Pilpul (Hebrew: פלפול, loosely meaning "sharp analysis") refers to a method of studying the Talmud through intense textual analysis in attempts to either explain conceptual differences between various halakhic rulings or to reconcile any apparent contradictions presented from various readings of different texts. This activity, based on "Avot" (6:6), the Babylonian Talmud (Shabbat 31a), Rashi (commentary on Tractate Kiddushin of the Babylonian Talmud, 30a, s.v. "Talmud") and Maimonides (Yad HaChazakah, Sefer Madda, Laws of Torah Study, 1:11), requires derivation of the conceptual structures underlying various Jewish laws.

In the narrower sense, "pilpul" refers to a method of conceptual extrapolation from texts in efforts to reconcile various texts or to explain fundamental differences of approach between various earlier authorities, which became popular in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries: its founders are generally considered to be Jacob Pollak and Shalom Shachna. Many leading rabbinic authorities harshly criticized this method as being unreliable and a waste of time, and it is regarded by some as having been discredited by the time of the Vilna Gaon. A frequently heard accusation is that those who used this method were often motivated by the prospect of impressing others with the sophistication of their analysis, rather than by a disinterested love of truth. These students typically did not apply appropriate standards of proof in obtaining their conclusions (if any), and frequently presupposed conclusions that necessitated unlikely readings of "proof-texts". As such, "pilpul" has sometimes been derogatorily called "bilbul", Hebrew for "confusion". However, many authorities argued that there is a legitimate place for genuine "pilpul" as being reliable and even central to Talmud study, provided that traditional standards of proof were applied rigorously.

In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, "pilpul" in this narrow sense was largely superseded by the analytic methods pioneered by the Lithuanian school, in particular the Brisker derech. However, many people consider these methods too to be a form of "pilpul", though the practitioners of the analytic method generally reject the term. Before World War II, both the old and the new kinds of "pilpul" were popular among Lithuanian and Polish Jews. Since then, they have become prominent in most Ashkenazi and many Chassidic yeshivas.

"Pilpul" has escaped into English as a colloquialism used by some to indicate extreme disputation or casuistic hairsplitting. This usage has especially fallen into use among critics of Haredi Jews, impugning their Talmud study as non-productive.


External links

* [http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=318&letter=P&search=memorizing "Pilpul"] , an article from the "Jewish Encyclopedia"

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  • PILPUL — (Heb. פִּלְפּוּל), a collective term denoting various methods of talmudic study and exposition, especially by the use of subtle legal, conceptual, and casuistic differentiation. The word is derived from pilpel ( pepper ), indicating that these… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Pilpul — (hebräisch Pilpul, genaueste Untersuchung, von hebräisch Pilpel, Pfeffer bzw. Pfefferung) bezeichnet Methoden des Talmudstudiums, die durch logische Analyse und genaue Ausdifferenzierung aller denkbaren Aspekte und dafür und dagegen sprechender… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Pilpul — Pil pul, n. [Aramaic pilp[=u]l; cf. Heb. pilpel to spice, to season, dispute violently.] Among the Jews, penetrating investigation, disputation, and drawing of conclusions, esp. in Talmudic study. {Pil pul*ist}, n. {Pil pul*is tic}, a. [Webster… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Pilpul — Pilpul, die angeblich von dem Prager Rabbiner Jakob Polak (gest. 1530) ausgebildete dialektische Methode des Talmudstudiums, die sich in sophistischen, witzigen Spielereien mit den Materien gefiel, eine besonnene wissenschaftliche Erforschung des …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • pilpul — pilpulist, n. pilpulistic, adj. /pil pool/, n. a method of disputation among rabbinical scholars regarding the interpretation of Talmudic rules and principles or Scripture that involves the development of careful and often excessively subtle… …   Universalium

  • pilpul — ˈpilˌpül noun ( s) Etymology: Aramaic & Hebrew pilpūl, from pilpēl to search, argue : critical analysis and hairsplitting : casuistic argumentation especially among Jewish scholars on talmudic subjects : rabbinical dialectic …   Useful english dictionary

  • Pilpul — Pilpoul Pour les articles homonymes, voir Pilpoul (homonymie). Le pilpoul (dérivé du mot pilpel, poivre, littéralement « raisonnement aiguisé ») est une méthode introduite vers 1500 en Pologne, qui consiste en une étude systématique du… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • pilpul — noun Sophistry, hair splitting, quibbling …   Wiktionary

  • pilpul — pil·pul …   English syllables

  • pilpul — A subtle debate between rabbincal scholars over the details of the Talmud …   Grandiloquent dictionary

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