In classic mainstream Ashkenazi European Yeshivas such as the Mir, Telz, Kletzk or Kaminetz, each yeshiva had their own particular style. The Mir and Kaminetz were heavily influenced by the Brisker derech. Telz was focused on an intense back and forth between Rosh Yeshiva and the talmidim. Some learned mussar, while others refused. However, on the whole the curriculum was very similar. The yeshivas learned and focused primarily on tractates known as "yeshivishe mesechtas" which comprises primarily; with slight variations, of Kiddushin, Gittin, Bava Metzia, Bava Basra, Bava Kama, and other mesechtas from Nashim and Nezikin. So on the whole there was commonality between the yeshivas (this could be due to the overall influence of Slobodka on all of the yeshivas which was the first yeshiva to feature theese cycle of mesechtas) but the differences were so slight that it was quite common for students to bounce back and forth from one yeshiva to another.

However, I was wondering about the yeshivas in the Sephardic countries such as on Istanbul, Syria, and other middle eastern yeshivas, was there a curriculum in those yeshivas? What was featured in a classic Sephardi yeshiva? What texts did it focus on? Are there any texts which delineates the set up of those types of yeshivas. What aspects of Torah could we expect a graduate from these yeshivas to be proficient in. Was learning Kabbalah a feature of studying in these yeshivos?

I am not asking about modern day Sephardi yeshivas that may or may not have been influenced by exposure to Ashkenazi yeshivas.


1 Answer 1


R. Yosef Chaim of Baghdad describes the difference between the typical Ashkenazi and Sephardi modes of pesak in the beginning of his sefer Rav Pe'alim (quoted by R. Yitzchak Yosef, Iggeret le-Ben Torah, Ch. 18):

וְעַיֵּן בְּשׁוּ"ת רַב פְּעָלִים (חֵלֶק א' בִּפְתִיחַת הַסֵּפֶר), שֶׁכָּתַב, וְיֵשׁ שֶׁאֵין דַּרְכָּם לָתוּר וּלְחַפֵּשׂ בְּסִפְרֵי הָאַחֲרוֹנִים, אֶלָּא פּוֹנִים דַּוְקָא לְסִפְרֵי הָרִאשׁוֹנִים וְכוֹתְבִים מַה שֶּׁנִּרְאֶה לָן הֶם לְפִי הַכְרָעַת דַּעְתָּם וּסְבָרָתָם כַּאֲשֶׁר תַּשִּׂיג יָדָם, וּבְדֶרֶךְ זוֹ מִתְנַהֲגִים עַל הָרֹב גְּאוֹנֵי אַשְׁכְּנַז, וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁבְּוַדַּאי לָאו בִּרְמוּת רוּחָא נְהִיגֵי הָכֵי, עִם כָּל זֶה אַחַר אֶלֶף מְחִילוֹת מִכְּבוֹד תּוֹרָתָם לֹא טוֹב עָשׂוּ, כִּי זֶה כְּלָל גָּדוֹל בַּתּוֹרָה שֶׁאֵינָהּ נִקְנֵית אֶלָּא בַּחֲבוּרָה, וְלָכֵן נִקְרְאוּ הַחֲכָמִים בַּעֲלֵי אֲסוּפוֹת (חֲגִיגָה ג:), וְתָמִיד תִּמְצָא שֶׁהַגְּדוֹלִים צְרִיכִים לַקְּטַנִּים. וְהַתַּנָּא הַגָּדוֹל אָמַר (מַכּוֹת י.) הַרְבֵּה תּוֹרָה לָמַדְתִּי מֵרַבּוֹתַי, וּמֵחֲבֵרַי יוֹתֵר מֵהֶם, וּמִתַּלְמִידַי יוֹתֵר מִכֻּלָּם. וְלָכֵן אֲפִלּוּ הוּא רַב מֻבְהָק וְחָכָם גָּדוֹל לָמָּה לֹא יְבַקֵּשׁ לָדַעַת מַּה שֶּׁכָּתַב הַסֵּפֶר הָאַחֲרוֹן, הֵן מִסְּבָרַת עַצְמוֹ הֵן מִמַּה שֶּׁאָסַף וְקִבֵּץ מֵהָרִאשׁוֹנִים וְהָאַחֲרוֹנִים בְּאוֹתוֹ עִנְיָן, וְשֶׁמָּא יִמְצָא שָׁם דָּבָר חָדָשׁ. וּכְמוֹ שֶׁמָּצִינוּ לְר' יוֹחָנָן שֶׁהָיָה מְצַפֶּה לְקוּשְׁיוֹת תַּלְמִידָיו שֶׁעַל יְדֵי כָּךְ רְוָחָא שְׁמַעְתְּתָא טְפֵי (ב"מ פד.) וַאֲפִלּוּ אִם לֹא יִמְצָא דָּבָר חָדָשׁ יוֹעִיל מַה שֶּׁיִּמְצָא לוֹ חָבֵר כִּסְבָרָתוֹ, וְאֵין זֶה כְּדָן יְחִידִי. בְּדֶרֶךְ זוֹ נוֹהֲגִים חַכְמֵי הַסְּפָרַדִּים בִּפְסָקִים וּתְשׁוּבוֹת שֶׁלָּהֶם לָתוּר וְלִדְרֹשׁ מִכֹּל מִסְּפָרִים רִאשׁוֹנִים וְאַחֲרוֹנִים וְאַחֲרוֹנֵי הָאַחֲרוֹנִים כְּכָל אֲשֶׁר תַּשִּׂיג יָדָם כְּדֵי לְבָרֵר הַהֲלָכָה בִּתְשׁוּבוֹתֵיהֶם, עַד כָּאן.

In this post, R. Meir Mazuz's depiction of the "Tunisian" approach to learning is presented as an alternative to the more common Ashkenazi and particularly Lithuanian derekh ha-limmud of most yeshivot. According to R. Mazuz, the Iyyun Tunisai follows the methodology of R. Yitzchak Canpanton (1360-1463), the Gaon of Castile. R. Canpanton's Darkei ha-Talmud is a methodological work which argues for close reading of the Talmudic text, and of Rashi and Ramban's commentary as the keys to Talmudic mastery. According to Daniel Boyarin, who authored a study on Canpanton's circle, his method spread to “Safed and Jerusalem… Constantinople and Salonika… Cairo and Fez,” but has not been recognized appropriately. As described by R. Mazuz,

The foundation of the foundations of iyyun is that there is nothing missing [from] or added onto the language of the Gemara, Rashi, and Tosafot. There is nothing missing – because the text has not come to shut out [information] but to explain [matters], and it is not proper [to think] that the main elements of the matters [under consideration] are missing from the Talmudic discussion [Aramaic sugya] and its commentaries, for they [the rabbis] have not come to test us with riddles… And there is nothing added – because our rabbis have always tried to write with brevity and exactness, [with] the small carrying the abundant [i.e. with a small number of words carrying great depth].

See the aforementioned article for further discussion of this method.

  • 3
    I think the second link addresses the question, but it deserves more than a link, rather a summary. The first part address the difference in the method of Psak, which wasn't what the question was about.
    – Yishai
    Jun 2, 2015 at 15:25
  • I agree with yishai. Please summarize the link Jun 3, 2015 at 18:50

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