Centre for Jewish Studies, University of Manchester

THE SHERMAN LECTURES 2004

PROF. DANIEL SPERBER
TALMUD DEPT, BAR ILAN UNIVERSITY, ISRAEL

'THE MODERN STUDY OF HALAKHAH'

 

SHERMAN LECTURES (UNIVERSITY)

5:15pm in Arts Building, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, M19 9PL. (Building 24 on Campus Map).

Mon 15 March Lecture 1: 'The Structure of Halakhah (Law): the concepts of de'orayta (rules of biblical status), derabbanan (rules of rabbinic status) and minhag (custom)' (Arts Lecture Theatre) Abstract: The opening lecture defines these three basic categories of the halakhah, indicating their problematic elements.  The traditional descending hierarchy (de-orayta, derabbanan, minhag) of this tripartite structure of the halakhah is by no means clear.  These ambiguities have at times serious practical implications, and examples will be given to demonstrate this phenomenon.

Tues 16 March Lecture 2: 'The Changing Nature of minhag and the Tendency to Increasing Strictness' (Arts Lecture Theatre) Abstract: In talmudic times, minhag was clearly distinguished from halakhah and definitely possessed a lower order of authority.  However, through the Geonim, Rishonim and up to the Aharonim we see an increase in the authority of minhag such that eventually it equals halakhah derabbanan and even deorayta.  We shall examine the halakhic methodology whereby this process takes place, and suggest socio-historical reasons for it.

Wed 17 March Lecture 3: 'The Strange Concept of a minhag which "went away"' (Lower Ground Lecture Theatre LG12) Abstract: This lecture will exemplify the growth of minhag by showing how the attitude towards kitniyot (legumes on Passover) developed in Ashkenazi communities and grew progressively more stringent, until it bore no relationship to its possible sources.

Thurs 18 March Lecture 4: 'The Sociology of Contemporary Psak (religious legal ruling) and its Deficiencies' (Arts Lecture Theatre) Abstract: In earlier times, halakhists confronted by new socio-economic challenges sought out and found creative solutions within the parameters of normative halakhah.  However, starting in the early 19th century, a radical change came about, and Rabbis were loath to make any sort of innovation.  We shall examine the various factors contributing to this development.

 

COMMUNITY LECTURE

Sun 21 March, at 4.15: Community Sherman Lecture, on 'The Modern Study of the Halakhah: Yeshivah and Academy' in the Roscoe Building, University of Manchester at 4.15 (in the context of the Limmud Day). Abstract: In this lecture, we shall try to demonstrate how the critical analysis of rabbinic sources is absolutely essential for the halakhic decision-maker, and how lack of such discipline can lead to blatant errors in psak. For those not attending the Limmud Day, there will be a registration for the lecture of 5.00. Please book in advance by phoning 0161 720 8721.

 

Prof. Daniel Sperber

Faculty of Jewish Studies, Bar-Ilan University; Committee on National Religious Education, Ministry of Education, State of Israel; winner of the 1997 Israel Prize.

Prof. Sperber's areas of expertise include Classical philology; History of Jewish customs; Jewish art history; Jewish Education; Talmudic studies. His recent publications include:

Sperber, D. The City in Roman Palestine. New York, Oxford University Press, 2001.
Sperber, D. Nautica in Talmudic Palestine. Mediterranean History Review, vol. 15, 2001.
Sperber, D. Why Jews Do What They Do? New Jersey, 1999.
Sperber, D. Minhagei Yisrael. Jerusalem, 1998.
Sperber, D. On the Bathhouse. In: Katzoff, R. (ed.) Classical Studies in Honor of David Sohlberg, p. 353-366. Ramat Gan, Bar-Ilan University Press, 1996.



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The Co-Directors of the Centre are:
Professor Philip Alexander, Professor of Post-Biblical Jewish Literature
Professor Bernard Jackson, Alliance Professor of Modern Jewish Studies
 

Centre for Jewish Studies, Department of Religions and Theology
University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL
Tel: 0161-275 3614   Fax: 0161-275 3613   E-mail: cjs@man.ac.uk