What Do They Study At Yeshivas?

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19 Responses

  1. Steve Brizel says:

    Great article!!

  2. Daniel Olgin says:

    Correction. Prophecy ended in the early years of the Second Temple in Jerusalem with the death of Malachi.

  3. dr. bill says:

    halevi, were the author to understand the history of Talmudic study, he would realize how it morphed creatively across the generations. I was shocked to learn that a few blocks away, young men were studying a mesichta with immense practical importance in a similarly abstract way, largely independent of teshuvot from the last 1000 years. I need not mention how different it is studied at Hebrew University. A measure of great study is possible only decades later when generations decide what seforim enhanced our understanding and which just represented the creative insights of individuals. As my rebbe RAL ztl would say, truly brilliant but not necessarily true.

  4. Raymond says:

    I have long held the fantasy that one day, I might turn out to be a kind of modern-day reincarnation of Rabbi Akiva. However, after reading the above article, there is simply no chance whatsoever of that ever happening. I tried to keep up with what was said above, but I clearly do not have sufficient intellect to have done it successfully. And if i do not understand the above, i certainly have no chance of keeping up with the kind of heavy Talmudic discussions talked about in this article. So, I will just have to be satisfied with reading those Torah books that do all the thinking for me as they present the material to me in easily digestible tidbits of wisdom, such as the works of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz and of course the great British Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

  5. emet le'amito says:

    Raymond, don’t give up faith. the brisker say, vos feilt in hasborah, feilt in havanah – if you can not explain it well, you lack complete understanding. If i listen to a shiur that i do not understand, i attribute it most often to a confused presenter. ego – perhaps; reality – more likely. in my mind, brilliance is the ability to make anything clear to an audience of non-experts.

    about 30 years ago, i saw Breaking the Code, where an actor playing Alan Turing explains his theories to an eighth-grade class. that is a sign of deep understanding. i have had and observed rabbeim and professors with that skill. i am suspicious of people who are saidto be so brilliant, they cannot explain themselves clearly. the brisker are correct in my mind. i share your admiration for the rabbis you mention

  6. lacosta says:

    the difference between yeshiva approach vs university approach is the difference between physiology versus pathology/histology. one studies what is alive , one analyzes a dead entity…

  7. Yisroel says:

    Dear Raymond,
    The Artscroll Talmud was created just for you. Read along in it as you listen to a Gemorah shiur, widely available online. As you progress tour familiarity with the Aramaic language will grow until you realize, yes, you can do it too. Go for it! Shteig! You will start preemptively thinking of the next step of the Gemaras logic and will soon taste the sweetness of delving its depths.

  8. Srully Epstein says:

    Raymond, don’t despair. I disagree with your conclusion. I spent many years in yeshiva and have continued to study Talmud since – and I only kinda sorta followed the author’s train of thought. It is exceptionally difficult to turn a 3-hour chavrusah-followed-by-shiur session into a 1500 word article. My guess is that given an entire morning, as the author was, and as opposed to simply relying on his synopsis, you would do just fine.

  9. Shades of Gray says:

    ” books that do all the thinking for me as they present the material to me in easily digestible tidbits of wisdom”

    Most people are in essence beginners since there is an endless amount to learn. One way to jump into things is to learn Mishnah; this helped me with Talmud skills as well when I was beginning Gemara. There are different translations, recorded lectures, study-partner programs that can simplify the study of Mishnah. Then one can move on to Talmud which has entry levels as well.

  10. Steve Brizel says:

    Dr Bill you contrasted how Gemara is learned in the above article with how Talmud is studied at HU. Which is closer to Torah Lishmah?

  11. Shades of Gray says:

    “the difference between yeshiva approach vs university approach is the difference between physiology versus pathology/histology”

    Tikvah Fund had a symposium (available online) in which Prof. Christine Hayes and Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer discussed their different approaches to studying rabbinic literature and the different reasons why they love studying Talmud. The moderator began with an apocryphal story about Leopold Zunz, father of the Wissenschaft movement. In Berlin, Zunz met a guest from Russia who said he was a Hebrew poet. Zunz then asks him dryly, “when did you live”?

    It’s similarly told that Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz was informed about a colleague from his younger days in Volozhin who abandoned Judaism and became a famous literary figure. R. Baruch Ber said: “He knows where and when der heiliker Abaye died, but I know where der heiliker Abaye lives”.

