Menachem Mendel

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AJS 2009

So far AJS 2009 is going well. Because of weather-related travel issues there seems to be a smaller crowd, with no small number of people having to cancel their presentations. I also noticed that most of the book publishers are giving pretty small discounts. A few are giving discounts of 30%, but others are giving discounts of 15% which is sometimes even less than Amazon and you may even have to pay shipping. I got to spend some time with the great people from Accordance software and I heard about the plans that they have for expanding their rabbinical text selection. I have also been able to reconnect with some old friends and meet new ones. Later on tonight there are a few receptions. Maybe after people have a little liquor we’ll hear some interesting insights about obscure textual minutea. Drew Kaplan has been doing some great note taking, so I’ll it up to him to summarize the more interesting presentations.

My paper was about the depiction of Gentile midwives and nursemaids that are found in B. Avodah Zarah 26a. In this sugyah these women are described as Jewish baby killers. I suggested that the imagery used to describe these Gentile women has its origins in the Babylonian demon Lamaštu and then later in Lilith, both known as baby killers. Below is a copy of my talk along with my source sheet. I welcome any comments.

Paper from AJS 2009 B. AZ 26a

Source Sheet from AJS 2009

3 Responses to “AJS 2009”

  1. 1
    Danielle:

    So sad that I wasn’t there to hear your paper, thanks for sharing it here and I look forward to reading it! Hope you have a safe trip back.

    -Danielle

  2. 2
    tk:

    I am sure you have seen “Two Thousand Years of a Charm against the Child-Stealing Witch
    Author(s): M. Gaster
    Source: Folklore, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Jun., 1900), pp. 129-162″
    he argues for a slavic origin but i think your idea is more plausible.

  3. 3
    Menachem Mendel:

    I have read Gaster’s article. Theodore Gaster has a very interesting article, “A Canaanite Magical Text.” Orientalia 11 N.S. (1942): 41-79. I didn’t have time to address the whole question of the relationship between Lamaštu and similar themes found in Greek mythology. Walter Burkett in his The Orientalizing Revolution argues for a Near Eastern influence while others don’t believe that one must look East for such themes.

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