings of Positive-Historical Judaism [Hebrew] (Jerusalem: The Zalman Shazar Center, 1984), 102.
18 S. R. Hirsch, “On Dr. Frankel’s Statement,” Samson Raphael Hirsch, The Collected Writings, Vol. 5: Origin of the Oral Law (New York: Philip Feldheim, Inc., 1988): 309.
19 Azriel Hildesheimer, “Rabbi Azriel Hildesheimer z”l on Rabbi Zekhariah Frankel z”l and the Rabbinical Seminary in Breslau” [Hebrew], Ha-Maayan (5713), 68. Translation mine.
20 Hildesheimer, “Rabbi Azriel Hildesheimer,” 66.
21 Hildesheimer, “Rabbi Azriel Hildesheimer,” 72.
22 G. Fischer, “To all Friends of Truth and of Our Jewish Future,” Samson Raphael Hirsch, The Collected Writings, Vol. 5: Origin of the Oral Law (New York: Philip Feldheim, Inc., 1988): 226. This contention is similar to Auerbach’s second critique, that an historical approach would undermine the authority of the halakhah and make it easier for laymen to dispense with individual halakhot but distinct from Auerbach’s third critique which addresses the role of manuscript variants and historical fact in official halakhic decision-making.
23 Hildesheimer, “Rabbi Azriel Hildesheimer,” 73.
24 Frankel, “The Debate Over the Hebrew Language,” 102.
25 Hirsch, “On Dr. Frankel’s Statement,” 312.
26 Hirsch, “On Dr. Frankel’s Statement,” 312.
27 Samson Raphael Hirsch, Judaism Eternal: Selected Essays from the Writings of Samson Raphael Hirsch, vol. 2, translated by I. Grunfeld (London: The Soncino Press, 1956), 289.
28 See Mordecai Breuer, “Three Orthodox Approaches to Wissenschaft” [Hebrew], Jubilee Volume in Honor of Moreinu Hagaon Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, ed. Shaul Israeli, Norman Lamm, and Yitzchak Raphael, vol. 2 (Jerusalem: Mosad HaRav Kook, 1984), 856. Shnayer Leiman suggests that Hirsch’s view of derekh erets was, in fact, broader than Hildesheimers’, despite the former’s opposition to Wissenschaft. See Shnayer Z. Leiman, “Rabbinic Openness to General Culture in the Early Modern Period,” Judaism’s Encounter With Other Cultures: Rejection or Integration? Ed. J. J. Schacter (New Jersey: Jason Aronson, 1997), 209.
29 Hirsch, Judaism Eternal, 285–89.
30 Ibid., 283.
31 R. Gottlieb Fischer, “An Epistle To all Friends of Truth and of Our Jewish Future,” 213.
32 “Rede zur Eröffnung des Rabbiner-Seminars,” as quoted in Marc B. Shapiro, “Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer’s Program of Torah u-Madda,” The Torah U-Madda Journal 9 (2000): 76–86.
33 In the opening paragraph of his scholarly work on the oral tradition, in which he traced the different stages in the formulation of the Mishnah, Hildesheimer’s student and successor David Tsvi Hoffmann did not fail to assert the unity of Written and Oral Torahs: “If we then speak of a Written Law (Torah shebikhtav) and an Oral Law (Torah shebealpeh), we mean by this one-and-the-same Divine Law which has been taken in part from God’s word as fixed in writing, and in part from the oral instruction of the teachers of the tradition.” See R. David Z. Hoffmann, The First Mishna and the Controversies of the Tannaim, Translated by Paul Forchheimer (New York: Maurosho Publications, 1977), 1.
37 Cited in Marc B. Shapiro, “Rabbi David Zevi Hoffmann on Torah and Wissenschaft,” The Torah U-Madda Journal 6 (1995–96), 132.
38 This question is the subject of Halivni’s yet-to-be-published book on Torah She-beal Peh, Revelation Reclaimed. I am grateful to Professor Halivni for discussing this issue with me and sharing some of his thoughts and theories.
