Announcements, English, Guest Posts

A Tantalizing Tale of Temura Fragments – Guest Post by Noah Bickart

As a Talmudist at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, I have long been accustomed to fantastical tales about the discovery of ancient manuscripts of the Babylonian Talmud. That famous picture of Schechter in the Geniza hangs everywhere in our halls. We are taught from the beginning not only to read Raphael Nathan Rabinovitch’s Dikdukei Soferim, but to imagine him on some Sunday morning in Rome, unlocking the Vatican Apostolic Library with his own set of keys, sitting down to transcribe Vatican 109 by candlelight. We hear of our own Haim Zalman Dimitrovsky, who supervised the doctorates of so many of our own teachers (Shamma Friedman, Mayer Rabinowitz, Joel Roth, and Burton L. Visotzky among countless others), roaming the monasteries of Italy, excato knife in hand, no binding safe from the search for more Seridei Bavli. And yet, we are accustomed to thinking that the time for these kinds of monumental discoveries, of even a few leaves of a Tractate stuffed into the binding of a 16th century print, has long past, and that only European libraries and monasteries might hold more finds. You can imagine my surprise when I found myself staring at an image in a Facebook message of what looked to my own eyes as an early European manuscript of the Bavli, apparently having formed the cover of a book of Church Music published in Prague in 1604, now housed in Fales Library at New York University.

A young scholar of musicology, Sam Zerin, who happens to be married to a former student of mine, Rachel Dudley Zerin, is pursuing a doctorate under Professor Stanley Boorman at NYU. Dr. Boorman, with his students, is now working on this collection, comprising about a dozen volumes, all of which are bound in Vellum manuscripts, mostly Latin music texts. Yet three volumes are bound in parchment from a single manuscript in a language Dr. Boorman didn’t read. Sam, his student, immediately recognized the script as Hebrew, and offered to ask his wife Rachel if she knew anyone at JTS who might be able to identify the text. Having been subjected to my (in)famous synopses in a class she took with me on Aggadah in Seder Nashim some years ago, Rachel had Sam send me some pictures of these bindings.

When I saw the first picture, it became clear that this might actually be a major discovery. The topic was Temura (הוא לה’ קריבה ואין תמורתו לה’ קריבה) and featured a dispute between Rava and Abaye, meaning that what I was looking at was either the Babylonian Talmud or some text which quoted or paraphrased it. Some brief searching in the Bar Ilan Responsa database led me to assume that this might be a section of Yalkut Shimoni‘s version of Temura 3b, which more closely matched this MS than did the printed texts of the Bavli, yet searching in the Lieberman database of Talmudic manuscripts revealed that indeed this was a manuscript of Temura. At this point I called Professor Neil Danzig and sent him the pictures. The questions were broad: might this text hold the key to resolving the dispute between Y.N. Epstein and E.S. Rosenthal on the relative age and provenance of the “Lishna Aharina” sections of Temura? How does this version of Temura compare to the fragments of this chapter found in the Geniza? Neither of us slept. I spent the night immersed in Temura.

When we spoke in the morning, we were both convinced that the covers from these three books were fashioned from a single manuscript of (or at least the first chapter of) Temura, written somewhere in Europe in the 12th or 13th century. Professor Danzing noted three features which pointed to an early date and “Proto-Ashkenazi” provenance for this text. First, the divine name is represented by three and not two letters “yod.” Second, the manuscript shows clear signs of striation. Third, the letters, “gimel” are elongated. We made an appointment to visit Dr. Boorman and these books at Fales Library.

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A picture of one of the fragments.

The meeting between Drs. Boorman and Danzig was a beautiful example of everything that is right in the academy. Two scholars whose fields almost never overlap were brought together by a single artifact. Each scholar was able to explain in detail various but not overlapping aspects of this object, and each was able to convince the other of the worth of this object for his respective field. It was Professor Boorman who made the case to the conservator on duty that the bindings really needed to be opened, that the worth of this text to our field was worth potentially damaging his book.

