Since its inception in 1970, Mercaz Hatorah, an NCCRS member since 1994, has distinguished itself as an institution fostering scholarship and promoting creativity and research. As a postsecondary institute for Judaic and Talmudic Studies, Mercaz Hatorah provides its students with a rigorous, structured program of intellectual studies to develop skills in textual study, and a methodology for enhanced knowledge of classical source materials.
Students accepted to Mercaz Hatorah are drawn from all over the world, particularly the U.S., and are selected based on their academic merit, growth potential, and personal commitment to scholarship and Jewish ethics. Mercaz Hatorah endeavors to develop within its students a high level of understanding of and appreciation for the wisdom and philosophy embodied in traditional Jewish scholarship. It trains students in the application of critical and discriminating thought and action, and prepares them to assume positions as informed, knowledgeable and committed Rabbinic and lay leaders.
PROGRAM OF STUDY
Mercaz Hatorah places the study of the Babylonian Talmud at the core of its curriculum. The vast body of subsequent post-Talmudic literature elucidates the more difficult and complex Talmudic passages and concepts. It also organizes and codifies practical and applicable laws, and derives traditional formulations and frameworks for solutions to future Halachic issues. Thus, to gain proficiency in the reading of the Talmudic text, students acquire comprehension of the issues and concepts elucidated in each folio, and develop an ability to analyze textual materials throughout the Talmudic tractates. These goals are realized through concurrent mastery of classical commentaries such as Rashi, Tosafot, Ramban, Rashba, and Ritva, in addition to Medieval codifiers including Rambam, Ran, Rosh, and Rif.
To facilitate the student’s Talmudic progress, Mercaz Hatorah has adopted the following learning pattern: each academic term highlights a Talmudic tractate (or its segments) which is uniformly studied by the entire student body. The variations in study levels depend upon the year of study the student is in and whether the course constitutes a survey or an intensive study of the tractate. In each year, study proceeds according to a set progression.
During the first year, students acquire proficiency in the Hebraic and Aramaic readings, in the structure and style of Talmudic argumentation, as well as the explication of the interpretive and legal posits of the classical texts and their commentaries.
Second year students acquire mastery of textual readings. The complexities of the Talmudic style, the articulation of the argumentative process, and the elicitation of conclusive decisions from these texts are explored in depth. Similar concentration and inferential deductions are applied to the classical commentaries. Lectures focus on the deductive process, as students are encouraged to probe and challenge pat interpretations of comparative textual contradictions.
Students who attain the third year advanced level of Talmudic research and analysis hone their analytic skills in understanding the novella of the Rishonim and the methods of cataloging their diverse Halachic approaches. Study of the Maimonidean Code of Law as a quasi-legally binding discipline is introduced by the process of gleaning the Rambam’s interpretative stances in the Talmud from premises evident in his Halachic decisions. Classic Maimonidean commentators are also examined. Similarly, the interpretive works of prominent Achronim are employed in understanding the legal and theoretical posits of the Rishonim. In addition, the diverse approaches of leading 19th and 20th century Talmudic analysts receive prominent attention.