39 David Weiss Halivni, “The Early Period of Halakhic Midrash,” Tradition 22/1 (Spring 1986) 37–58.
40 David Weiss Halivni, “Communications,” Tradition 22/3 (Fall 1986) 93–94.
41 This insistence on the part of the Hildesheimer camp was best expressed by Hoffman, as quoted above: “The revealed truth cannot be in contradiction to the truths which have been researched by means of the human spirit, assuming these latter truths are truths of reality and not just hunches and suppositions. Rather the former [revealed truth] will be supported by the latter [discovered truth], and lead to full clarity and complete understanding.” Shapiro, “Rabbi David Zevi Hoffmann,” 132.
42 See the “Thirteen Principles of Faith” traditionally recited after the morning prayers, which are based upon Maimonides’ Commentary to the Mishnah. The eighth principle states, “I believe with complete faith that the entire Torah now in our hands is the same one that was given to Moses, our teacher, peace be upon him.” Translation according to the Complete Artscroll Siddur, New York: Mesorah Publications, Ltd., 1984.
43 Even if we would not go so far as to teach that the Shulhan Arukh was written b’ruah hakodesh, teaching that the Shulkhan Arukh became a canonical text through historical coincidence challenges the belief that God has a role in history
44 This position has been expressed cogently in the publication Tsohar, in the exchange between Dror Fiksler (“Harkhakot Between Husband and Wife During the Time of Niddut” [Hebrew], Tsohar (Winter 5760): 21–35)and his respondents Rabbi Shlomo Levy (“Not Humrot But Basic Halakhic Definitions” [Hebrew], Tsohar (Summer 5760)) and Rabbi Hanokh Gamliel (“An Erroneous Presentation of Commitment to Halakhah and of the Dignity of Woman” [Hebrew], Tsohar (Winter 5761)) regarding the regulations of separation (harhakot) between husband and wife during the wife’s niddah period. FiksleR.s original article outlined the development of harhakot practices and the accompanying halakhic discourse in chronological sequence, demonstrating the increasing stringency adopted by succeeding generations of scholars. Both R. Levy and R. Gamliel objected to the structure of FiksleR.s presentation because of its unstated claim that the gemara is more halakhically binding than the Rishonim or Aharonim, an approach that is reminiscent of Karraism or Reform and “is likely to mislead the reader into thinking that this has practical ramifications (nafka mina).” (Translation mine). In this respect, contemporary kitsurim, halakhic compendiums, follow the example set by the RaMBaM and the Shulkhan Arukhin presenting halakhic p’sak as uniform.
45 Zvi A. Yehuda, “Hazon Ish on Textual Criticism and Halakhah,” Tradition 18/2 (Summer 1980): 178.
46 As Rabbi Moshe Lichtenstein quipped, there can be a Rosh Yeshivah who is learned in Sha”S but not conversant in Mekhilta; however, there cannot be a Rosh Yeshivah who is an expert in Mekhilta but uneducated in Sha”S.
47 Part of the spirit of Talmud Torah is to continue learning in the manner of previous generations.
48 Shalom Carmy, “R. Yehiel Weinberg’s Lecture on Academic Jewish Scholarship,” Tradition 24/2 (Summer 1989): 20. R. Weinberg did not oppose the utilization of academic methodologies, and, in fact, evidence of his own use of these tools can be found in several of his responsa: what he opposed was the supplanting of traditional Torah learning with a purely academic approach.
49 MoshehLichtenstein, “‘What’ Hath Brisk Wrought: The Brisker Derekh Revisited,” The Torah U-Madda Journal 9 (2000), 9.
50 Lichtenstein, “‘What’ Hath Brisk Wrought,” 10.
51 See Chaim Navon, “A Response to my Critics” [Hebrew], Akdamot 9 (July 2000), 199.
52 See Ephraim Oren, “Erudition, or Hollow Hair-Splitting? A Response to Chaim Navon” [Hebrew], Akdamot 9 (July 2000): 192. Perhaps this hashkafa is not so far from the Brisker metaphysic considered previously?
53 Ibid. Oren argues that it is not surprising, given this conflict, that benei yeshivah are seldom called upon by the community to deliberate “real-life” dilemmas. The perception abounds that lamdanim are attuned to legal considerations only and are not sensitive to practical circumstances.
