Then and Now
Author Archive

Thinking, Fast or Slow? Or, “On Academic Hiring”

In his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman returns several times to a formative experience he had in the Israeli army.  Assigned to a unit responsible for assigning fresh recruits to approriate units, he soon discovered that the interviews that he and his colleagues conducted with these recruits were, approximately, useless.  The interviews yielded...

Fun Talmud Fact

Ever wonder how many times the Babylonian Talmud cites the Bible? Me neither, until I compiled the data. The answer is 13,219 times, give or take a little. For those who are interested, the Vilna edition of the Talmud has 5894 folio pages (information from Wikipedia, so beware!). That computes to about 2.25 citations per...

One pesuk, two pesuk, three pesukim more…

In the Babylonian Talmud, authority comes in variety of flavors.  Sometimes a tradition, heard from and cited in the name of a teacher, carries the day.  At other times, logic wins.  The behavior of a rabbi, the opinion of an expert, or the common practice of a community sometimes drive a discussion about law or...

New Syllabi

I have now added two new syllabi: “Faith and Violence“, a first-year seminar, and “The Talmud.”

New Article on Pedagogy

I am happy to announce a new article that I have just published on pedagogy.  Here is the abstract: During my career, I have regularly taught a survey course on the history of Jews and Judaism in the Persian, Greek, and early Roman periods (ca. 520 BCE – 70 CE). Student performance in the course...

Music for Learning

I am presently reading Daniel Kahneman’s engaging book, Thinking, Fast and Slow.  Kahneman, who won a Nobel Prize in Economics (!) for his collaborative work with Amos Tversky that helped to develop the field of behavioral economics, gained notice primarily for his work on understanding the kind of biased (and often incorrect) decisions toward which...

Judah or Joseph? The Riddle of Jacob’s Testament

  I have been struggling recently with the biblical account of Jacob’s last testament to his sons and their descendents, found in Genesis 49:1-27.  I am hardly the first.  As many commentators have already noted, this is one of the most obscure passages in the Pentateuch.  The Hebrew is difficult and at times almost unintelligible;...

Serving God

This last summer, with the help of the Instructional Technology Group at Brown University, I interviewed several clergy members from around Providence, RI.  The primary purpose of these interviews was to create video footage that I could clip and use in classes.  Thus, for example, students in my course on “Religion and Sexuality” viewed short...

Workshop Announcement

The program for the “Ancient Religion, Modern Technology” workshop is now posted. Please join us! http://tinyurl.com/3jpeun9

The Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit: An Unsolicited Opinion

I recently had the opportunity to to see the Dead Sea scrolls exhibit at the Discovery Center in New York.  The exhibit is being advertised heavily (it seemed like there was a poster on every other block in Manhattan) and has been extensively reviewed.  The reviews have been generally positive, if at times puzzled.  In...

Hot Sexy Mama!

  We have dragged our children to art museums most of their lives, and perhaps only because they didn’t know any better they have been remarkably tolerant.  We would, of course, try to help them to stay engaged through tours, audio guides, bribes of candy forthcoming, and, of course, the many wonderful activities that museums...

More Musings on the Humanities

My friend Horace Taft, in his comment to a previous post, drew my attention to this TED video.  In it, Liz Coleman, the president of Bennington College, eloquently defends the value of the liberal arts.  She begins with a largely conventional critique of where the liberal arts (really the humanities) has taken a wrong turn...