Kids go to fantasy not for escape but for organization, and a little elevation; since life is like this already, they imagine that it might be still like this but more magical.

Adam Gopnik, “The Dragon’s Egg,” The New Yorker (5 December 2011), 89.


“Just like the idea of Chovevei has grown out of a specific need, the mission of YCT struck a cord with a unique set of students”

Just like the idea of Chovevei has grown out of a specific need, the mission of YCT struck a cord with a unique set of students. The students applying to our rabbinical school feel a calling to serve. They are caring and learned, each a leader in his own way. They are our centerpiece, wishing to change the very face of the Jewish community and world. So refreshing is YCT’s approach that many of our trainees would not be in any rabbinical school were it not for Chovevei.

Rabbi Avi Weiss, “A Message from Our Founder and President,” Fourth Annual Gala (New York: Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, 2007), 13.

The Rabbis drew their information from personal conversations with philosophers and other intelligent people. The Talmuds and the Midrashim frequently mention such intercourse between the Rabbis and men whom they styled “philosophers.”. It is reasonable to assume that there were many learned Jews among the upper classes of Jewish Palestine who communicated some of the Greek doctrines to the Rabbis.

Saul Lieberman, “How Much Greek in Jewish Palestine?” in Biblical and Other Studies, ed. A. Altmann (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1962), 131.

The book by which Jewish society and Jewish practice and Jewish culture is guided is ultimately the Talmud Bavli. Whether you study the Talmud Bavli directly or you just observe shabbas because everybody else observes shabbas, the source of all of that is where? The Talmud Bavli – the Talmud Bavli was written in Persia. If such a work was written in America, we’d spend years analyzing how America influenced that work….
But nobody really talks about how Persia influenced that work. How did Persian culture influence the Babylonian Talmud and how did Persian religion influence the Babylonian Talmud?

Rabbi Adam Mintz, “Did Persian Culture Influence the Babylonian Talmud?” (25 January 2011).

Much of the discursive material that was circulating for a while in a non-redactive state was forgotten during the interval; what remained was in a precarious state. The Stammaim reclaimed it, complementing and integrating it. The luxurious and flowing texture of the Talmud is the achievement of the Stammaim; prior to them there were only short dialogues and comments strung along the Mishnah and Braithoth.

David Weiss Halivni, Midrash, Mishnah, and Gemara: The Jewish Predilection for Justified Law (Camridge, MA & London, UK: Harvard University Press, 1986), 79.

The Stammaim created the sugya, a semi-independent, sustained, multi-tiered “give and take.” They redacted the Gemara from incomplete and truncated traditions. This explains the many almost incomprehensible instances where the argumentational proceeds along lines that seem to us totally unnecessary, and seems to make assumptions that are not warranted by the material at hand. This material could have been organized in a much simpler, more poignant way than the one proposed by the redactors. The redactors apparently had bits of tradition whose original context they did not quite know. They drafted these bits onto the material at hand, organizing their material not in accordance with its natural inclination but in a manner that would make it more assimilative of the stranded bits of tradition.

David Weiss Halivni, Midrash, Mishnah, and Gemara: The Jewish Predilection for Justified Law (Camridge, MA & London, UK: Harvard University Press, 1986), 79.

On the one side stood the Hazon Ish and those who followed in his path, who would coalesce into a group wielding decisive influence on religious life in Israel, as the ultra-Orthodox “society of scholars” grew and became institutionalized. On the other were the guardians of tradition, especially those belonging to the Yishuv ha-yashan (the old Yishuv, the veteran Jewish community) in Jerusalem. The main spokesman of the latter group, who bore the brunt of the controversy, was Rabbi Abraham Hayyim Na’eh (1890-1954). As I noted elsewhere, this was a controversy between unequal contestants. At that time, the Yishuv ha-yashan was in decline, while the Hazon Ish was the spiritual leader of a young and radical ultra-Orthodoxy that found itself liberated, to a great degree, from the bonds of tradition. Moreover, following the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel, the latter was given the opportunity to establish a new ultra-Orthodox society, “the society of scholars,” as a stringent and selective society. This could not have been realized in the past, due both to economic restraints and (perhaps mainly) to the cultural and social restrictions that found expression in the living tradition and structure of the traditional Jewish community. This traditional community, by its very nature and essence, by being defined on the basis of its geographical bounds (in the sense that dwelling within it are members subject to the authority of its leadership), was a nonselective society that had to take into account its heterogenous character and its commitment to the tradition of past generations. It, therefore, could not agree either to deviations in the direction of leniency or to the adoption of stringent norms by a portion of its members.

