Descriptions of our courses are below. Semester-specific course schedules are as follows:
JHI 6233 Dead Sea Scrolls
Dr. Lawrence Schiffman
Reading of selected Hebrew and Aramaic texts from the Qumran library. The course will provide students with a deep understanding of the philological, exegetical and historical issues raised by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the archaeological excavation of the site of Qumran. Students will be trained in the use of the scrolls for research on the history of Judaism.
JHI 6238 Jews, Samaritans and Christians in Palestine of Late Antiquity
Dr. Steven Fine
Relations between the Jewish, Samaritan and Christian communities in Eretz Yisrael during late antiquity, that is, the period of the Mishnah and the Talmud. Cultural, political, literary and social dimensions of their interaction. The significance of the Samaritanism will be highlighted. Study of the Tractate Kutim will form part of the course.
JHI 6285 The Synagogue in the Greco-Roman World
Dr. Steven Fine
This course will explore the history of the synagogue during the Greco-Roman period. Using the methods of social and cultural history, archaeological, rabbinic, patristic as well as Second Temple period sources will be brought to bear in this study. Synagogue studies will serve as a window through which to view significant trends in classical Jewish history.
JHI 6286 Between Byzantium and Islam: Jews in an Age of Transition
Dr. Steven Fine
The period between Byzantine and Islamic rule in the Levant, the 6th-9th centuries, has long been considered a kind of "black hole" in Jewish history. Recent discoveries and new conceptualizations have changed that, as notions of hybridity, liminality and colonial theory, together with significant archaeological and literary discoveries, have cast light upon this period. This course will include guest speakers and field trips.
JHI 6461 Seminar in Historiography: 19th- & 20th-Century Perspectives on Classical Jewish History
Dr. Steven Fine
This course explores ways that modern historians have formed their visions of Jewish history within their own cultural contexts, as they set their focus upon the Greco-Roman period. This course also counts toward the concentration in modern Jewish history.
The following courses listed under Medieval Jewish History also count toward the Modern Jewish History concentration: JHI 6352, 6377, 6811. See also Modern Jewish History for courses that can also count toward this concentration.
JHI 5321 Medieval Jewish History: Christian Europe
Survey of the legal standing, communal life, and intellectual history of medieval European Jewry under Christendom; the relationship between Judaism and Christianity, the rise of anti-Semitism, cultural achievement, and confrontation in the major Jewish centers; the challenges of late medieval persecutions and expulsions.
JHI 5335 Jews Muslim Land: Part 1
This course examines major developments in the Jews' lives under Muslim rule. The course starts with the discussion of the Jews' circumstance in the earliest days of Islam, the Jews' encounter with Muhammad, their perceptions in the Quran, hadith, and the Muslim (Sunni and Shi'i) polemical literature, and according to the dhimma status. We will discuss the Gaonic period, the emergence of Karaism, the world of the Geniza, and the Jews in Spain and Mamluk Egypt. In all these we will be focusing on both the Jews' status and communal life.
JHI 5345 The History of the Tosafists and their Literary Corpus
The Tosafists of northern France and Germany revolutionalized the studyof Talmud and halakhah. This course will identify and discuss the possible pre-Crusade origins of the Tosafist methods, the leading figures and schools of the 12th and 13th centuries (including the salient differences in method and literary style between the various centers), and the impact of historical events and intellectual currents in medieval European society on these developments. Attention will be paid to manuscript sources and 'lost' Tosafists works as well.
JHI 5355 The History of the Tosafist Centers in Northern France & Germany
This course will survey the Tosafist period along institutional and geographic lines. Among the themes to be discussed are the diffusion of rabbinic scholarship from the pre-Crusade period, the different types of Talmudic interpretation that characterized each center, and the shifts in emphasis and genre from the 12th to the 13th centuries. Additionally, the interactions between these centers (and with aspects of contemporary Christian scholarship) will be considered.
JHI 5821 Introduction to the Literature of the Rishonim
Orientation to the works of the classical Rishonim, the various schools, their affiliations and relationship; personalities of various Rishonim; the several often differing editions of their works.
JHI 6335 Medieval Jewish Family
The social history of the Jewish family in both Christian and Muslim lands. Topics include: family structures, relationships between parents and children, marriage, divorce, family and life cycle rituals, education, economic roles and images of women. We will compare the experience of Jewish women to those in their different host countries using both primary and secondary materials. The methodologies for studying women's history, family history, and social history will be of primary importance.
