Then and Now
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Poverty and its Relief

I recently had the opportunity to speak at Connecticut College on the topic of poverty and its relief in Jewish thought.  It was great fun, in part because the discussion helped me to better articulate something that has been bothering me for some time. The issue is this: Early rabbinic texts define a poverty line,...

Selling the Ten Commandments

I recently read Jenna Weissman Joselitt’s book Set in Stone: America’s Embrace of the Ten Commandments and discussed it with my class.  The book tells a story about how and why Americans made the Ten Commandments a focal point for larger issues – such as American identity, “Judaeo-Christian” values, and even our superiority to the...

What are the Ten Commandments?

The “Ten Commandments” occupy an iconic place in popular imagination.  Whether as a result of Cecile B. DeMille’s epic 1956 retelling or not, most of us know the basic outline of the story: Moses goes up Sinai where God gives him the Ten Commandments, writing them with His own finger on the tablets.  The people,...

The Meaning of “Torah”: A Report from the Enoch Seminar

A couple of months ago I attended a meeting of the Enoch Seminar in Camaldoli, Italy.  The conference, which included an extraordinary range of scholars, grappled with the meaning of the word and concept of “Torah” from the biblical period through Late Antiquity.  There were a mix of session topics and formats and I have...

Naming Rabbis: A Digital List

A little over five years ago I posted an idea about creating a social network analysis of the rabbis found in classical rabbinic literature.  In the interim I have thought a lot about this project but have done very little on it.  I still believe it is worth doing, though, and I have finally taken...

Shared, but How?

  What is a “ball”?  Does a ball exist when there is nobody around to see it? Over the past couple of months I have been exposed to the thought of Bruno Latour.  Latour tries to thread the needle between seeing all of reality as a social or rhetorical construction and a strictly realist or...

Lazar Gulkowitsch

In any given week of research I probably peruse scholarly articles and monographs of a dozen or more authors.  Aside from the few whom I might personally know, the vast number of these authors are little more to names to me.  I read, consider, accept or reject their arguments based on my opinion of their...

The Temple Mount: Conference Report

I have spent much of the last month attending conferences.  Fun, but tiring.  But fun. Let me offer a few thoughts on one of them,  “Marking the Sacred: ​The Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem,” which took place at Providence College on June 5-7, 2017.  The conference involved about thirty scholars who discussed the archaeology and significance...

The Dissertation: An Unnecessary Evil?

In a piece recently published in Inside Higher Ed, Christopher Schaberg and Ian Bogost discuss their experiences trying to get academics to write for broader audiences and pinpoint ten particular challenges that academics have in reaching wider audiences.   They are certainly right that academics have challenges reaching a wider audience.  As one who has...

The New Switzerland?

Congress is, or at least should be, busy.  Over the next few months it is supposed to tackle reforms to our health care system and tax code and produce a new budget.  Even if not enacted in their present forms (or outlines) – as I hope not – they are bound reshape our economic lives...

How to Turn Your Dissertation into a Book

I will be conducting a workshop at the University of Zurich for advanced graduate students on turning their dissertations into books publishable by (mainly anglophone) university presses.  It will take place over two full days and is focused primarily on doing the intellectual work necessary to generate the draft of a book proposal.  I am...

And Moses Said Unto the GOP…

The other day Nicholas Kristoff published a satirical take-down of Paul Ryan and his budget priorities in the New York Times.  He imagines a conversation between Ryan and Jesus, in which Ryan pushes back on Jesus’ call to have mercy on those who are poor .  Such mercy, Ryan essentially argues, amounts to a policy...