happy_puppy.jpgJaffe Reading

Here are the notes to the Jaffe Reading.
Page 54-77 by Anne, p. 78-91 by Laura, p. 216-223 by Lea (yay for group effort!)

Jaffe Reading , p. 54-91
  1. Intro
    1. Rabbinic sages had distinctive understanding of Torah not shared by most ordinary Jews
    2. Rabbis learned by memorization of texts
    3. Rabbis understood and made critical distinction between written Torah and oral Torah
      1. This was new to Judaism
      2. Chapter explains what scripture and tradition meant in ancient Judaism and how the Rabbis made this division
  2. Hebrew Bible as scripture
    1. Many different books composed (not authored) in ancient Judaism
    2. Seen as preserving oral tradition: writers saw themselves as vehicles
    3. Hebrew bible is collection of only 24 of many such books
    4. Until well into 1st century CE most Jews would never have seen all gathered into single place
      1. Christian missionaries first to gather in one volume of Greek translations
    5. Jews knew scripture as separate scrolls, more as a diverse library
    6. For most Jews, scripture was something heard not read, and likely in a communal setting
  3. Scripture, Tradition and Canon
    1. Scripture: writing preserved by a religious community as an authoritative source of teaching, reflection or worship
      1. Understood not to be authored
      2. Originally delivered to communal ancestors as complete
      3. Origins key: texts become scriptures because at some point communities agreed to place them at center of communal life.
    2. Tradition: that which has been handed down from the past for preservation in the present
      1. Tradition sustains writing in the life of community long enough for it to acquire exalted status of scripture
      2. Tradition and scripture are thus intertwined
      3. Scripture can not be amended:
        1. In written form it is fixed
        2. In oral for it is memorized
      4. How to determine correct version of scripture? Canon.
    3. Canon: norm by which a community determines which version of text is authentic
      1. Second meaning: collection of scriptures
      2. canon determination is also a communal process
      3. once canon and scripture are fixed, they must be interpreted to create meaning for succeeding generations
      4. Tradition of Interpretation: transmitting the meaning of scriptures to make relevant
      5. Metaphor for canonization: frozen snapshot of dancer’s leap.
        1. Single perfect moment doesn’t show what came before or what came after
        2. However, knowing whole dance can enhance appreciation: this is task of rest of chapter
  4. Emergence of Scripture in Persian Yehud
    1. Historians disagree when first canonical “snapshot” taken
    2. Contemporary historians see Hebrew bible as scriptural form originating with Jews of Persian Yehud (I think this means Babylonia)
    3. Snapshot taken in early centuries CE probably by rabbinic photographers
  5. Canonical shape of Hebrew Bible
    1. TaNaKh acronym for Torah, Neviim, Ketuvim (Laura: nice layout on p.63) narrates the history of a covenant made between God and Israel
    2. Torah: original covenant made and history of Israelite nation from Abram to death of Moses
    3. Neviim: Joshua – Kings
      1. History of Israel’s life in land chosen by God
      2. Land lost because of Israel’s repeated violations of covenant
      3. Exile is the result
    4. Ketuvim: Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, Psalms, other megillot
      1. Eventual resettlement in land under guidance of priest Ezra and Nehemiah
      2. Return made possible by Israel’s repentance and commitment to comply with covenant
    5. Conclusion: core narrative conceived as canon sometime after the return in 539 BCE of Babylonian exiles since assumption is that story is told by those who already know the end, hence after the return (Laura: this is basically what he said in class)
    6. Some evidence:
      1. Abraham story seen as basic model for “ideal” Jew obedient to God as covenant requires
      2. Returning exiles from Babylonia saw in Abraham’s story of resettlement from Ur into God’s land their own story
      3. Gives credence to idea the shapers of this story were after 539 BCE to tell their own epic tale of resettlement in the tale of Abraham and the patriarchs