JHI 6352 Charity and Community
An exploration of the practice and idea of charity from the 10th-19th centuries in Ashkenaz and Sepharad. Topics include halakhic literature, social reality, gender, motives of giving, the poor, and comparative history.
JHI 6377 Muslim-Jewish Polemics
The course discusses Muslim—both Sunni and Shi‘i—religious disputations against Judaism, as well as the Jewish rebuttal against Islam in medieval and modern times.
JHI 6384 Jewish Culture in Medieval Spain
This course explores the cultural history of the Jews of Spain (the Sephardim), from the Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula in 711 until the expulsion of 1492. The course explores the rich intellectual and artistic heritage of the Sephardim. We will read a wide range of Hispano-Jewish writing including poetry, chronicles, epistolary, travel diaries, polemics, and philosophy. In addition, we will study the complex interactions between Christians, Muslims and Jews and the possibilities and realities of Iberian convivencia. The last section of the course will examine Jewish responses to the expulsion.
JHI 6652 The Jewish-Christian Debate in the Middle Ages
Major themes of medieval Jewish-Christian polemic: the Christological reading of the Bible, philosophical challenges to Christian dogma, use of the Talmud and Christian Scripture, public disputations, the problem of exile, and the impact on the political and social standing of the Jews.
JHI 6807 Maimonidean Controversy
Various stages of the medieval conflict over the writings of Maimonides; early attitudes toward rationalism; the Mishneh Torah and resurrection debates and political implications; social and intellectual tensions during the great dispute of the 1230s; influences of the Christian environments; role of the Kabbalists; compromise of the Rashba; controversy concerning "Averroism" in 15th-century Spain; the study of philosophy as an issue in Italy and Poland during the waning of the Middle Ages.
JHI 6810 Mysticism, Magic, & Liturgy in Medieval Ashkenaz
The involvement of Tosafists and Ashkenazic scholars in the areas of mysticism, formulaic magic, and the writing and interpretation of piyyutim. Analysis of these disciplines will be introduced through and overview of Ashkenazic prayer and ritual theory. Despite objections and reservations of some rabbinic scholars, the interest in these disciplines continued during the Tosafist period. Comparison between Hasidei Ashkenaz and the Tosafists will be made throughout, and the differences between the Northern French and German centers will be considered.
JHI 6811 Messianism and Messianic Movements
Major forms of speculations-exegetical, typological, and apocalyptic-concerning the nature and time of the Messianic age; the relationship between such speculation and the development of the Messianic movements; social and political conditions leading to Messianic ferment.
JHI 6819 The Interface Between Sefarad & Ashkenaz in the High Middle Ages
The impact of these two centers on each others in several disciplines, including the influence of the Tosafists on the Talmudic commentaries of Nahmanides and his students, early Sefardic codification and Ashkenazic halakhic works of the 13th century, and Ashkenazic pietism and Rabbenu Yonah of Gerona.
JHI 6822 History of Biblical Exegesis in Medieval Ashkenaz
On the basis of published texts as well as manuscripts, this course will identify and locate historically a significant body of comments on the Torah that were produced by several Tosafists and other leading rabbinic figures in northern France and Germany during the late 12th and early 13th centuries. These comments consist (broadly speaking) of a combination of rabbinic and peshat exegesis, and are perhaps closest overall to the commentaries of Rashi and R. Yosef Bekhor Shor. The existence of this stratum of commentaries has implications for several other important issues and problems within the intellectual history of medieval Ashkenaz, e.g., why the northern French pashtanim of the 12th century appear to have had few Ashkenazic heirs if any, and how the development in the mid-13th century (and beyond) of the diverse compilatory commentaries known as the perushei Ba’alei ha-Tosafot ‘al ha-Torah is to be understood.
JHI 6831 Topics in the History of Halakhah
This course will trace the history and development of several significant halakhic policies in medieval Ashkenaz, with comparisons to Spanish and Provençal halakhah and society as well. Among the topics to be discussed are immersion for the returning apostate, the requirements of qiddush ha-Shem, the underpinnings and parameters of Jewish self-government,and the regulation of synagogue functionaries and rites.
