hatam_soferet: (esther)
2015-02-20 02:32 pm
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Term paper time :)

Some people expressed an interest in reading this paper. Here it is:

The Variegated Career of Exodus 13:16, being a summary of the antics real and perceived of a biblical verse from antiquity until the rabbinic period

Bear in mind that it’s a term paper, not a polished publication or anything, ok? But some of the content is pretty interesting, regardless.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.

hatam_soferet: (Default)
2014-12-26 12:12 pm
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For anyone who's ever tried to use Soncino's Talmud translation

"The Hellenistic Jewish sermons On Jonah, another fragment bearing the same name, and On Samson would be a downright sensation, had the Greek originals survived. Now they are only preserved in a 6th cent. Armenian translation which groups them among the works of Philo. This translation is so slavishly literal that it cannot be understood by readers of Armenian either, except if they guess the underlying Greek."--Folker Siegert, Early Jewish Interpretation in a Hellenistic Style, in Saebo.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
2014-09-04 05:14 pm
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Reading Historical Perspectives : From the Hasmoneans to Bar Kokhba in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls - 1999 Goodblatt, David Pinnick, Avital Schwartz, et al.


Some of the dead sea scrolls were written on ibex!
hatam_soferet: (esther)
2011-07-26 08:13 pm
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Rabad of Posquieres – Isidore Twersky – notes

6 sections: Life; Works; Works II: Criticism of the Mishneh Torah; Sources; Disciples and Followers; Relation to Philosophy and Kabbalah


Twelfth-century Provence becomes a relatively exciting Jewish scholarly scene – context of a) Christian intellectual activity b) influence from Spanish Jewry.

Most of what we know about his Life comes from clues in his writing (and those of others) and data about the general context. Jews have “comparatively favourable” sociopolitical status (hah) and the community has enough money that it can sustain quasi-monastic kollelim, for example.

Book headings – Family and Teachers (he has them; we know some stuff about some of them); Provence in the twelfth century (see above); Teaching and Writing (he does lots of it); Personality (balanced (apologetics?)); Influence (considerable).


Early Writings (sometimes it is rather hard to date his works); Talmud Commentaries (abundant but not extant); Codes (code literature is starting to flourish at this point); Commentaries on Halakhic Midrashim (not extant, for the most part); Mishnah Commentaries (on obscure masechtas); Sermons and Responsa (he has them); Hassagot on Alfasi, Razah, and Maimonides (he wrote them).

Works II: Criticism of the Mishneh Torah

Literature on the Mishneh Torah (Rabad starts the excavation process of figuring out where M. got it all); Corroborative or Explanatory Hassagot (some of his hassagot are these – “critical quest for sources”); Critical Glosses and Animadversions (some of his hassagot are these); Rabad’s Motives in Composing the Hassagot (a) jealousy/pugilism/desire to discredit M because disapproving of his other works b) ideological – disagreeing with content or method of MT “there is no certitude in halakha” – anti-authoritative-codes project c) irritated by lack of sources; the antagonism is protagonism, refining in fire)

Interesting comment on girsaot: that in general, there are a lot of divergent texts of rabbinic literature floating around, and Rabad (and other scholars of his time) know this very well. Sometimes they go to some trouble to find a version which agrees with some statement in the
MT. On the whole, Spanish mss are more reliable and Rabad knows this; sometimes he goes witth a French version because he thinks it is actually better. Crass to say ‘the MT is superior because it is grounded in superior Spanish texts and Provencale scholars have inferior texts so are generally wrong’. Also interesting:”…admissibility of two parallel, equally valid and
defensible readings was a widespread methodological canon which contributed a measure of tolerance and restraint to halakhic controversy”.

There are lots of hassagot which aren’t printed on the page. Also lots of places where he just doesn’t say anything; we sometimes suppose silence is acquiescence, but sometimes he is known to have held conflicting views.

This chapter builds towards Twersky’s Argument – that Rabad’s hassagot on the MT are of the nature of constructive criticism – the forerunner of the nosei kelim, wanting to identify its flaws so as to correct them. He supports this argument in various ways (Rabad basically likes codes, he likes things to be clear and well-explained, he isn’t as bitchy as he was about Razah, for example).


