Revelation Restored: Divine Writ and Critical Responses

By David Weiss Halivni | Go to book overview

Notes

" Reflections on Classical Jewish Hermeneutics," whose content overlaps substantially with that of this book, was published in the Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research, 62, 1996. The notes there are more detailed than those here. Where more information may be helpful to the specialist, reference is made herein to those notes.


Foreword by Peter Ochs
1.
David Weiss Halivni, Sources and Traditions: A Source Critical Commentary on the Talmud ( Tel Aviv, 1968; Jerusalem: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1975, 1982). This paragraph is drawn from Peter Ochs, Review of David Halivni, Peshat and Derash, Plain and Applied Meaning in Rabbinic Exegesis, Judaism (forthcoming).
2.
Per hypothesis, he reconstructs the redactional history of the Babylonian Talmud in order to resolve otherwise intractable problems in various Talmudic sugyot, or "arguments." His major thesis is that the structure of the sugyot and "the anonymous, or setam [Stammaitic] portions of the Talmud were the product of a particularly fertile and creative period after Ravina and Rav Ashi and during the years 427-501 C.E." ( Irwin Haut, The Talmud as Law or Literature: An Analysis of David E. Halivni's Mekorot Umasorot [ New York: Bet Sha'ar Press, 1982], p. 6). Halivni argues that the work of the Stammaim is also in need of correction: They had to force some of their explanations and redactions of earlier sources, since often they based their readings on truncated traditions that did not reflect the precise text that earlier sages had before them. Halivni explains that the Stammaim preferred to live with textual dechukim (forced interpretations) rather than to deny the consistency of their source material. Halivni believes he serves the spirit and religion of the Stammaim when he proposes ways of improving our understanding of their arguments by proposing additional possibilities, based on textual parallels and variants, which the Stammaim may not have considered. Halivni's judgments about the character and etiology of certain sugyot are analogous in their etiology to judgments art historians make about the provenance of newly discovered paintings, or for that matter, that painters themselves make about what to capture in their models or subjects. His judgments depend, in the end, on both cognitive and emotive-spiritual energies: intimate familiarity with the rabbinic literary corpus and a heart enflamed by love of God, love of revealed Torah (she-be'ichtav), and equal love of oral Torah (she-be'al-peh). There is, finally, a profound sense of responsibility to correct textual error and thus restore the plain sense: as if the rabbinic literary corpus constituted the creation itself, as if that creation were broken, and as if those few with the power to mend the creation must do so at once. These are all qualities Halivni attributes to Ezra.

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