Differences between Transmissional Changes and Redactional Changes

Transmissional changes enter the text without the transmitter’s awareness. In contrast, redactional changes are consciously made for the sake of improving the text, either contextually or aesthetically. Transmissional changes are understandable, though unpredictable. They are mechanical changes, made unwittingly by the transmitter. A person, for instance, may genuinely think he heard the word “can” and transmit it that way, whereas in fact the word “can’t” was said. Not all mechanical changes are a result of faulty hearing; they may also result from faulty speech. The speaker may think he said “can’t,” but the word he actually spoke was “can.” Transmissional changes are simply a part of human susceptibility to error. Redactional changes, on the other hand, are made purposefully by the redactors. When the purpose of these changes is to improve content or correct defects, the question arises: who is responsible for these defects? Did the original authors release defective texts? This is most unlikely; more plausibly, the texts became defective during the interval between the time of the authors and the time of the redactors.

David Weiss Halivni, Midrash, Mishnah, and Gemara: The Jewish Predilection for Justified Law (Cambridge, MA & London, UK: Harvard University Press, 1986), 1.

Stop the madness for constant groupwork

Stop the madness for constant groupwork. Just stop it. And I want to be clear about what I’m saying: because I deeply believe our offices should be encouraging casual, chatty, cafe-style types of interactions. You know: the kind where people come together and serendipitously have an exchange of ideas. That is great. That is great for introverts and it’s great for extroverts. But we need much more privacy, much more freedom, much more autonomy at work.
School – same thing: we need to be teaching kids to work together, for sure. But we also need to be teaching them how to work on their own. This is especially important for extroverted children, too. They need to work on their own, because that is where deep thought comes from, in part.

Susan Cain, “The Power of Introverts”, TED (Long Beach, CA: 28 February 2012) [Video posted at http://youtu.be/c0KYU2j0TM4?t=16m47s on 2 March 2012].

Suspense is a concept with which current blockbuster directors seem unfamiliar

Suspense is a concept with which current blockbuster directors seem unfamiliar. Directors today build suspense by incinerating the top two floors of the White House or by making a dino-alien lay waste to the Golden Gate Bridge. But seeing the Eiffel Tower blown to smithereens or watching the Statue of Liberty topple sideways doesn’t make people afraid of visiting national landmarks — it just trains them to yearn for even splashier C.G.I. effects next year. The career of Roland Emmerich aside, you can’t blow up the White House twice. Next year you’ve got to blow up a city, a country, a planet. A few swimmers on a beach in Amity? Who cares? Every story now has to involve a threat to the entire globe. This is meant to raise the stakes, but it actually lowers them, both by removing the specificity of local places and individual characters and by making it impossible to go see an action movie today without also expecting to witness the demolition of some unfortunate metropolis.

Heather Havrilesky, “‘You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Skyline…'”, New York Times Magazine (4 August 2013), 45.

Different University Experiences in the US

When people refer to “higher education” in this country, they are talking about two systems. One is élite. It’s made up of selective schools that people can apply to—schools like Harvard, and also like U.C. Santa Cruz, Northeastern, Penn State, and Kenyon. All these institutions turn most applicants away, and all pursue a common, if vague, notion of what universities are meant to strive for. When colleges appear in movies, they are verdant, tree-draped quadrangles set amid Georgian or Gothic (or Georgian-Gothic) buildings. When brochures from these schools arrive in the mail, they often look the same. Chances are, you’ll find a Byronic young man reading “Cartesian Meditations” on a bench beneath an elm tree, or perhaps his romantic cousin, the New England boy of fall, a tousle-haired chap with a knapsack slung back on one shoulder. He is walking with a lovely, earnest young woman who apparently likes scarves, and probably Shelley. They are smiling. Everyone is smiling. The professors, who are wearing friendly, Rick Moranis-style glasses, smile, though they’re hard at work at a large table with an eager student, sharing a splayed book and gesturing as if weighing two big, wholesome orbs of fruit. Universities are special places, we believe: gardens where chosen people escape their normal lives to cultivate the Life of the Mind.