Needless to say, I plan on transcribing this fragment in the coming months, comparing its readings to all the extant witnesses of the tractate as well as other variants recorded in the Shita Mequbetzet, and related works, with the aim of publishing an article on the fragment and its textual tradition. In the meantime, if any of the readers of the blog have any insights or thoughts about how to proceed, or know of any witnesses to Temura not listed in the Sussman catalog, I would love to hear about them.

Noah B. Bickart is an an adjunct instructor in Talmud & Rabbinics at JTS where he also serves as the Principal of the Rebecca and Israel Ivry Prozdor High School Program and is completing a PhD on scholastic terminology in the Babylonian Talmud and parallels to Syriac Christian literature.

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Announcements, English

The Talmud Blog- Now in Hebrew!

In case you haven’t noticed, the Talmud Blog has undergone some changes over the last couple of weeks. We’ve updated our look, reorganized things a bit, and prepared the site for Hebrew posts.

Like all virtual artifacts, the blog is ‘located’ in The Cloud. But most of the humans who work on the blog are based in Jerusalem. We also have a considerable readership in Israel, even if most of our audience lives in the United States. So the time has come, as we enter our fourth year of collective web-logging, to post in Hebrew as well. You will be able to access these on the top right tab “פוסטים בעברית“. Yakov Z. Mayer, a doctoral student at Tel-Aviv University, will be editing our Hebrew content.

That said, given the internationalism we aspire to, the main language will remain English, which like it or not has overtaken Latin as the language of science and letters. We should add that potential submissions in Hebrew, English are very much welcome. 

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Announcements, English, Events

The Talmud Blog Live- David Brodsky on “Rabbinic Literature and Its Dis-Contents”

It is our pleasure to announce an upcoming series of classes that we are presenting along with the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education in New York. On Wednesdays October 30th, November 6th, 13th and 20th Prof. David Brodsky of Brooklyn College’s Department of Judaic Studies will be teaching a class entitled “Rabbinic Literature and Its Dis-Contents:  Situating the Genres of Talmud and Midrash in Their Civilizational Context:” Continue reading

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Announcements, English, Talk of the Town

In Your Neighborhood- The Talmud Blog Live IV

It has been some time since the Talmud Blog community – at least its Eastern branch – has gotten together for a live event. So we are particularly excited to announce the fourth ‘Talmud Blog Live’ gathering, which will be held in Jerusalem at the end of June. We look forward to hosting two rising academic stars from neighboring disciplines who will participate in a conversation that introduces ‘their’ texts and methods to Talmudists. The discussion will also considers intersections between different Sasanian – and disciplinary – communities. Mark you calendars, RSVP via our facebook page, and spread the word. We look forward to seeing you!

The Talmud and its World: 
Reading the Bavli Alongside its Late Antique Neighbors
 
A Text-based Conversation with Iranist Yuhan Vevaina (Stanford) and Mandaic Scholar Charles Häberl (Rutgers). Facilitated by Shai Secunda (Hebrew University).

The event will take place on Thursday, June 27, 2013 at 17:00 in Rabin Building 2001 on Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus.  This evening is generously sponsored by the Martin Buber Society of Fellows, is geared towards Talmudists and is held in conjunction with the Hebrew University Talmud Department.

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Announcements, Conferences, English

Introducing the ‘Real’ Talmud Blog: Two Events in NYC and Jerusalem

The Talmud Blog is a place – a virtual one, that is – where regular writers and guest authors gather to talk about everything and anything relating to classical rabbinic literature and its effect on Jewish culture. Ultimately, we hope that the blog serves as a kind of scholarly community – a virtual one, that is – for specialists and interested laypeople alike. But there is no doubt that virtual space can sometimes seem cold and impersonal.

For that reason we’re happy to announce two upcoming ‘real’ events that we’ll be hosting later in October on both sides of the Atlantic. Both events will feature two young and cutting-edge scholars of the Babylonian Talmud, an opportunity to socialize with the people you may know only virtually, and a chance to hear about some of The Talmud Blog’s plans. We ask you, loyal reader, to join us for an event (if you live nearby) and to spread the word to potentially interested friends and colleagues.

