Conflict, Civility, and Community in the Talmud- Syllabus

Dr. Dvora Weisberg
Summer 2005

Course Description: This course explores the ways in which Talmudic discourse can inform our understanding of civil discourse within a community. Both legal and aggadic passages will be studied and analyzed to draw out models of constructive and destructive debate. Our study will highlight the Talmud’s focus on process and its affirmation of the validity of multiple approaches to problems.

Objectives: At the end of the course, students will

  1. Be able to explain some rabbinic texts that discuss dispute and conflict
  2. Be able to articulate an approach to dispute and constructive debate grounded in rabbinic texts.

Requirements: Students are expected to attend all class sessions, to prepare assigned texts, and to participate in class discussions. Participation will count for 30% of the course grade. Students will write a 10-15 page paper in which they utilize texts taught in the course to create a model for encouraging/teaching constructive debate within an agency or on a board. This paper will be due on Monday, August 1 and will count for 70% of the course grade.

Texts: The assigned passages from the Babylonian Talmud will be available in a HUC course pack. Secondary readings will be on reserve at the Frances-Henry Library.

Office Hours: Rather than set office hours that may or may not reflect your schedules, I will make myself available outside of class in response to your request. You may speak to me in class to set up an appointment, contact me by e-mail at, or call me at the office (213) 765-2179 (or ext. 4279) or at home (323) 934-7607.

Part I: The Assumption of Dispute in Rabbinic Texts
Mishnah, Berakhot 1:1-3
Mishnah Pesahim 4:1, 4-5
Mishnah, Eduyot 1:4-6; 5:6-7
Pirkei Avot 5:17
Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 13a
Babylonian Talmud, Pesahim 108a

David Kraemer, The Mind of the Talmud, chapter 5

Part II: The Value of Dispute & Ideal Disputation
Babylonian Talmud, Eruvin 13b
Mishnah,Yevamot 1:4
Babylonian Talmud, Yevamot 14a
Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 88b
Palestinian Talmud, Shabbat 1:4
Babylonian Talmud, Betsa 19a & 20a
Mishnah, Rosh HaShanah 2:9
Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 4:1;
Babylonian Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 29b
Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 24a

Jeffrey Rubenstein, The Culture of the Babylonian Talmud, chapter 2

Part III: The Dangers of Dispute
Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 27-28
Babylonian Talmud. Baba Metsia 59b
Babylonian Talmud, Baba Metsia 84a/
Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 55b

Jeffrey Rubenstein, The Culture of the Babylonian Talmud, chapter 3