Reading the Rabbis
Professor Susan Niditch Chapin 114
Office Hours: Th 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., and by appointment Phone 542-2270 (office)
Books to Buy: available at the Jeffery Amherst Bookshop
Barry Holtz Back to the Sources
David Kraemer The Meanings of Death in Rabbinic Judaism
Moses Mielziner Introduction to the Talmud
Jacob Neusner There We Sat Down
H. Shanks, ed., Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism
Hermann Strack Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash
New Revised Standard Version of the Bible
Also: A set of readings available in the Religion Department Office.
Weeks 1-6: Readings in the midrashic collections: We will learn what midrash is and explore methods of dealing with this literature that interprets the Bible; discussion of methodologies from fields such as anthropology, folklore, and more traditional Rabbinic scholarship. Most important, what do the Rabbis reveal about their view of humanity, God, and the ways of the world through their reformulations of biblical texts?
Week 7: Introduction to the Mishnah, the major second century codification of legal material; discussion of its relationship to biblical law; Mishnah as a key indicator of Rabbinic worldview and culture.
Week 8-13: Readings in the Talmud (the Mishnah plus its commentary, the Gemara), the most complex expression of Rabbinic thought with which we will deal. The Talmud provides the exegesis of laws of the Mishnah, but along the way presents folktales, proverbs, exempla, philosophical dialogues, prayers, and many other genres of literature.
1. Four formal papers on suggested topics, details to be provided along the way; occasional additional writing assignments for in-class work.