It is our pleasure to announce an upcoming series of classes that we are presenting along with the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education in New York. On Wednesdays October 30th, November 6th, 13th and 20th Prof. David Brodsky of Brooklyn College’s Department of Judaic Studies will be teaching a class entitled “Rabbinic Literature and Its Dis-Contents: Situating the Genres of Talmud and Midrash in Their Civilizational Context:”
The basic and most quintessential genres of rabbinic literature are the styles of midrashic exegesis of biblical texts and the give-and-take of the sugya with its mixed Aramaic and Hebrew commentary on the Mishnah, the great law code of the rabbinic period. While they soon became distinctive and nearly unique among world literatures, their various constituent parts are surprisingly contextualized within the literatures of the larger civilizations (which themselves were an interplay of Jews and non-Jews) within which they developed. Significantly, those contexts help shed light on some of the basic enigmas of the genres. In this four part series, we shall trace the origins of the genre of midrash in the Alexandrian School of Homeric Interpretation around the turn of the eras, and in so doing, we shall understand better the core theological motivator behind midrashic activity. That is, like its Homeric counterpart, rabbinic midrash is always already a defense of God and His book, and the comparison of the two corpuses helps draw out that key aspect of the midrashic endeavor. Likewise, while many people are confused by the Talmud’s willingness to conclude a sugya without seeming to clarify which legal position “won,” a comparison with the parallel genre as taught in Greco-Roman school primers of the time will help clarify the purpose of such sugyot and why their goal was never the kind of debate that many read it as today. Finally, this course will end by showing how the Babylonian rabbis and transmitters placed their unique stamp on the Talmudic sugya, making the Babylonian Talmud a text that is constantly interplaying between its individuality and its civilizational contexts. The four lectures will be: 1. The Alexandrian School of Homeric Interpretation and the Origins of Midrash; 2. Greco-Roman School Primers and the Origins of the Talmudic Sugya; 3. The Changing Rules of Redundancy and the Ever Complexifying Sugya; 4. Transmitters as Stammaim: The Role of the Reciter in the Development of the Sugya.
All of the classes will be held from 7:00pm-8:00pm at Drisha, 37 West 65th Street, 5th floor New York, NY 10023. The price for each session is $5, or $15 for all four. More information can be found here. For those who won’t be able to make it, we hope to upload the class to our YouTube channel. And go to the facebook event page to RSVP and spread the word!