Research Fellowships – Talmud Skills

Talmud Skills Project

Daniel Reifman has been teaching intermediate and advanced Talmud classes with a distinctive approach to skill-building for nearly 15 years.  His Talmud Skills class at Pardes has become popular among students looking to develop independence in Talmud study. Students have frequently requested a way to continue using his methodology beyond the framework of the course, both for continued study and for teaching their own students.

The Talmud Skills curriculum will incorporate elements relevant to a range of skill levels.  A preliminary outline of the curriculum is as follows:

  1. Tools for parsing the Talmud text and structuring Talmudic discussions
  2. Functional categories of common structural terms in halakhic sugyot
  3. Use of charts and other visual tools for teaching and studying Talmud
  4. Interpretive assumptions and techniques in midrash halakhah in the Bavli
  5. Tools for parsing and structuring Tosafot and other rishonim

What distinguishes this approach from that of other Talmud curricula is the focus on systematic structural elements rather than on content.  The Talmud Skills Project will lay out discrete sets of techniques for reading gemara and rishonim that can be used regardless of the specific material being studied.  Similarly, the advantage of the charts and visual tools in §3 is that their underlying structure allows the teacher to adapt them to a very wide range of content.

While the methodology of the Talmud Skills course is well developed, the project of turning the course into a resource for distribution is still in an embryonic stage.  It will likely involve a combination of text and video, though the latter could be recordings of frontal teaching, virtual whiteboard sessions, or some combination thereof.  Hence the Talmud Skills Research Fellow will have significant input into the final form of the project, and would ideally have insight into ways to package the material for broader dissemination.

However, more important than determining the final form of the project will be the tasks of collecting passages that exemplify the textual elements in the curriculum, and of classifying structural terms (e.g., those listed in Yitzhak Frank’s The Practical Talmud Dictionary) into functional categories.  This will be the main focus of the fellow’s research for at least the first semester.

Skills of Talmud Skills Research Fellow

  • Writing/editing skills
  • Critical thinking skills
  • 3-4 years experience studying Talmud (Pardes level hey or Kollel)
  • Some teaching experience – preferable
  • Video design/editing – bonus

Specific Fellowship Requirements

  • 6 hours/week (2-5 PM, days TBD) – most of the work would be completed in the Pardes Beit Midrash
  • Weekly meeting with the faculty advisor
  • Participation in Talmud Skills course (currently Mon. & Wed., 5:15-7:15)

All fellows will receive a guaranteed living expenses grant ranging from $300-$500/month (exact amount determined by financial need) AND receive highly subsidized Year Program tuition: $3,000 discount for those not eligible for Masa Israel Journey funding, and $2,000 discount for those eligible for Masa funding.

At least one of the candidate’s two recommendation letters should be from a supervisor who can speak to the candidate’s relevant research experience and potential growth and contributions through the Pardes fellowship. The letter must be submitted along with the Fellowship Application and the Pardes Year Program application.