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Christine Hayes and Yehoshua Pfeffer – What is Rabbinic Literature?

September 3, 2014

As part of Tikvah’s Summer Fellowship, participants were treated to a discussion on how to read and how to think about rabbinic literature. The two interlocutors approach rabbinic literature from different points of view and from different intellectual traditions. Christine Hayes of Yale University is one of the very few and perhaps the most accomplished academic expert in Talmudic literature who was neither born nor raised as a Jew and who, as you will see below, consciously decided not to convert to Judaism.  Professor Hayes’s fellow discussant was Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer, a haredi rabbinic judge and a former clerk on the Israeli Supreme Court. Each of these great teachers begins by talking about their “love affair” with rabbinic literature and shedding light on the core questions of reading rabbinic texts: What can we learn from the Talmud about how to live? About the truth of the universe? What kind of questions are therefore worth asking of the Talmud? After the autobiographical statements, each gave a shiur on a topic of their choice and responded to the other’s. In so doing, they demonstrated the differences and similarities between the spirit of the academy and the spirit of the yeshiva.

Filming took place on August 3, 2014.

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