Monday, May 24, 2004

Call for Papers:
Dispute in Rabbinic Literature: Its Limits, Logic, and Hermeneutic Status

The Institute for the Study of Rabbinic Thought at Robert M. Beren College, Beit Morasha of Jerusalem, invites scholars to submit proposals for papers for the Institute's Seventh Annual Conference, to take place during Hannukah, 5765 (2004), in Jerusalem.

This conference follows last year's conference discussion on the topic of "Religious Polemics as a Shaping Factor in Rabbinic Thought," which examined the importance of polemics in the perception of rabbinic thought in research, and the hermeneutic function of polemics in the academic construction of rabbinic thought. One of the issues raised in discussions was the relationship between internal and external polemics. This touches on the question of the boundaries between polemic and controversy (machloket), between legitimate disagreement and illegitimate religious differences. We wish to pursue various aspects of this issue, not handled in last year's conference, in the forthcoming conference, by focusing on the phenomenon of dispute in rabbinic literature. Controversy is phenomenologically close to polemics, but is an internal phenomenon of tradition. Controversy is a hallmark of rabbinic literature, and understanding the logic of this literature entails constant involvement with machloket. We therefore wish to raise a wide range of questions regarding the phenomenon of dispute, and dedicate the coming conference to them.

One aspect we wish to specially emphasize is the attempt to understand rabbinic logic through analyzing machlokot. The works of Marmorstein and Heschel make significant use of controversy as an interpretive tool for the understanding of rabbinic thought. We suggest the following foci for discussion:

* Definition of controversy, including its social, public, institutional and
intellectual (study) dimensions
* Evaluating controversy and dispute as intellectual and social phenomena
* Definition of the limits of dispute and distinguishing legitimate from illegitimate disagreement
* Justification of controversy as a phenomenon in the development of Oral Torah
* Using controversy as a tool for understanding rabbinic thought
* Literary and rhetorical representations of dispute
* Controversy in Halakha and Aggada
* The relationship between rabbinic dispute and related phenomena in adjunct literatures

Please send an abstract of up to two pages to Dr. Alon Goshen-Gottstein, at, by June 30, 2004. Only proposals approaching the study of the thought of the sages of the Mishna, Talmud and Midrash in a systematic manner will be considered. The study of extra-talmudic literature will be considered only inasmuch as it sheds light on issues pertaining to the thought patterns of the rabbinic authors.

Emailed by Opher Kutner.

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