Join our growing list of co-sponsors for only a hundred dollars. Contributions of other sizes are, of course, also welcome. Those interested are invited to contact us at thetalmudblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

  • On Tuesday, October 16, at 7:15pm, Zvi Septimus will be leading a discussion on “Was Resh Lakish the Gladiator an Ascetic or a Hedonist? How the Bavli Conveys Meaning” at Drisha, 37 West 65th Street, 5th Floor, New York.
  • On Tuesday, October 23, at 8pm, Michal Bar-Asher Siegal will be leading a discussion in Hebrew on “The Babylonian Talmud and Christian literature: Resh Lakish and the Monastic Repentant Robber”. The event is being graciously hosted by the Pomrenze family at their home, 6 Crémieux Street, German Colony, Jerusalem.

PLEASE JOIN US AND RSVP either by emailing us at thetalmudblog at gmail dot com, or by signing up on the Facebook event pages (New York event page; Jerusalem event page).

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Announcements, Conferences, English

Rabbinics in the International Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature

The international meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature will be held next week (July 22-26) in Amsterdam. As always, many sessions will be devoted to rabbinic literature; most notably this year are two multi-session units that will focus on (1) the Tanhuma midrashim and (2) on the dynamics between verse and prose in late antique Jewish and Christian texts. In addition, a session of the Judaica unit will be devoted to Midrash. So if you are heading to Amsterdam, prepare yourselves for a feast of five days of rigorous discussions of rabbinic literature in different contexts and settings. If you’re not, at least you’ll know what you’re missing! Full details concerning the sessions and the papers (including abstracts) can be found here.

Monday

9:00-12:00

The Tanhuma – Text and Story I

Gila Vachman, Hebrew University- The charachteristics of the later layer of the Tanhuma literature as demonstrated in Geniza fragments

Paul Mandel, Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies- The Religious World of Midrash Tanhuma: A Comparison with early aggadic midrashic parallels

Dov Weiss, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign- Confrontational Theology in Tanhuma-Yelammedenu

13:30-14:30

Judaism in Transition: Cultural Changes of the Byzantine Era

Marc Bregman, University of North Carolina at Greensboro- From Synagogue Sermon to Literary Homily The Early Stratum of Tanhuma-Yelammedenu Literature

15:00-16:15

The Tanhuma – Text and Story II

Elisha S. Ancselovits, Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem- Hukkim as Inexplicable Laws: An Ideological Innovation of the Tanhuma

Yehonatan Wormser, University of Haifa- Early and Late Layers in the Tanhuma-Yelammedenu Literature – The Linguistic Aspect

Tamas Biro, University of Amsterdam- May I circumcise myself? On rituals and “halakhically incorrect” cognition in midrashic exegesis

Tuesday

9:00-12:00

Dynamics between Verse and Prose: General Approaches and Case Studies

Marc Bregman, University of North Carolina at Greensboro- The Metastructure of Midrash and Piyyut

Moshe Lavee, University of Haifa- The Art of Composition: Common Aspects of Rabbinic Homilies and Qerova Poetry

Michael D. Swartz, Ohio State University- Becoming Spirits: On the Functions of Angels in Piyyut and Esoteric Literature

Yehoshua Granat, The Hebrew University- Retelling the Jonah Story in Early Medieval Hebrew Prose and Verse

15:00-17:30

The Story of the Ten Martyrs between Verse and Prose – A Textual Workshop

Raanan Boustan, University of California-Los Angeles; Ophir Münz-Manor, Open University of Israel and The Talmud Blog

15:00-18:00

Tanhuma and Its Milieu

Rivka Ulmer, Bucknell University- The Yelammedenu Unit in Midrash Tanhuma and in Pesiqta Rabbati- a Text Linguistic Inquiry

Arnon Atzmon, Bar-Ilan University- The Tanhuma and the Pesikta

Amos Geula, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem- The relation between two lost Midrashic compositions: the lost Midrash Yelamdenu and Midrash wa-yehullu

Orly Amitay, University of Haifa- The Midrash of Ten Kings

Wednesday

9:00-12:00

Dynamics between Verse and Prose: A Comparative Outlook

Kevin Kalish, Bridgewater State University- Eve Lamenting Her Sons: Ephrem Graecus’ Re-imagining of Genesis 4

Peter Sh. Lehnardt, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev- Bound to Be Unbound: Genesis 22 in Early Jewish and Christian Liturgical Poetry

