HIST 105: Jewish Tradition: Texts and Contexts
This course will explore the historical development of "Jewish tradition" through its texts and contexts, theory and practice. What is this tradition based on? How has it been shaped? We will examine the values it represents and the mechanisms of transmitting these values from generation to generation. Is it permissible to touch a menstruating woman? Or eat with gentiles? Who is allowed to study the Torah? Why does the morning prayer Jewish men say in the morning include negative definition of their identity when they thank God for not making them a woman, or a gentile, or a slave? The above questions are questions hotly debated by rabbis. Today, in Israel, the Bible and the rabbinic tradition is often called upon by some religious Zionists to support attempts to hold on to "the greater Israel," most recently to oppose Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, Judea, and Samaria. Rabbinic law has also been cited to justify the killing of the Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin, and to call for the assassination of the former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon. Reading major sources on which the Jewish tradition is based: The Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, the Mishneh Torah, Rabbinic responsa, Jewish chronicles will help us to explore these questions, as well as questions of identity, religious and gender, boundaries, and of role of history and memory in fashioning collective identities. Reading these texts we will also explore their historical context in which they emerged and how this historical context shaped them, and how the subsequent generations had to wrestle with these established traditions to understand them in their own contexts.
1. Tue. 09/05: Introduction
2. Th. 09/07: Film: Hiding and Seeking
3. Tue. 09/12: Film discussion and Viewing Interviews with the producer and director of "Hiding and Seeking"
4. Th. 09/14: The Hebrew Bible: The Torah: Genesis
5. Tue. 09/19: The Hebrew Bible: The Torah: Exodus; Leviticus 11, 12, 15-21, 23-27
6. Th. 09/21The Hebrew Bible: The Torah: Numbers 15:37-41, 25, 28-36, Deuteronomy.
7. Tue. 09/26: "Archeology vs. the Bible" from Chronicle of Higher Education (January 21, 2000 as handout), S. Cohen, From the Maccabees to The Mishnah,ch. 1, pp. 13-26; Herbert Hahn Old Testament in Modern Research, ch. 1 "Critical Approach to the Old Testament" pp. 1-43
8. Th. 09/28 Philip Davies In Search of Ancient Israel; chapter 1-3, pp. 11-56; , Morton Smith ""The Old Testament and Its Interpretation" in Palestinian Parties and Politics that Shaped the Old Testament, First paper announced
9. Tue. 10/03 The Hebrew Bible: Kings II, Ezra, Nehemiah
10. Th. 10/05 The Hebrew Bible: Job, Kohelet [Ecclesiastes], Lamentations
FRIDAY 10/06 Paper draft due on BlackBoard by 3pm
11 Tue. 10/10 The Hebrew Bible: Ezekiel, Hosea, Amos.
12. Th. 10/12 Davies In Search of Ancient Israel, chapters 4--9, pp. 57-155; Sarah Japhet, "In Search of Ancient Israel: Revisionism at All Cost" in Jewish Past Revisited, pp. 212-231.
Tue. 10/17: NO CLASS MID-SEMESTER BREAK
13. Th. 10/19 ENDNOTE and LIBRARY RESEARCH SESSION
FRIDAY 10/20 Paper due on BlackBoard by 3pm
14. Tue. 10/24 Emergence of Rabbinic Judaism--Shaye Cohen, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah, chapters 6-7, pp. 174-231, on Ereserves; the Mishnah (selections, handout ), Judaism in Practice pp. 99-108, Introduction to the History and Sources of Jewish Law, pp. 101-140 (hand-out)
15. Th. 10/26 NO CLASS
16. Tue: 10/31: Emergence of Rabbinic Judaism: S. Cohen, "The Significance of Yavneh: Pharisees, Rabbis, and the End of Jewish Sectarianism" Hebrew Union College Annual 55, pp. 27-53, Daniel Boyarin Border Lines, chapter 7 "The Yavneh Legend of Stammaim: On the Invention of the Rabbis in the Sixth Century," pp.151-201
17. Th. 11/02: The Talmud, selections from the Babylonian Talmud (hand-out), Introduction to the History and Sources of Jewish Law, pp. 169-195 (hand-out).
18. Tue. 11/07 Biblical Commentaries: Rashi (handout), Salo Baron "Rashi and The Community of Troyes" in Ancient and Medieval Jewish History, pp. 268-283; Introduction to the History and Sources of Jewish Law, ch. 11, 299-321 Second paper announced
19. Th. 11/09: Chronicles: History and Memory: Shlomo Eidelberg The Jews and the Crusaders, pp. 15-133
20. Tue. 11/17: Maimonides the Halakhist and Leader: Norman Stillman, Jews in Arab Lands, chapter 3, pp. 40-63, Isarodore Twersky, A Maimonides Reader, "Introduction" pp. 1-23.
21. Th. 11/16: Maimonides the Halakhist and Leader: Judaism in Practice pp. 172-185; 413-420 Mishneh Torah "Introduction", Book I, Book II "Laws of circumcision," Book III "Sabbath," Book V "Forbidden Intercourse," Book VII "Poor;" Book XI "Wounding and Damaging" in A Maimonides' Reader (pp. 35-41, 43-85, 99-100, 121-124, 135-139, 163-166), Book IV Women, chapters 1-2, 10-15, 21 and the Book of Judges "Kings and Wars" (handout)
FRIDAY 11/17 Draft of the second paper due by 3 pm
22. Tue. 11/21 Jewish Law and Jewish Practice; Tur and Shulhan Aruk (Hand-out), texts and video prepared by Edward Fram and : Records of the Jewish Court (Bet Din); Judaism in Practice pp. 131-142; Rashi, Or Zarua, Bah, Slonik (handout); An Introduction to the History and Sources of Jewish Law, chapter 12, pp. 323-357, I. Twersky "The Shulhan Arukh: Enduring Code of Law" in The Jewish Expression, pp. 322-334.
Th. 11/23: NO CLASS THANKSGIVING
24. Th. 11/30: Prayer and Ritual: The Merit of Our Mothers, pp. 12-21, 108-139; Eighteen benedictions (handout); Lawrence Fine (ed) Judaism in Practice, pp. 39-60, 109-114; 203-210
FRIDAY 12/01 Final paper due by 3 pm
25: Tue. 12/05: Biography and Autobiography, Judaism in Practice, 421-428, 453-520.
26. Th. 12/07: Jewish Tradition: Texts and Context--Reassessment An Introduction to the History and Sources of Jewish Law, chapters 14-15 (hand-out)