Camino Real (Derekh HaMelekh) and Modern Talmud Study

What role should academic and literary aspects of Talmud study have on our learning? Can they be interwoven with the traditional conceptual analysis practiced in yeshivot? On the one hand, Rabbi Carmy affirms the primacy of traditional modes of learning, as he puts it when employing an analogy from the history of philosophy, "investigation of the language and transmission of philosophical texts is ancillary to conceptual work, and is of little value unless that work is pursued." Ultimately, the ideas matter more than the history of their composition. On the other hand, literary and historical questions are quite real. Questions of odd placement of sugyot in the Talmud and of interpretations offered by later generations that seem to deviate from the simple meaning of their predecessorsí statements invariably come up, and we should be equipped to deal with them. Ignoring such questions can deter fine students and runs the risk of missing out on important avenues of understanding. Without portraying a precise recipe for synthesis, Rabbi Carmy advocates finding a place for literary-historical questions even as the bulk of our efforts remain in the conceptual sphere.

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Modern Scholarship in the Study of Torah (Orthodox Forum, 1991): 189-96.

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