Dr. Yisrael Ury Charting the Sea of Talmud

ISBN 13: 9780981497488

Charting the Sea of Talmud

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9780981497488: Charting the Sea of Talmud
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Charting the Sea of Talmud is a revolutionary visual method for understanding and summarizing Talmudic discussions, conclusions, and laws. Through the creation and quick review of simple Diagrams, students of Talmud can remember 'who said what' - at a glance - and finally gain a clearer 'picture of the sugya.'

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About the Author:

Dr. Yisrael Ury has developed a unique reputation in both Torah and science. He received his PhD in Applied Physics from the California Institute of Technology and partnered with two colleagues to found Ortel Corporation, a leader in the field of fiberoptic communications. Yisrael studied for seven years under Rabbi Simcha Wasserman zt l, and for the past ten years he has been studying under Rabbi Gershon Bess shlit a. He has served as a science and technology consultant to numerous Rabbanim on many of today s important Halachic issues. He also founded Maalot Los Angeles, a school where post-seminary students receive undergraduate instruction in both Torah and secular studies. In this book, Yisrael applies modern tools of information science to Torah study, introducing a revolutionary method for simplifying even the most difficult Talmudic discussions. Yisrael and his wife now live in Israel. For further information about Talmud Diagrams, visit talmuddiagrams.org

Review:

The clarity of the Talmud is beginning to be restored; darkness is turning into light. In 'Charting the Sea of Talmud', Dr. Yisrael Ury makes a unique and valuable contribution to this process. --From the Foreword of Rabbi Yaacov Haber

The Talmud that was composed and finally edited with late insertions in Babylonia around the seventh century is a staple of learning for many Jews. About a century ago, a rabbi suggested that Jews should read a page daily, front and back, a practice that has been widely accepted. Under this regimen, it takes seven and a half years to complete the entire Babylonian Talmud. I did so twice. The discussions in the Babylonian Talmud are difficult to follow and understand and, as a result, many Jews who piously study the Talmud are reading the text as devout Jews who don't understand Hebrew read prayers in Hebrew without understanding what they are reading. There is also a Jerusalem Talmud that wasn't edited well because of persecution when the editing began; it is difficult to study, and not many people do so. Great scholars, such as Moses Maimonides (1138-1204) used both Talmuds. Maimonides created his Code of Jewish Law, called Mishneh Torah, and based it on the discussions in the two Talmuds. He suggested that by using his law book there wouldn't be a need to use either difficult Talmud, but many Jews ignore his advice and study the Talmud, despite its difficulties. Dr. Yisrael Ury wrote this book to present his innovative idea of using boxes and directional arrows to chart the discussions of the Babylonian Talmud thereby making it somewhat easier to understand. For example, in a rather simple Talmudic discussion where one sage differs with the view of another, Ury suggests drawing two boxes, one uncolored and the second colored. The first represents the view that is not accepted as law, the second the correct opinion. The student should place a directional arrow under the two boxes showing that the law moves from the erroneous to the correct opinion. Some readers may find Ury's suggestion helpful because they will be able to see a diagram. Others may find it simpler to write three lines: X says such and such. Y says such and such. The ruling is as Y says. Another difficulty with Ury's suggestion is that when more than two sages discuss a matter, the page becomes filled with boxes. Still another problem is that the Talmud generally doesn't declare whose opinion is correct. Yet, as previously stated, there are people, no doubt, who will find Ury's suggestion helpful. --Israel Drazin

The Talmud is often likened to a vast sea. With nearly 6,000 folio pages, over two million words, and the opinions of some two thousand scholars, it is intimidating for its sheer magnitude. Complicating matters, its myriad legal, philosophical, ethical and historical topics, derived from six generations of discourse, show little sign of systematic organization. At times, the comments seem to crash upon each other like choppy waves, and tracking their arguments can feel like swimming against a strong current. It is thus refreshing to find an uncomplicated method of elucidating the Talmud s logic that can be applied to any sugya (discussion). Such a system is laid out in Dr. Yisrael Ury s useful handbook, Charting the Sea of Talmud. Ury is a rare combination of physical scientist he holds a Ph.D. in applied physics from the California Institute of Technology and Jewish textual scholar. Combining these two streams, Ury has developed a novel method of studying Talmud passages using modern tools of information science. With basic diagrams consisting of boxes, arrows, shading, labels and keys, Ury visually maps the disputes, proofs and refutations indigenous to Talmudic literature. Each chapter introduces elements of the diagram that accommodate conditions in the text, as when the application of a law changes with the passage of time. These variations are illustrated using straightforward examples from the Talmud. Ury s diagrammatic system has two main functions: it forces the student to address every combination of a case and to analyze what they mean, and helps the student focus on the ideas presented without losing track of the conditions of the cases being discussed (p. 44). Of course, demonstrating how this is done is near impossible without the aid of the diagrams themselves; but suffice it to say that even those who are not visual learners (like this reviewer) will appreciate its elegance and benefit from its clarity. However, as with any skill, drawing these diagrams will take time to master. Charting the Sea of Talmud is not meant to be read once from cover to cover; it is a workbook best kept at hand when diving into Talmudic waters. And it is probable that as one practices the technique, some discussions will prove easier to diagram than others. But, if used with patience and diligence, Ury s method should fulfill its clarifying purpose and bring fulfillment to the student. --Cantor Jonathan L. Friedmann

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