The study of four paradigmatic classic Jewish texts so as to introduce students to the literature of classic Judaism. Each text will be studied historically—“excavated” for its sources and roots—and holistically, as a canonical document in Jewish tradition. While each text will inevitably raise its own set of issues, we will deal throughout the semester with two basic questions: What makes a “Jewish” text? And how do these texts represent different aspects of Jewish identity? All readings will be in translation.
Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations
While accepting “the yoke of the commandments”, Jewish thinkers from antiquity onward have perennially sought to make the teachings of revelation more meaningful in their own lives. Additional impetus for this quest has come from overtly polemical challenges to the law, such as those leveled by Paul, medieval Aristotelians, Spinoza and Kant. This course explores both the critiques of Jewish Law, and Jewish reflections on the Law’s meaning and purpose, by examining a range of primary sources within their intellectual and historical contexts. Texts (in English translation) include selections from Midrash, Talmud, medieval Jewish philosophy and biblical exegesis, kabbalah, Hasidic homilies, Jewish responses to the Enlightenment, and contemporary attempts to re-value and invent Jewish rituals. Syllabus information is subject to change.