JHI 8800 Doctoral Seminar in the Historical Analysis of Medieval and Early Modern Rabbinic Literature
Review of research methods and evaluation of recent works; techniques of manuscript retrieval and research and their impact; case studies presented initially by the instructor and then by seminar participants, including guidance for subsequent doctoral research. Permission of the instructor required for admission.
The following courses listed under Modern Jewish History also count toward the Medieval Jewish History concentration: JHI 6339, 6377, 6385, 6387, 6394, 6407. See also Medieval Jewish History for courses that can also count toward this concentration.
JHI 5336 Jews in Muslim Lands: Part 2
This course will cover aspects of Jewish life under Islam in early modern times, form the sixteenth to the early nineteenth century. It will address various topics, including the Jews' legal status, economic basis, communal organization, and spiritual life in various Muslim political entities: the Ottoman Empire, Safavid Iran, Yemen, and North Africa.
JHI 5337 Jews in Muslim Lands: Part 3Dr. TsadikThis course will cover aspects of Jewish life in the Middle East in modern times, from the mid-nineteenth to the late twentieth century. It will address various topics, including transformations in the Jews' legal status, economic basis, communal organization and education. Certain aspects of their spiritual life, as well as women's place and music will be covered. The impact of Zionism, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the Holocaust on the Jews' lives will be also assessed in the course.
JHI 5400 Early Modern Europe: 1492-1760
Historical, social, and intellectual developments in the Jewish communities of early-modern Western Europe; emphasis on the transition from medieval to modern patterns.
JHI 5410 Jews in Modern Europe, Social and Intellectual History: 1760-1900
Transition of Western European Jewry from the traditional community to the modern world; struggle for emancipation; Haskalah; rise of religious movements: reform, positive-historical school, orthodoxy, neo-orthodoxy. Course covers German, French, English, and Italian Jewry.
JHI 5440 East European Jewish History: 1750-1914
Survey of the political, social, and economic history of East European Jewry from the last years of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to the outbreak of World War I; problems of emancipation; competing forces of Hasidism and Haskalah; rise of official and popular anti-Semitism in Tsarist Russia and Jewish reactions in the form of Zionism, Socialism, and Autonomism; changing family and social patterns; rise of modern Hebrew and Yiddish literature.
JHI 5441 The Jews of Eastern Europe: 1914-89
Survey of the political, social, and economic history of the Jews in Eastern Europe from the outbreak of World War I to the end of Communist rule in 1989; character of the Soviet Jewish experiment; position of interwar Jewry in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Lithuania; impact of Nazi genocidal policies on the Jewish communities of the area; fate of these Jewish communities during the half-century after World War II.
JHI 5445 East European Jewry Confronts Modernity: The Haskalah in Russia
Contrary to popular belief, the Haskalah and its proponents, the maskilim, did not seek the abandonment of the Jewish tradition. For the most part, the maskilim were observant Jews who sought to reconcile Jewish and secular learning, tradition and modernity. This course will focus on the writings and activity of three central figures of the Russian Haskalah: Isaac Ber Levinsohn (Rival, 1788–1860), Samuel Joseph Fuenn (1818–1890), and Moshe Leyb Lilienblum (1843–1910). The course will evaluate how these three, who represented the three successive generations of Russian maskilim, confronted the two-pronged challenge of modernizing Russian Jewry while at the same time reconciling traditional Jewish texts with their educational and social programs. This course will be taught as a text-course/seminar and requires reading fluency in Hebrew.
JHI 5571 American Jewish History: 1654-1881
Political, economic, social, and religious development of American Jewry in the contexts of both American and Jewish history from the earliest Jewish settlements until the arrival of mass immigration from Eastern Europe.
JHI 5572 American Jewish History: 1881-1967
Political, economic, social, and religious development of American Jewry in the contexts of both American and Jewish history from the arrival of mass immigration from Eastern Europe to the Six-Day War.
JHI 6385 Kehillat Yisrael: The Jewish Community in Early Modern Europe
Dr. Carlebach (This course will be limited to 15 students and is not open to auditors)
The theory and mechanics of Jewish autonomy from the 16th through the 18th centuries in Europe. The discontinuity between the medieval and early modern Jewish communities and the specific differences between these communities. Methods used by scholars to study the daily life of Jews will form part of the course. Close reading of primary texts, particularly takkanot kehillah and pinkasei kehillah of various kinds.
JHI 6386 The Sephardic Atlantic
This course will explore the social, economic, cultural and religious activities of Jews, Conversos and Crypto-Jews within the early modern Atlantic world. In stead of focusing on one specific national or geographic zone, this course looks at the vast and complex networks linking and cutting across European centers of power and the quickly evolving areas of American and African trade and colonization. We will chart the structures and mechanism through which Iberian Conversos developed global business enterprises and maintained close family connections across political and religious lines. Following the lead of Jonathan Israel and others, it can be argued that the social and economic networks of these cosmopolitan merchants was intimately connected to the complex forms of Jewish and crypto-Jewish religious activities that developed throughout the Atlantic world of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. The interplay between social and economic issues and the forms of religious practice, identity and interiority is at the center of our study of the Sephardic Atlantic.
JHI 6387 Varieties of Jewish Autobiography: From the Middle Ages to the Early Modern Period
The course explores different forms of Jewish self-writing from the middle ages and the early modern period. We will read autobiographical texts from across the Jewish world- Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the Americas. The Jewish works will be analyzed within their wider social and cultural context. Because these texts are also a medium for spiritual and psychological self-expression and exploration, our analyses will be attentive to the interiority that is being crafted by these diverse authors.
JHI 6391 Print Culture in the Jewish World: 1450-1900Dr. Kaplan. The impact of print on Jewish life, learning, and communities. Topics include material culture, print shops, literacy, religious and vernacular texts, censorship, Christian Hebraism, and the development of an “international” community of readers. Visits to the Rare Book Room of the YU Library allow students firsthand experience with incunabula and early printed works.
JHI 6394 Jewish Iranian literature
The course examines a number of literary genres of the Jews of Iran, including poetry, apocalypse, Biblical commentary, theology, and history. Following a chronological line, the course addresses Jewish literary productions preserved in various places, including tomb stones, the Cairo geniza, letters, and books.
JHI 6398 Jews in German Lands: 1450-1780
Unique configurations of German Jewry from the 15th century through the rise of the Haskalah; distinctive forms of Halakhah, minhag, and popular literature; Jewish women from Glikl to the salon Jewesses; transformation of medieval policies under the influence of Renaissance humanism, the Reformation, German Pietism, and the 30-Years' War.
JHI 6399 Jews of Iran: History & Culture
The course will follow a chronological line, covering the history of the Iran's Jewry to the present. The following themes will be also addressed: Jewish Iranian Messianism, Judeo-Persian literature, Jews and Shi'ite Islam, Western penetration, modern education, and communal organization.
JHI 6407 Marranos and Other Heretics: Varieties of Heresy in the Iberian World
This course examines the interaction between the Spanish Inquisition and a wide range of its targets. Beginning with a brief history of the Inquisition in the Iberian world, the focus shifts to a series of individual testimonies presented before the Inquisition. These individuals were accused of a variety of religious crimes, from bigamy and witchcraft to adhering to varying manifestations of Jewish and Protestant heresies. The course is particularly interested in the ways that individual “heretics” present themselves to their inquisitors and how they transform their interrogations into acts of self-fashioning. In addition to inquisitorial records we will examine literary and visual interpretations of the Inquisition including contemporary cinema.
This multidisciplinary course challenges the students to analyze a wide range of primary texts—Inquisitorial documents, spiritual autobiographies, Responsa, and visual media in order to explore a complex sociocultural phenomenon.
JHI 6409 Sabbatean Controversies
The polemical literature generated by the most important internal Jewish controversy of the early modern period; influence of the controversy on attitudes toward the study of Kabbalah, toward Messianism, and toward rabbinic authority; the writings of Jacob Sasportas, Moses Hagiz, Jacob Emden, David Fleckeles, and their opponents.
JHI 6410 Emden-Eibeschuetz Controversy
A critical study of the controversy and its aftermath. Topics include: the protagonists as reflected in their own writings; the protagonists as reflected the writings of their contemporaries; rabbinic responses to the controversy; Jewish historiography and the controversy.
JHI 6415 Haskalah in Western Europe
Origins and development of the Haskalah in its Jewish and European contexts, from the mid-18th century; emphasis on the foundation texts of the Haskalah, particularly those emanating from Berlin. Comparison with other Western European models.
JHI 6417 Jews and EmpiresDr. Olson This course is a comparative study of the Jewish communities of the Russian, Ottoman and Austrian Empires in the 1848-1918 period. In addition to a basic familiarity with the various structures of Jewish communities in these imperial settings, we will explore the ways in which Jewish communities responded to imperial policy politically and culturally. We will pay close attention to the intersection of these Jewish communities, the unique forms of Jewish cultural exchange in places where the Jews of different empires encountered each other (for instance, Russian Jews in Ottoman Palestine; Sephardic Jews of the Balkans in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, etc.). This course will also stress familiarity with the theoretical framework in current academic research that seeks to understand the interplay of ethnic and religious minorities in imperial contexts, including such themes as subaltern culture, center-periphery relations, and modes of accommodation and resistance.
JHI 6445 Lithuanian Rabbinic Culture: 1750-1939
From the 18th century through the first half of the 20th century, Lithuanian Jewry produced a rabbinic culture renowned for its rabbinic personalities, its religious perspectives, its institutions of Torah study, and its response to modernity. Among the topics to be studied are: the nature of this Culture and its reaction to Hasidism, Haskalah, Zionism, socialism, and the Mussar movement. Reading proficiency in Hebrew is a prerequisite for this course.
JHI 6446 Emergence of Modern Yiddish Culture
This course will explore the cultural movement that sought to elevate the prestige of Yiddish from the language of the marketplace to that of the literary salon and theater. We will study both the elite and popular forms of modern Yiddish culture, including the press, literature, and theater.
JHI 6484 Destruction of European Jewry 1933-1945
The ideological roots of Nazi anti-Semitism, the breakdown of democratic institutions in Weimar Germany, Hitler’s seizure of power, anti-Jewish policy and legislation in pre-WWII Germany, ghettoization in Nazi-occupied Europe, and the conception and implementation of the Final Solution. The Judenräte, Jewish resistance, life in the ghettos and camps, and the reactions of the Allied governments and the churches to Nazi genocidal policies. Comparison of the fate of Jews indifferent countries.
JHI 6504 Zionist Thought: 1881-1947
Formative context, theoretical underpinnings, and various expressions of Zionist thought. Attempt to create a national than a religious identity for the Jewish people. Parallels between Zionism and contemporaneous European national movements. Shift from ideological trends in Europe to activism in pre-State Palestine.
JHI 6506 Jewish National Movements
The rise of Jewish national movements in late-19th and early-20th century Central and Eastern Europe; focuses on the diverse forms of Jewish national expression, including Zionism, Autonomism, and Bundism; the emergence of these movements within the wider context of the national revival in 19th-century Europe.
JHI 6540 German Jewry: 1780-1933
Dr. OlsonThis course is an in-depth study of the history and historiography of 19th and 20th century German Jewry. We will engage with the social, cultural and intellectual features of German Jewish communities from the late Enlightenment through the collapse of the Weimar Republic.
JHI 6541 Austro-Hungarian Jewry, 1772-1916 Dr. OlsonThis course will explore the encounter of the Habsburg Empire with its various Jewish communities from the expansion of the Habsburg Empire in 1772 to the collapse of the Empire in 1918. We will investigate themes central to Jewish identity in Austro-Hungary, such as nationalism and patriotism, religion and aesthetics. As we proceed, we will combine a number of historical methods and use a diverse set of materials. We will examine secondary historical accounts to give a clearer idea of the general picture, which will be combined with original texts and artifacts, the voices of those who lived and experienced the period themselves. Although you may have encountered some of these sources before, this course will cast many of them in a new light, placing them not in the literary and intellectual world of today, but of the milieu in which they were writing.
JHI 6573 The Jewish Religion in America
Free and religiously voluntary American society has posed unparalleled challenges to the continuity of Judaism. How Jews have defined that challenge and attempted to reconcile, accommodate, or preserve unchanged.
JHI 6576 East European Jews in America
The range of sources (governmental, archival, periodical, and literary) and methods (quantitative, nonquantitative, and sociological) available for studying the history of the East European Jew in America; works written in this field.
