The Orthodox Rabbi Who Pioneered Critical Talmud Scholarship

Feb. 12 2016

When David Zvi Hoffman (1843-1921) first delved into academic study of the Talmud, the field was largely the province of proponents of Reform Judaism who wished to ground their movement’s changes to Jewish religious practice on a foundation of historical scholarship. For his part, Hoffman wished to use academic scholarship to defend Orthodoxy. His efforts laid the foundation for 20th-century study of the Mishnah—the earlier stratum of the Talmud, compiled around 200 BCE and traditionally believed to be based on a divine Oral Torah given to Moses. Michael Chernick writes:

David Zvi Hoffmann worked out a distinct, Orthodox approach to critical Mishnah study that attempted to understand the historical development of the Mishnah from within itself and from rabbinic and non-rabbinic sources related to it. . . . What sets Hoffmann apart from his contemporaries is his attempt to derive the history of the development of the Mishnah not only from references to its composition scattered across other traditional texts, but by carefully examining the work itself, and by “excavating” its layers. . . .

Through their research [into traditional Jewish texts], Reformers sought to demonstrate that Jewish practices were neither uniform nor static. . . . To counter their claims, Hoffmann set out to prove that the original Oral Torah, which according to him was preserved in the Mishnah, was ancient and originally undisputed.

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Read more at theGemara.com

More about: Jewish studies, Mishnah, Orthodoxy, Reform Judaism, Religion & Holidays, Talmud

 

Don’t Let Iran Go Nuclear

Sept. 29 2022

In an interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration remains committed to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, even as it pursues its brutal crackdown on the protests that have swept the country. Robert Satloff argues not only that it is foolish to pursue the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, but also that the White House’s current approach is failing on its own terms:

[The] nuclear threat is much worse today than it was when President Biden took office. Oddly, Washington hasn’t really done much about it. On the diplomatic front, the administration has sweetened its offer to entice Iran into a new nuclear deal. While it quite rightly held firm on Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from an official list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” Washington has given ground on many other items.

On the nuclear side of the agreement, the United States has purportedly agreed to allow Iran to keep, in storage, thousands of advanced centrifuges it has made contrary to the terms of the original deal. . . . And on economic matters, the new deal purportedly gives Iran immediate access to a certain amount of blocked assets, before it even exports most of its massive stockpile of enriched uranium for safekeeping in a third country. . . . Even with these added incentives, Iran is still holding out on an agreement. Indeed, according to the most recent reports, Tehran has actually hardened its position.

Regardless of the exact reason why, the menacing reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping ahead—and the United States is doing very little about it. . . . The result has been a stunning passivity in U.S. policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy