ERIC REBILLARD: So our first speaker is Moulie Vidas from Princeton University, and the title of his talk is "A Pompidou Center of Torah-- The Genre of Talmud and the Performance Process." And I'm Eric Rebillard from Cornell classics, and I will be responding after Moulie's talk.
MOULIE VIDAS: Thanks Eric. And could I ask you to pass handouts please? Thank you so much. Hi. I use the word Pompidou and genre before I knew that a French person, a French-speaking person would be presenting me. So I'm going start with an observation a little similar to the one Chris made last night. The mission statement for this conference emphasized the performance of the Talmud in the sense of the performance that the text invites when it is read, and reshaped, and recited, and presented.
And what I want to talk about today is the performance within the text. And in reference to the other element of the conference's title, the performance of process in the Talmud. And the title of my presentation offers a visual analog of the literary devices I discuss today. So like the famous Pompidou Center in Paris, designed by Piano, Rogers, and Franchini, the genre of Talmud highlights the inside workings that could, in other plans, have been hidden.
To put the argument back in terms of the performing arts, which we are talking about in this conference, the Talmud places the backstage on the front stage. Scholarly attention has been focused on the way that our ancient texts hide from us the processes of becoming, their processes of becoming. And while I certainly agree that such hiding happens constantly as part of authority-constructing strategies, or as a result of different notions of textuality, I also think that there is a great deal to be gained by looking at the times where our texts actually highlighted their own processes of becoming. Where they put it on display, when they show it off.
I focus in my talk today on the Palestinian Talmud, using it unusually as an example of the genre of Talmud as a whole. We usually use a Bavli for it, I actually think for various reasons it makes sense to use Yerushalmi, in part because its earlier. We can talk about that. But I don't I don't argue for a particular essential difference between the Talmud on the points that I will talk about today.
My claim is that passages, anonymous or named in this Talmud, often call attention to processes of literary formation. And the first part of my talk will survey some of the many ways in which that highlighting is achieved, mostly by looking at some common, or semi-common terms and formulations. My iPad just get turned off, so I'm sorry. I'll just move it around more. OK. Doesn't happen with paper.
So first part is looking at some common terms by which this performance of process is achieved. The second part will focus on a particular term, [NON-ENGLISH], for which I'm going to try to offer a new interpretation with you, see if you like it. And the third part argues for the utility of the concept of performance in analyzing all these phenomena. This presentation today is part of a project that seeks to examine the emergence of Talmudic culture.
And what I mean by that is that I think the third and fourth century, what we call the Amoraic period saw wide-ranging shifts in terms of scholarly practices of the rabbis, in terms of textual practices of the rabbis. And that if we compare the Tannaitic material, the period just before the emergence of the Talmud, and the Yerushalmi, we can see these processes taking place.
One way to think About these processes that touches on some of the issues that Chris discussed last night, is to think of the object of interpretation in both of these corpora. So Tannaitic literature, generally speaking, if they interpret or cite texts, that those texts are scripture. The texts that are attributed to God.
What is unique about the Amoraic era is the rise of systematic interpretation and quotation of rabbinic tradition itself, texts that are attributed to humans. And I think that difference opened up, for the rabbis, a whole new range of possibilities, a whole new range of intellectual opportunities, and-- to go back to our topic-- a number of opportunities for new kinds of and performance. One of the distinct things about-- some distinct things about human text that I think come up in these things-- and many of them, but not all of them will come up today in the passages I will share with you-- are things that the Bible can't really do. I mean it can, but can't really do.
So the Bible can't be wrong. The Bible can't be irrelevant-- for the rabbi's, right? I mean, you know, maybe some of you think the Bible can be wrong, but, you know. The Bible can't be irrelevant. The Torah, I mean-- so thinking with Kugel on the interpretive assumptions-- the Torah generally does not have a moment of birth. It is not, the written Torah is not subject to the contingencies of human textual production.
The rabbis do not generally emphasize ways-- problems in the transmission of Torah, right? Torah is something that they know by heart, it's accessible to them. The written Torah, they never say, oh, there is a damaged copy here, or we can't know this verse, right? All those things are not true of rabbinic tradition. Rabbinic tradition can be wrong, can be imperfectly known, is subject to the contingencies of human literary production, and is presented and highlighted as such by the genre of Talmud, I think.
And this brings us back to this performance of process that is some of the topics-- some of the passages I want to share with you today highlight these moments of birth. Highlight the contingencies, highlight the process behind the traditions. And sometimes in a very performative way. Not always, and again I think I will clear what texts are more performative than others, and what I mean by that later on.
So if you look at your handout, I've chosen some text that I think-- some of them I have extremely boring subject matter, but that's a little bit on purpose. Because I want to give you things that represent the bread and butter of Talmudic discussion. The first one is a little is a little lighter, and maybe less boring.
So it tells us about Rabbi Jonathan and Rabbi Yannai. They were sitting, and men came and kissed the legs of Rabbi Jonathan. Rabbi Yannai said to him, what favor does he owe to you from back in the day? Why is he kissing your legs? He said to him, one time he came and complained to me about his son, that he should sustain him. So the man was old, wanted his son to sustain him. And the question is whether children are obligated by rabbinic law, right-- well, they are obligated-- but whether they can be forced by rabbinic law to sustain their parents in their old age.
And they said to him, go and shut the synagogue upon him and shame him. That's the advice to rabbi gave, and because of that advice, the old man felt he owed a favorite to the rabbi. He, Rabbi Yannai, said to him, to rabbi Jonathan, about this advice, why didn't you just force him by rabbinical decree? Why didn't he just force the son to sustain the father?
And Rabbi Jonathan replies, do we force him? Is that a possibility? Rabbi Yannai replies, are you still thinking about this? I mean, it's clear, right? This is a common term in the Talmud, right? Are you are you still thinking about this? Is it still unclear to you? Rabbi Jonathan retracted, and fixed it as a tradition in his name.
Rabbi [INAUDIBLE] arrived, and said that Rabbi Samuel ben Nahman said, in the name of Rabbi Jonathan-- that same Rabbi Jonathan who just fixed the tradition-- that we force the son to sustain the father. Said Rabbi bar Rabbi Boon, I wish old traditions-- [NON-ENGLISH]-- I mean, it appears in the singular in the text, but it should be plural. I wish all traditions were as clear to me as this one, that we force the son to sustain the father.
So notice that if we just had the last the very last line, we would have thought that this is some kind of ancient rabbinic textual claim, ancient rabbinic traditional claim, right? But in fact, what the story before it told us was the process by which it was arrived at and fixed as a tradition. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. And in fact, with that name, that it would later appear.
So again, so this is what I would call-- I mean, I think this is less performative, because the highlighting of the process here is done by narrative. But consider the next tradition, or the next discussion. Here we'll go less into the detail, again, because I think they can be a red herring for the purpose I need. But we have, Rabbi Ammi is citing for us a dispute between Rabbi Yochanan and Rabbi Shimon Ben Lakish. As Chris showed last night, that happens very often.
Rabbi Yochanan says, I'm going to say, says [NON-ENGLISH]. We are talking about whether a particular, whether doughs that you put it in the oven, and sort of bite each other, right? Whether they can connect for the purpose of the challah obligation, or not, right? Rabbi Yochanan says that they can, and it is on the authority of the Torah. Rabbi Shimon Ben Lakish, it is not, it can, but only on the authority of rabbinical law.
Rabbi [INAUDIBLE] reverses the tradition. So, meaning, Rabbi [INAUDIBLE] thinks, unlike Rabbi Ammi, that the positions are disputed. That what Rabbi Ammi says Rabbi Yochanan says is actually from Resh Lakish, from Rabbi Shimon Ben Lakish, and the opposite, right? So we have a problem in the transmission.
They come to the [INAUDIBLE] and ask him, what have you heard from Rabbi Yochanan to settle this question, right? What did you actually hear? He said to them, I did not hear anything. So again, so we have this moment of ignorance and uncertainty. We have a problem in the transmission of the tradition. We have an uncertainty about it. And Rabbi Jose, one of Rabbi Yochanan's greater students, doesn't know what his teacher thought about it.
But that gives Robbie Jose great opportunity for a performance, that he's going to highlight, again, with his own virtuosity. So again, so he says to them, I did not hear anything. But let us make the words of the rabbis explicit, drawing from that words. So like the magicians in [INAUDIBLE], he's saying, but let me show you the trick that I can do, right? I don't actually have a tradition, but let me show you the trick that I can do.
I can take another tradition by Rabbi Yochanan and Resh Lakish, right, and from that derive who said what. Now I think a lot of Talmudists assume, a lot of modern scholars assume, and have written in the tradition of modern scholarship, articles about how such processes of attributions happen. That is, that because something is attributed to a rabbi in one place, it is attributed to him also in another place, even though he didn't explicitly say that.
But here the Talmud is doing it itself, and showing us that it is doing that. It is showing us, no, we didn't actually know that it is attributed to Rabbi Yochanan, but I'm going to show you. And again, and I think and I think that one of the reasons that Rabbi Jose doing it, is because he wants to show off this virtuosity. He could have just told them, no, Rabbi Yochanan-- he would have just told them the conclusion.
Much like the Talmud then shows us processes of reasoning in everything that it does, like Midrash, it always shows us the way to arrive at the conclusion, rather than just the conclusion itself. It does it even in processes of literary formation. And I think that is a particularly interesting case of that processural performativeness. OK, and there are-- I mean, I didn't write this, but there are about a dozen passages that do something very similar to the passage we've seen now.
So if the previous source showed us attribution criticism, I think this source showed us what in modern scholarship we would call redaction criticism. That is, a criticism that is critique of the decision to place rabbinic traditions one by the other. So we have, we begin with a quotation from the Mishnah. If a private town became public, et cetera. So it's a particular case of a private town, a town that was owned, I think, by-- it seems to be an ownership question. Owned by one person, but who would rent out the houses to other people. Then became public, many people own many houses.
The question is how does that affect the laws of the eruv, the laws of reconfiguring the spaces conceptually so that Jews may carry things from one domain to another on the Sabbath. It was recited in Rabbi Judah's name, we may not merge it in halves. So we may not merge it piecemeal. You have to merge it once in its entirety.
The Talmud then objects to it, and I'm not going to go into the objection. But it has a problem, because if Rabbi Judah thinks that, then it contradicts his position elsewhere. And so after the Talmud arrives at this conclusion that there might be a contradiction here, it switches its original assumption. It says this, i.e., Rabbi Judah's teaching, we may not merge it in halves, was not said about that-- about if a private town became public-- but about this, and then cites another teaching.
Even if a town as large as Antioch has only one entrance, one may make a single eruv for it. About this it was recited in Rabbi Judah's name, we may not merge it in halves. So what has the Talmud done? It started with connecting two pieces of a puzzle-- the Mishnah and this tradition by Rabbi Judah. And then it said, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Those pieces don't fit. This piece fits with, actually, another piece of the puzzle.
But by doing so, it is drawing attention to the fact that those are discrete pieces of the puzzle that somebody is drawing together. And that those decisions are actually contested, and problematic, and can be wrong. So if, again, if now we didn't have the criticism part, and we just had, if a private town became public, et cetera, it was recited in Rabbi Judah's name, we may not merge it in two halves, we would assume that it is the natural, obvious, and an undisputable interpretation of Rabbi Judah's that it fits with that Mishnah.
But the Talmud, again, is drawing our attention to the process of composition by telling us, no, no, no, these pieces of the puzzle actually don't stick together. And this term, [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] or its Bavli equivalent, [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH], are actually quite common.
The next set of terms I want to talk about are terms that highlight the discovery of new sources. It was found recited, or Rabbi so-and-so arrived and taught. What these terms highlight, I want to say, are-- they actually don't highlight just the discovery of the new sources, but they highlight the fact that these sources were unknown before they were discovered. It was a moment of, again, ignorance or uncertainty before they were discovered.
So we are talking about a particular case in the question of marriage law. This is number four on the handout. The question is how long women should wait between the end of their last-- I would call it a marriage-related event, because it can be betrothal also-- and a new marriage event. And there is a dispute between the anonymous opinion in the Mishnah, and Rabbi Jose opinion in the Mishna.
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. A case came before Rabbi Yochanan, and he ruled according to Robert Jose. That is, not according to the anonymous ruling in the Mishnah, but according to Rabbi Jose's ruling in the Mishnah. And Rabbi Jose was upset, as he goes, saying, "One abandons the anonymous ruling and acts according to the individual ruling?" That's not OK, right? You should act according to the anonymous ruling, because the anonymous ruling ostensibly represents the majority of the sages. Why act according to one person when you could act for the many?
It, that is, that same anonymous ruling, from the Mishnah, was found recited by Rabbi [INAUDIBLE] in the name of Rabbi Meir. So imagine this, in modern scholarly terms, we would say, we found a new manuscript in which this anonymous teaching is actually attributed to Rabbi Meir. So it wasn't an anonymous position ascribed to by everybody, but we have a source that actually shows that it is by Rabbi Meir.
So an alternative version of the Mishnah was discovered, recited. And part of what we have to think, I think part of what is interesting is what does it mean to discover oral texts. I mean, I think the rabbis are kind of, they have a parallel book culture to the kind of book culture we find in other scholarly tradition, except that they don't have books. Which is an interesting thing.
And this appeases Rabbi Elazar, because now he knows that Rabbi Yochanan acted according to Rabbi [INAUDIBLE]. But not against the anonymous position. And he says, "The old man, Rabbi Yochanan, knows his material well," or knows his materials himself. So again, so you notice how this term right, "It was found recited," dramatizes the process by which the rabbis come to know what they know.
In this particular case, of "It was found recited," there is even a more interesting aspect of this highlighting of process, because the content here then talks about process. So if you switch the next page, page three, at the very top. Rabbi Mana asked before rabbi Judah. There, Rabbi Hezekiah said that Rabbi [INAUDIBLE] said in the name of Rabbi Elazar, "Any place that Rabbi Judah the prince taught as a dispute, and then returned and taught it anonymously, the law follows the anonymous Mishnah. And here you say this?"
OK, so I realize this might not be clear to 100% of you. It was obviously not clear to me the first time I read it. But what the premise of Rabbi Mana's question is this. So Rabbi Elazar was very, very content, was very happy when they found this new source, this alternative source of the Misha, because he said, OK, this opinion, it was Rabbi [INAUDIBLE]. It's not anonymous, it's fine to rule against it.
But can't you think of it, that this is actually an earlier version of the Mishnah, rather than just alternative, an earlier version of the Mishnah. And that the editor of the Mishnah, Rabbi Judah the Prince, knew this version, and then shows this opinion by Rabbi [INAUDIBLE] and taught it anonymously. And therefore, because of it, we must follow it. Because the editor of the Mishnah himself chose to make it anonymous, chose to anonymize it.
This question is then rejected for various reasons, in passages that I didn't bring here. But what's interesting is, again, the Talmud is drawing our attention to the fact that these texts are always become-- have always, were in a moment of process, and that there were editorial choices by the rabbis themselves to omit names, add names, change versions. And that affects a [NON-ENGLISH] and how we understand them.
The next one, again, I really don't want to go into the cont-- 'cause this one is really, it's very convoluted. It's a [NON-ENGLISH] that some of you know very well. The [NON-ENGLISH] of Rabbi [INAUDIBLE], the perfect of the priests, about whether or not it is permitted to-- or in what cases it is permitted to burn something that you are supposed to guard for its purity, with something that is impure at the same time.
So that even though you burn them together, you add the impurity from one thing to the other, even though you're supposed to guard the purity of that foodstuff. Say, something you sanctified, or a [NON-ENGLISH] offering. But we can glance the structural issue just even from-- without going into the content. Rabbi Jose the Amora raises a particular difficulty about Rabbi Jose [INAUDIBLE].
And then the Talmud pauses after Rabbi Jose the Amora says that. And he says, and the Talmud says, or the anonymous comment in the Talmud says, "Rabbi Jose asked it, asked this because he heard one tradition--" I'm just going to read the underlined passages. "He heard one tradition, and he heard another tradition. But he did not hear a third tradition."
So that is, the only reason Rabbi Jose is making this difficulty, is raising this question, is because he had incomplete knowledge of the tradition. He had these sources available, so he could have asked, this question necessitates knowledge of these sources. But if he had that third source, he would not have made this question.
So after this brief explanation of what sources were available to the sage when he was making the difficulty, the Talmud then goes on to cite the difficulty itself. And I'm not going to read it, but if you are interested, you can. And I'm going to go straight to the underlying passages there. Do you see, "Rabbi [INAUDIBLE] arrived?" Do people see this?
So as Rabbi Jose is making this, as he is making the difficulty-- and the Talmud, I think, invites us to see this-- I think it's a dramatic scene, right? He's making this difficulty, and Rabbi [INAUDIBLE] arrives from Tyr, and makes this entrance. And he said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan, "Both the former and the latter are impart impurity according to the Torah. And I Rabbi Jose," the difficulty raiser, "said, well said."
So he changes his mind, his difficulty is no longer a difficulty, because Rabbi, because of this-- what James will talk about later on-- because of this arrival scene Rabbi [INAUDIBLE] from Tyr. So again, this in this case, the common term, in the Yerushalmi that we are talking about is, "He did not hear." It appears around 150 times.
And the purpose of this term is to highlight how a particular rabbinic statement is premised on ignorance of another rabbinic statement. And then, it will be resolved by an arrival scene of that sort, or it was found recited, like we saw in the previous passage. And sometimes it is not resolved in that way.
So let me just see how I'm doing on time. All right, I think I'm fine. So I'll dedicate the next few minutes before the conclusion to talk about a particular term where I think, which I think has been-- I wouldn't say misunderstood exactly-- but I think that we have not appreciated its full force appropriately. The term is [NON-ENGLISH]. Usually it is usually translated as, "According to his opinion."
Or sometimes you will see-- the full thing, I think, is actually a wrong translation-- "Is consistent with his own opinion." The way this term works, and I should have brought you, in the hand out, a more normal example. But whatever. I'll try to do that without a text. The way this term is usually works is you have a statement by a rabbi, and then the Talmud will say, this rabbi said this according to his opinion, and bring another statement from the same rabbi that somehow connects to the first statement.
The way that this term has usually been interpreted, say, by Moscovitz in his great book on the terminology of the Palestinian Talmud, but also by medieval commentator, is it's an association term. It associates one teaching with another, and the drive here is a drive to associate. Already this, I think, is an interesting phenomenon, because we don't have, in tannaitic literature, the idea that rabbis have-- that individual rabbis have a consistent body of teaching. That doesn't exist, right?
So already here, we have this interesting-- well, sorry. It doesn't exist, that's a little bit of an exaggeration. It doesn't exist to the same force. But what I think [NON-ENGLISH] actually does is expose, or highlights the conditions, perspectives, individual inclinations, ideas that brought to that particular teaching. So it's not just a term of association, but it actually says something more forceful.
Let me try to demonstrate it briefly. The word [NON-ENGLISH], from which that term derives-- [NON-ENGLISH], according to his opinion, [NON-ENGLISH], opinion-- is on some occasions contrasted with tradition in the Palestinian Talmud. So take a look at the first, on page four, first source, number six. If the first [NON-ENGLISH] falls on the Sabbath eve, when do they read the portion of [NON-ENGLISH], which Rabbis Zaira, said, they read it in the previous Sabbath. Rabbi [INAUDIBLE] quoted Rabbi Abbahu in the name of Rabbi Yochanan, they read it in the next Sabbath.
Robbie Zaira was staring at him. So staring in the Palestinian Talmud is this disapproving gesture. It's like hmm. I don't know. I can't do it as good as Rabbi Zaira must have done it. But--
Could you do it, John?
AUDIENCE: No, no, no, no. God forbid. None of us can do it.
MOULIE VIDAS: He said to him, why are you staring at me? I base myself on a tradition, and you base yourself on an opinion, and you're staring at me? And so notice it the way we know Rabbi Zaira was basing himself only on an opinion and not a tradition, is because Rabbi [INAUDIBLE] is actually citing Rabbi [INAUDIBLE] in the name of Rabbi Yochanan. Whereas Rabbi Zaira is just stating his own opinion.
My claim is that something similar is happening with the term [NON-ENGLISH], which, again appears-- so it appears around 100 times in the Talmud, in the Palestinian Talmud. In none of these times does [NON-ENGLISH] apply to a statement in which a rabbi cites another rabbi. So in all of them, it's about a statement like Rabbi Zaira, and not a statement like Rabbi [INAUDIBLE].
And I think in those cases, it means, so we have a question. Is this rabbi actually saying a tradition that he received? Or is he giving us his own opinion, his own subjective, contingent opinion? And [NON-ENGLISH] answers is the latter. One of the ways [NON-ENGLISH] does it is by a number of biographical associations. And some of you, I've already shown this passage, of a rabbi makes a certain ruling about wine, and the [NON-ENGLISH] says, "He rules according to his opinion, [NON-ENGLISH], because he can't hold his alcohol." That's one such passage.
In the passage you have here, number seven. I'm not going to read through it, but Samuel is making a ruling and the [NON-ENGLISH] says, "He makes it according to his own opinion," and his opinion, in this case, is that children can recognize their mother from the age of three days. And the Talmud, says [NON-ENGLISH], right, as his own opinion, because he said he remembers his midwife, the person who gave him birth.
So this is the end of passage seven there. And then we get, by the way, an interesting chain of rabbis who all say they remember people from the very first day. And my absolutely horrifying favorite is Rabbi Joshua ben Levi, who says, "I know the circumciser who circumcised me." This is relevant for the movie. Anyway.
This is one reason to think that [NON-ENGLISH] tells us the reason behind teachings, as opposed to just associate random teaching. Another reason is because [NON-ENGLISH] sometimes refer to the very teaching that, to which it applies. It. So it would be, instead of saying, teaching a, [NON-ENGLISH], day teaching b. It would be teaching a, [NON-ENGLISH], teaching a again.
That's a case in number eight. I'm not going to read you through this. But the point is that it refers to the explanation clause, saying, it is only because of this explanation, it is only because of this reason that the rabbi thinks this, not because of tradition. But my main proof-- and with this I will end this part of the talk. My main proof is that in dozens of cases of [NON-ENGLISH], right, about 34 of them, there is an asymmetry between teaching A and teaching B.
Teaching A is usually a specific Halakchic ruling. Teaching B is either a principal, or a non-Halakchic statement, like, "Clouds come from below, or come from up high." Or like, prayer is awesome. So teaching B is a broad, sometimes non-Halakchic, but definitely broader statement. And what I think is happening, if it's just a term of association, as Moskowitz thinks, why this asymmetry? Why shouldn't it be the opposite?
And it's only in two cases, from the 100, it's only in two cases, it's the opposite, that the B is more specific than A. And I think the reason for that asymmetry is that it tells us this rabbi did not have a specific tradition on this case that he is ruling about. But rather, this rabbi is deriving this from a principle, a broad perspective that he had. So it's his opinion in the sense that he is only deriving this for this case because of a broader principle. And I gave you about, I think, 10 examples on page five, six, that I'm not going to read.
OK, let me just conclude on what I think performance has to do with this, and what I think are some of the implications. I want to call three interrelated aspects of the concept of performance that I think make it useful for our purposes. First, performance involves to some degree affected action. These passengers are performative in the sense that the procedures they follow are not necessary for an efficient communication of information.
The Talmud could have given us an answer instead of its process of derivation. It could have erased parts of the discussion that were simply uninformed about a particular tradition. I argue that the purpose of these actions are connected with two other aspects of performance. First, that performance is about showing something, even showing off something to an audience. And second, that performance often invites an imitation, and at least imagined participation. It has, in other words, a pedagogic function.
What do the rabbis wants to show us, want to show off to us? In the introduction to this talk, I mentioned how modern scholars often focus on moments where our texts are trying to hide from us their process of becoming. One reason scholars do that is that exposing these processes against the grain of their original rhetoric is an impressive scholarly feat. The highlighting of such processes also asserts a powerful command of such texts, and showing how the text was conceived is one way to claim superiority over it.
And I think our rabbis were aiming at putting on a very similar scholarly show, as modern scholars do. Our [NON-ENGLISH] was found recited or [NON-ENGLISH], operate a lot like modern scholarly highlighting of the discovery and publication of new texts. Both are opportunities to display that without a scholarly process, we would not have had access to crucial information.
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH], did not hear sources, reconstruct a way an author's personal reasoning and inclination, or imperfect knowledge, led to a particular formulation, without leaving traces in the original texts. And those traces are then shown off by the scholar who is showing, oh, look, I can show you that this was said only because of this reason. Or that this was said only because of this circumstance.
And so these are occasions for the kind of scholarly showmanship similar to what we find in the Greco-Roman and modern world. And let me carry this argument one step further. You know what, I'm not going to carry it one step further. The step doesn't need to be.
AUDIENCE: We'll have to imagine that.
MOULIE VIDAS: You'll have to imagine it. But it was a fine partial performance. I think there's some inter-- so I just mentioned this Greco-Roman thing. I think there are some interesting parallels with what has happened in Christianity, in Christian scholarly culture over the time. And I think Eric will discuss that in his response. So I'm going to leave this to the Q&A.
But the second sense in which I think it is useful to talk about these phenomena in the sense of performance returns to the call for paper that Zvi wrote, and the kind of performance that the Talmud invites. The passages we have seen model certain procedures of reading that can be performed on other traditions and texts in the Talmud on which these processes don't exist. So you have [NON-ENGLISH] on about 100 traditions, but when you get to the habitus of doing that, you can do it on 100 more traditions.
I think we always need to be careful when talking about the reception history of any texts, lest we retroject later reading practices back into the text itself. And oral practices belong in particular historical moments, but they also respond to cues within the text itself, not just within the historical surrounding-- especially a text that is a steady practice of its own. Talmud is an activity, right, not just a text.
So the different procedures we have seen here today inspire different kinds of imitations in different periods. 12th century Tosifists for example, love to reconstruct the reasoning processes behind different traditions, and see them even more as a result of discrete individuals than the Talmud sees them. So the Tosifists often make a lot of the same kind of moves we have seen today, imitating the Talmud's performance.
The modern study of the Talmud in the 20th and 21st century adopts many of the reading strategies we have seen today-- arguments about which traditions were available for which stage, at what stage of the text development. And I really think the brand of philology that is practiced by modern Talmudic scholars is much more indebted to rabbinic textual practices than modern scholars commonly admit. They think they just drew it from the classics tradition, but it's really, it's sort of an interesting hybrid.
The Pompidou Center complexity and rawness may at first appear forbidding. But it provided a wonderful spectacle of the insides of a modern building. And at least it's ostensible transparency invited people to know how buildings work. I think the Talmud does something similar. Thanks.
ERIC REBILLARD: So as Moulie announced, in my response I will bring to the table for discussion some textual practices that we find in question text. And Moulie, in the notes he had sent to me in advance, mentioned two practices that's often been conflated. The quotation practice of Eusebius of Caesarea, the famous church historian and biograph of Constantine. And what is called, in the Christian tradition, the Patristic Argument.
I'd like to present these two, and how they differ, and then suggest how we can rejoin what Moulie was telling us about today. So as is well known, a little under half of Eusebius' ecclesiastical history consists of verbatim quotations of previous texts. This quotation practice is not limited to the history. In the gospel preparation, Eusebius also extensively quotes the text of others.
And Jeremy Schott recently suggested that it was more broadly a Caesarian practice-- and I think that's what was of interest to Moulie here. So in Palestine, at the beginning of the 4th century. Caesarean practice develop in the circle of Pamphilus, and also present in a text written by Pamphilus with the help of Eusebius, the Apology for Origen.
These textual practices have mainly been studied within the boundaries of the different genres of the text they belong to. Specialists of historiography tend to limit their consideration to the ecclesiastical history, and to other historians, Jewish or pagans. Specialists of apology study the gospel preparation and the gospel demonstration, where the quotes are limited to biblical proof text.
Nevertheless, none of these traditions that have been invoked by scholars can explain the scale of Eusebius' quotation practice. It has also seldom been noted that though Eusebius had influenced both subsequent ecclesiastical histories and Christian apologies, the quotation practice remains specific to him, at least to a large extent. For instance, none of the 5th century [INAUDIBLE] of Eusebius quote verbatim passages of their sources to the extent that Eusebius does in his ecclesiastical history.
Jeremy Schott, after other scholars, has suggested instead of comparing this practice to what's happening later, that Pamphilus and Eusebius were, I quote, "The progenitors of what would become the [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH], the tradition of authoritative quotation and citation of the Fathers--" and fathers here has a capital F. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] is coined by analogy with [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH], the commentary of the scriptures.
Mark Vessey had suggested earlier to call this practice, a [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. By reference, I assume, to Augustine's own [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. But neither [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] nor [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] have ever been used by ancient Christian writers. Patristic citation is defined by Mark Vessey as "The insertion into a new discursive context of text explicitly attributed to one of the Fathers--" also with a capital F.
And Vessey see further notes, I quote, "That it is a procedure which is commonplace in Greek and Latin dogmatic writing after 430, but exceedingly rare, or it is poorly attested in the extent literature before 400." To us, Pamphilus and Eusebius will be the progenitors of a practice that took more than a century to develop. I think that's a hint that there's not necessarily a continuity between these two practices.
I myself suggested it in a paper written quite a long time ago that every patristic citation should not been assimilated to what would become the patristic argument, as defined by Vincent of Lérins in his Commonitorium written around 434. And I'll describe what Vincent recommends. If no council decision has dealt with the question debated, Vincent recommends that, I quote, "One collect and examine the opinions of the ancients, who, although they come from different places and times, remain however in the communion and face of the one Catholic Church, and appeared as commendable teachers. One must understand that he too can believe without doubt what has been openly, frequently, and constantly taught, written, and defended-- not by one or two, but by all in the same way, according to one and the same consensus." End of quote.
By that time, 434, the patristic argument was granted an authority similar to that of a council. The Pelagian controversy was probably the first controversy in the West during which patristic citations have been given the central place. And I have shown that far from being inevitable, this was the result of a deliberate strategy of Augustine to impose a new type of argument.
For resolving issues that could not be solved simply by appeal to scripture, Augustine suggests to seek the consensus of the teaching of orthodox bishops, dead or alive. And the alive is an important thing. He insists that the authority of each individual author possesses no particular weight-- and Moulie mentioned this about the rabbis. Any one of them might be wrong, or could even be corrected by another author.
The authority of the argument lies therefore in the consensus of their teaching. And against Julian, Augustine employs both a metaphor of a council, and that of a book. And the bringing them together is a nice combination. I quote, "If a synod of bishops were summoned from all over the world, I wonder whether that many men of their caliber could easily be assembled.
After all, these men did not live at the same time. Rather, at different periods of time, and in distant places. God sends as he pleases, and as he judges helpful, a few of his faithful ministers who are excellent beyond the many others. And so you see these men gathered from different times and regions, from the East and from the West, not to a place to which human beings are forced to travel, but in a book which can travel to them."
Patrick Gray has shown that similar developments took place in the East, with Cyril of Alexandria in particular. He insists, however, that it is only after Chalcedon, the council held in 451, that, I quote, "The argument from the fathers," there is no capital F, "so developed, would becomes the soul and substance of legitimate theological activity in dogma."
In a word, I don't think we should conflate the quotation practice of Eusebius of Caesarea and the later development of the [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] or [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. If we want to understand the new forms of textuality that we find in Eusebius, I suggest we follow another path, well-noted by Jeremy Schott, but that can be put into a broader context of late antique textual practices.
Schott notes that, I quote, "According to origin, orthodox discourse is produced in and through an ongoing process in which skilled readers interrogate the scriptural letter of tradition, and by improvising upon the spirit of it, in turn, produce further iterations of tradition." End of quote. He also notes that, quote, "Eusebius' quotational devise thus imagines readers as the judges of historical argument, of which the extensive quotations are the evidence."
And the last quote, he concludes, "In such a textuality, the engagements between reader, writer. and text is not dead, as the Phaedrus would have it." The reference here is to Plato, and then neoplatonic interpretation of it. "Rather, it demands constant interrogation of another's words, and forces the reader/writer even deeper into the text, to consider the positions she/he will take in relation to his or her words, and the words of others." End of quote.
The common emphasis in the three quotes is on the role of the reader. The skilled reader will engage in active reading by the textual practices embedded in the texts, he/she reads. Aaron Pelttari, a former graduate student in our program in classics here at Cornell, recently suggested that the reader is indeed central to late antique poetics. And he even talks about, quote, "The late antique turn toward reading."
His subject is more particularly the Latin poetry of the 4th century-- quite different from the texts we've considered, and even more from the Talmud. But I think it's interesting to see how they come together to some extent. However, Pelttari's opening chapter is about commentaries of the scriptures, and of Virgil in late antiquity. And more interestingly, when he studies allusion practices, he defines what he calls quotation, as a specific late antique form of allusion.
A quotation is the form of allusion that quotes a fragment without competing with its source. It calls for a strong reader who will navigate the meaning of the difference between the text and its hypertext. And as Pelttari writes, "While every allusion depends for its activation upon this strong reader, late antique allusions bring that dependence into focus." And I think that's where maybe there is a little connection with the text, kind of textual practices described by Moulie in his paper.
And these textural practices seem to be shared even more widely than we would traditionally be prepared to recognize. The inscription within the text of the process of writing, reading through devices that call for an active reader. Thank you.
So you have to take the--
MOULIE VIDAS: Oh, I have to-- OK.
ERIC REBILLARD: Microphone back.
MOULIE VIDAS: Do you-- Jonathan, should we take questions now? Or how were you imagining this? I'm looking to the organizers, and--
AUDIENCE: We're all grown-ups.
MOULIE VIDAS: OK. Are we?
AUDIENCE: Well, OK. I'm not a grown-up.
You always want to go first in the discussion. And I really should [INAUDIBLE] discussion. Since you've turned to me. I have three points I'd like to raise, and the last is very much in response to your response, Eric. The first is just to ask Moulie about where you would place, in this spectrum of construction recorded in the text-- as a record of scholarly performance-- some of the more violent forms of resolution. Such as, oh, I never heard of that. Which are always shocking when they come up.
And the second is to I think, confirm your last point about the continuities between the way we approach these texts, and the way they've been approached for centuries. Which I find confirmed over and over. Not to say-- as what I'm about to say implies-- but I think that when I go into the yeshiva on East Broadway, I'm participating in something that's unchanged for the past 1,000 years.
But I do find much less dissonance between the process of analysis in that room, and the process of analysis in this room than we would be led to believe from outside. And that's something I really hope to bring out in the [INAUDIBLE]. And the last question I have for both of you, since you were tending to be talking about a written record that at least represents itself, for the most part, as finding, resolving, losing sets of world texts.
And Eric is talking about readers, primarily, of written texts. It sounds to me that in some ways, that's not necessarily a difference that makes much of a difference. Which would go to the general point, about the non-ontological difference between written and oral texts.
MOULIE VIDAS: So let me start with the end, if I work up back. I mean, so this room has had several experts in book history. And I'm-- so Kim and Talia, and [INAUDIBLE], and maybe others. So I'm worried about saying this in front of you guys. But I think that's true. That is, I mean, that the distinction between written and oral, in this particular case, in this particular culture, did not make as much difference as we would think.
But I think that's strange. So I talked about those, like, it was discovered. You know, there's a story in the first Mishnah of the 10th chapter of [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] in the Yerushalmi. Rabbi Abbahu arrives in Caesarea, and his face-- sorry, Tiberius. He travels from Caesarea to Tiberius. His face is lit up, and Rabbi Yochanan's students say, oh, he must have found his great treasure.
And Rabbi Yochanan, says, oh no, he must have heard a new piece of Torah. And he goes and asks Robbie Abbahu, and Rabbi Abbahu says, no, no, no. I found an ancient tosefta, an ancient additional tradition. But how did he find that? So he's walking in Tiberius, and how does he-- and this narrative of discovery, we know from these kind of bibliographic or bibliophile traditions in late antiquity, of finding that ancient book that you've been looking for.
And then to refer to some of what, the phenomena that Eric was describing, the effect of the death of these authors. And yet, you are transmitting their words all the time, as a way. So that's something that is associated with the technology of the book, but that the rabbis transfer to the technology of exact oral citation. And so there you have you have that sentence, that when you say something in the name of another rabbi, that rabbi's lips move in the grave with him.
So citation is a way of perpetuating. So it's the same technology. So they are imitating, I think, aspects of book culture. Because I do think their origin must be in book culture-- I think. I'm going to stake this out. But they're imitating it into the orality.
The second point, I completely agree about the continuity. And the first point, the violence is part of the game, right? You have very, very rude comments. But also some of the terms for the objection. One term for objection in the Yerushalmi is, Rabbi so-and-so was kicking it, right? [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] Rabbi.
And I think they are part of the drama that the text is trying to transcribe to us, or offer to us for viewing. Do you want to respond to the--
ERIC REBILLARD: Maybe just on the oral [INAUDIBLE] I was thinking about this [INAUDIBLE] to Moulie on this thing. In the Christian context, we see that the difference is not that important either. If we have some so-called transcriptions, they're not real transcriptions. But transcriptions of discussion within councils, and then they are commented upon. In the case of Augustine, they are probably better than the other place. And they use the same [INAUDIBLE]. So I think, yes, the go between the two [INAUDIBLE].
AUDIENCE: So I had one sort of focused, small point question, and then a general thing for you to think about. I thought the [NON-ENGLISH] examples were interesting, and I like your reading of it. So just to be clear, [NON-ENGLISH] really has to do more with-- it almost, it's opinion, but in the sense of, that's coming from him somewhere, because he had this experience, or he remembers his midwife. And so he's cooked this up on his own, as opposed to being something that he's heard.
So I'm wondering, what is-- you pointed out the difference between the character of the A and B, the thing that is [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] attributed to [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. But what is their relative epistemological status? In other words, as things continue, is this always, "mere" opinion? Do we attach that to it, or mere intuition, or that's just some crazy cockamamie idea you came up with because of an experience you had? Is that how it's treated epistemologically, and therefore it always falls, or just, you've looked at 100 cases, I wonder if you've seen patterns.
MOULIE VIDAS: So what's interesting is that it doesn't seem to be disparaging. So it doesn't say-- now, in the passage we have from [NON-ENGLISH] where [NON-ENGLISH] are contrasted, there does seem to be a hierarchy. Because he says, why are you looking at me? I'm saying from-- but on the other hand, it's not a very strong hierarchy, because he's not saying what he's said is invalid, because it's a [NON-ENGLISH].
He's saying, if anybody should be looking at anybody, it's me looking at you, right? The other thing doesn't seem to, it doesn't seem to say that. However, in some cases, using this term-- if my interpretation of it is correct-- is undermining significantly what the rabbi is saying. So in another part of that sugiya, [NON-ENGLISH] on impure, on burning some impure-- Rabbi Akiva, some of you might remember-- offers something almost in the language of testimony about the temple.
He would say, the priest would never have done X. And the Yerushalmi then says, he said that according to his own opinion, and brings another Midrash. Now, wait. Is he saying something he knows that happened in the temple, or is he relying on his Midrash, right? Those are very, very different things.
AUDIENCE: I think that's really important, 'cause is all about framing, right? You have certain terms to signal to us what our attitude towards it should be. First of all, by telling us, finding for us with their attitude towards it should be. But then they're performing for us, what their-- what their attitude is tells us what our attitude should be. So I think it's important, and I'm wondering if there's a shift there.
And I wish I could remember better, but you might want to look at, [INAUDIBLE], there's an article called the four-- [INAUDIBLE].
MOULIE VIDAS: Four five.
AUDIENCE: No, the Four [INAUDIBLE] Presumption in Tannaitic Literature. Which to me, sounds like a very similar phenomenon. Any time they turn to a first person. And I think that's also contrasting with [NON-ENGLISH]. So that would be someone who would say something, a tradition, and someone else will say--
MOULIE VIDAS: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]
AUDIENCE: And they'll say, but did you hear this? So it is contrasted again with tradition. So it might just be another technical term that captures, really, the same kind of form. But I think-- and I wish I could remember this conclusion, 'cause I read it so long ago-- but I think he does talk about a shift of the epistemological status of it. And maybe that'll carry through the [NON-ENGLISH].
So it might be kind of interesting. And what are they showing, what are they trying to teach us, and perform for us by highlighting things as contrasting tradition with something that's just cooked up? And when is [NON-ENGLISH] permitted, when is it just [NON-ENGLISH]. Is there a difference between something that's [NON-ENGLISH], something that's really derived legitimately, something that's just an experience or an intuition? Those are all really great questions.
So is it OK if I say my more general thing? Thanks, that was really great. And I think just overall, the paper's so interesting. I love this whole idea of showing your work, you know, like in a math test. You can't just give the answer, you gotta show your work, right? And that's really what a lot of this is about.
And you started off by talking about the fact that the rabbi's different conceptions of the text might open up new opportunities. And I think on paper, you're right. But then I wonder still if-- and again, just because of the last book I just wrote, and so I'm under its influence, I'm sorry. But I wonder if these really are our Western, very Greco-Roman informed ideas. Well, they must have thought this about the Bible.
And when you get down into it, I'm not so sure they evidence that they do think some of these things about the Bible. So if you think about it, the Bible itself already performs many of these things. It performs aporia, ignorance for us. Four cases where nobody knows what the law is, and it tells you what to do. Moses has to go back and ask God.
One time, where it's not even that there's a gap, but people have come and said, we don't like this. And they needed to change, right? The [NON-ENGLISH]. To go back, and sort of-- so we see the process. In other words, the Bible does shows the process for formation of new law. It shows people coming to say, this was not good, it's not working, and changing it because of that.
The Bible itself already performs the fact that you can have laws that are talking to different situations, and therefore they might seem to contradict what they're actually talking to different situations. Outside the land you were doing this, but you know what? You're about to come into the land, so now you're going to sacrifice in one place.
Other ways in which it already performs for us, the fact that the law changes. Also, the origin of the law. In Exodus, the Passover law is given. Different laws given prior to Sinai, Jacob not eating the same-- [INAUDIBLE]. What am I talking about? The [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. Whatever you call it in English.
MOULIE VIDAS: Sciatic nerve.
AUDIENCE: The sciatic nerve, thank you, whatever it is in English. So my research shows that the rabbis see all that, and they don't have any problem with it. They think of law as something that arises at different points. Even when they look, when they see contradictions, they think that there was an intervening action that caused the new law to be given. The law itself given at Sinai was not momentary, there's 40 years to revise [INAUDIBLE].
So the Bible, it seems to me, has no problem with any of those ideas, and presents law, and the workings, and its processes. We think it doesn't. We also attribute to the rabbis the idea that the Torah is perfect [INAUDIBLE], it never shows its origins. I don't think so, I think that they might-- so in other words, I just think there's a little, that you could probably unpack it.
It doesn't take away anything from what you're saying, but I think it's even more continuous with prior practices, why they can even do Midrash the way they do it. The Bible's already doing it to itself-- not in the ways people have commonly talked about, but in the ways we're talking about now. Showing the origins, showing how to deal with aporia, showing how to deal with contradiction. The Bible's doing it, and they're applying these things all the more so in the Midrash and [INAUDIBLE].
So it's just a kind of a positioning issue. But I love the examples, and I think that they're great. And they tell us something, right? They really are important.
MOULIE VIDAS: I mean, so I think this is a very important point you're making now. I guess I'll say this. I mean, for the Bible itself, I think it does do that, right? I think the question is, what the rabbis see or don't see, or think or don't think about the Bible. And I think I would disagree with some of what you said, but not with all of it.
Most of it, I think, it's different questions. So can we imagine a rabbi saying about, say, Moses, frequently, like 100 times-- Moses said that, according to his own opinion, because he had an experience, and that's why he came up with this law, right?
AUDIENCE: No, I agree that there's a difference in degree, which is extreme, it starts to be a difference in quality. But there are places where they say, Moses did this on his own accord, and God had to follow suit. No many of them. I think it's four or five. You know, there's only a handful. But they are there, and they do talk about the fact that everybody, after Moses died, they mourned so much, they forgot [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH].
So you have people forgetting things, and then remembering them later. So again, not to the extent, not to the extreme. It's certainly not the default position. It's certainly not their default in the Bible. And it might be their default in the rabbinic. But there is some sense in which--
MOULIE VIDAS: Right, and that's important to recognize. That I completely agree with.
AUDIENCE: That's all I'm suggesting. But I agree, it's taken to such an extreme that the difference of degree starts to feel like a real difference in quality.
MOULIE VIDAS: So Talia [INAUDIBLE] so first, and [INAUDIBLE] James. [INAUDIBLE]
AUDIENCE: I have a comment, and then a question. The comment is really to Eric's very interesting remarks, because listening to this trajectory of how the mantle of authority was extended to the church fathers reminded me-- the way that you framed it reminded me a great deal of the process of the establishment of Islam as a legal community. In other words, issues had arisen that the Quran itself could not address, and then traditions had to be taken into account. And consensus, the quality of the traditions had to be evaluated for the caliber of the [NON-ENGLISH], and of course, consensus as well.
So I think that this phenomenon of how legal systems evolve when their sacred sources are limited. You know, that there's this kind of a parallel, and perhaps it's even a cultural dynamic that could be seen elsewhere. That's just a comment.
My question comes from some of the last things that you said. You portrayed the framing of process as a game that was to be imitated. And I still question that. The fact that the Tosifists imitated it, the fact that on East Broadway--
MOULIE VIDAS: East Broadway.
AUDIENCE: East Broadway, some people-- and there is a simulacrum. It's a very faint pretense at really posing questions whose answers are truly unknown. The fact that this has happened is not indicative of the fact that that's why the rabbis did what they did. And I, again, because of where my head is at right now, I keep thinking about, why did the medieval Sephardim-- prior to [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH], prior to the 13th century-- why did they assume that the Talmud was in fact a repository of applied law?
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. I mean, how bad-- were they so stupid? In other words, you can't take from-- I do think that there's much to be said about the showmanship. Or as Chris said, when you do a math poof, you have to show all your stuff. But what I come away with, at least in some of the passages that you've highlighted for us, is the rabbi's willingness to say, oh my God, we have no idea. Traditions were lost.
There is no shame about-- this seems to be very much of a kind of opening up of all that we don't know, in a way that doesn't lead you to a clear ending, and therefore, the Tosifists are not good imitators, and [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH], how much more so. Other people who engage in the give and take of Talmudic questioning, acting-- who know exactly what they want to accomplish by that. So that's my beef.
MOULIE VIDAS: So I think there are ways in which the Tosifists are not good imitators and ways in which they are. That is, so we would agree that in each period, you respond to things within the text itself that actually exist there. But you respond to those-- what determines the way in which you respond, and what things you respond to is your own surrounding. That [NON-ENGLISH] melding of the horizons or something, right?
So I think the [NON-ENGLISH] Sephardic continuum that you were talking about is one type of response that actually responds to the things that are there in the text. And and the Tosifists, and the East Broadways, and the Cornell Talmudists respond to other things. And they are there in the text too. And you're right that we cannot project from one straight to certain rabbis.
I think that the rabbis do intend to do that. That doesn't mean that they don't intend to do other things that are picked up by other by other people, as well. So I think that the fact that we do get these solutions here, right? So Rabbi Jose doesn't know which tradition is which. Is it Rabbi Yochanan and Resh Lakish? But he shows you the process of how to determine it.
So it goes more than just the admission of lack of knowledge, it also sort of models-- so I'm just saying, I guess, yes, I mean, the Tosifists don't respond to everything in the text, right? Neither do the pre- [NON-ENGLISH] Sephardim, right? They respond to certain aspects in the text that connect to. And I don't think they were stupid. Sorry.
AUDIENCE: No, I guess what I want to say is there's a subjectivity to playing the game of looking for a usable past. And that to mistake what I like about the open-ended questions that scholars ask, to assume that that puts me in the mold of what they were really doing. I think that's a fallacy.
MOULIE VIDAS: It's a danger. Sergei?
AUDIENCE: First of all, I would like to think of the presentation, and highlight what I think has just quietly happened here.
AUDIENCE: Speak up, Sergei, there's an air conditioner.
AUDIENCE: Sure. I'm trying to highlight something which have just quietly happened here in this presentation, which I'm very happy about it. And to do that, I need to perform a performative theory representative, whom I'm not. So that a representative of the performance theory would say that performance is not a show of how the building is built, but rather, it is the building. The buildings only work if they [INAUDIBLE] as these show things.
So that it's not necessarily just they're an exposure or disclosure, which you have so powerfully highlighted but a very intrinsic part of the process. And I'll quickly address two examples among those that you used. In the example number two, [NON-ENGLISH], in the second line, might not necessarily be just a literal meaning of change, but might in fact be a rabbinic version of [NON-ENGLISH], which is the very technical, specific rhetorical argument of turning the table, self-refuting, that's very complicated.
But I only indicate the direction here. So we are really here in the rhetorical school faction. In the second example, which will then bring me to the conclusion, concerns your central term, the [NON-ENGLISH]. Of course, we now could easily understand it as personal opinion as opposed to the tradition. But it could also, in the line of rhetorical thinking, could be understood, or rhetorical schools, could be understood as argument.
Not necessarily the personal argument, but the argument that I'm advancing. That does not mean that's my argument. It's the argument that I think is valid, that's all. As opposed to what I have simply heard. And then it becomes not very much clear, do we have a clear hierarchy. [NON-ENGLISH] better than [NON-ENGLISH]. That's not exactly clear. Although, of course, if you use the scholarly model of modern scholarships, [NON-ENGLISH] is definitely better than any kind of [NON-ENGLISH].
So that takes me to a more general observation of what quietly happened here. I think if we take this performativity as essential, then we see in Yerushalmi things which we do not necessarily so readily see in the Bavli. That is to say, the radical-- I've used this term, and over-used it before, so I don't like using it here. But just for the lack of a better term, radical uncertainty about whether we even should accept a new text such as Mishnah.
Yes, there is a strive to take it up. But there is also a strive to suspend, it in the same way in which Christian tradition suspends the Old Testament. The amoraim may be suspending the New Testament, that is to say the Mishnah. And in that case, the performance becomes the core of the building. And I think what quietly happened here is you've just committed, in my mind, a very important step in taking the Yerushalmi away from the great shadow of the Bavli. Thank you.
MOULIE VIDAS: Yes, so the latter sentence as part of what the project is about. Let me take the thread it was through your question, and I'll just respond to that. Which is, I think you're absolutely right. And talking about exposing, or it is the performance, Right Because otherwise you're talking about something that is outside of it, and that doesn't-- I read you, so I know it doesn't exist.
That is, it's not exposing the process, it is the process. And I take that correction. I'm sorry I slipped to the-- And just a comment about, as the argument, I think it can work for some of the examples, but not for others. So one statement says, [NON-ENGLISH], because he lived in a particular city. That's not an argument. It's a perspective, it's an inclination.
But I think can definitely work. And I think that's why, maybe, there is this ambiguity between the value of it. So definitely. And Yeshia, James?
AUDIENCE: So I like it very much already. But I want to add a kind of meta question. And by that, I'm stealing from my own presentation in the afternoon, so you won't to have incentive to stay till the end of the day. And the question is, what's at stake? Is it really just a game for the sake of the game, are they only showing off? I mean what's at stake with this?
I totally agree that this is the kind of textual, what we do, and they are kind of showing us the construction material. But what for? And I want to suggest that there is something else going on. And the reason for that is that [NON-ENGLISH] is here. It appears here time and again, almost in all the sources.
And I don't know if you've aimed for that. But [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH], right? One after the other. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]
MOULIE VIDAS: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]
AUDIENCE: So we have [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. We have several dozens of [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. And that's all. That's what we have, and it's quite limited. So what do we do with that? So the Mishnah's strategy is pretty simple. We don't base on a [NON-ENGLISH], is a quite marginal phenomenon for us. And outside of [NON-ENGLISH], it appears, I don't know, less than 30 times, right?
I think that the [NON-ENGLISH] is adopting a different tactic. We do base [NON-ENGLISH] on [NON-ENGLISH], but we can manipulate [NON-ENGLISH]. So we kind of, we pay, we're willing to pay the price of kind of showing you that we can recover, reconstruct, recreate [NON-ENGLISH], but then kind of rehabilitate [NON-ENGLISH].
So it's an interesting path, because [NON-ENGLISH] never kind of disappear, and the anxiety is there, right? If [NON-ENGLISH] tradition, and if we are, build on our masters, so where did the [NON-ENGLISH] go? So we have here a kind of conscience rehabilitation of [NON-ENGLISH] through this showing how [NON-ENGLISH] can be recovered, can be recreated, can be reconstructed.
MOULIE VIDAS: Can I disagree? I don't have-- I don't-- well, yes, but I think, I'm wondering, I think the Yerushalmi, though, reads the Mishnah as if it is based on [NON-ENGLISH], right? I mean, I think that is their understanding of the of tannaitic material, is that it is [NON-ENGLISH], right?
AUDIENCE: Yes, but where are these [NON-ENGLISH]? They don't have their [NON-ENGLISH].
MOULIE VIDAS: Right, that's true. That's true.
AUDIENCE: So they have to find a way, kind of, to recreate it.
MOULIE VIDAS: Yeah, I agree. So with James, and then Ross, and--
AUDIENCE: And David.
MOULIE VIDAS: Oh, and David. OK, sorry. And then we-- what time we need to stop?
AUDIENCE: Stop around 11:00.
MOULIE VIDAS: OK.
AUDIENCE: As I've been listening to people pose questions, I've become acutely conscious of how, in formulating my own question, I am, in fact, mimicking a lot of the processes that you were talking about. Because I have sort of a [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] and, a [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] there. And can I ask a question which kind of brings them together, and sort of synthesizes them.
And a really masterful redactor, composer of [NON-ENGLISH] would be able take everything that was said, and then tie it up in some provocative way, right? And there are different ways of concluding, different ways of doing that. I'm not going to try to do that. But it just helps me to wonder whether or not, at some level, it's a matter of simply maximizing and exploiting the resources that are available to the scholar who is last in the conversation, right?
That there is a kind of aesthetic, intellectual, simple, quantitative variable here that we could talk about in comparison to different traditions, and not simply a qualitative one. My question, though, was more specific than that. And it was about the [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] with which we began.
How would you compare the way that the Yerushalmi treats the Bible to the way that the Bavli treats the Bible, and previous rabbinic tradition, in terms of the fixity of the corpus? Such that it can be referred to. The examples I'm thinking of in the Bavli are things like, well, that was before the [NON-ENGLISH]. That was before the heavenly voice of--
MOULIE VIDAS: So by the bible, you mean rabbinic?
AUDIENCE: Both, both. But I'm saying, how would you compare the Yerushalmi and the bavli along those lines? Because in the Bavli, you're allowed to say, that was before Elijah, this is after Elijah. That was before the heavenly voices, this is after the heavenly voice. And there you can invoke events that seem to be non-traditional, to say the least. And you can sometimes manipulate biblical material as well in that way.
And then you also have in the Bavli all of the sort of rules of Halakhic adjudication, right? In the case of this type of dispute, is to be resolved this way. In the case of dispute between these parties, the law follows this party.
All statements attributed to the rabbis from the land of Israel belong to Rabbi Abba. All statements-- you have whole passages where there seem to be an attempt, a very explicit, often anonymous attempt to sort of rationalize the previous iterations of tradition which have come down, and to create rules for how you work those out, already in the Talmud.
And then of course, then the commentators, would become much more developed. So do you see that as a big gap between the Bavli and the Yerushalmi, and things like [NON-ENGLISH] are kind of the incipient stages of that process? Or in the Yerushalmi already do you see these stages of an attempt to kind of rationalize the reception of tradition, and to distinguish biblical and rabbinic, and all of these other things.
MOULIE VIDAS: So I think, I mean, distinguishing-- to start from the very last comment-- distinguishing biblical and rabbinic is already tannaitic and pervasive. I think the rules for adjudication, they begin in the Palestinian Talmud, around a circle of Rabbi Yochanan and his students. There are very few of them, four or five.
Those are different from the other kinds of rationalization used, which are identifications, which do exist in the Yerushalmi. That is, this anonymous tradition is actually, we had this here. It actually belongs to that person. You do see this, even on whole-- there are twice, about whole tractates of the Mishnah. This tractate, tractate [NON-ENGLISH] is by this rabbi.
That, I think, is related to their emerging notions of authorship, which then materializes in those rules that you are talking about, that are developed extremely well by the Bavli. Again, to come back to the difference between the Bible, of course they-- I think, maybe it's not of course. They do know that there is a process, and about, right, I mean you don't need to obey the Torah before Sinai, right? I mean, at least not in its full details.
They do know that there is a process, and the question is whether, again, the process is contingent, and contingent on human aspects. And also remember that the Torah ostensibly is pre-existing, right, from before creation. It's an idea that we do get even already in tannaitic literature. So the text exists, it's just not necessarily obeyed. Which is a different thing.
Whereas here we are, talking about the invention and production of texts. I think one of the major differences between the Bavli and the Yerushalmi, on the topics that I mentioned today, is that the Yerushalmi begins to treat the Mishnah like the Bible, in a way that the Yerushalmi does not generally. So an assumption of economy, for example, which the Yerushalmi doesn't really have with the Mishnah.
There are maybe 10 places where you can show that it does. But in the Bavli you have hundreds of places where the assumption is that every word, just like in the Torah is. And so in that sense, the Yerushalmi is a unique moment in that. OK.
AUDIENCE: So this is the other side of the presentation. I think most of the discussion has been focused on the process part of our agenda. But you began, I think, following up with Chris on the performance side. So I'm bringing us back to that. And if this is an ignorant question, excuse me.
But while I was following some of your exposition, and then looking back at some of these passages, it occurred to me-- and I wonder if you've thought about it, or someone who studies Talmudic text has worked on it-- that what the text might be doing is inviting the reader to participate in a process of Anagnorisis. There is a process of recognizing at the very end, of some kind of verity. Or something that is clearer at the end, there was not there at the beginning.
So I'm curious if you've thought about these passages with that rhetorical device in mind, and whether anyone has thought about Talmudic discourse in that way? 'Cause that's very performance-oriented.
MOULIE VIDAS: I think that's one of the options I had in my head didn't formulate exactly that way, in terms of inviting you to participate in this process, and inviting you to think that you've gained something by this activity. I don't know if somebody has written about it. There is a book forthcoming that compares rhetorical practices from late antiquity to Talmudic practices, by Richard Hidary. I don't know where it is in the stage of the publication, and I don't know if he deals with this question.
But I'll ask you this. So I don't know the answer to this myself, and this is part of what I'm trying to get at. Does this kind of passage makes you feel better or worse about the state rabbinic knowledge. That is, to me, I mean, I'm wondering, wait, what else do they not know? Whereas, if they just told me, we know this, I would have thought, OK, they have traditions. It's all settled.
But suddenly, by showing me these aporias-- even though they can show me that they can kind of fix them, that they can kind of fill them-- I think that's troubling in a way. I actually think it might invite you to be a little more critical and skeptical. And so I think there's an invitation to skepticism here, just as much as in cultivating that engaged reader, who can question, and criticize, just as much as contemplating a reader who can recognize that verity in the end. And I'm not sure. Yeah.
AUDIENCE: I think we have to be careful, though. We need to really find those clues in the text. I think that it's not a given to me that that's a problem. This might be the magician rolling back the sleeves. They understand that this is what it is, and the minute you think that this is about truth, and we have absolute reality, the game is over, we're done.
There has to the infinite game, there has to be the continued practice, and we want to showcase that, and make that part of our culture. So we just have to be a little careful. And how do we find those signals in the text that will let us know what their attitude towards this is. That's the difficult research questions. That's what we have to somehow isolate.
AUDIENCE: Take the last question.
AUDIENCE: Just briefly, your ideas about [INAUDIBLE], and you think of it as according to his opinion. [INAUDIBLE] idea of [NON-ENGLISH]. [INAUDIBLE]. [NON-ENGLISH] means character, right? It means something [INAUDIBLE]. So [NON-ENGLISH] might have a larger resonance according to the way [INAUDIBLE]. How he expresses his knowledge.
AUDIENCE: His taste. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]
AUDIENCE: I think the word has a much broader meaning.
MOULIE VIDAS: Yeah, hence the alcohol example. So bodily tastes don't appear as much. I wish they appeared more. But they do appear. So some of the things, it's always like, [NON-ENGLISH], there are terms, a place where it appears explicitly. But there are terms, there are places where a move like that is made.
And there, actually, you get even more wild with of-- what measure it is for one of the food [NON-ENGLISH]. A rabbi says, oh it's three [NON-ENGLISH]. And then the Yerushalmi says, oh, but he's fat, so that's why he was enlarging the measurement. So it's I think, yeah, those kind of embodying the Torah, that's a good, and that's a good way to end, right? OK.
AUDIENCE: A good way to end a wonderful discussion.
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Moulie Vidas of Princeton University spoke at "Talmud: Process and Performance," May 18, 2016. The conference was co-sponsored by the Cornell Jewish Studies Program, Department of Near Eastern Studies, Mediterranean Studies Initiative, Department of Anthropology, Department of Classics, Society for the Humanities, and the Second Avenue Kosher Delicatessen.