JHI 6579 History of American Jewish Orthodoxy
Attempts by Orthodox Jews to reconcile, accommodate, or preserve unchanged their religious faith and practice in a free society: differing lay and rabbinic perceptions of America; issues of cooperation and competition between Orthodoxy and other conceptions of American Judaism; growth of Orthodox institutions and parallels within American society.
JHI 6582 Minorities, Majorities and American Jews: 1920-2000
Patterns of acculturation and issues of integration among America's Jews from the close of the period of East European migration to the contemporary era. Examination of demographic and socioeconomic changes, inter-ethnic and inter-racial relations, shifting patterns and trends in religious denominational life, attitudes towards Zionism and the State of Israel.
JHI 6888 American Jewish Historiography
The writing of American Jewish history from the era of filiopietism to the contemporary period; trends in historical research and evaluation of major recent works in the field.
JHI 7600 Reading Modern Arabic Sources on Jews and Judaism
The seminar seeks to cover a range of sources written by modern Arab scholars and Muslim religious scholars on Jews and Judaism. In reading the sources, some modern Arab-Muslim descriptions of Jewish life in medieval and modern times will be examined, including some religious attitudes as well as anti-Semitic ideology toward the Jews. Part of these perceptions and depictions will be shown as rooted in early Muslim writings, while others as derived from European ideologies.
JHI 8850 Doctoral Seminar in American Jewish History
Review of research methods in American Jewish History; evaluation of recent works and trends in American Jewish historiography; refinement of writing skills; preparation of doctoral plans and prospectus. Instructor's permission required for admission to the course.
JHI 8851 From Ghetto to Suburbia and Back to the City: Research Course of New York’s Jews in the 20th century
Studying the role and status of the Jews from immigrant to native born generations within a changing metropolis. Research areas include the demographics and social tenor of Jewish neighborhoods, interaction with other ethnic and racial minorities and the leadership roles that confronted this largest Jewish community outside of Israel
Prerequisite: JHI 5572
BIB 5031 Introduction to Biblical Studies I
Introduction to major issues and movements relating to the formation, transmission, translation, and interpretation of Hebrew Scripture.
BIB 5115 Introduction to Biblical Studies II
Introduction to the Ancient Near Eastern background of the Bible related to the history and culture of the major civilizations and ethnolinguistic groups that formed part of the Biblical world.
BIB 5200 & BIB 5202 Biblical Hebrew I & II
Orthography (the Tiberian system of pointing), phonology (gemination, vowel length, stress, syllable structure, reduction, alternation of reduced vowels with full vowels, compensatory lengthening), morphology (the definite article, the conjunction, prefixed prepositions, suffixed pronouns, regular and irregular verbs in all binyanim), syntax (passive, causative, reflexive; clause types), semantics, with occasional comparison to Late Biblical Hebrew and Mishnaic Hebrew.
BIB 6009 Hebrew Syntax and Biblical Exegesis
Exegetical controversies provoked by various types of syntactic ambiguity in Biblical Hebrew.
BIB 6081 Prophecies of Consolation
A comparison of the prophesies of consolation found in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah, addressing the manner in which many prophesies rework and react to the themes found in earlier ones and the way in which each prophecy reacts to the historical and political events of the period to which they are addressed.
BIB 6082 Biblical History and Narrative
A study of the correlations between Biblical Narrative and Historical Events. The course will examine Biblical narratives from the Exodus and First Temple periods, engaging literary texts fro the Ancient Near East.
BIB 6084 The Medieval Peshat Tradition, c. 900-1300
In-depth survey of the medieval peshat school of Bible exegesis, with its roots in the philological analysis of Saadia and his Karaite contemporaries in the tenth century, subsequent developments in Muslim Spain in the eleventh century, in Rashi’s school in northern France in the 12th century, and in Provence and Christian Spain in the 13th century. Special focus on the notion of peshuto shel miqra and related hermeneutical concepts in Muslim and Christian scriptural interpretation.
BIB 6090 Maimonides' Biblical Exegesis
Maimonides’ philological, literary-historical interpretation of Scripture in light of rabbinic sources, the Babylonian-Iberian exegetical school, and Greco-Arabic learning. Special emphasis on his concept of peshuto shel miqra and its role in his system of halakhic exegesis in Sefer ha-Mitswot (Book of the Commandments) and Mishneh Torah (Code of Jewish Law). Biblical interpretation in the Guide of the Perplexed, including Maimonides’ analysis of Genesis 1-5 (Account of Creation), Job, Song of Songs, and his ta‘amei ha-mitswot (rationale for the commandments).
