Monday, February 16, 2015


I am really enjoying my rabbinical literature class but it is often baffling.  I'm finding that (and this is ironic) that repetition is the key.  I hear about something but, because it's so unfamiliar, I have a hard time putting it into perspective.  But the third or fourth time I hear something, it finally starts to click.  My teacher often draws a timeline up on the board.  Yes, it's practically the same timeline every time.but seeing it and copying it several times, it's beginning to look familiar.

Keep in mind, that the time period covered by this class is 70-500CE

Same thing about the different texts, mishnah, talmud, tosefta, midrash.  They still get tangled up in my mind.  And the texts themselves are a mountain of confounding detail.  And that's reading them in translation.

I first recognized how hard it was to absorb unfamiliar information when I was taking some classes at Chico State when I was in my 20s.  I took a class in California geography and loved it.  Then took a class in USSR geography and it completely baffled me.  I realized it was because I had no context for any of these place names.  So I could not distinguish them or understand them.  Whereas I had a ton of context for California places.  Same thing with Hawaiian place names for tourists.  They're all a jumbled batch of syllables that I could not distinguish.

I had never heard of the Tosefta before.  Another convoluted set of commentaries about everything under the sun.

Why ironic?  When scholars created and worked this text, it was almost all oral with some scholars assigned the task of memorizing.  And the two torahs?  The talmudic scholars taught that there were two torahs.  One written, Moses received on Mount Sinai.  The other torah was oral, the work of centuries of scholars.  But these scholars insisted that all of the oral work and commentary was also give by God on Mount Sinai.

Part of the class is done with study partners.  We take a portion of the text and talk about it with partners and try to puzzle what they mean, the context, hidden messages, etc.  A lot embedded in each portion most unfamiliar.  There are six undergraduates plus me in the class.  It's a good time, really.

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