Laura S. Lieber, Duke University- “The Play’s the Thing”: Theatricality in Aramaic Piyyutim

15:00-18:00

The Reception of Tanhuma

Moshe Lavee, University of Haifa- Ten Dinars for the Talmud, a Fifth for the Tanhuma- Assessing the Cultural Value of a Literary Work

Shalem Yahalom, Bar Ilan University- The Tanhuma in a New Shell: Incorporating the Tanhuma in the Latter Midrash Rabbah Texts

Ronit Nikolsky, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen- The Tanhuma Material in Sefer Maasiot

15:00-17:45

Judaica – Midrash

Shamir Yona, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Ariel Ram Pasternak, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev- The “Better” Proverb in Rabbinic Literature

Katharina Keim, University of Manchester- The Function of the Rabbinic Attributions in the Pirke deRabbi Eliezer

Deborah A. Green, University of Oregon- Expelled from the Garden Again: Eve and Shekhinah in Genesis Rabbah

Barak S. Cohen, Bar-Ilan University- ‘Forced’ Amoraic Interpretations of Biblical Sources: A New Methodological Perspective

Aaron Koller, Yeshiva University- Redeeming the Queen: Rabbinic Readings of the Book of Esther

Thursday

9:00-10:15

Dynamics between Verse and Prose: Piyyut, Midrash, and Targum

Gila Vachman, Hebrew University- From Piyyyut to Midrash: The Dedication Offerings in Midrash Chadash

Jan-Wim Wesselius, Protestantse Theologische Universiteit- The See-Saw between Poetry and Prose in the Targumim to the Poetic Books of the Bible


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Announcements, English

The Talmud Blog- Now on Facebook

A few weeks ago, we created a Facebook page for the Talmud blog. Our hope is that we can use the page in order to keep our readers up-to-date on Talmudic goings-on that might not merit blog posts. We would also like the page to serve as a forum for discussion, although we ask that you try to keep comments on ‘proper’ blog posts to the “comments” section located on the blog itself. Those who don’t have Facebook can follow what’s going on via the widget located on the blog’s right sidebar.  But if you do have Facebook (and if you haven’t done so already) why don’t you go right on over to the “like” button on the sidebar, and click! We’ll see you on the Facebook page soon!

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Announcements, Book Club, English

Updates Regarding the TBBC

As announced a few weeks ago, starting February 6th we’ll be discussing Zvi Septimus’ article “Trigger Words and Simultexts: The Experience of Reading the Bavli,” in Barry Scott Wimpfheimer, ed. Wisdom of Bat Sheva: In Memory of Beth Samuels (Jersey City, NJ: Ktav, 2009). Thanks to Barry, Zvi and other friends of The Talmud Blog, we’ve been able to make a PDF of the article available here for anyone who wishes to take part in the discussion.

Our two main respondents will be Dr. Dina Stein of Haifa University and Itay Marienberg-Milikowsky, who is a PhD candidate in Ben Gurion University’s Department of Hebrew Literature. With the article now easily accessible online, we hope that you will respond as well.

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Announcements, English

Announcements Regarding The Talmud Blog Book Club (TBBC)

Talmud Blog reader Yael Fisch prepares for the TBBC

A little over a month ago we announced the first session of our “Book Club”.  While I’m sure many of our readers are just waiting for the moment to share their thoughts on Ishay Rosen-Zvi’s Demonic Desires, over here in Israel the first copies have only recently reached the desks of Talmudists.  For this, and other reasons, the discussion will not begin on December 15th as originally planned, but rather on January 2nd.

While everyone who has read the book and has what to say is encouraged to share, we have a few people in line to respond already: Eva Kiesele, from the Free and Hebrew Universities; Amit Gvaryahu, from Hebrew U. and The Talmud Blog; and Raphael Magarik, who has already reviewed the book for Jewish Ideas Daily. Other tentative respondents include Simcha Gross from Yale University and Noah Greenfield from UC Berkeley.

Shai will be MC’ing the discussion, and we’re hoping that the the author himself will respond once it finally winds down.  And of course you, dear reader, are invited to weigh in as well.

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