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Talmud

Did Ezra Reconstruct the Torah or Just Change the Script?

In the second century C.E., 4 Ezra and Irenaeus tell a story of how the Torah was burned by Nebuchadnezzar and reconstructed by Ezra through divine inspiration. Rabbinic texts know of this tradition, but in their version, Ezra’s contribution is changing the Torah into Aramaic writing, or even Aramaic language.

Dr.

Rebecca Scharbach Wollenberg

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Qatlanit: The “Killer-Wife”

Tamar, Judah’s daughter-in-law, is twice-widowed, but the Torah still expects Judah to allow his third son Shelah to marry her. In the Second Temple period book, Tobit marries his seven-times widowed cousin upon the advice of the angel Raphael. And yet, the Talmud prohibits marrying twice widowed women, for fear they are dangerous.

Dr.

Elaine Goodfriend

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Hasmonean Martyrdom: Between Christian and Jewish Tradition

Eastern Christianity includes prayer and a festival honoring the martyrdom of a woman and her seven sons who, in the time of Antiochus IV, refused to eat pork. The Talmud reimagines their story, depicting the woman and her sons as refusing to worship an idol in Roman times. This change reflects the rabbis’ tendency to downplay martyrdom in favor of a piety model centered on “dying” through exhaustive Torah study.

Dr.

Malka Z. Simkovich

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Moses Separated from His Wife: Between Greek Philosophy and Rabbinic Exegesis

Both Philo of Alexandria (c. 25 B.C.E. – 50 C.E.) and some later rabbinic interpreters insist that Moses remained celibate so that he might always be pure and ready to hear YHWH, but each arrived at this conclusion through a different approach.

Prof.

Karen Strand Winslow

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A Fetus Is Not an Independent Life: Abortion in the Talmud

The rabbis distinguish four stages in the fetus’ development towards personhood. For the duration of the pregnancy, until the commencement of active labor, “a fetus is like its mother’s thigh” (עוּבָּר יֶרֶךְ אִמוֹ).

Dr.

Ronit Irshai

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Is Logic Enough to Prohibit Father-Daughter Incest?

The absence of an explicit prohibition in the Torah against father-daughter incest led to a debate among the talmudic-era rabbis, and eventually among medieval Rabbanites and Karaites, about whether such a prohibition should be derived from a logical a fortiori (קל וחומר) argument or from a hermeneutic (גזרה שוה) one.

Dr.

Marc Herman

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Can the Torah Be a Moral Authority in Modern Times?

The Torah is often used to highlight various ethical values while its many ethically problematic commandments are ignored or explained away. Is there a way to treat the Torah as a moral authority while honestly confronting the ethical issues it raises?

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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Shankbone and Egg: How They Became Symbols on the Seder Plate

The Talmud requires having two unspecified cooked dishes to be eaten as part of the Passover meal. How did this requirement develop into the custom of placing two particular symbolic foods, the shankbone and the egg, on the seder plate?

Dr. Rabbi

Joshua Kulp

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39 Melachot of Shabbat: What Is the Function of This List?

In halakha, the 39 melachot of Mishnah Shabbat 7:2 functions as a comprehensive list of primary categories of forbidden labor. A closer look at the list in context, however, reveals that it was composed and added as a supplement, to clarify a detail in the previous mishnah.

Prof. Rabbi

Judith Hauptman

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Shemurah Matzah: Guarded from Water and for a Mitzvah

Shemurah matzah, “guarded matzah,” has two meanings: The matzah is guarded so that it does not become chametz, and the matzah is made with the express intent that it be used to fulfill the mitzvah. This latter idea, however, does not appear in any of the early (Tannaitic or Amoraic) layers of the Talmud, but only in the editorial (Stammaitic) layer. This article demonstrates how this notion entered rabbinic literature.[1]

Dr. Rabbi

Joshua Kulp

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The Moral Quandary of Lulav Ha-Gazul

The Torah and Bavli vs. the Prophets and Yerushalmi

Prof.

Jonathan Ben-Dov

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Can Orthodox Education Survive Biblical Criticism?

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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“It Is a Time to Act for the Lord, They Make Void Your Torah”

It takes courage to stand up for truth in the face of dismissal.

Dr. Rabbi

Jeremy Rosen