This is an eight session class with Dr. Jacob Meskin, Hebrew College
To understand the nature and development of Judaism requires, among other things, grappling with “the Rabbis”. Standard introductions to the Rabbis discuss the history of the Jewish people after the building of the second temple (approx. 516 BCE), the temple’s eventual destruction at the hands of the Roman Empire in 70 CE, and the great outpouring of what we call today Rabbinic Literature — such as the Mishna and later on, the Midrash, and the Talmud — that followed. These introductions offer a valuable basic narrative, and furnish a helpful initial overview of the genres and topics found in the vast corpus of Rabbinic writings.
Yet sometimes creating a continuous storyline, as inviting as it may be, gets in the way of gaining a deeper understanding. In real life, disharmonies, tensions, partial continuities, and even straightforward discontinuities occur just as frequently, if not more so, than neat connections and flowing continuities.
Over the last thirty years academic scholars who study the Rabbis have created a much more complex, intriguing, and decidedly discontinuous paradigm of who the Rabbis were, where they came from, what they wrote, and how they lived. This new paradigm paints a radically different picture of the historical and sociological role they played, and of the “legacy” they left for the ongoing development of Judaism. This paradigm shift thus touches on basic issues concerning the nature of Jewish identity and its boundaries. Interestingly, it also helps to provide a deeper understanding not only of the nature of Rabbinic writings, but also of the distinctive kinds of religiosity and spirituality that develop over time in the Jewish tradition.
This eight session, adult education course will present a sophisticated introduction to the Rabbis and the Rabbinic period using the exciting framework mentioned above. In particular, we will look closely at: i) the political, sociological, and domestic realities of the lives of the Rabbis; ii) the crucial interplay between orality and literacy in Rabbinic teaching and study; iii) the previously ignored but now increasingly appreciated place of magical, meditative, and mystical currents in Rabbinic texts, and iv) the influences of Persian culture and Zoroastrian religion on the Babylonian Talmud.
Taken from a famous poem by Wallace Stevens, the title of the course refers to the fact that the Rabbis, for better or worse, were very concerned to introduce patterns or structures that would give an order — a divine order as they saw it — to all areas and details of human life. That may be one of the reasons for their profound interest in the form of law (halakha). The Rabbis employ their particular set of concerns in creating a decisive re-reading of the Hebrew Bible, one that helped to give us what we call “Judaism”, as opposed to “Israelite Religion” or the religion of the Hebrew Bible
Event Location: Kerem Shalom
659 Elm Street, P.O. Box 1646, Concord, Massachusetts, 01742
* Registration closes on September 16th
Tuesday, September 23, 2014, 10:30 am - 12:30 pm
Tuesday, September 30, 2014, 10:30 am - 12:30 pm
Tuesday, October 14, 2014, 10:30 am - 12:30 pm
Tuesday, October 21, 2014, 10:30 am - 12:30 pm
Tuesday, October 28, 2014, 10:30 am - 12:30 pm
Tuesday, November 18, 2014, 10:30 am - 12:30 pm
659 Elm St
Concord, MA 01742
$325.00 Non Member