As usual forgive me for generalizing different yeshivot have different approaches but this is the approach I'm familiar with:
The basic assumptions underlying yeshiva Gemara learning are:
1. The Gemara is basically a homogeneous work. Most contradictions between different sugyot can and should be explained away logically. SH: The Gemara is as heterogeneous as a text can be. It is an amalgam of hundreds of different opinions from hundreds of years all smushed together.
2. The Gemara's interpretation of the Mishna is THE interpretation of the Mishna
SH: One needs but look at a Kehati to see this approach. It is clear that the Gemara changes the Mishna's simple meaning. (There is supposedly a Gr'a somewhere that admits to this. Does anybody know where it is?)
3. The Gemara's Hava Amina (Initial Thoughts on a subject which it later rejects) is completely valid except for the one point that the Gemara brings to reject that point SH: The Hava Amina's in the Gemara often suffer from many flaws. The Rishonim were the ones who began to look at the the Hava Amina as perfect minus one thing. A huge amount of literature is written based on what I think is a faulty assumption.
4. The halacha as laid out in the Gemara has basically stayed the same since the times of Moshe. SH: Even assuming that the Written Torah has not changed at all, it is clear that certain things were innovations of Rabbinical Judaism (Rabbinical Judaism is not a phrase that exists in the Yeshiva world)
5. The stranger bits of the Gemara are esoteric and contain hidden secrets about some sort of spiritual reality.
SH: This was essentially the life work of the Maharal, to show the deeper meaning of the strange myths in the Gemara. I don't like this approach from the mere fact that if the Maharal had lived in Ancient Greece he could have done the same thing to Greek mythology.
6. The Rishonim were basically always right. When one Rishon points to a flaw in another Rishon that flaw is not really a flaw. SH: An amusing consequence of this approach is that one gets stuck in endless circle. "Tosfot says Rashi was wrong. But Rashi really meant something else. So why did Tosfot misunderstand Rashi? Because Tosfot really meant something else." and around and around we go.
7. The Rishonim (and the Gemara for that matter) are deeper than they seem. One word or phrase can hint to a complex system of pilpul (halachic dialectic) SH: Basically the Brisker approach to the Rambam and also pilpul in general. Basically the building edifices on a word or two. Any shiur in Yeshiva which does not use this methodology in analyzing a text is derisively called "Baal Habatish"
8. One learns Gemara not for the acquisition of knowledge but because the very act of learning fundamentally changes you spiritually.
As you can see the learning in Yeshiva's is far from academic. Personally I think a "B.A. in Talmudic Law" is one of the biggest scams in the country. This type of "learning" is based on very dubious assumptions and is by no means worthy of accreditation. I'm not trying to offend anyone who loves Yeshiva learning I just don't think its vaguely on par with academic subjects. I guess it depends on what your goal is. Yeshiva Gemara learning has more reverence for the material. Academic Gemara learning is more interested in somewhat less reverent critical analysis.
Can anyone think of any other assumptions Yeshiva learning makes?
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