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An Early Use of the Term Midrash at Qumran

NRG has an article (Hebrew) about recent research on the Qumranic book Sefer Moshe  (the fragment is 4Q249 frg 1, published by Stephen Pfann in DJD 36). The research was conducted by Jonatan (Yonatan) Ben-Dov and Daniel Stoekl Ben Ezra. Using new technology the two were able to discover that the title of the book Sefer Moshe had been changed to Midrash Moshe, signifying an very early use of the term midrash to signify a type of literature. It seems that the person who used the term “Sefer Moshe” was not familiar with the genre of midrash, and therefore understood the text to a Biblical text.

“מדובר באחד המופעים הקדומים ביותר של המילה’מדרש’ במשמעות של פרשנות לטקסט תנ”כי”, אומר ד”ר בן-דב. “בתקופה קדומה זו, מאות שנים לפני
ימי חז”ל והמשנה, נוצרה כבר הקטגוריה של ‘מדרש’ והתבססה ההבחנה בין הרחבות של התנ”ך, שהיו מקובלות באותה תקופה, לבין חיבורים דרשניים העומדים מחוץ לו. במגילות אנחנו מוצאים את העדויות הקדומות ביותר לז’אנר הספרותי החדש הזה – פרשנות על התנ”ך. במגילה הנוכחית אנחנו רואים באופן מוחשי איך המושג הזה קורם עור וגידים, כשאדם אחד עוד לא מכיר כלל בקיומה של אפשרות כזו ואדם אחר כבר מכיר את המושג ומתקן את קודמו”.

[We are talking about] one of the earliest appearances of the word ‘midrash’ in the sense of interpretation to the Biblical text,” said Dr. Ben-Dov. “In this early time period, hundreds of years before the Talmudic rabbis and the Mishnah, the category of ‘midrash’ was already created and the distinction between expansions on the Tanakh, which were acceptable in this time period, and interpretive compositions that were external to it. In the scrolls we find the earliest evidence for this new literary genre-commentary on the Tanakh. In the present scroll we see in a concrete way how this term was forming, when one person doesn’t yet know about the existence of such a possibility and a different person already knows this term and corrects his predecessor.”

More From the Religious Feminist Scene in Israel

Feministihilchatikenes

I have written before about different trends in Israeli religious feminism, and for those who will be in Jerusalem tomorrow there will be a day of learning at Beit Morasha sponsored by the Facebook group Halakhic Feminists. It will be possible to watch the proceedings live on their Facebook page, and they intend upload the lectures to Youtube at some point in the future.

Moshe Halbertal on Maimonides

The other day I ordered Moshe Halbertal’s new book Maimonides: Life and Thought and am anxiously awaiting its arrival. A few months ago at NYU, Noah Feldman spoke with Halbertal about his book. For anyone interested in the Rambam it is well worth the hour of viewing time.

Religious Feminism in Israel: Breaking Barriers or Breaking Fences

If you are interested in the current attitudes towards feminism within the national religious community in Israel, don’t miss this video from the recent Jerusalem Conference. (Hebrew)

Prof. Angel Sáenz-Badillos

Prof. Angel Sáenz-Badilloshe, the important scholar of Hebrew and author of A History of the Hebrew Language, has passed away. The following is from H-Judaic:

H-Judaic is greatly saddened to learn of the passing of Prof. Angel
Sáenz-Badillos (1940-2013), Director of the Real Colegio Complutense at
Harvard University and Professor of Hebrew at Departmento de Hebreo,
Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain. Prof. Sáenz-Badillos is past
president of the European Association for Jewish Studies and the author,
among many works, of *A History of the Hebrew Language* (Cambridge
University Press, 1993).

The European Association for Jewish Studies has issued the following
obituary:

*Professor Angel Sáenz-Badillos (1940-2013)*

The EAJS has learned with sadness of the death of Prof. Ángel
Sáenz-Badillos, the fifth president of the Association (1994-1998).

