The Tal­mud’s The­o­log­i­cal Lan­guage Game: A Philo­soph­i­cal Dis­course Analysis

Eugene B. Borowitz
  • Review
By – June 15, 2012
As a schol­ar, philoso­pher, and rab­binic role-mod­el, Eugene Borowitz made con­tri­bu­tions to Jew­ish thought that spanned six decades. His influ­ence will con­tin­ue to be felt for gen­er­a­tions to come, by rab­bis, schol­ars and layper­sons, regard­less of denom­i­na­tion­al affil­i­a­tion. This rel­a­tive­ly small tome — only 194 pages of text, though a tome when weighed in light of the depth and breadth of its schol­ar­ship — is remark­able on many lev­els. As a layper­son, I delight­ed as Borowitz seeks to define, ana­lyze and con­cep­tu­al­ize the nature, struc­ture and devel­op­ment of the Aggadah, the vast and diverse array of what has been termed the Non-Halachic Dis­course (NHD) of the Tal­mud. It resides, to vary­ing degrees, in the trac­tates of the Tal­mud as the oth­er” part of our rab­binic lit­er­a­ture, appar­ent­ly free of the stric­tures, orga­ni­za­tion and struc­ture of the Halacha, which char­ac­ter­izes the prac­ti­cal obser­vance of Judaism as a reli­gion, par­tic­u­lar­ly — although not exclu­sive­ly— for those who are Ortho­dox and/​or in oth­er ways see them­selves as halachi­cal­ly- bound. The denoue­ment, Borowitz’ sug­ges­tions of three approach­es to Recon­stru­ing the Aggadah Prob­lem,” con­tained in the last 11 pages of the book, offers wis­dom and insight into not only the nature of the Aggadah/NHD, but also insights into the devel­op­ment of the reli­gio-philo­soph­i­cal lit­er­a­ture of a peo­ple and a cul­ture. Final­ly, he focus­es his per­cep­tive lens on the think­ing, belief and faith-cul­ture of the Rab­binic world of the Tal­mu­dic peri­od and the pos­si­ble impli­ca­tions that may have for us in the 21st cen­tu­ry. Bib­lio., indices, notes.


William Liss-Levin­son is vice pres­i­dent, chief strat­e­gy & oper­a­tions offi­cer of Cas­tle Con­nol­ly Med­ical Ltd., a con­sumer health research, infor­ma­tion, and pub­lish­ing com­pa­ny. He holds a Ph.D. in edu­ca­tion and is a mem­ber of the board of direc­tors of the Jew­ish Book Council.

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