    On the other hand, I remember hearing from a traditional rosh yeshiva who felt it important to clarify the actual scientific and historical background (“metziyus”) of Gemara, the story of a great lamdan(I’ve read it was in fact R. Baruch Ber) who was shown a chicken’s stomach in which a needle had been found, and exclaimed joyously, “so this is the holy stomach on which so much Torah has been written!” (“Ah,dos iz di heylige kurkevan!”).

  12. Steve Brizel says:

    There is another story about R Baruch Ber ZL who met a colleague who abandoned Judaism and became a literary figure-R Baruch Ber ZL told the person in question that he writes the equivalent of comic books

  13. joel rich says:

    “We study rational principles. It is the logic that is godly. No argument is accepted without absolute proof. When the conclusion is reached, the logic is compelling, unassailable and demanding. The principles are absolute.” This is in fact not too dissimilar from what theoretical physicists do, when they conceptualize particles and processes in order to explain the underlying workings of the universe based on observation. The difference, of course, is what observations are being analyzed and studied: While theoretical physicists may be using the data gleaned from experiments in the Large Hadron Collider, yeshiva students are observing the Talmud, which they believe is a message from the creator of the universe.
    to be intellectually honest, the difference until now has been that physics has to match experimental reality whereas halacha has no new data sources to check the latest chakira(theoretical differentiation) against. String theory however may break that mold.

  14. dr. bill says:

    shades of gray, rather than some anecdotes and an informative u-tube, it might be worthwhile to read Prof. Hayes’ Ph.D. thesis on Avodah Zorah as well as what the Rav ztl’s talmid muvhak, Prof. Yaacov Blidstein, who RAL ztl once praised as among the Rav’s very best, wrote on that mesichtah and tell us how they differ.

    somewhat easier learning is the more elementary work of kulp and rogoff which has a number of sugyot that will acquaint you with academic talmud.

    academic talmud has many strains; those who follow the Grash ztl sound nothing like what you described. Prof. Hayes’ doktorvater, an odd/despicable person in my opinion, is nonetheless one of youngest surviving students of the Grash, who granted him a Ph.D. but wisely, not semicha.

    if you want to hear the most advanced talmud shiur in Yerushalayim, i doubt you can find where to go.

    if it is not torah le’shemah, i do not know what is.

  15. Adi says:

    “In fact, more Israeli men are studying in yeshivas and kollels (Jewish academies for married men as opposed to yeshivas whose students are unmarried) than in Israeli colleges and universities.”

    Do you mean “more men in the 20-24 age group”? Because otherwise I’d like to see a source (it would be nice to see a source regardless)

  16. Steve Brizel says:

    Anyone who would like to hear a fascinating shiur on a weekly basis should go to any shiur in Yerushalayim would do well to run to any shiur given by R Asher Weiss.

  17. Steve Brizel says:

    FWIW, two RIETS RY give shiurim on a weekly basis in Queens where you walk away understanding the sugya and are not known as being havens for slouches. An advanced shiur does not mean that noone understands pshat in the sugya or Rishonim

  18. Steve Brizel says:

    Dr Bill-yet both RYBS and TAL Zicronam Livracha themselves wholeheartedly rejected Academic Talmud and its premises. It is a mistake IMO to equate Torah Lishmah as learned in yeshivos with academic Talmud.

  19. Shades of Gray says:

    “it might be worthwhile to read Prof. Hayes’ Ph.D. thesis…and tell us how they differ.”

    I don’t claim any expertise on the subject–you can summarize the difference if you like(related, Lerhaus and elsewhere had informative articles about Prof. Yaakov Elman z’l).

    I was merely drawing a comparison between an anecdote in the Tikvah symposium re Zunz and the wisdom of the yeshivah world as preserved in the the first anecdote of R. BB Leibowitz zt’l and his Volozhin colleague.

    I also recall the rosh yeshiva from whom I heard the last anecdote re. the “heyliger kurkevan”(also quoted in R. Meir Soloveichik’s Mosaic essay, “Gil Marks and the Holy Stomach”) mentioning how he had seen that either his rebbe R. Reuvein Grozovsky, and/or R. Aharon Kotler’s copies of Doros Harishonim were well-read, but we would not appreciate the sefer unless we first learned the sugyos(the camp beis midrash then had a set of Doros Harishonim which I think I browsed through).

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