Religious Studies 365.01

Course Outline, Fall 2000

Medieval Judaism

Class time: MWF 11:00-11:50


E. Segal


Social Sciences 1301

Office hours:

W 10:-10:50 or by request





World-Wide Web:

Material related to this course, including class notes, will be posted at:


Prof. Segal will be introducing a new textbook that he is currently composing for this course. The relevant chapters of the book will be made available to the students in printed or electronic form at their convenience.

Course Description:

This course will explore the principal streams of Jewish religious thought and activity from the end of the Talmudic era until the European Emancipation. Emphasis will be placed upon the three dominant religious trends:
  1. Rabbinic Activity: including the areas of law, exegesis, religious institutions and the place of religion in personal and communal life.
  2. Philosophical rationalism: The encounter between traditional religion and Greek philosophical thought, with special reference to the writings of Moses Maimonides.
  3. Kabbalah: The development of Jewish mystical thought, as exemplified in the Zohar and other works.

Pedagogic Objectives:

In addition to familiarizing the student with the important facts, documents and religious movements of Medieval Judaism, this course will also provide an introduction to the scholarly methodologies that are necessary for the historical study of religion.

Attention will be paid to identifying and characterizing the literary sources that are the basis for our knowledge of medieval religious practices, institutions and ideas. The critical reading of representative primary texts (in translation) will play a central role in the class. Students will learn how to approach the these texts from a variety of methodological perspectives, in order to utilize them for a reconstruction of the multifaceted religious lives of medieval Jews.

Course Requirements:

Students will be expected to submit two short reports, each worth 25% of the total grade, and one major research paper worth 40% of the total grade one assignment for each of the three areas covered in the course. See instructions below.

a) Assignment on Rabbinic Judaism: Due October 18 2000
b) Assignment on Jewish Philosophy Due November 20 2000
c) Assignment on Kabbalah Due December 11 2000
d) Class participation: Worth 10% of final grade
The students may decide in which two areas they will write their short reports, and which area will be the topic of the major research paper.

Some Recommended Books:

A more detailed bibliography and "suggested topics" list will be distributed in class.

Paper and Reports:

The paper requirement will consist of the equivalent of approximately ten (double-spaced) typewritten pages on a topic related to one of the three areas covered in the course (see "Course Description" above).
The reports will consist of five pages (possibly a book review or summary of an article) on the two areas not dealt with in the major paper.
Please consult with the insturctors with regard to selection of topics.


Letter grades will be asigned on the basis of the following scheme:

A 100 - 90 A- 89 - 85
B+ 84 - 80 B 79 - 75 B- 74 - 70
C+ 69 - 65 C 64 - 60 C- 59 - 55
D+ 54 - 50 D 49 - 45 B- 44 or less


Plagiarism is a serious offense, the penalty for which is an F on the assignment and possibly also an F on the course, academic probation, or requirement to withdraw. The University Calendar states that "plagiarism exists when:
While it is recognized that scholarly work often involves references to the ideas, data and conclusions of other scholars, intellectual honesty requires that such references be explicitly and clearly noted.
Plagiarism occurs not only when direct quotations are taken from a source without specific acknowledgment, but also when original ideas or data from the source are not acknowledged. A bibliography is insufficient to establish which portions of the student's work are taken from external sources; footnotes or other recognized forms of citation must be used for this purpose.