Menachem Friedman, “Halachic Rabbinic Authority in the Modern Open Society,” in <i>Jewish Religious Leadership: Image and Reality</i>, vol. 2, ed. Jack Wertheimer (New York: The Jewish Theological Seminary, 2004), 760-761.

The task of the Stammaim was to complete what was missing (usually through conjectural restoration) and to integrate the whole into a flowing discourse. They reserved for themselves the right to preface, conclude, and even interpolate the words of the Amoraim; otherwise, they could not have integrated and reconstructed them. The state of some of the argumentational material that survived was such that it required the intervention of the Stammaim at almost every turn. As a result, it is often very difficult to distinguish between what belonged to the Amora and what was added by the Stammaim, since the two are often interwoven. I did not exaggerate, therefore, when I said elsewhere that between us and the Amoraim stand the Stammaim.

David Weiss Halivni, Midrash, Mishnah, and Gemara: The Jewish Predilection for Justified Law (Camridge, MA & London, UK: Harvard University Press, 1986), 77.

The term mipenei darkhei shalom was the most commonly used term within Tannaitic literature, appearing in twelve mishnahs and toseftas. There is no one categorization of the way that mipenei darkhei shalom was used in Tannaitic literature. Below are the functions of the term that I found in both the Mishnah and Tosefta.
1. Where no clear legal conclusion or ruling already existed, mipenei darkhei shalom was used to justify a position that would promote better relations between groups of people within Jewish society or between Jews and non-Jews.
2. Where the question was not necessarily one of law, mipenei darkhei shalom was used to justify actions that would promote better relations between Jews and other Jews and between Jews and non-Jews.
3. In situations where there was a fear that the law was going to cause enmity, mipenei darkhei shalom was used to justify a lenient ruling whose purpose was to prevent enmity and ill-will from forming. In these instances, mipenei darkhei shalom was sometimes used to justify overturning a legal norm.
That these different functions were all found within Tannaitic literature is evidence that there was no single definition and understanding of how the term mipenei darkhei shalom should be used. It was used in a number of circumstances and the common thread through all of them was a concern for the effect that behavior based upon Jewish law might have on relations between different groups, whether they be within Jewish society, or between Jews and non-Jews.

Michael Pitkowsky, ”Mipenei Darkhei Shalom (Because of the Paths of Peace) and Related Terms: A Case Study of How Early Concepts and Terminology Developed From Tannaitic to Talmudic Literature” (PhD. diss., Jewish Theological Seminary, 2011), 169-170.

At the opposite pole to the Rashbam’s exegesis stands the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides (died 1204). Judging by his introduction and from hints culled from his letters, it appears that he wanted to reduce all of the Torah to practical halakhah, leaving the rest of his time for the study of other disciplines, principally philosophy, which to him was an integral part of Jewish learning and worship (not for its own sake, but as an instrument for the cultivation of proper belief). No wonder Maimonides’ attitude toward the anonymous sections of the Talmud, which consist primarily of the argumentational, was less than benign; indeed, he often ignored them. Many a so-called “difficult Rambam” would be less puzzling if one realized that Maimonides did not always reckon with the stam.

David Weiss Halivni, Midrash, Mishnah, and Gemara: The Jewish Predilection for Justified Law (Camridge, MA & London, UK: Harvard University Press, 1986), 111.