The relative absence of Chanukah from rabbinic literature has been seen by many scholars as evidence that late antique Jews were ambivalent about the holiday and its Hasmonean founders. However, the highly suggestive evidence of piyyut (liturgical poetry), which extensively and creatively thematizes Chanukah and the Hasmoneans, suggests that this apparent ambivalence was not shared across late antique Jewish society.
Prof. Ophir Münz-Manor Continue reading In Praise of the Hasmoneans: Chanukah Beyond Rabbinic Literature
A talmudic discussion about why God no longer makes miracles ends with a surprising comedy of errors. What message is the Talmud trying to convey? And how is this story used in a 20th century halakhic responsum about women’s pants? Continue reading From Theology to Comedy: The Story of R. Adda bar Ahavah and Matun
“Tzedakah” in the sense of communal charity, civic benefaction, and an individual form of giving came into being during the tannaitic period, with the help of the Greeks and a little-known king named Munbaz.
Prof. Gregg E. Gardner Continue reading How Tzedakah Became Charity
In their discussion of King Herod’s reconstruction of the Second Temple, Talmudic storytellers emphasize themes of sight, blindness, and illegitimate rule. They also make a surprising suggestion about who really should get credit for this renovation.
Prof. Jeffrey L. Rubenstein Continue reading Herod’s Renovation of the Temple – The Talmudic Version
A short history of how the Mah Nishtana changed: From three to four to five questions
Prof. Joseph Tabory Continue reading How Many Questions in the “Four Questions”?
A striking talmudic passage asserts that it is biblically permitted to eat the ḥametz of a non-Jew on Passover. How are we to explain this strange claim? What might this development teach us about the dynamics of rabbinic texts? Continue reading Hametz Owned by a Non-Jew May be Eaten on Passover?!
The Bavli’s editors noted the conclusion of some tractates with an edifying message. For tractates Bava Metzia and Avodah Zarah, they placed stories about Sasanian king Shapur I. In this way, they connected their rabbinic milieu to the Sasanian world in which they operated, and imagined Sasanian authority and approval of rabbinic law.
Dr. Jason Mokhtarian Continue reading Concluding a Tractate with King Shapur’s Praise and Practice of Rabbinic Law
A New Approach to the Story of Abaye, Rava and the Dream Interpreter Bar Hedya (b. Berakhot 55b-56a). Continue reading “All Dreams Follow the Interpretation” – Even for the Rabbis!
Echoing the Iranian story of Yima, the biblical Enoch morphed into the theologically problematic angel Metatron, and ends up being flogged.
Dr. Yishai Kiel Continue reading Enoch’s Walk with God Ends Badly in Babylonia
During the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur two concluding blessing formulas are switched to refer to God as a judge What is the meaning of this change? What can talmudic manuscripts teach us about this liturgical practice?
Prof. Joseph Tabory Continue reading The Changes to the Amidah Blessings during the Ten Days of Penitence
How the Mishnah’s version of a tannaitic homily advances a more active human role in divine deliverance. Continue reading Directing the Heart to God: Moses’ Hands, Brass Serpents, and the Shofar
Examining the Talmud’s commitment to earlier rabbinic sources by exploring a b. Bava Kamma sugya about what constitutes change in stolen objects.
Dr. Ariel Furstenberg Continue reading A Philosophical Exploration of Shinuy: What Constitutes Change?
Evidence suggests that hoarding second tithe money held special, religious significance among late antique Jews. How did this curious religious observance develop? What might it have meant to the Jews who practiced it?
Amit Gvaryahu Continue reading Hoarding Consecrated “Second Tithe” Coins
Dr. Yoni Pomeranz
|Abstract: The rabbinic laws of personal injury differ markedly from those in the Torah. They are, however, substantially similar to the laws of personal injury that guided Roman courts in Palestine in the second century CE. Reading perek ha-ḥovel (m. Bava Kamma 8) alongside Roman law codes reveals the influence that Roman law had on rabbinic law. Roman models were responsible for the rabbinic rejection of a strict “eye for an eye” law, the calculation of נזק by valuing the victim as a slave, and the idea that an assailant could be liable for payments for בושת.
Continue reading Rabbinic Battery Law in Light of Roman Rule
A New Reading of the Midrash of R. Akiva and the Fox on the Temple Mount.
Dr. Meir Ben-Shahar
|Abstract: In recent years, a growing consensus has emerged that the Bar Kokhba revolt should be connected to Rome’s establishment of the city of Aelia Capitolina on the ruins of Jerusalem. A new interpretation of Rabbi Akiva’s famous consolation upon seeing a fox emerge from the Holy of Holies (Sifre Deuteronomy 43) suggests that this homily can actually be read as a call to arms against Rome.
Continue reading Rabbi Akiva’s Laugh: The Hidden Call for the Bar Kokhba Revolt
Dr. Shana Strauch-Schick
|Abstract: Tractate Bava Kamma deals primarily with tort law – the area of law that determines liability and fault for damages caused to the person or property of others. The Mishnah and the Talmudim present a seemingly bewildering variety of perspectives in terms of how to make such determinations. Nevertheless, it is still possible to trace a chronological development of how the tannaim and amoraim dealt with these issues. This evolution conforms to theoretical models described by contemporary legalists and may fit its Sasanian context.
Continue reading Bava Kamma: Between Strict Liability and Negligence