On December 30, Prof. Ángel Sáenz-Badillos passed away in Boston (USA)
after several months of illness. His life exemplifies well the dramatic
changes experienced by the Spanish society and scholarship during the
second half of the 20th century. Born shortly after the Civil War, he
received a PhD degree in Trilingual Biblical Philology in 1972 from the
Complutense University in Madrid with a dissertation on the Greek scholars
of the Alcalá Polyglot Bible. Very soon, in 1975, he became professor of
Hebrew at the University of Granada, and with the company of other members
of his generation propelled the transformation of Jewish studies in Spain
through a solid philological method, and a dynamic and modern perspective
opened to Israeli, European and US scholarship. In 1988 he became Full
Professor at the Complutense University.

He transmitted enthusiasm and elegance to colleagues, in Spain and abroad,
and to students. He was a full-fledged researcher, and is to be remembered
as the Hebrew leading scholar of his generation that brought the attention
both of colleagues and the public in general to the rich legacy of
Andalusian Jewish culture, including linguistic and philological
scholarship and poetical creativity. He was responsible for the critical
edition of some of the most representative pieces of this culture, starting
with its foundational stones, Menahem’s *Mahberet* and Dunash’s *Teshuvot*.
It was soon followed by his bilingual editions (Hebrew-Spanish) of some of
the leading Andalusian Hebrew poets, such as Shmuel ha-Nagid and Yehudah
ha-Levi, among others. His taste for poetry did not prevent him of other
more philological tasks. And thus his reputation grew as a synthesizer with
the publication of his *History of the Hebrew Language* (Spanish 1988;
English 1993). Many students benefitted from his scholarship as he was
advisor to over 25 doctoral dissertations.

As Head of the Organizing Committee and President of the EAJS, he was
instrumental in the success of the 1998 Toledo European Congress, “At the
Turn of the 20th Century.” In Spain, he fostered the creation of the
Spanish Association of (Hebrew and) Jewish Studies. He was very conscious
of the importance of the European horizon provided by the Association for
the promotion of scholarship among younger scholars.

In 2001, and until his retirement in 2012, he was appointed principal of
the Real Colegio Complutense at Harvard, turning to new horizons, both
scholarly and vital. Thus, he split his time promoting Spanish scholarship
in the US. In 2006 he established the NGO “Casas de la Esperanza” providing
housing for needy people in Nicaragua. Still, he continued to be bound to
genuine scholarship. The last result of his scholarly work is an edition
(together with L. Girón-Negrón, J. Pueyo and A. Enrique-Arias) of the
15th-century Arragel’s Bible (aka Alba Bible) whose first volume is scheduled to be
published by Brill this year.

He is survived by his lifelong partner, Judit, with whom he shared his life
and his scholarly endeavors, their two sons and three grandsons.

May he now rest in peace, his research and his spirit will continue to
inspire us.

Javier Castaño

CSIC (Madrid)

Shamma Friedman Wins the Israel Prize

My friend MS has just emailed me that Talmud scholar Prof. Shamma Friedman will be awarded the Israel Prize this coming Independence Day. Here is an article from Srugim (H) on Prof. Friedman receiving the prize. It is an honor well-deserved. Mazal Tov and Yishar Koach.

Shai Held on Heschel at JTS

Shaiheldjts

Admission is free, but you are asked to register beforehand.

Shabbat Shalom.

Who is a Rabbanit

For many people the Hebrew word רבנית (“Rabbanit“) is equivalent to the Yiddish word rebbetzin, referring to the (male) rabbi’s wife. I wanted to present a few observations about how the word rabbanit has begun to take on a new meaning in modern Hebrew, that of a woman in a religious leadership role whose title signifies a recognition of her knowledge, stature, and leadership. These observations do not address the existence of non-Orthodox female rabbis because in those movements and communities the existence and acceptability of female rabbis is a given, although the Hebrew term used is either רב or רבה.

You may ask, doesn’t the position of “halakhic advisor,” a יועצת הלכה (yoetzet halakhah), already exist? Yes it does, but I want to claim that the role of the rabbanit is expanding beyond that of the yoetzet halakhah. As an aside, I don’t think that it would be off the mark to say that the position of yoetzet halakhah made the ground fertile for the development of the rabbanit in more ways than one.