      4. Retellers saw their religion as having cosmic significance in the restoration of the Temple after 520
    7. Original story was collection of scrolls referred to as the Torah of Moses
      1. Refers to this “torah of moses” in Ezra-Neh., saying that Ezra read it to assembly of Jews before restored Temple
      2. Helps establish that by 4th century BCE book like present Torah was used as basis of historical thought, religious teaching , civil administration, and sacrificial rite in Jerusalem
      3. Had become the first Judaic scripture
    8. Major theme of Torah: God’s overpowering love for people constantly rebuffed by rebellious desires of humanity
      1. Legends about pre-Israelite history (eg. Adam and Eve story) told to foreshadow later rebellious behavior of Israel with regards to covenant with God
      2. Israel’s history is re-enactment of human history within confines of single people
      3. 5th scroll ends with Moses’ speech and ultimate choice to people: obedience or rebellion – life or death
  6. Toward a Uniform Canon
    1. Epic story – Gen-Deut, Joshua-Kings, Chronicles/Ezra-Neh – existed by 4th century BCE, but present literary division into 3 formal parts (Torah, Neviim, Ketuvim) did not become common until middle of 2nd century BCE
    2. Remarkable given heterogeneous Jewish population
      1. Scattered over many lands, spoke many languages
      2. No authoritative religious or political institution governed nature and content of scripture
      3. Alexandrian Jews translated bible into Greek (Septuagint) and wrote other “classic” texts directly in Greek
      4. Aramaic texts of Palestinian Jews were regarded as scripture for some period of time but did not find way into ultimate canon by rabbis
    3. For first several centuries of its existence, Hebrew Bble was a scripture whose canonical boundaries remained open
    4. The fact of defining scripture as canon is by its nature an interpretation of its meaning (Laura and Greg: good table laying out major developments in canonization p. 70-71)
  7. Interpretation within the Canon of Scripture
    1. In many cases, books in present scripture contain commentaries on earlier versions of same works
    2. Ancient Jews did not always wait for final version to begin commenting
    3. Example: book of Psalms – psalm of repentance 51:3-4
      1. Commentary as intro to psalm: For the Leader/A psalm of David/When Nathan the prophet came to him after his intimacy with Bathsheba
      2. Back story: David and Bathsheba, Nathan’s curse for David’s behavior, David’s petition for forgiveness
      3. Intro tells us it is for leader in communal worship to recite, that David is the author, and relates it to the story elsewhere in the scripture about David’s transgression
      4. Originally added as commentary, this intro became part of the canonical snapshot in final version
  8. Interpretation Beyond Scriptural Canon
    1. Many early Judaic writings revise, retell passages now preserved in Bible
      1. Translations into many languages preserved by Christian monks
      2. Other works found in Dead sea scrolls
    2. Can see how these writings, ignored by rabbinic Judaism, once competed as authoritative expressions or scripture
    3. Example in book of Jubilees
      1. Presents as record of what really happened when Moses spent 40 days on Sinai with God
      2. Completely reorganizes Jewish calendar and celebration of festivals from lunar calendar to solar, based on number 7 so every festival falls on same day each year
      3. Also, claims that all revelation, including laws in Leviticus which were supposedly given to Moses and Aaron in Mishkan, was given on Sinai
      4. How do they know this? There was a witness on Sinai – “Angel of Presence”
    4. What does this example mean?
      1. Written in the middle of Hasmonean period
      2. Hasmonean priests completely ignored it
      3. Meant to be a criticism of Hasmoneans: instead of criticizing regime explicitly, undermine authority by presenting new account
      4. Since this version was not included in Torah, and was found in Dead Sea scrolls, we only know that the proponents of Jubilees lost in the conversational argument

