encuntrs with th Wrld f Lrnin
The Methodological Journey
When I frst began learning Gemara in elementary school, I thought thatthe hallmark o a
was his ability to translate the difcultAramaic words o the Talmud. Some time during high school, I discov-ered the important role o asking questions and seeking answers. The un-damental litmus test o scholarly development thus became what typeso questions are asked and what orms o answers are sought. When Ibegan my studies at Yeshivat Sha‘alvim, I was taught that the goal o study is not only the understanding o a particular Rashi or Tosaot, but thecomprehension o the topic that is presented by the
and discussedby the
. As a student o R. Ahron Soloveichik and R. MichaelRosensweig at Yeshiva University, and later as a student o R. AharonLichtenstein at Yeshivat Har Etzion, I frst encountered the approach thatsought to uncover and analyze the conceptual ideas underlying the topicsdiscussed in the Gemara (“Brisker” analysis).At each o these stages o my learning, I was convinced that the basicmethodological possibilities o how to relate to a
had been ex-hausted, but I was proven wrong time and time again.The next stage in my thinking included two parallel developments.I discovered the approach o philosophical analysis, in which conceptsare not related to in the abstract, but are rather ascribed philosophicalmeaning and signifcance. To truly understand Gemara, one must un-cover the “philosophy o Halakhah.” This drive stems in large part romR. Avraham Yiz.h.ak ha-Kohen Kook’s call or the usion o “Aggadah” andHalakhah.
(In this article, I will generally use the term “
,”and not “Aggadah,” as my intent is to reer not only to a particular literary genre, but to the philosophical realm in general.)I soon discovered, however, that this philosophical inquiry is nothighly regarded at some o the institutions in which I had studied, inpart because o ideological and theological issues that these method-ologies present. In a lecture I once heard during H.anukkah, a promi-nent Rosh Yeshivah explained that the dierence between Hellenismand Judaism is that the Greeks asked not only “what,” but also “why.”Another Rosh Yeshivah brought Korah.’s rebellion as an example o thedangers in searching or the philosophy o
(based on his under-standing o Rashi’s comment at the beginning o the
). I later
(Jerusalem, 1985), vol. 1, p. 25.