Sunday, May 31, 2009


While Orthodoxy continues to struggle with the place of women within our religious community, other religious groups have a corresponding problem with accomodating men. So it is fitting that, within a year of the Feminist Commentary on the Talmud, the Modern Men's Torah Commentary should appear. And Bar Ilan University is launching a program in Masculinities Studies. Opening conference is on June 13th, though some activities are taking place already this week.

Austrian Genizah

The Hebrew manuscript fragments being found in book bindings in Austria are receiving loving attention from a group of Austrian scholars. Their work is described here. Their website includes photos of many fragments. And I just noticed that they have published a book titled Fragmenta Hebraica Austriaca. An online version is available for purchase, and according to the TOC, it includes one article in English, by Yoav Rosenthal on a new fragment of Megilat Taanit (which is apparently to be included in Vered Noam's forthcoming English book).

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wedding and birth

R Yisrael Najarah wrote a famous "ketubah" for Shavuot, a document to ratify the marriage between God and Israel. For a nice, short analysis, see this article. And mazal tov to the author (of the article) and his wife on the birth of their son on Monday!

Note this in the Wikipedia article (unfortunately, footnote 7 in Itay's article is missing):
For his hymns on the marriage of God and Israel, Najara was severely blamed by Menahem Lonzano (Shete Yadot, p. 142) when the latter was at Damascus.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Is there life after martyrdom?

The latest AJS Perspectives includes a series of short articles on martyrdom, that undying topic with its indefatigable scholars. Robert Chazan writes there, as well as in the April 2009 issue of Speculum (on milleniarism and the First Crusade). Perspectives also contains a survey by Heidi Lerner of important Jewish Studies blogs, including yours truly.

Here's a new journal. Some more martyrdom, some interesting studies of Hazal, modern stuff, I don't think there's anything medieval.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


In working on my dissertation, it's a challenge not to focus exclusively on bibliographical questions. There are so many of them, and I find them absorbing, and very satisfying when I solve them. But I want my end-result to be more than that. We'll see.

Anyway, the new batch of books on Hebrewbooks.org includes some important bibliographic books, some of which are hard to find even in libraries. Like Habermann's book on the Soncino family, or the first Alexander Marx festschrift. The list is here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

New ventures

A wiki for Jewish culture - a 'pedia by Pedayah.

Yeshivat Maharat (as for the rhyme, cf. Yeshivah Mercazit Olamit).

Ebooks at YBZ.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A couple of new articles on Jewish mysticism

The new issue of Shofar includes an article comparing Don Quixote with the Zohar. For more comparisons of Don Quixote with Jewish works, see Hananel Mack, 'Shotim, Meshotetim ve-Don Kishotim', Masekhet 4 (2005). And another, fascinating article, suggesting Jewish literary influence on another Spanish medieval classic - Michelle Hamilton, Rereading the widow : a possible Judeo-Iberian model for the Pseudo-Ovidian "De Vetula" and the "Libro de buen amor", Speculum 82,1 (2007) 97-119.

And an article here comparing the attitudes of Saadya Gaon and Shabtai Donalo to Sefer Yetsira.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Michael Stone's fascinating work on the medieval Jewish cemetery in Armenia has finally been reported in slightly more mainstream media. Stone has been writing about it since 2002. In brief:

The oldest date carved out on the tombstones is 1266 and the latest 1336/7, making this perhaps the most impressive Jewish cemetery of the East from the period, and certainly one of the oldest oriental Jewish cemeteries, archaeologists say, and indicating that the cemetery was in use for nearly a century.

Some 64 complete tombstones and fragments of a number of others were uncovered at Eghegis, bearing nearly twenty inscriptions, all in Hebrew except for two which were in Aramaic, bearing traditional Jewish names like Elia, Baba, Michael, Esther and Tsvi.
More info here and here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Open Access

Article here about the Vatican Library, and the charges that it does not allow researchers full access to its holdings. The suspicions relate to Vatican documents, and not to Hebrew manuscripts held in the Vatican library.

I just learned from here that Malachi Beit-Arie has finished a major project:
He has just completed his definitive work, summing up 40 years of research - Historical and Comparative Typology of Hebrew Medieval Codices based on the Documentation of the Extant Dated Manuscripts in Quantitative Approach. The book will first be accessible on the internet attached to SfarData, the on-line database of dated Hebrew manuscripts which is currently under construction.

Monday, May 11, 2009

My luck

Classes on Mt Scopus don't start tomorrow until 10.30 am because of the Apifyor. There's a strike scheduled by the university itself, the teachers and the student union, from 12 until 2 pm. Guess when my French test is? You got it - 10.30 until 12.

Off the cuff and skin disease

I read yesterday about a controversial new book about Rav Soloveitchik - available here, and discussed here. The first book that this author, Rabbi David Holzer, published was based on his doctorate. The English title is Rabbi Elazar of Tarascon - Halachic Decisions and Responsum (sic - there are several responsa). His vaunted relationship with Rav Soloveitchik crops up in a footnote (p. 76, n. 67) about skin disease.

The Jewish Pope

Many of the roads to the Hebrew University campus on Mt Scopus are closed this morning to allow Pope Benedict to travel safely into Jerusalem. It seems like a good opportunity to mention a new book published by Bar Ilan University Press: The Jewish Pope, by Joseph Bamberger. It is about the old legend of a Jewish boy kidnapped from his saintly parents by Christians, who was raised as a Christian and eventually became Pope. His father met him at this later stage, and through a game of chess (if I remember correctly) identified his son.