Talmudic; Post-talmudic

This bit was interesting because it talks about availability of books in 12th-c Provence – they’re pretty scarce; often people have to suspend discussions because they haven’t got the source text; borrowing books and running about trying to find a book are common (will of Judah ibn Tibbon). Rabad never mentions not having access to a text and often mentions having several copies of things; he has a library at Posquieres containing lots of things (p.198, but he doesn’t say how we know this).

Chapter in general an interesting and apparently thorough discussion of the state and availability of various sources in 12th-c Provence.

Literary, if not personal, contact with scholars of northern France. Evidence for early influence: Rashi using Provencale responsa and vocabulary.

Disciples and Followers

Disciples (he has an academy); Contemporary Followers and Correspondents (he has lots); Descendants (he has a couple who become notable for various things).

Relation to Philosophy and Kabbalah

In the latter part of his life Provence is a “scene of great intellectual fermentation” but it’s still in its very early stages so you couldn’t expect Rabad to be very much part of it.

Attitude towards Secular Learning (he’s basically a talmudist; not anti-philosophy, perhaps even pro-philosophy, just apparently not all that into it); Use of Philosophic Literature (”reservedly benevolent attitude”; much speculation); Rabad and Kabbalah (no extant kabbalistic works; contemporaries attribute him as a kabbalistic inspiration; much speculation).

Soloveitchik’s review

Well, Gabriel’s advisor said it was a review, but it isn’t exactly. It’s talking about the same subject, but its drift is more or less “Everyone thinks Rabad was awesome because he wrote glosses on the Mishneh Torah, and they present his life as a build-up to that event. This is a really stupid way to frame his life; historically he is part of the foundation of contemporary Talmud study, a man who broke free from the Gaonic vision and formulated a completely new way of thinking about Talmud; that’s far more exciting than a bunch of notes he made on the Mishneh Torah, a book based in Gaonic thought and therefore already obsolete. Better far to look at the state of Talmud study before Rabad and after, and explore how the man influenced the change.”

It’s kind of a review because it came out right after the second edition of Twersky, and it describes Twersky’s book as “a definitive portrait of the regnant conception of the man,” which is pretty damming since his whole thing is about how the regnant conception is totally misguided.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.

hatam_soferet: (Default)
2011-07-24 09:38 pm
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Jesus as Mother - Caroline Walker Bynum - notes

This is a 1980 book of essays revising work done during the previous decade. There are five essays: The Spirituality of Regular Canons in the Twelfth Century; The Cistercian Conception of Community; Did the Twelfth Century Discover the Individual?; Jesus as Mother and Abbot as Mother: Some Themes in Twelfth-Century Cistercian Writing; Women Mystics in the Thirteenth Century: The Case of the Nuns of Helfta; and an epilogue.

In one paragraph - during the twelfth century, the church expanded in both form and function; it built hierarchies and specialisations within itself, and its role expanded to something more pastoral and less exclusively concerned with individual salvation. Consequently, we see more emphasis on themes of one's own role within the church; increased activity among fringe elements qua fringe elements; and an emphasis on the caring, loving aspects of the Christian God, up to the eponymous maternal imagery.


Various things happen in the introduction; in the 12th and 13th centuries there is something of a religious revival; cf our friends in Aragon a little earlier, where we saw the church gaining momentum but being held in check by the kings. The church shakes itself free of the control of local rulers, and develops a control structure and bureaucracy of its own. It starts to take over roles formerly filled by wise folk and the Old Religions and has accordingly more contact with the laity; the roles of cleric and layman become more distinct. Interesting tension between ideal of pious withdrawal from the world on the one hand and its loving service on the other; with the latter comes a focus on Jesus' humanity and accessibility to all - feminine roles - and the tension balances with doctrinal remoteness of God and necessity for clergy as intermediaries and functionaries. (The friars of the thirteenth century dissipate this to some degree by wandering about preaching (world) in a state of poverty and extreme penitence (withdrawal).)

The Spirituality of Regular Canons in the Twelfth Century

I don't really know what the difference between monks and canons is - it seems like canons are sort of hasidim, clerical people who live together under a set of rules, but monks are more like those sorts of uber-religious yeshivish types who spend all their time davening and learning and focusing on getting every detail exactly right. Apparently most of the time there isn't really that much difference, but over the course of the twelfth century the monks stayed focused on goals like Correct Worship, whereas the canons got more into brotherly love and (eventually) kiruv, and by the thirteenth century they'd formed a bridge into the Friars, who went around doing rather aggressive kiruv.