But that is not the kind of higher education most Americans know. The vast majority of people who get education beyond high school do so at community colleges and other regional and nonselective schools. Most who apply are accepted. The teachers there, not all of whom have doctorates or get research support, may seem restless and harried. Students may, too. Some attend school part time, juggling their academic work with family or full-time jobs, and so the dropout rate, and time-to-degree, runs higher than at élite institutions. Many campuses are funded on fumes, or are on thin ice with accreditation boards; there are few quadrangles involved. The coursework often prepares students for specific professions or required skills. If you want to be trained as a medical assistant, there is a track for that. If you want to learn to operate an infrared spectrometer, there is a course to show you how. This is the populist arm of higher education. It accounts for about eighty per cent of colleges in the United States.

Nathan Heller, “Laptop U”, The New Yorker (20 May 2013), 84.

Considering Teaching Content vs. Cognitive Skills

Before we fall down the techno-rabbit hole and demand tablets in every classroom, we need to seriously reconsider, for example, whether teaching content, as opposed to cognitive skills, can adequately prepare children for 21st-century professions. In other words, our nation’s educational mindset – one that traditionally uses fact-regurgitation as a marker of success – desperately requires a reboot.

Jennifer Miller, “Flipped Out”, Spirit (August 2013), 74-75.


The differences between takkanot and gezerot

The institutional nature of the Halakhah found its expression int he terms which are used to refer to it in the earliest sources at our disposal. The halakhot from the period of the Pairs (Zugot) and the early tanna’im are referred to as gezerot and takkanot. The only difference between them is that the latter were regulations intended to correct a situation in a positive manner whereas the gezerah is prohibitive and restrictive. The gezerah is identical to the seyag (fence) in the aphorism attributed to the Men of the Great Assembly, “Make a seyag around the Torah.” There is nothing new in a gezerah, it just places a protective fence, so to speak, around a Torah commandment in order to “keep people from transgressing it” (Berakhot 1:1).
The takkanah, on the other hand, initiates something new and thus it corrects an aberration which has developed.

Ephraim E. Urbach, The Halakhah: Its Sources and Development, trans. Raphael Posner (Ramat Gan: Massada; Jerusalem: Yad la-Talmud, 1986), 7.


The emergence of the Federation system roughly one hundred years ago responded to the needs of the times

The emergence of the Federation system roughly one hundred years ago responded to the needs of the times. Federations offered a way to centralize philanthropy, the prioritization of communal needs, and the coordinated allocation of resources to meet those needs. For the past one hundred years in the United States, Jewish communities have developed through a “planned economy” model of Federation and denominational movement financing as the primary drivers of Jewish life. A planned economy assumes (and sometimes imposes) some collective and shared assumptions about needs and goals. That kind of ideological conformity and expected fealty to a centralized authority has been perceived as irrelevant or too cumbersome to many of the leaders and organizations within the innovation sector. What is clear so far is that the work of Jewish innovators is much more flexible, market-driven, and individualistic than the planned economy models of federation- and denomination-based Jewish life.

Dr. Caryn Aviv, “Haskalah 2.0.” Jumpstart Report 2. In cooperation with JESNA and The Jewish Federations of North America. (Los Angeles: Jumpstart, 2010), 10.


The motivations of young people in affiliating with Jewish youth organizations

This survey confirms what has been known for several decades as to the motivations of young people in affiliating with Jewish youth organizations. At the top of the list is the desire to participate in activities with their friends, to meet other Jewish youth, to enjoy social and other recreational activities, and to have fun. Motivations considered least important in joining are opportunities to serve Jews in their own communities, elsewhere in North America, in Israel and other places abroad, religious, and education activities.

Dr. Fred Massarik and Dr. Max F. Baer, BBYO Leadership Study, Phase 1 (Washington, DC: B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, 1971), 25.

Classical rabbinic literature was never intended as historiography

That “classical rabbinic literature was never intended as historiography” goes without saying, as evidenced not only by the fact that the sages refrain from a detailed presentation of contemporary events, but also in the decidedly a-historical license they granted themselves when taking up biblical history. Attempts to categorize Talmudic works such as Seder Olam as “Jewish historiographic literature” have justifiably been rejected, with that work more accurately defined as a “chronographical midrash”, an attempt at the synchronization of Biblical events, with almost no interest in what transpired in the post-Biblical period.

Isaiah Gafni, “Concepts of Periodization and Causality in Talmudic Literature”, Jewish History, Vol. 10, No. 1 (Spring, 1996), 22.