54 Credit for this example goes to Rabbi Meir Lichtenstein, whose weekly Talmud shiur I have been attending through the Hevruta learning program for students of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The “historical” aspect of his derekh limmud does not focus so much on manuscript variants (although he does occasionally cite them) as on close analysis of the text of the gemara to determine its point of departure from the peshat of the Mishnah and other tannaitic sourse and on examining the Rishonim in terms of geographical and didactical spheres of influence
55 One of the arguments advanced by the “traditionalists” is that an historical model, and specifically one which is concerned with authorial intent and “authentic” rendering of original texts, places too much emphasis on the humanity of the halakhic system and thus inherently undermines its divinely-inspired nature. In fact, the same charge could be leveled at the “traditionalists” themselves. By denying the value of scientific tools such as manuscript study, they are not only denying history as a relevant element in the halakhic process, but they are also unconsciously insisting on the preservation of human error that has crept into the tradition and denying the relevance of truth to halakhah. In summarizing the Hazon Ish’s position on manuscript variants and their role in the halakhic world (which is perhaps the most extreme expression of the anti-academic stance), his student Rabbi Zvi A. Yehuda wrote: “This halakhic approach is antithetic to the scientific. It does not seek theoretical veracity of facts, but it provides for the coherence, integrity, sanity, applicability, durability, potency, and, above all, humanity of halakhah. Halakhah is rooted in human nature. It is humanly impossible to copy precisely, generation after generation, a nonexistent original, without any mistakes or slight changes. . . . Halakhah requires, thus, that we carefully copy only the prevalent, available, and approved text of the day, not an old and lost one. . . . Torah is not in heaven. Torah is within the reach of our human, natural resources and efforts. It is attainable. What is remote and inaccessible, what can be approached only by extraordinary, ultranatural, or metaphysical means is beyond its scope.” See Zvi A. Yehuda, “Hazon Ish on Textual Criticism and Halakhah,” Tradition 18/2 (Summer 1980): 179.
56 In this realm, the historical approach challenges the popular “Brisker” method of conceptual analysis—although one could, indeed, read a Brisker hakirah into a Tosafot or a RaMBaM, the Tosafot and the RaMBaM were not Briskers, and it is doubtful whether the resulting analysis was actually intended.
57 Yaakov Elman, “Progressive Derash and Retrospective Peshat: Nonhalakhic Considerations in Talmud Torah,” Modern Scholarship in the Study of Torah: Contributions and Limitations (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson Inc., 1996), 253. “In this, as in so many other matters, our instincts are more frum than the practice of the Rishonim.”
58 See Lichtenstein, “‘What’ Hath Brisk Wrought,” particularly 3–5, for an analysis of the commonalities between modern scientific thought and the Brisker derekh.
59 Nachman Krochmal (1785–1840), whom many regard as the father of the Modern Orthodox response to Wissenschaft, recognized this shift in the title of his major philosophical work, Moreh Nevukhei Ha-Zeman. For Krochmal, “History connoted the essential and critical challenge to traditional faith. In evoking, for his major philosophical work, the Maimonidean title of a modern ‘Guide for the Perplexed,’ Krochmal underscored the need for a new synthesis—not between Torah and Greek philosophy but between Torah and historical criticism. . . . Krochmal’s synthesis, in short, seeks to include historian and believer within a single model while accepting the integrity of both.” See Steve Bayme, “Tradition or Modernity? A Review Essay,” Judaism 42/1 (Winter 1993): 108.
60 Menahem Kahane, “Talmud Research in the University and Traditional Learning in the Yeshivah” [Hebrew], B’Hevlei Masoret U’Temurah, Ed. Menahem Kahane (Rehovot, Israel: Kivunim, 1990),134. Translation mine.
62 See Sperber, “On the Legitimacy, or Indeed, the Necessity, of Scientific Disciplines for True ‘Learning’ of the Talmud,”; Elman “Progressive Derash”; and Carmy, “Camino Real,” 189–91and 192–93. Carmy emphasizes that the traditional yeshivah world will not typically address these questions, much less provide satisfactory answers: “What are we to do with such questions? All things being equal, the student of Torah has good reason to want to know how the text he is learning attained its canonical form. . . . No room is provided for this interest, however, in the conventional yeshivah curriculum. The yeshivah scholar, following the derekh ha-melekh, the royal road of learning, has little patience for such matters. His eye is fastened on the content of the sugyot, not their form or composition.”