Origins of the Rabbinic tradition: post-70 period (Starting page 78)

How do we account for the rise in rabbinic sages? Early first century teachers were associated with the Pharisees (and mentioned by historian Josephius). There is no first-hand evidence of their religious world. Christians called them religious hypocrites who questioned Jesus' authority; more concerned with clean hands/purity of food/tithing than the love of G-d. Josepeus described them as a popular political party with love of Torah, but little is know about their traditions. Even though there are no first-hand writings of Pharisees, we can see that the Pharisees of the Christian Bible were very concerned with washing and tithing (paying taxes? I couldn't find a good meaning for this), and early rabbinic writing of that time was also concerned about the purity of food. Connection between rabbinic writing and early Pharisic traditions. They saw food/meals as able to break the barrier between the physical and spiritual world (you could invoke certain things with food, and by sitting for a meal together). Example: Moses said to 'sanctify' Shabbat, and early tradition assumes this means having a meal. Hillel and Shammai both agreed that wine must be properly produced and tithed, but disagreed on other things--bless the wine first or Shabbat first? The underlying assumption: sanctify Shabbat means blessings over wine and meal, even though there is no requirement in the Torah of Moses.

Pharisaic traditions and early rabbinic Torah shared this: interest in ritual actions. Some rabbinic rituals were from Pharisaic traditions, but not all (the lines are too blurred to tell sometimes). R. Yohanan ben Zakai (lived during destruction of Temple) is credited with some rituals: made it possible to perform these rituals at home, structured prayer services, more interest in home rituals (not possible to do at Temple, because it was destroyed. Whereas Aaron and his priests did everything at the altar, rabbinic practices brought these into tradition, and interpreted these rituals as fluid--how could Jews strictly adhere to Temple rituals when the Temple was gone?

The sages were aware that the traditions/interpretations/practices influenced the Jews' understanding of the Torah of Moses; therefore when theBook of Jubilees appeared (even though it looked old), they rejected it because they didn't know it from tradition.

There is a crucial relationship between teacher and disciple. According to writings (Ex. Third Century: The Founders, or Avot) Torah went from Moses--->Joshua--->Elders--->Prophets (all First Temple Period) ---> Men of Great Assembly, Shimon the Righteos, Antigonos of Sokho (Early Second Temple, Ezra to Destruction) ---> Age of Zugot, Pairs (late second temple period). They were: Jose ben Joezer, and Jose ben Johanan, Joshua ben Perachyah, and Nittai of Arbela, Judah ben Tabbai, and Simeon ben Shetach, Sh'maya, and Abtalion,Hillel, and Shammai. In other words, the Torah was passed down from the teacher to the disciple.

Rabbinic tradition: behavior by imitation, and tradition by example. This meant studying rabbi's oral teachings and behavior as their teaching was continuous from Mosaic revelation. Written rabbinic text is Torah as the words of rabbis or as exemplified by their deeds. Sages called this learning mishnah (hebrew) or matnyta (aramaic)--"repeated tradition." By Third century, hefty amount of mishnah text (whether or not it was written is disputed) edited by Patriarch Rabbi Judah, which was memorized and discussed by disciples--"Mishnah of Rabbi." Avot and 60 other treatises, devoted to a particular Jewish legal topic on how to implement the divine commandments. The assumption is that G-d revealed his commandments through the Torah of Moses and continues to speak through the traditional Torah of the Rabbis, who explain who to perform these commandments. Halakhah--> is to do G-d's will, because it is merely G-d's law transmitted down the line. This led to more technical interpretation, and extended beyond Halakhah--ethical, historical and theological, called aggadah teachings. Both Halakhic and aggadic writings put together called the Talmud-- Yerushalmi Talmud (or Palestinian), 425 CE; and Babylonian, 525 CE. Purports to be a line-by-line commentary on the mishnah, and aggadic commentary on the Torah of Moses.

Question: Is this text using "rabbinic Torah" to mean what we know as the Mishnah, or Oral Law?

Midrash is interpretations and commentary focused around specific books of the Torah or holiday readings, or connections between written and oral Torah. Most of remaining midrash is how Sage's oral Torah amplified written Torah.

Types of rabbinic Lit.:
Halakhic-pertaining to rituals and legal tradition
Aggadic-pertaining to history and theology

Midrash-halakhic or aggadic as explanation of biblical verse
Mishnah-halakhic or aggadic tradition without reference to biblical verse
Talmud-analysis of halakhic tradition

