Are Jews the People of the Talmud?

A broad romantic version of a slice of Jewish religious history from an author who thinks that Jews are the people of the Talmud, “Becoming the People of the Talmud: Oral Torah as Written Tradition in Medieval Jewish Cultures,” by Talya Fishman, reviewed by Lawrence Grossman, “How Jews Became the People of the Talmud: Thinkers Have Long Puzzled Over Oral and Written Traditions.” We don’t know what Fishman means. Even great Talmudists do not deem themselves people of the Talmud. Grossman reviews:

…As the medium transforms the message, two key substantive changes in Judaism wrought by textualization are discussed in “Becoming the People of the Talmud.” Clearly, the newly constituted “text” is more rigid than oral tradition, reducing the flexibility of the religious authority to reinterpret past wisdom in light of new reality in a way that does not disrupt the consciousness of a seamless tradition.


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