Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Back issues of 60 Hebrew-language research journals will be scanned into an online archive that will be accessible to professors and students both in Israel and abroad.By Asaf Shtull-Trauring
Israel's academic journals are embarking on a large-scale digitization project: In the coming months, back issues of 60 Hebrew-language research journals will be scanned into an online archive that will be accessible to professors and students both in Israel and abroad.
The archive, the first of its kind in Israel, will later be opened to the general public as well...
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
From the abstract (hat-tip to, once again, Menachem Butler):
This dissertation identifies the compositional art of the She‘iltot of Aḥa of Shabḥa
– a collection of halakhic homilies dating from the eighth century connected to the weekly Sabbath and Festival Torah portions. Through a synoptic analysis of Babylonian Talmudic parallels the editorial methods and techniques of the redactor are categorized in order to reveal the format and goals of the work. Previous She‘iltot research has focused almost exclusively on the relationship of textual variants that appear in the She‘iltot that differ from our version of the Babylonian Talmud; but few have seen or allowed for the literary creativity of the redactor.
The body of the dissertation begins by identifying the four standard sections of the She‘iltot and defining the function of each. The dissertation then highlights the various emendations, omissions, and additions made by the redactor to the cited Babylonian Talmudic texts. By examining the various changes, a picture emerges of an active redactor who dramatically changes the meaning, substance, and purpose of quoted talmudic sections to fit them into the she‘ilta form and more significantly to teach specifics lessons which were part of his pedagogic agenda. The examination of these sources forces a reconsideration of the notion that the She‘iltot can be used indiscriminately as a source of textual variants for the Babylonian Talmud. While the
She‘iltot may preserve alternate readings in certain cases, many of the changes are intentional programmatic emendations of the redactor. The arrangement of the cited sources are analyzed uncovering the existence of a Babylonian homiletic midrash based on diverse citations from the Babylonian Talmud forged in a manner to create weekly lectures appealing to both scholars and educated laymen.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
A review of interest:
Miriam Ben Zeev reviews Leonard V. Rutgers, Making Myths: Jews in Early Christian Identity Formation (Leuven: Peeters, 2009).
Thursday, June 10, 2010
From the publisher:
Jeffrey L. Rubenstein continues his grand exploration of the ancient rabbinic tradition of the
Talmudic sages, offering deep and complex analysis of eight stories from the Babylonian Talmud
to reconstruct the cultural and religious world of the Babylonian rabbinic academy.
Rubenstein combines a close textual and literary examination of each story with a careful
comparison to earlier versions from other rabbinic compilations. This unique approach provides
insight not only into the meaning and content of the current forms of the stories but also into how redactors reworked those earlier versions to address contemporary moral and religious issues.
Rubenstein's analysis uncovers the literary methods used to compose the Talmud and sheds light on the cultural and theological perspectives of the Stammaim—the anonymous editor-redactors of the Babylonian Talmud. Rubenstein also uses these stories as a window into understanding more broadly the culture of the late Babylonian rabbinic academy, a hierarchically organized and competitive institution where sages studied the Torah. Several of the stories Rubenstein studies here describe the dynamics of life in the academy: master-disciple relationships, collegiality and rivalry, and the struggle for leadership positions. Others elucidate the worldview of the Stammaim, including their perspectives on astrology, theodicy, and revelation.
