Religious Studies and Theology, Vol 40, No 2 (2021)

Retaining Information and Knowledge in Human Memory in Mishnahic and Talmudic Periods: Historical, Cultural, and Practical Aspects

Abraham Ofir Shemesh
Issued Date: 3 Dec 2021


The current study explores Mishnahic and Talmudic literature as its basis for a discussion of the meaning of memory, its significance, and ways of maintaining it among individuals. Until the redaction of the Mishna and revoking the religious prohibition against writing down oral traditions, knowledge relied mainly on human memory and it was preserved among select scholars or by elders with good memory. In Mishnahic and Talmudic periods the need to preserve the considerable information that had accumulated in the batei midrash increased, as did the concern that the Torah would be forgotten due to historical circumstances that had a destructive effect on the scholars in batei midrash. The response to these concerns required embracing and developing methods, practices, and food recipes to help increase memory and prevent or slow down memory loss. Among the methods for maintaining memory were: Frequent revision and reviewing of study material; choosing an adequate learning environment and atmosphere; remembering ideas by associative techniques (to colours, daily activities); use of mnemonics (acronyms, signs, associations, fingers and numbers), and eating food or smelling aromatic substances for improving memory.

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DOI: 10.1558/rst.20103


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