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Haftarah

Reciting Ready-Made Prayers in Biblical Times and Today

The haftarah (prophetic reading) for the first day of Rosh Hashanah features Channah's two prayers. In the second prayer, she thanks God for the birth of Samuel by reciting a ready made royal hymn about defeating one's enemies, hardly relevant to her situation. Why does the Bible choose such a prayer and how might this help us better understand prayer in the context of the contemporary Rosh Hashanah?

Prof.

Marc Zvi Brettler

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Habakkuk's Mythological Depiction of YHWH

Habakkuk 3 is framed as a lament, in which the psalmist asks God to save him and his people from danger. The core of the psalm is a divine theophany, in which YHWH is described as coming from afar to battle his enemies in classic ANE mythological fashion.

Prof.

Marvin A. Sweeney

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The Valley of Dry Bones and the Resurrection of the Dead

Originally an allegorical vision about the future return of Judeans to their land, Ezekiel’s vision (ch. 37) becomes one of the cornerstones for the Jewish belief in the resurrection of the dead. The early stages of this development are made clear in a little-known Qumran scroll called Pseudo-Ezekiel.

Prof.

Devorah Dimant

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Shimshon: What Kind of Nazir Was He?

The Critical and Traditional Approaches

Dr.

Ely Levine

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Politics as Religion in Jeremiah

Dr.

Ari Mermelstein

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Turning Jeremiah's Land Deed Into an Oracle of Hope

Jeremiah 32 describes the prophet’s redemption of his uncle’s ancestral land. The scribal authors turned this transaction into an oracle. Eventually, the passage was expanded to include a prayer in which Jeremiah invokes the exodus from Egypt and the gift of the land. Taken together, the passage inspires hope for exilic Jews that God will redeem their land as well.

Dr

Mark Leuchter

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The Story of Jephthah: The Urge to Manipulate

The haftarah for Chukkat cuts off the end of the Jephthah story, ending on a triumphant note, with the defeat of Ammon. When looking at the whole story, however, we are presented with something very different. In Judges, Jephthah is a manipulative leader, who forces everyone’s hand, including God’s. Although his tactics lead to the defeat of Ammon, they also lead him to sacrifice his own daughter and to massacre thousands of his own brethren.

Professor

Jack M. Sasson

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Turning to God when a Fertility Ritual Fails

Channah and Elkanah’s yearly feast resembles a Mesopotamian fertility ritual; when year after year God doesn’t respond, Channah turns to God directly and enters the Tabernacle.

Dr.

Kristine Henriksen Garroway

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Yael and the Subversion of Male Leaders in Judges

The Canaanite general Sisera is killed by Yael in her tent but in an older version of the story, he died in battle at the hands of the Israelite general, Barak. The story was revised as part of a broader theme in Judges, to weaken the image of male military heroes through women and give the power to God.

Dr.

Jacob L. Wright

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Yom Kippur and the Nature of Fasting

Jewish tradition places a strong emphasis on the importance of repentance on Yom Kippur. It finds its way into Yom Kippur through a post biblical association between fasting and repentance. But what does fasting signify in the Bible and what did it mean originally in the context of Leviticus 16?

Dr.

David Lambert

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The Secret of the Ma'aseh Merkava According to Maimonides

Already in the time of the Rabbis, Ezekiel’s vision of the chariot was considered to be esoteric knowledge. Although most Jewish exegetes interpret it as a metaphorical teaching about God, Maimonides interpreted it to be about science and astronomy. So why must it be kept a secret? Because Ezekiel was wrong and his science mistaken.

Dr.

Daniel Davies

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Deutero-Isaiah Reworks Past Prophecies to Comfort Israel

The Jewish practice of studying older texts and composing new ones based on them goes all the way back to the Bible itself. The haftarot from the second part of the Book of Isaiah that we read for the next seven shabbatot are an outstanding example of this practice.

Prof.

Benjamin D. Sommer

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The Discrepancies Between the Sacrifices in Ezekiel and the Torah

The laws of holiday sacrifices in Ezekiel 45–46 contradict the laws in Numbers 28–29. The problems are so significant that some Talmudic sages thought it would be best to withdraw (לגנוז) the book of Ezekiel. This piece lays out the discrepancies in detail, surveys some traditional and modern answers, and ends with my own thoughts about why Ezekiel’s system is so different.[1]

Dr.

Tova Ganzel

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When the God of Justice Goes Rogue

The haftarah for Parashat Yitro (Isaiah 6:1-7:6; 9:5-6), which portrays God’s opening revelation to Isaiah in the Temple, perfectly complements the parasha, which focuses on God’s revelation to Israel on Mount Sinai. But whereas the Sinai revelation portrays YHWH as the God of justice, the revelation to Isaiah paints a very different portrait, bringing up the uestion: What should we do when God goes rogue?

Prof.

Marvin A. Sweeney

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