Chanan Gafni

Critical approaches to the Talmud flourished among liberal elements in nineteenth-century Jewry. Scholars whose aim was to introduce further alterations to Jewish law found backing for their agenda in their scientific treatment of the Talmud, emphasizing the dynamic transmission of this central Jewish tradition. However, describing the emergence of Talmud criticism without considering the contribution of traditional writers would be misleading. Orthodox scholars did occasionally arrive at and elaborate on critical insights, at times precisely in order to defend their conservative views. An instructive example of this phenomenon comes from the writings of a leading opponent of Wissenschaft des Judentums, Yitzhak Isaac Halevy (1847–1917). In one of his apologetic discussions, Halevy introduced a revolutionary principle, according to which the Talmud would often attribute an original phrase by an Amora to that same Amora in other halakhic contexts.