Prof. Rabbi Michael Chernick holds the Deutsch Family Chair in Jewish Jurisprudence and Social Justice at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. He received his doctorate in Rabbinics from the Bernard Revel Graduate School and his semicha from R. Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. Chernick’s area of expertise is the Talmud. He focuses on early rabbinic legal interpretation of the Bible and is the author of A Great Voice That Did Not Cease.
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Articles by the Author
The Modern Study of Mishna: Rabbi Dr. David Zvi Hoffmann’s Approach
Rabbi Dr. David Zvi Hoffman (1843-1921), a pioneering scholar of rabbinic literature and a committed Orthodox Jew, did not shy away from applying academic methods to the study of rabbinic texts. His work on the Mishnah posits an early, uniform, undisputed, and therefore authoritative collection of the Oral Law which he called the First Mishnah. In the intervening years new critical methods and approaches have contributed even more convincing insights into the sources, growth, and history of “our” Mishnah. Nevertheless, Hoffman remains an intellectual father of contemporary rabbinic scholarship.
The Epistle of R. Sherira Gaon: A Point of Departure for the Academic Study of the Mishnah
The most important early source for the history of the development of rabbinic literature is the Epistle (Iggeret) of R. Sherira Gaon. What prompted him to write this history? What periods does it cover, and what were his sources? Was he really the “father of the modern critical historical” study of rabbinic literature as many claim, or was he a creative traditionalist narrator defending the authority of the rabbinic tradition?