Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rabbeinu Chananel

This shiur is really about the Rabbis of Kairouan and the codification of the Talmud. Having never heard of Kairouan at all until very recently it amazes me how many famous Rabbis lived there or learnt there.

I have also wondered for many years about what made the Talmud a binding text on all of Yisrael. We know that Ravina and Rav Ashi were the end of the Amoraim, but they were not the last Rabbis to add to the Talmud. At what stage (and why) did it switch from a fluid, oral, 'text' to a written text which was accepted by all of Yisrael?

I think the answer may be something to do with Kairouan and the story of the Four Captives (even though I recognise that the story is probably not a 'true' on - in the sense of having happened as written. But it may allude to a true principle about the Talmud).

As well as Rabbeinu Chananel this shiur mentions Rabbeinu Nissim, and their student, Rav Yitzchak Alfasi.

Also in this shiur - why learning 'Rif Yomi' is possibly more important for you than learning 'daf yomi'. (Though I also know that daf yomi has a lot of advantages that are nothing to do with the learning and the Torah).

Here is the shiur:

Here is the audio shiur (and the pdf sheets to download if you want).

Rabbeinu Chananel

(Right click and then 'download as')

Rabbeinu Chananel source sheet


  1. Really annoying... Asking my MP3 player questions mid-shiur, and not getting an answer. Maybe next time I'll spend extra for the 2-way version; the Doctor said he can set me up with one that will tunnel my words back in time...

    More annoying... Accidentally clicking "log out" instead of "publish" and losing a long typed comment! I'll try again.

    1- I blogged about the two schools of medrashei halakhah. Through the mishnah, R' Aqiva's school ends up having more impact on the post-medrash law than R' Yishmael.

    More on point, I also blogged about why categorizing halakhah into tractate, chapter, and law, is more Yefetic than Semitic. Although Rebbe does take steps to minimize the damage. Semitic thought -- from Judaism to the religions of the Far East -- focuses more on how things are connected than on breaking them down into parts and understanding each part. Something the West didn't get into until the late 20th cent, with Chaos Theory and Emergent Properties.

    2- The Rambam bases the authority of the Bavli on its acceptance by all of Israel (par 35). This doesn't depend on the conversion from an oral "code" to a written one. It is possible he would agree with the historical theory R' Treibitz and you each present in terms of when shas was first written down, but still considers the code that has authority to be the record of the oral one as R' Ashi and his beis din formalized it (par 30).

    There are cases where we don't hold like the Bavli and don't event try to read our position into the Bavli. The Gra says the Rambam would prefer a named opinion in the Y-mi over a stam Bavli. Prof Lieberman recovered part of the Rambam's Hilkhos haYerushalmi -- a Rif-like work. And in Ashkenaz, there is even more evidence of a tradition that ran through the Tosefta and Yerushalmi and into practice than what I can point to for the Rambam. Tosafos tended to "read in" everything into the Bavli, in particular, see the Ri in Berakhot 11b "shekevar niftar" who says to ignore a Y-mi because our gemara doesn't mention it. But that's not true for Ashkenaz in general.

    3- As a teen I had a "chavrusah" (he was 5 years older) who is now a name you probably heard of as the author of sefarim. When I started YU he asked me once why I was taking all those boring requirements rather than just taking the test and CLEPping (College Level Equivalency Program) them. He simply didn't understand the gap between his own intellect and the norm, and thus why most of us actually need the teacher.

    I think the Gra's list of what to learn is similar; he wrote for a balebas -- an "earner learner" as it's put in the US shidduch market -- but didn't realize how limited the norm is.

    Speaking of Yomi, R' Rakeffet recently gave his farewell shiur to talmidim in Gruss Kollel now heading off into the rabbinate. In it, he instructed them to maintain the following routine in order to stay holy in (despite?) the rabbinate:

    - His beqi'us recommendation was mishnayos
    - Gemara (of course)
    - She'arim haMetzuyanim baHalakhah (it was a shiur in shu"t and how to translate theory to pesaq, after all)
    - Have a regularly scheduled chesed that no one else knows about.

    Personally my notion of a good beqi'us book is Arukh haShulchan. Pragmatic, with enough logic-of-the-halakhah to keep it interesting. (WADR to the MB, I never stuck with MB Yomi for more than a month. My attention span isn't up to surveys of pesaqim with little discussion of rationale.)


  2. Part 2:

    4- As you saw in my recent post, the Netziv's Volozhin covered gemara faster than yeshivos today tend to, and did so with the Rosh. It's the same kind of "get down to the halakhah" approach as the Gra is saying about Rif Yomi. The difference appears to be more that a yeshiva bachur has a chance to learn gemara at a faster than 2-blatt-per-day pace, so he can tie his halakhah to the gemara. The Rosh is not stand-alone. Balebatim should use the stand-alone Rif. But again, the same basic attitude.

    5- I think you said something about who wrote the Maaseh Rav. It was R' Yitzchaq Ber Vilna. R' Chaim Volozhiner wrote the haqdamah, and is quoted in #117.

    In the MR, it says that the Gra insisted on "zekher" when hearing parashas Zakhor. In the haqdamah, RCV says he insisted on "zeikher", "with 5 dots". Until then, everyone said "zeikher" (if they had separate sounds for tzeirei and segol, of course) because that's the mesoretic text, as per Ben Asher et al. The Mishnah Berurah suggests reading both, so that you make sure you're yotzei according to the Gra, regardless of who is right about the Gra's minhag. But then, the Maaseh Rav doesn't say the Gra had them read both the mesoretic and what he held was grammatically correct versions...

    6- You said something you weren't sure of, and invited people to correct you in the comments. I don't recall what it was, but given my comment history, I took it personally. I do recall, though, thinking that what ever it was, I didn't think you were wrong.

    7- I don't have a #7. The original version of this comment did, though. Hopefully it was something like splitting off R' Rakeffet's "yomi" advice into its own item.