What is Taught in Talmud Class: Is it Class or is it Talmud?

Jan. 02, 2009

Source: Journal of Jewish Education, Volume 75, Issue 1 , pages 19 - 46


This article presents an empirical study of a seventh-grade Talmud class in a religious boys' school in Israel. This case study touches upon and attempts to elucidate aspects of several broader areas. It is fundamentally an example of the transmission of culture, values, and culturally valued text in a schooling context, which exists within a larger societal framework. Using ethnographic methods, and informed by discourse analysis in general and classroom discourse in particular, the study reflects upon the relationship between schooling and its surrounding society and the constraints put into place by the very structures of the institution of school on the study of Talmud.




This study draws upon ethnographic methodology, with the belief that the observation and analysis of a specific case can have broader implications and applications. A grounded theory approach has been employed, understanding and analyzing the data in dialogue with theory. A short-term study, it is designed to bring to light the complexities of the Talmud classroom.


In May 2006, the researchers observed and recorded five consecutive class sessions, yielding a total of 10 class-hours, in the span of just over a week. They also conducted an in-depth interview of approximately two hours with Rav Yoav, the class homeroom Talmud teacher at his home.


From the study's conclusion:

"This study is intended to bring to the fore the conflicts and issues faced by teachers and their students in the Talmud classroom. It is by its nature limited, as a short-term study cannot even begin to assess the impact of their experiences on the students; we did not interview the students for a sense of the immediate impact, either. However, is our hope that a rich description and analysis of a Talmud classroom, uncovering and elucidating the complexities as they are enacted in the classroom setting, will provide analytic categories and ways of thinking that enhance the academic discourse and offer a framework for further research."

Updated: Jul. 01, 2009