University of Calgary

Department of Religious Studies

Prof. E. Segal
Department of
Religious Studies
University of Calgary
2500 University Drive N. W.
Calgary, Alberta
Canada T2N 1N4

Office: SS 1314
Phone: (403) 220-5886
Fax: (403) 210-0801



RELS 701.02 L 01

Course Outline, Fall 2005

Topics in Rabbinic Judaism:

Studies in Jewish Liturgy

Thursday 11:00-13:45


Eliezer Segal


SS 1314

Office Hours:

Thursday 13:45-15:00
or by appointment





Web Site:


Course Description:

Recent decades have witnessed a renewed appreciation of the importance of liturgy as a key to understanding core Jewish aspirations, beliefs and communal dynamics. The traditional Jewish prayer service was intended for use by all Jews, and formulated values that were accepted by the entire community. This set it apart from works like the Talmuds, or treatises on theology and mysticism, which were addressed to intellectual elites, and often reflect the views of specific individuals or movements within Judaism.

The standard prayers of traditional rabbinic Judaism are first attested in the latter part of first century C.E. and discussed in detail in Talmudic literature. The earliest formal prayer-books do not appear, however, until the early medieval era.

Current research has been stimulated by newly discovered documents whose publication has revolutionized our understanding of the development of prayer in Judaism. The liturgical texts from Qumran (among the Dead Sea scrolls) provide us with new information about prayers that were in use before the formulation of rabbinic worship--though it is very unclear how these traditions relate to one another. Furthermore, the Cairo Geniza (a vast repository of discarded documents from the Middle Ages) has preserved hundreds of liturgical texts that attest to a surprising diversity in the rites. In particular, the immense corpus of Piyyut (liturgical poetry) has fuelled scholarly controversies over the degree of improvisation that was permitted or encouraged in classical Jewish worship.

This seminar will familiarize the students with the main elements of the Jewish liturgy, focusing on the Tefillah (i.e., the "prayer" par excellence, also known as the "Eighteen Benedictions"). This prayer is the foundation of organized daily worship and contains a valuable summary of Judaism's theological, eschatological and ethical tenets. The seminar will introduce the students to major issues in the history of Jewish liturgy through the reading of representative primary texts and scholarly publications.

Core Competencies:

In addition to acquainting students with the specific subject matter related to the study of Jewish liturgy, the course's principal pedagogic objectives will be those of a graduate seminar. As such, it will place a strong emphasis on the analysis of texts, and the critical assessment of scholarly literature. Students will further their skills in the various aspects of scholarly research, including the collecting of information; independent evaluation from a variety of methodological perspectives; and orderly presentation of their conclusions in written and oral form.

Course Requirements:



Date Due

% Weight


Report on article / text:
A written report on an article (from the Course-Pack, or another text approved by the instructor), or of a passage from a primary text (from the Talmud, etc.). The report should be about 1,000 words in length, and must demonstrate that the student has understood and reflected on the text.

To be submitted by October 20



Major Essay--Proposal
The proposal, which should be prepared in consultation with the instructor, should include a research question, discussion of methodologies, preliminary outline and bibliography.

To be submitted by November 3



Major Essay--Final Version
The paper should consist of approximately 6,500 words on a topic related to the history of Jewish liturgy or the themes of the prayers. Your paper should strive to incorporate methodologies and/or subject matter from your own thesis research. A bibliography on Jewish liturgy, will be distributed and posted on the course web site.

To be submitted by December 12



Oral Presentation:
The student will discuss one of the written assignments in a manner adapted to an oral presentation (i.e., it preferably should not be a mere recitation of the written essay). The grade for this assignment will take into consideration the clarity of the delivery and the student's ability to handle questions from the other participants. Oral presentations will normally last about twenty minutes, plus ten minutes for questions and discussion. If special equipment is required, you must notify the instructor about a week in advance.

To be scheduled individually

15 %


Class Participation:
Students are expected to show up regularly, having prepared any required reading, and to contribute intelligently to the class discussion.Students are expected to show up regularly, having prepared any required reading, and to contribute intelligently to the class discussion.



There will not be a Registrar's office scheduled final examination in this course.


Students should be familiar with University regulations regarding academic integrity, as set down in the University Calendar.

Academic Accommodation

It is a student's responsibility to request academic accommodation. If you are a student with a disability who may require academic accommodation and have not registered with the Disability Resource Centre, please contact their office at 220-8237. Your academic accommodation letters should be provided to your instructor no later than fourteen (14) days after the commencement of this course. Students who have not registered with the Disability Resource Centre are not eligible for formal academic accommodation.

(DRC web address is:

Click here to go to Eliezer Segal\'s Home PageReturn to Eliezer Segal's Home Page

Course offered by Eliezer SegalReturn to Eliezer Segal's Course List