Participation Type

Paper

Presentation #1 Title

The Disputes of Rav Ashi and Ravina in Vienna: Adolf Jellinek and the Place of the Talmud in Jewish Modernity

Presentation #1 Abstract

Over the course of three weeks in the fall of 1864, in the grand and newly inaugurated Leopoldstädter Temple in Vienna, Rabbi Dr. Adolph Jellinek--soon to become Chief Rabbi of the Community and widely acclaimed as the best Jewish preacher in all the German lands--delivered a set of three sermons reflecting on the Talmud and its relevance for Habsburg Jewry. These sermons frame a moment of conflict and uncertainty within Austrian Jewish religious society. Some of those fault lines are quite obvious, such as debates around the status of classical rabbinical writing in the life of a modernizing and secularizing Jewish bourgeoisie. But other important shifts are less apparent. This paper argues that Jellinek’s analysis of Talmudic passages, as well as his discussion of the Talmud’s history and textual significance in this communal setting, reveal the process by which rabbinic pedagogy began to fundamentally transform—and becoming increasingly estranged from—medieval and early-modern Jewish reading practices. These three sermons, and the audience to whom they were given, represent a unique moment of historical convergence and clarity, offering us the picture of a time when the language and opportunity offered by Enlightenment-Emancipation was still a relatively new and untested form of scholastic expression within the walls of the synagogue.

At-A-Glance Bios- Presenter #1

Samuel J. Kessler is the Postdoctoral Fellow in Judaic Studies in the Department of Religion and Culture at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He received his doctorate in Religious Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2016.

Start Date

10-20-2017 11:00 AM

End Date

10-20-2017 1:00 PM

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Oct 20th, 11:00 AM Oct 20th, 1:00 PM

The Disputes of Rav Ashi and Ravina in Vienna: Adolf Jellinek and the Place of the Talmud in Jewish Modernity

Over the course of three weeks in the fall of 1864, in the grand and newly inaugurated Leopoldstädter Temple in Vienna, Rabbi Dr. Adolph Jellinek--soon to become Chief Rabbi of the Community and widely acclaimed as the best Jewish preacher in all the German lands--delivered a set of three sermons reflecting on the Talmud and its relevance for Habsburg Jewry. These sermons frame a moment of conflict and uncertainty within Austrian Jewish religious society. Some of those fault lines are quite obvious, such as debates around the status of classical rabbinical writing in the life of a modernizing and secularizing Jewish bourgeoisie. But other important shifts are less apparent. This paper argues that Jellinek’s analysis of Talmudic passages, as well as his discussion of the Talmud’s history and textual significance in this communal setting, reveal the process by which rabbinic pedagogy began to fundamentally transform—and becoming increasingly estranged from—medieval and early-modern Jewish reading practices. These three sermons, and the audience to whom they were given, represent a unique moment of historical convergence and clarity, offering us the picture of a time when the language and opportunity offered by Enlightenment-Emancipation was still a relatively new and untested form of scholastic expression within the walls of the synagogue.