63 Elman, “Progressive Derash,” 278.
64 Elman, “Progressive Derash,” 283.
65 See Carmy, “Camino Real,” 192: “Leaving aside the legitimacy and adequacy of the solutions offered by academic Talmud study, to which we shall return later, the major obstacle to the integration of modern scholarship and the camino real is the time and effort required to encompass a sugya from all angles. By the time the literary-historical aspects are properly covered, one is too overburdened and weary to progress from these preliminary inquiries to the conceptual analysis itself. Under present and foreseeable pedagogical constraints, this would rule out the combination of formal literary analysis and lomdut for the vast majority of students and teachers. Even the sophisticated few, I imagine, are unlikely to engage in such synthesis on a systematic, global scale, rather than on an eclectic basis.”
66 In fact, one opinion in the Talmud suggests that even idolatry is included in this latter category of commandments which do not require martyrdom (under “normal” circumstances), so long as the required violation is carried out in private.
67 Sanhedrin 74a–b.
68 See Shmuel Safrai, “Kiddush ha-Shem in the Thought of the Tannaim,” Tsiyon 44 (1979): 36–38.
69 The historical approach which I have chosen to adopt here has argued by Haym Soloveitchik and others. See, for example, Haym Soloveitchik, “Religious Law and Change: The Medieval Ashkenazic Example,” AJS Review 12/2 (Fall 1987), especially 207–210. A dissenting interpretation has been promoted by Avraham Grossman, who does not believe that the tosafists would have ruled in clear contradiction to established legal norms. He prefers to focus on the unique status of aggadah, legend, among medieval Ashkenazic scholars (the intellectual predecessors of the primarily French tosafists), who often did not distinguish between those passages of the Talmud which were clearly legendary and those which were halakhic, or legal. If one gives legal weight to the legendary accounts, there is, he claims, enough material in the Talmud to support an understanding of kiddush HaShem as active suicide in times of persecution, the way the communities of 1096 chose to do. See A. Grossman, “The Roots of Sanctification of the Name in Early Ashkenaz,” [Hebrew] in The Sanctity of Life and Self-Sacrifice, ed. Y. Gafni and A. Ravitsky (Jerusalem: Merkaz Zalman Shezer L’Toldot Yisrael, 1992), especially 105–09. See also idem, “The Cultural and Social Background of Jewish Martyrdom in Germany in 1096,” in Juden und Christen zur Zeit der Keruzzüge, ed. Alfred Haverkamp (Sigmaringen, Germany: Jan Thorbecke Verlag, 1999), 80–81.
70 Rabbi Hananiah ben Teradyon was killed by the Romans for continuing to teach Torah in defiance of their decree prohibiting this activity; however, although teaching Torah is a positive commandment, one who refrains from carrying out a positive commandment is not considered to be in the same legal category as one who actively transgresses a negative prohibition, such as the ban on idolatry.
71 Haym Soloveitchik attributes such radical reinterpretation to the unique religious mentality of Ashkenaz Jewry in the wake of the Crusades: “What had taken place was that law and logic had led men to an emotionally intolerable conclusion, one which denied their deepest religious intuitions, and so the law was reinterpreted. . . . The Franco-German community was permeated by a profound sense of its own religiosity, of the rightness of its traditions, and could not imagine any sharp difference between its practices and the law which its members studied and observed with such devotion.” Avraham Grossman, on the other hand, argues that the martyrdom ideal embraced by the survivors of the First Crusade was not quite so aberrant, pointing to the martyrological interests of earlier tenth through eleventh century Ashkenazic Jewry. He concedes, however, that prior to 1096, martyrdom was adopted only by individuals and that the communal phenomenon experienced during the First Crusade and idealized by later generations had no precedent in the Middle Ages. See Grossman, “The Roots of Sanctification” and “The Cultural and Social Background,” 73–74.
72 See his “Epistle on Martyrdom” in Abraham Halkin and David Hartman, ed., Epistles of Maimonides: Crisis and Leadership (Philadephia: Jewish Publication Society, 1985), 13–45.
73 See the debate between Haym Soloveitchik, who claims that Iggeret Ha-Shemad is a form of polemic rather than a genuine, halakhic argument and David Hartman, who maintains that the Iggeret is, in fact, a halakhic responsum. Crisis and Leadership: Epistles of Maimonides, Texts Translated and Notes by Abraham Halkin, Discussions by David Hartman (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1985).