The Cistercian Conception of Community

"Epitomises the tension between denial and affirmation of the world" - ambivalence; partly addressed by moulding ideas about service of one's neighbour into the specific context of the neighbour in the monastery. "Affective spirituality" is apparently an innovation of the time.

Did the Twelfth Century Discover the Individual?

Basically no. Individuals just had more choices within the newly-diversified church hierarchy, so we see more discussion on how individuals should be approaching choice; there's more of a concern for things like brotherly love, so there's more awareness of individuals as beings who need love and have brothers.

Jesus as Mother and Abbot as Mother: Some Themes in Twelfth-Century Cistercian Writing

Some people have this rather odd liturgy which pictures God as having a female body, breastfeeding, and giving Loving Discipline as twelfth-century ideal mothers apparently do. Bynum uses it to illustrate basic values among Cistercians; "a need for affectivity in the exercise of authority and in the creation of community, and a complex rhythm of renouncing ties with the world while deepening ties with community and between the soul and God." Note that this imagery of the ideal woman does not tell us anything about how they viewed actual women - bearing in mind that these are celibate, male-only communities. "Female" and "feminine" are not the same; there is minor interest in God as having attributes of the latter and no interest in identifying God as the latter.

Women Mystics in the Thirteenth Century: The Case of the Nuns of Helfta

No-one has really yet put women's religiosity into historical context. Through the 12th-14th centuries more women are attracted to the cloister; in particular we see more women than men having mystic experiences (or being billed as Mystics). This is probably not to do with the (traditionally-assumed) inherent fluffiness of women, since it is a new development and women have always been fluffy. The nuns of Helfta were particularly prolific (and, being mostly high-class, particularly literate) and left us a lot of material.

Basically Bynum thinks that women as well as men want to be part of the new roles the church makes available; once women's cloisters become a thing, women are attracted to them because they too want to be part of the church. But clergy are increasingly important in the church (canon law and ecclesiastical bureaucracy become more elaborate; the eucharist becomes more significant), and women can't be clergy, so they're definitively cut off from higher spiritual functions. This finds an outlet in mysticism, particularly the kind in which Jesus grants them visions - the clergy can't argue too hard with visions of Jesus.


Eleventh and early twelfth-century Christianity - "ability to express new spiritual concerns and goals in new rules, insitutions, and styles of life." Twelfth century and later - "ability to complement individual with community, personal growth with service of others, affectivity with authority." Theological equilibrium: God who is simultaneously fierce and loving. Communal equilibrium amongst religious orders, between group and self, erodes; by the fourteenth century the tensions are played out not in balance but in heresies.
hatam_soferet: (esther)
2011-07-10 11:38 pm
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Jews of Aragon – Assis notes

I’ve been reading Yom Tov Assis’ books about the Jews of Aragon (for Gabriel’s orals: The Golden Age of Aragonese Jewry and Jewish Economy in the Medieval Crown of Aragon).

On the one hand, he describes the period 1210-1327 as a Golden Age for the Jews. On the other hand, he presents it as a time of extreme tension and social unrest, building all the time to the doom of 1391-1492 (1391: the Church really gets stuck into the Jews. 1492: expulsion of the Jews from Spain).

His basic project is to do a systemic survey of the materials in civil sources e.g. court archives and Jewish sources e.g. responsa literature of the Rashba, the Ritva, the Ramban, the Ran, etc., and the two books are the pictures he paints with them – one economic, the other more social.

He reminds us at several points that we tend to have documentary evidence for when things go wrong, not for when they go right. He is also aware that his data is rather extensively based in tax records, so his picture is necessarily rather weighted towards matters financial.

So, here’s the picture I have from Assis:

short version: )

CHRISTIANS, rampaging at the gates: Let’s kill the Jews!
JEWS: Phew!
KING: Spare a tenner till Tuesday?
JEWS: *tinkle tinkle clink* (that is the sound of a cash cow being milked)
CHRISTIANS: *disperse grumbling*
JEWS: Truly, this a golden age!

the rest under the cut )