Prof. Shamma Yehuda Friedman to Receive Israel Prize

Prof. Shamma Yehuda Friedman, of the Naftal-Yaffe Department of Talmud, will receive this year's Israel Prize for Research in Talmud.  Minister of Education Shai Piron informed Friedman of the news and congratulated him by telephone. 

Prof. Friedman was chosen to receive the Israel Prize for his "enormous and varied study of Talmudic literature, which has earned him an international reputation as a leading speaker on the study of the Mishna and Tosefta [supplement to the Mishna], and questions of literary structure and formation of the Talmud text," according to the Prize selection committee.

Prof. Friedman is considered one of the outstanding scholars of rabbinic literature of our time.  He serves as a professor of Talmud at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS) and has taught and supervised students of Talmud at Bar-Ilan for two decades.  He established an online Talmud Text Databank website which encompasses an extraordinary collection of virtually all primary textual witnesses of the Babylonian Talmud, including all full surviving manuscripts of Oriental, Ashkenazic, Sephardic and Yemenite provenance; complete manuscripts and first printed editions of tractates of the Babylonian Talmud, and over one thousand fragments from the Cairo and European archives – many as both texts and digital images. 

"Prof. Friedman has made tremendous contributions in many areas of Talmudic research – in Tannaitic and Amoraic literature, lexicography and Talmudic philology, Jewish law and legend, theology and comparative law, study of the text, etc.  Many of his innovations have provided the basis for future research and have become invaluable assets in our field," said Prof. Leib Moskovitz, Chairman of the Naftal-Yaffe Department of Talmud.

"Mazal tov to my dear friend and esteemed colleague, Professor Shamma Yehuda Friedman, upon being awarded the Israel Prize for research in Talmud.  One sees that sometimes the best and the most talented and the most accomplished and deserving people do win," wrote Rabbi Dr. Jeffrey Woolf, also of the Naftal-Yaffe Talmud Department, on Facebook.

Prof. Friedman is considered a pioneer in the interpretation of the Babylonian Talmud.  In fact, he is the first researcher to deal with scientific, systematic and comprehensive interpretation of the Talmud, a field that is of paramount importance and centrality in the study of rabbinic literature.

Prof. Friedman established and directs major initiatives that promote Talmud study.  He serves as director of the Saul Lieberman Institute of Talmud Research which facilitates online study of manuscripts of the Babylonian Talmud, allowing use of sophisticated search methods to study Talmud texts, and a page by page bibliography based on hundreds of volumes. At Bar-Ilan University he has established Torat HaTannaim, undertaking presentation of all textual witnesses of Tannaitic literature, now presenting Tosefta and some halakhic midrashim. He is also founder and chairman of the Society for Interpretation of the Talmud, devoted to the composition of original commentary of academic standards.

Prof. Friedman was born in the United States in 1937.  He was ordained as a rabbi by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1964 and received his doctorate there in 1966. He has taught Talmud and rabbinics at Harvard University, the Jewish Theological Seminary, Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University, and the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies.  He has been elected to the Academy of the Hebrew Language. In 2010 Prof. Friedman received the prestigious Landau Prize in Rabbinic Literature and Talmud.

Prof. Friedman has published books and over 100 articles in scientific journals in Israel and abroad in all areas of research related to rabbinic literature, but specifically regarding the Tosefta (a compilation of the Jewish oral law from the period of the Mishnah) and the Talmud, and lexicographical studies.

Prof. Friedman will be awarded the Israel Prize on Independence Day, which falls this year on May 6.