The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

The Stamma’s Original Role: A Teacher’s Guide to Phronetic Law for Future Judges

The Talmudic use of seemingly poor legal proofs and critiques makes sense once one recognizes that the periscopes do not discuss deductive proofs and critiques. Similarly, the Talmudic assignment of inconsistent exegetical methods for a given Tanna makes sense if the editors were not actually trying to identify how a Tanna deduced laws. If the Babylonian Talmud was an educational text for teaching students what Max Weber described as pre-bureaucratic law, or Aristotle described as phronesis (practical wisdom), the Talmud reads as commonsensical and non-convoluted. It reads as the Babylonian academies` teaching guides on how to educate students to notice, unpack, and continuously balance the multiple and competing considerations that underlie every Tannaitic law.

In other words, all the stama passages` seemingly extraneous considerations, poor references to other rulings, and internal contradictions disappear once one drops the assumption that the Tannaim through Amorain to stama editors determined law in a deductive or syllogistic fashion – rather than as law based on discussing real-life considerations. We will see that the stamma editors` guides for teachers reference a source from an unrelated topic because that source illustrates a human consideration that underlies the law being studied. The stamma distinguishes between abstractly similar legal rulings because it guides teachers to teach students that law is only about real-life considerations. Instead of proving laws from Biblical verses, the stamma provides teachers with the locally best way to draw students` attention to the fact that a given Biblical law is an example of a given Tanna`s insight – and how a given law examples even reflects competing insights. This stamma`s project did not involve polysemy, rhetoric, or logic. It was to teach phronesis