All posts by Editors

Talmudist 1925 by Yehuda Pen (1854–1937)

From Theology to Comedy: The Story of R. Adda bar Ahavah and Matun

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

Model of Herod's Temple (a renovation of the Second Temple) in the Israel Museum

Herod’s Renovation of the Temple – The Talmudic Version

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

The Colossal Statue of Shapur I, (239–270 CE ), the second king of the Sasanian Empire, stands in a cave located about 6 km from the ancient city of Bishapur in the south of Iran. Its height of about 6.7 m and breadth across the shoulders of more than 2 m make it one of the most impressive sculptures from the Sasanian period. Wikimedia

Concluding a Tractate with King Shapur’s Praise and Practice of Rabbinic Law

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

Image taken from page 12 of "A journey from London to Persepolis; including wanderings in Daghestan, Georgia, Armenia, Kurdistan, Mesopotamia, and Persia." Author: John. Shelfmark: "British Library HMNTS 10076.g.6."

The Development of the Chanukah Oil Miracle in Context of Zoroastrian Fire Veneration

The Ancient Fire that Fueled the Chanukah Story

Dr. Shai Secunda Continue reading The Development of the Chanukah Oil Miracle in Context of Zoroastrian Fire Veneration

The Munich Talmud: The only complete manuscript of the Talmud. Dates from 1342. Snapshot of b. Berakhot 12b

The Changes to the Amidah Blessings during the Ten Days of Penitence

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

Roman Senate. Ancient Images /Flickr

Rabbinic Battery Law in Light of Roman Rule

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

Blanford's Fox (Vulpes cana) photographed in Israel. Eyal Bartov / Wikimedia

Rabbi Akiva’s Laugh: The Hidden Call for the Bar Kokhba Revolt

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

Bava Kamma: Between Strict Liability and Negligence

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

Women of all cultures praying at the Western Wall. Meaghan O'Neill / flickr 2.0

Memorializing the Temple through the Maternal Practice of ‘Arakhin

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