Major rabbinic texts:
Mishnah--edited by Rabbi Judah the Patriarch, Tiberias, 200 CE
Tosefta--editor unknown, like mishnah but larger, "supplement" to mishnah (300 CE)
Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael--midrash on legalities of Exodus, both halakhah and aggadah (3rd/4th century, Palestine, rabbis from 1st to 3rd centuries)
Sifra--halakhik midrash on Leviticus, 3rd/4th century, Palestine, quoting 1st-early 3rd cent. rabbis
Sifre--pair of midrash works on Numbers and Deuteronomy, same authorities as Sifra & Mekhilta
Bereshit Rabba--anonymous compilation of aggadah of comment on almost every verse of Genesis. (3rd/4th cent. sages, probably edited in Palestine, 5th cent)
Vayiqra Rabba--aggadic, focus on Leviticus, prob. from Palestine, 5th cent
Talmud Yerushalmi, halakhic commentary on Mishnah, Palestine, 425 CE
Talmud Bavli, Babylonian Talmud, halakhic and aggadic encyclopedic commentary on Mishna, Mesopotamia, 525 CE)

Because it took some time to get around to compiling these texts, (500 years), some were intentionally left out, while others enjoyed almost-famous status.

Conclusion:
1. Main scriptural texts of Judaism (Torah of Moses, tis epic tale) emerged during Persian period as a way to rally round the troops (Jews) in a religious-political way. Created a national history. Jews interpreted the covenant as applied to their current situation--scriptural canons, but this didn't happen at once.
2. Final canonization of the Torah of Moses was some 500 years after the Torah dominated Jewish life in Persian Judea.
3. Scriptures were never distinct from traditions, lines are fuzzy. Some literature became tradition, while some tradition became literature. Written and Oral Torah a prime example--Rabbinic tradition created the distinction between Oral and Written, but the relationship is intertwined.



Second Jaffe Reading


Jaffe page 216-223
Innovation of Rabbi’s Mishnah
  • From the third century on Mishnah became primary focus of study
    • Prior to this it was lists of teachings under different sages names
    • Rabbi Judah the Patriarch reshaped the traditions
      • 62 coherent tractates
      • 6 books of tractates~ organized mostly thematically
        • Zera’im ~Seeds ~Agricultural practices
        • Mo’ed ~Times ~Celebration of festivals
        • Nashim ~Women ~Family laws, mostly about women
        • Nezikin ~Damages ~Civil and criminal law
        • Kedoshim ~Sanctified things ~Sacrificial system in the temple
        • Tohorot ~Purities ~Modes of purification
    • Students now discouraged from just learning their own teachers
      • Names listed juxtaposed with the position of another sage
  • Looking at a piece of mishna
    • Starts with a simple questions~ when do we recite the shema in the evening?
    • Answer needs to be decoded~ Three different answers given
      • Rabbi Eliezar ~bedtime
      • The sages ~Middle of the night
      • Rabban Gamliel ~Before dawn
      • The meaning of the Sages’ and Rabban Gamliel’s are the same, but didn’t want the sages didn’t want the people to become lax their practices
    • The mishnah orients to a specific world
      • Doesn’t just say twilight
      • Framed in terms of priestly regimen
  • Studying mishnah requires prior knowledge
    • No key to the terms given
    • Knowledge of just the text isn’t enough
    • Preserved centrality of the sage
      • Transmitter of torah
  • Inspired both Talmuds

The Orality of Oral Torah
  • Mishnah was taught through memorization
  • Repetition important both for listener and recited
  • Linked to the way torah was first given to Moses and the people
  • Disciples absorbing more than mere knowledge, absorbing oral tradition of Mosaic revelation
  • Important to learn as a disciple
    • At one point it was prohibited to learn oral torah from a written text
  • Oral torah couldn’t be grasped without an expert
  • Mastered through a personal relationship

The Mishnah as a Mystery
  • Knowledge of Oral Torah treasured
  • Knowing it made one different from other Jews
  • In response to others (mostly Christians) who claimed to be G-d’s chosen people
    • I recognize him alone who holds my mystery in his hands.
    • The mystery is repeated tradition
  • Only one who knew Oral Torah knew what G-d wanted as partners
  • Mishnah is not only in the hands of the rabbis but all of Israel, so all Israel are G-d’s partners
    • Public knowledge to all who would accept rabbinic discipline
  • From heaven and now on earth
  • Seen as transformative