Then and Now
Author Archive

Religion and Finance: Reflections

Yesterday I found some time to drop in on part of a conference on Finance in Religious Law.  While unfortunately I was unable to attend to the entire conference, it seemed that much of it revolved around one particular issue: usury or the charging of interest.  The problem goes back to several biblical verses (e.g.,...

An Alternative Canon: Part I

What if the Christian Bible emerged not from a long and murky process that involved the bishops, backed by imperial authorities, beating down challenges that they deemed “heretical” but in a kinder, gentler way?  Say, a synod to which those very heresies (and even the Jews!) were invited to attend and participate, even if not...

Project Note on Jewish Popular Piety

The ASOR Blog has published my note on my stay last year at the W. F. Albright Institute for Archaeological Research as the Seymour Gitin Distinguished Professor.  It can be read here.  Please excuse the picture.

Teaching and Vulnerability

  I have found myself at a delicate nexus this week.  I facilitated a faculty discussion on active learning; prepared a draft of a proposal to teach a MOOC through Brown; helped my oldest son to submit his college application; and, of course, went about my usual job of running my own university classes.  This...

The Goring Ox

Few biblical phrases have been as thoroughly parodied as the “goring ox.”  In fact, the entire ox-thing that the Bible has going is, for many, an ongoing source of amusement and puzzlement.  Why does such a great, lofty, and divine text spend so much time talking about oxen and other barnyard animals?  Most everywhere you...

Gluckel of Judah?

  Seventh-century BCE Judah is not typically thought of as a hotbed of feminism.  If the Hebrew Bible is to be believed, women were very much on the economic, social, religious, and legal margins of this society.  The texts portray a society largely created by and maintained for men. It turns out, however, that these...

The Rorschach Interview

A couple of months ago, I sat down with an Israeli journalist to talk about my work.  It turned out that she was primarily interested in the issue of when and how “Judaism” as we more or less know it today emerged from the Israelite religion of the Bible.  In the scholarly circles in which...

The Holocaust and Me

Tonight begins Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.  It is a day that usually leaves me both unsettled and confused. Watching my children learn about the Holocaust from slick, well-designed and age-appropriate curricula has made me aware of just how raw and scattershot my own Holocaust education was.  Holocaust education was a battering experience.  I remember...

The Clothes of a Woman

This month, for the first time in a while, the group Women of the Wall managed to pray at the Western Wall without any serious incidents (here is a news report of the gathering).  The group’s goal, in addition to simply conducting a meaningful prayer service at the Western Wall, is to advocate for equal...

The Gift in Antiquity

I am delighted to announce the publication of my new edited volume, The Gift in Antiquity, published by Wiley-Blackwell.  The official description: The Gift in Antiquity presents a collection of 14 original essays that apply French sociologist Marcel Mauss’s notion of gift-giving to the study of antiquity. Covers such wide-ranging topics as vows in the...

Fee of a Whore

“You shall not bring the fee of a whore or the pay of a dog into the house of the Lord your God in fulfillment of an vow, for both are abhorrent to the Lord your God,” the Bible declares (Deuteronomy 23:19; translation NJPS).   This cryptic verse, like many such other biblical commands, raises a...

The Disappearing Spy

Yesterday and today Israeli news has been abuzz with a story that dare not speak its name.  In 2010 a mysterious prisoner committed suicide in an Israeli prison.  The Australian press is reporting that this prisoner was actually an Australian citizen who moved to Israel and was involved in ways unspecified with the Mossad before...