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Bibil Identifier bibil:210012
Publication Type Journal article
Title (English, Long) Studies in the Transmission of the Oral Torah According to Maimonides' Introduction to the Mishneh Torah
Title (Modern Hebrew, Long) איש מפי איש. עיונים בהשתלשלות התורה שבעל פה בהקדמת משנה תורה לרמב"ם
Author Hershkowitz, Itzhak
Journal Jewish Studies, an Internet Journal (Volume: 7)
Year (Publication) 2008
Year (Original (1st Edition)) 2008
Year (Copyright) 2008
Year (Reference) 2008
Language Modern Hebrew
Pages 105-125 Pages
Genre Original
Abstract In this paper I discuss Maimonides’ unusual listing of the various mishnaic and talmudic Sages in the introduction to his Mishneh Torah (i.e., disorder in the sequence of the rabbinic figures mentioned and over-emphasis of the role of several of these figures, while decreasing the historical significance of others) and Rabad’s critique of this material. Rabad’s comments reflect the historical and chronological viewpoints of scholars preceding Maimonides (Rav Sherira Gaon and others), but Rabad did not clarify why Maimonides adopted his unique approach to describing the generations of the rabbinic sages. I argue that Maimonides’ hidden purpose was to promote a perspective of the Oral Torah that differed from the views adopted by Rabad. Rabad’s approach, which attributed great importance to the Geonim and demonstrated their crucial impact on the development of the Oral Torah, served in the polemic against Karaism. Maimonides, however, wished to lessen the importance of the Geonic scholars and enhance that of certain talmudic sages, particularly those who contributed significantly to transmitting rabbinic teachings from one generation to another.

To support his revolutionary point of view, Maimonides developed a special terminology with unique meaning. For example, the term Beit Din, in this special parlance, does not denote an actual court of law, but a group of scholars dedicated to disseminating in public the legal and ideological teachings of their master. Maimonides thus gained the freedom to disregard actual historical associations between scholars, and was able to describe the history of trends and ideas rather than of individual sages. By doing so, Maimonides expressed the outstanding and undisputed status of the Mishnah and the Talmud, as opposed to other works written after the Babylonian Talmud. Maimonides uses this distinction as a basis for emphasizing the uniqueness of his own works as the exclusive successors of the Mishnah and the Talmud.Studies in the Transmission of the Oral Torah According to Maimonides' Introduction to the Mishneh Torah
Keywords Thesaurus BiBIL : Milieu : Ancient Judaism : Important Persons and Movements : Middle Ages : Maimonides
Links Online document (PDF, Modern Hebrew)
Last modification 2017-10-27