Talmud Course Descriptions

Talmud Course Descriptions

 

Talmud: Tractate Brachot

1 Credit   Year-long course

This course is a study of the Talmud, specifically, the fifth chapter of Tractate Brachot.

At the beginning of the semester the class will learn an introduction to the study of Talmud where much information related to the history and development of the Talmud will be studied. In addition, the introduction will explain the different categories of Biblical and Rabbinic laws and why disputes arose among the Jewish sages as to what the final law should be.

The fifth chapter of Tractate Brachot deals with, among other things, the proper focus, concentration and respectful manner one should have during prayer. It also deals with many laws related to the actual procedure for prayer, such as the need to actually verbalize our prayers and not merely think them, the need to pray quietly and the prohibition to pray while intoxicated. Many of these laws are derived from the famous Biblical narrative of Chana, the mother of the prophet Samuel, and her encounter with Eli, the high priest, when she approached the tabernacle to pray for a child. As such, the Talmud has a lengthy and important discussion of those verses in the book of Samuel as understood by the rabbinic tradition which will also be studied in this class.

 

Talmud: Tractate Pesachim

1 Credit   Year-long course

This course is a study of the Talmud, specifically, the tenth chapter of Tractate Pesachim.

At the beginning of the semester the class will learn an introduction to the study of Talmud where much information related to the history and development of the Talmud will be studied. In addition, the introduction will explain the different categories of Biblical and rabbinic laws and why disputes arose among the Jewish sages as to what the final law should be.

The tenth chapter of Tractate Pesachim deals with, among other things, the rabbinic prohibition to begin a meal in the afternoon preceding the holiday of Passover and the lengthy Talmudic discussion related to that prohibition. In addition, there are several lengthy discussions related to specific laws and procedures for the Kiddush and Havdala rituals. Another topic of special interest is what the correct procedure is when a holiday, such as Passover, begins on Saturday night, the conclusion of the Sabbath, when both Kiddush and Havdala are recited together over one cup of wine. There are several interesting stories of what occurred when certain students were visiting with their teachers, and many laws and customs we follow in our own time are based on the outcome of those stories.

Talmud: Tractate Succah

1 Credit   Year-long course

This course focuses on the text of Mesechet Succah, the tractate of Talmud that discusses the laws pertaining to the Jewish holiday of Succot. The students study the second chapter of this tractate, which discusses a variety of interesting and relevant topics, but particularly those who are exempt from sitting in a succah during the holiday. Included in this category is a mourner, a groom, a person engaged in the performance of another Jewish commandment, women, and a person experiencing physical or mental discomfort due to the succah. The text delves into the rationales behind each of these exemptions, and as a class we discuss and debate them. Aside from studying the text, students learn about the development of the Talmud, and the entire corpus of what is called the “Oral Law.” This is generally done in the first few weeks of the school year. The students purchase the volume of Talmud they are studying in class at the beginning of the year, and it is theirs to annotate and to keep.

Talmud: Tractate Kiddushin

1 Credit   Year-long course

This course focuses on the text of Mesechet Kiddushin, the tractate of Talmud that discusses the laws pertaining to Jewish marriage. The students study a portion of the first chapter, beginning with a Mishna describes the obligations a father must perform for his son. Among these obligations is the commandment of circumcision as well as teaching his son Torah. The Mishna also describes commandments a son must perform for his parents, such as honoring and fearing them. Additionally, the students are introduced to aggadata, homilies of the Talmud.