The third installment of Rubenstein’s trilogy of works on the subject, Stories of the Babylonian
Talmud is essential reading for all students of the Talmud and rabbinic Judaism.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Upcoming conference at Haifa University:
הגניזה הקהירית ומחשובה
אוניברסיטת חיפה – הפקולטה למדעי הרוח
ו"גנזים" – יחידת המחשוב של פרויקט פרידברג לחקר הגניזה
9:30 – 9:45 התכנסות
9:45 - 9:50 פרופ' אפרים לב, דברי פתיחה
9:50 – 10:30 פרופ' יעקב שויקה, הגניזה הקהירית ומחשובה
10:30 – 11:10 חגית גלבר, אתר הגניזה – פונקציות בסיסיות
11:10 – 11:40 פרופ' אפרים לב, 'רפואה ימי ביניימית פרקטית ותיאורטית על פי כתבי הגניזה'
11:40 – 12:00 הפסקת קפה
12:00 – 12:30 ד"ר רוני שויקה, חיפוש באתר הגניזה
12:30 – 13:00 ד"ר משה לביא, 'דוגמאות לתרומתו של פרויקט גנזים לחקר מקומה של ספרות המדרש בקהילות הגניזה'
13:00 – 13:45 ארוחת צהריים
13:45 – 14:15 חגית, אתר הגניזה – פונקציות מתקדמות
14:15 – 14:45 ד"ר משה מורגנשטרן, 'תרומתה של גניזת קהיר לחקר הארמית'
14:45 – 15:30 תרגול מודרך ובסופו דיון
15:30 פרופ' אפרים לב ופרופ' יעקב שויקה, דברי סיכום
הסדנה תתקיים ביום שני 28/6/2010 בחדר 562 בבנין ראשי באוניברסיטת חיפה
ההשתתפות חופשית, אולם מספר המקומות מוגבל, וכל הקודם זוכה
יש לכן להירשם מראש בדוא"ל firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, June 7, 2010
Iranica AntiquaVolume 45 (2010)
Ursula Weber, "Wahrām III., Koenig der Koenige von Ērān und Anērān" (pp. 395 - 418)
Janos Jany, "Private Litigation in Sasanian Law"
Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft 5.1 (2010)
David Porreca, "Divine Names: A Cross-Cultural Comparison (Papyri Graecae Magicae, Picatrix, Munich Handbook) "
Julien Veronese, "God's Names and Their Uses in the Books of Magic Attributed to King Solomon"
Naming the Witch: Magic, Ideology and Stereotype in the Ancient World (review)
Magic and the Supernatural in Fourth-Century Syria (review)
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Maimonides in His World:Portrait of a Mediterranean Thinker
Princeton University Press, 2009
Faced with a sophisticated yet uncomplicated gadget, the New York Times’ review of the iPad™ offers two assessments side by side – one for techies and the other for everyone else. As a piece of intellectual technology, Sarah Stroumsa’s erudite and accessible Maimonidies in his World deserves no less. The book is an exceptional work of critical scholarship that remains readable and relevant beyond the ivory tower. Indeed, its true significance might be found among a more general readership. As a number of scholarly reviews have already (positively) appraised the book, here we limit ourselves to discussing its importance for non-specialists, and particularly those for whom the Rambam was, as Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchick evocatively put it, “a permanent guest in the home.”
It has been more than half a decade since the eight-hundredth anniversary of Maimonides’ death, yet the publishing mill continues to spawn major Maimonidean biographies [Moshe Halbertal, Ha-Rambam (Jerusalem, 2009)], translations [Michael Schwarz, Sefer Moreh Nevukhim (Tel Aviv, 2008)], intellectual portraits [Joel Kraemer, Maimonides: The Life and World of One of Civilization's Greatest Minds (New York, 2010)], and even a so-called “Rambam diet” [David Zulberg, The Life Transforming Diet: Health and Psychological Principles of Maimonides (New York, 2007)]. Ecclesiastes’ warning against the endless making of books has been observed only in the breach. But in Stroumsa’s case, we are all the more fortunate.
Maimonides in his World presents a fully integrated and contextualized figure. The attempt to separate Maimonides the philosopher from Maimonides the halakhist is smartly refuted. In addition, Maimonides is now located in what Stroumsa calls his Mediterranean Islamic context. Both the integration and contextualization of Maimonides are likely to be resisted by those who devote themselves to the traditional study of Rambam’s writings. But given Stroumsa’s mastery of the material and the way she consistently links the Rambam’s language to a rich lexicon of Arabic terms and Islamic ideas, the book’s conclusions are hard to avoid. Of course the unfortunate truth is that a book by a professor of Arabic philosophy published in English by a university press will never make it into the study halls where the Rambam is most venerated. But it should, and to its credit – it theoretically could. Despite the fact that Maimonides in his World derives from over twenty years of painstaking philological research on Hebrew and Arabic texts, like the iPad, the complex machinery is present, but elegantly tucked away.