The first thing that I would like to point out is the use of the term rabbanit by the liberal Orthodox organization Beit Hillel. When Beit Hillel uses the term it is in order to recognize the level of learning and religious leadership of women.

Their website draws a connection to the position of yoetzet halakhah, but in my opinion hints at the desire to go beyond the traditional role of the yoetzet.

We see an especial benefit to women being involved in Halacha, especially in areas pertaining to matrimony and family purity, such as the program for “Yoatzot halacha.” This program allows women to feel comfortable asking their questions to other women. We call for women to be involved in leadership positions in their communities, alongside the community rabbis, out of a belief that this integration will broaden the Torah’s influence on the women in the community.

These women are equal participants in Beit Hillel’s activities, including on their Beit ha-Midrash ha-Hilkhati and answering halakhic questions on their web site.

The two other observations are from the past week. The first is a Facebook post by Rabbi Amnon Bazak. In his FB post Rabbi Bazak, a member of Beit Hillel, wrote that there is no halakhic reason to prevent women from functioning as a rabbanit in a religious leadership role within a community and that a female leadership figure who is knowledgable and learned is important for the community. This is both to serve as a more accessible address in certain issues for women and in general to serve as a role model.

The last observation is related to a report on Israel Radio Reshet Bet this morning that the dean of the law school Sha’arei Mishpat, Prof. Aviad Hacohen, has asked the Chief Rabbinate to allow women studying halakhah at a high level to take the Rabbinate semikhah exams which are currently open only to men. Sha’arei Mishpat has apparently received numerous inquires from women who are interested in such a possibility. From an article in Ynet (H), it seems as if these women aren’t necessarily studying at Sha’arei Mishpat, but they have turned to the legal clinics at Sha’arei Mishpat to help them with this situation. The letter emphasizes that they are not asking that the Chief Rabbinate ordain women as rabbis, they just want the opportunity for these women to receive official recognition of their level of learning. Some of them already function as yoeitzot halakhah, but there is no official recognition of this learning.

May the learned women among Israel multiply and teach us all from their Torah.

Update: Based upon an article in Ynet, I have added a few clarifications to the final observation.

New Rabbinical School in Israel

The Midrasha of Oranim has begun the formation of a new Eretz Yisraeli rabbinical school that will be non-denominational and focused on community rabbis. בהצלחה. (HT)

Religious Newspapers and Freedom of Conscience

The Israeli website devoted to media-related issues, the Seventh Eye, has an interesting post (H) about a court case involving the Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon. Makor Rishon is a newspaper whose main readership is the national-religious public, and its owner, Shlomo Ben-Tzvi, is a religiously observant person. Two years ago the Aguda, an Israeli organization that “[provides] a range of social and legal services, activities and education programs for youth, and cultural events for the entire GLBT community and its supporters,” sought to take out an ad in Makor Rishon. The original ad included the following:

Are you confused? Are you afraid? Do you want to speak about it? You are not alone, there is someone with whom to speak. The hotline of LGBT community is…

Makor Rishon refused to publish the ad, and the Aguda sued Makor Rishon. A Magistrates Court ruled against the Aguda and in favor of Makor Rishon. (The original ruling can be read here. [H]) The judge ruled that there was no discrimination when Makor Rishon refused to publish the advertisement, rather, the law allows for an advertisement to be refused in order to defend the interests of a newspaper’s readers. A policy that strives to keep customers takes precedence over the needs of the advertisement’s intended audience.

A few days ago a District Court overturned the Magistrates Court decision. (Part of the ruling can be read here. [H]) In addition to some contractual questions that the court found to be in favor of the Aguda, the court also claimed that publishing the advertisement constituted a public service (שירות ציבורי) and refusing to publicize an advertisement of such sort constituted discrimination. The judge wrote that “the platform that a newspaper provides, even in its advertisement section, is unique, and this is still true even in the modern period.” She continued and wrote that since Makor Rishon had already published articles about LGBT issues in the past, the newspaper cannot claim that an advertisement about LGBT issues will harm its readership. The newspaper was ordered to pay the Aguda 50,000 NIS ($14,344) in addition to 10,000 NIS ($2,868) for court costs.

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