Wednesday, May 20, 2009

An Academic Look at Oral Transmission

In response to L's suggestion that I seek out the opinion of Profesor Yaakov Elman on the topic of trimming nails I decided to find out who he is. In the process I found, and read, one of his articles Orality and the Redaction of the Babylonian Talmud.

While I am not that familiar with the either the classic nor the popular understanding of the "cannonization" of the Gemara, the article argues for a much more active and late oral component than I would have assumed.

It is a descent size article (by my standards, not speaking comparitively)and the terminology was a little tough for me. For example, I think that often time redaction was used to describe an oral process while I have a hard time not thinking of a written one automaticlly. Nevertheless his arguments seemed to have merit, and he was modest enough to admit when they might not be as conclusive as it might otherwise sound.

For me, this article was actually a bit of chizuk. Oral transmission is not an issue I struggle with philosophically, but one that I can't relate to practically. Looking at it a bit more historically may carry the risk of loosing sight of concepts such as emunas chachamim and siyata d'shamaya, which I believe are fundamental to our hashkafa on Oral Torah, but personally it helped bring things down to Earth a little and make grasping those concepts a little more managable.

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