Using advanced linguistic and scholarly tools, Stroumsa demonstrates how virtually every one of Maimonides’ projects can be properly understood only in relation to broader trends in the Islamic Mediterranean. These include Maimonides’ polemics against the widespread theological approach of his day (kalām), his heresiography in which deviant Jews of the past and present are essentially depicted as Muslim heretics (zandādiqa), the creation of the Mishneh Torah – a new primary source of Jewish law that eschews fundamentals (furū‘) and uncovers basic legal principles (uşūl). According to Stroumsa, the composition of Mishneh Torah is to be connected with currents that Maimonides was exposed to under the Almohads during the years 1148-1165, as is his almost militant anti-anthropomorphism, his image of Messianic kingship (similar to the Islamic Mahdī), and his impatience with Ptolemaic astronomy. Maimonides’ famous position regarding animal sacrifices in the Temple, which are seen as but one step in the evolution of Judaism from its pagan past, is of a piece with the renewed interest in religious phenomenology. His denigration of darshanim and the uncritical use of aggada parallels Muslim assessment of preachers (wu‘‘āz) and religious storytellers (qusşāş).
Maimonides’ vision of human perfection and an austere intellectual afterlife plainly reflects the dominant philosophical approach of his day. Famously, this approach engendered considerable problems for Maimonides both during his life and after his death, for if there is no need for the body after death, why would God have to resurrect the dead? One of the most original claims in the book is that Maimonides’ codification of this belief in his thirteen principles was neither an abandonment of his philosophical approach nor an attempt at synthesis. Rather, it was a shrewd strategy he hoped would allow him to avoid the discussion entirely. Unfortunately for his sake, he was mistaken.
In Stroumsa’s capable hands, the image of Maimonides that emerges is not a portrait of a brilliant Talmud-centric Lithuanian Rosh Yeshiva; rather a kind of pre-Renaissance Renaissance man who was completely fluent in the philosophical discourse of his day and who attempted an unapologetic reading of Judaism using the prevailing intellectual tools of his day. The secret to Maimonides’ success, which Stroumsa sees as the culmination of prior attempts by Jewish philosophers, was his distinct ability to observe with cool, scholarly detachment all of the philosophical and religious traditions that preceded him – including his own Judaism.
Pervasive self awareness is both the blessing and curse of modernity. However, when you are hundreds of years ahead of your time, it can only be experienced as a howling loneliness. Taking its cue from the popular saying “from Moshe (Rabbeinu) to Moshe (ben Maimon) there arose none like Moshe,” the final section of the book explores Maimonides’ idea of the “philosopher king” – a man who responds to the call for communal involvement, yet remains in philosophical contemplation. It is good to be king, but how lonely it is!
The second half of the twentieth century saw Modern Orthodox Judaism – particularly in its American strain – attempt to fashion itself as a Maimonidean movement. Some continue to call for “Maimonidean reform” [Marc D. Angel, Maimonides, Spinoza and Us: Toward an Intellectually Vibrant Judaism (Woodstock, VT, 2009)]. At the same time, there has been hesitation about a pure “imatatio Maimonides,” with some questioning the wisdom and feasibility of community-wide emulation of this elite, intellectually unparalleled, and singular Jewish leader. In the future conversations that are sure to ensue about Maimonides’ place in contemporary Jewish life, Stroumsa’s portrait will be a most welcome, indispensible guide.
Dr. Shai Secunda is a Fellow at the Scholion Center for Interdisciplinary Jewish Research – The Hebrew University of Jerusaelm.