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Methods of study of Talmud in the yeshivot of Salonica and Turkey after the expulsion from Spain / שיטת לימוד התלמוד בישיבות שאלוניקי ותורכיה

חיים בנטוב and Haim Bentov
Sefunot: Studies and Sources on the History of the Jewish Communities in the East / ספונות: מחקרים ומקורות לתולדות קהילות ישראל במזרח
כרך יג‎, The Book of Greek Jewry - III / ספר יוון - כרך ג‎ (תשל"א-תשל"ח), pp. ה-קב
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23415202
Page Count: 97
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Methods of study of Talmud in the yeshivot of Salonica and Turkey after the expulsion from Spain / שיטת לימוד התלמוד בישיבות שאלוניקי ותורכיה
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Abstract

The 15th and 16th centuries were periods of transition bridging over the "early" and the "later" methods of study. It is just these periods, which are among the most important for an understanding of the study of the Talmud and its interpretation, that have not been examined. This article discusses the methods of study of the first of the "early" ones, the descendants of the refugees from Spain, who settled mainly in Salonica, Constantinople and Safed. The article is based on Columbia University manuscript No. X 893H 1316, written not earlier than the year 1573, probably in Salonica. The manuscripts is a kind of protocol of the discussions carried on in the course of study. Every interpretation, problem posed, new idea is recorded and the name of the person uttering it is given, unfortunately however only by initials. It is a surprising fact that in many cases these initials have been erased. The language, with its expressions, its concepts, its rules, provides a faithful picture of the proceedings in the yeshiva during the study hour. èè'ldehsciaehemnpsxeer The article compares this manuscript with other similar manuscripts: 1) Ginsburg No. 125, innovations on a variety of subjects from various tractates, though not by a single author or from a single school. The manuscript was written in Salonica and the compiler was Rabbi Shlomo Halevi, who was the pupil of Rabbi Yosef Ibn Lev. 2) Cambridge Add 488, innovations of Rabbi Yitzhak Abuav on the tractate Ktubot; written in Egypt in 1561; the method reflected in his interpretations is identical with that in the Columbia manuscript. 3) Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, No. 73459, innovations relating to various subjects and tractates. Here, too, the scholars who took part in the discussions are indicated only by initials, and sometimes not at all. The scribe apparently was R. Yoseph Ya'vetz, who in 1573 was a printer in Constantinople. The innovators, however, were all scholars from Turkey, mainly Constantinople and Salonica. 4) British Museum No. 438, innovations relating to various tractates and subjects by R. Aharon Sasson, son-in-law of the above-mentioned R. Shlomo Halevi, who began in Salonica and finished in Constantinople. His innovations fall into both these periods. He represents the generation that followed the one we are concerned with, but he disputes opinions of the scholars of the earlier generation. The manuscript reflects the spirit that pervaded the Yeshivot and the strong urge to grapple with difficult Tosephot passages, to reach their depths and so make new interpretations. In Spain disputation was a means of arriving at true understanding of the subject under discussion. It sought ways of studying in depth while at the same time guarding the truth, which led them to the "law of logic" known to them from their study of other wisdoms. The last "Gaon of Castillia", R. Yitzhak Campanton, developed a system that was followed by the sages of Spain of the generation of the expulsion and succeeding generations. In his book on methodology, "Darkhei Hagemara", he puts forward two sets of rules. The one is general, by which "every person of intelligence" writes and thinks. It is in the light of this that the sages of the Talmud examine the utterances of the Tannaim who preceded them. In this light logicians examine what is said and written. The other set of rules concerns the Talmud in particular. Every statement in the Gemara should be examined as to whether it appears elsewhere with the same meaning; and if not, what is the reason for the difference. He makes a number of suggestions as to how the student can derive the greatest benefit from his studies; correct and rapid perception and a good memory. He was the first to apply the system of logic in studying the Talmud consistently and systematically. The article gives and explains several examples of terms used in the system. R. Yoseph Fasi, one of Abuav's pupils, founded a Yeshiva in Salonica and then another one in Adrianople, which produced some of the great sages of Judaism. Campanton's pupils R. Yitzhak Karo and R. Yehuda Ibn Bolat settled in Constantinople, where they introduced their mentor's method of study. The Yeshivot were in practice gatherings of Talmudic scholars for joint study. Leading them was the "Rosh Yeshiva". Those who were doing the studying were called "Ḥaverim", and among them were also "students" who took part in the teaching. These were pupils of the Rosh Yeshiva himself, who tutored them outside the usual hours, with Ḥaverim and pupils of Ḥaverim who themselves tutored pupils. These came to the Yeshiva with their masters, and the brightest among them took active part in the discussions, making their own contribution to the elucidation of the subject dealt with. There were two kinds of teaching: a) study of Halakha, to enable the student to develop analytical ability, power of cogitation and depth of understanding in Gemara; b) study for the sake of the learning, the acquisition of wide knowledge of the Talmud. Within this framework the Gemara was taught mainly with Rashi, without the Tosephot. It was a peculiarity of Salonica that the Rosh Yeshiva read the text in the Yeshiva, with the pupils afterwards summarizing in writing what they had heard. The author of the article gives all the terms used in the law of logic and the linguistic usages in this kind of Talmudic interpretation. He explains them, with examples. He also gives the general rule of the teaching, and the related terms. Other sages in other times and in other places, widely separated, taught according to these rules. There is clear connection between the method by which they taught and the original version of its theoritician, R. Yitzhak Campanton. One might expect that people analysing identical material by the same method should arrive at identical conclusions. In fact, this is not so. It is the different personal factor that is decisive. Problems and questions have much in common, but the difference in the answers is great.

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