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.
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!
The Ancient Fire that Fueled the Chanukah Story
A Feminist Reading
Dr. Marjorie Lehman Continue reading Kimchit’s Head Covering: Between Rabbis and Priests
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?
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?
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.|
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.|
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.|
In the wake of the destruction of Jerusalem, rabbinic literature’s presentation of mothers donating their children’s weight in gold to the Temple – following the rabbinic interpretation of ‘Arakhin – comes to exemplify both piety and tragedy. Continue reading Memorializing the Temple through the Maternal Practice of ‘Arakhin
Prof. Michael Chernick Continue reading The Pesach Seder of the “First Mishna”
Dr. Shai Secunda
The end of the first chapter of b. Megillah preserves the only complete Babylonian midrash on an entire biblical book. Continue reading Why and How a Complete Midrash on Esther was Preserved in the Babylonian Talmud
The Babylonian Talmud as an Oral Library for Rabbinic Collections Continue reading Why the Talmud is the Only Rabbinic Work from Babylonia
Dr. Barry Wimpfheimer
|Excessive drinking on Purim is recommended by the amora Rabbah, in a rare Aramaic ruling that is followed by a strange account of a drunk Rabbah slaughtering his colleague, R. Zeira, at a Purim feast. What are we to make of this shocking law and story, and what do can they teach us about the unique, carnivalesque quality of Purim?|
The historical context within which to read the Talmudic discussions of kiddushin.
Prof. Michael Satlow Continue reading A Detached Kiddushin
What the unique corpus of magical texts inscribed on bowls can teach us about the diffusion of the rabbinic laws of divorce in late antique Babylonia.
Avigail Manekin Bamberger Continue reading Naming Demons: The Aramaic Incantation Bowls and Gittin
The Midrashic Development and Antiquity of the Oral Torah, and the Source Critical Demonstration of the “First Mishna”
Prof. Michael Chernick Continue reading The Modern Study of Mishna: Rabbi Dr. David Zvi Hoffmann’s Approach