BIB 6094 French Medieval Biblical Exegesis
The Northern French exegetical tradition, with emphasis on Rashi, Rashbam, and Joseph Qara; innovations of this tradition, especially its notion of peshuto shel miqra; impact of this tradition on contemporaneous and later exegetes, e.g., Ibn Ezra, Radak and Nahmanides; selected readings from the primary sources and the modern scholarly literature.
BIB 6109 Spanish Exegetical Tradition
The Spanish Biblical Exegetical Tradition from its origins in Saadiah until Nahmanides; methods of interpretation; linguistic, literary, and philosophic issues raised by the Biblical text; emphasis on primary texts, but historical and cultural backgrounds are analyzed; readings in the contemporary scholarly literature.
BIB 6121 Literary Approaches to Biblical Metaphor in the Spanish Exegetical Tradition
Metaphor as a key element of biblical literary expression. Its role in Sa'adia's endeavor to reconcile Scripture and reason, Moses ibn Ezra's poetic exegesis, Abraham ibn Ezra's principle of peshat, Maimonides' theory of prophecy and the imagination, and Radak's midrashically enriched peshat method.
BIB 6212 Genesis: Biblical Cosmology
Textual study of chapters of Genesis, with emphasis on comparative data from the Ancient Near East.
BIB 6212 Genesis: The Flood
This course will be a close text reading of the universal history found in Genesis. The sections will include the Tower of Babel, the Table of Nations and the Flood Story. Attention will be paid to the ancient Near Eastern echoes of the text.
BIB 6305 Ezra & Nehemiah
The course will concentrate on the interrelationships of history and literature in the historical period covered by the book of Ezra-Nehemiah (more properly known as the book of Ezra), viz. 539-425 BCE. In addition to studying the text of Ezra, we will make use of data gleaned from material culture, from Achaemenid history, and from the Biblical books of prophecy that concern this time period.
BIB 6470 Hebrew Semantics and Lexicology
Sources of semantic information (context, tradition, Mishnaic Hebrew, cognate languages, morphemic analysis), lexicographic methods, and semantic theory in medieval and modern Biblical exegesis; general principles of semantic structure and semantic change applied to problems of Biblical exegesis.
BIB 6611 Book of Deuteronomy
Selected passages from the Book of Deuteronomy, with emphasis on philological, legal, historical, and ideological problems in light of Ancient Near Eastern parallels and rabbinic commentary.
BIB 6097: Nahmanides’ Exegesis and ThoughtDr. CohenNahmanides’ interpretive methods in light of earlier exegetical traditions and his cultural environment. Relation to Rashi, Abraham Ibn Ezra and David Kimhi; possible link to the northern French peshat school. Conceptions of peshat and its relation to Midrash. Debates with Maimonides. Integration of Kabbalah and exegesis. Scriptural multivalence
BIB 7325 Book of Judges
A critical study of the structure, text, and content of selected chapters of the Book of Judges in light of classical, medieval, and modern scholarship.
BIB 7350 Book of Kings
The Book of Kings in light of our knowledge of Ancient Near Eastern historical texts.
BIB 7401 Book of Jeremiah
Traditional exegesis of selected chapters of Jeremiah examined and weighed with the help of modern historical and philological tools and methods.
BIB 7505 Book of Isaiah
The course focuses on Isaiah in its historical context. It examines the political and social realities of the relevant period, and how the text responds to these realities. The timeless ideas emerge from the juxtaposition of history and prophetic response.
BIB 7551 Book of Ezekiel
Textual study of the Book of Ezekiel, with emphasis on the history of its exegesis.
BIB 7720 Book of Amos
Textual study of the Book of Amos, with emphasis on philological, literary, historical, and ideological issues.
BIB 8209 Book of Psalms
Selected Psalms. Overview of the entire book, with special attention to major genres, literary style, historical setting, and expression of religious sentiments; Jewish exegesis, especially the rabbinic and medieval traditions; major contributions of modern scholarship; application of modern literary methods to reveal the poetic complexity of Psalms.
BIB 8250 Book of Proverbs
Selected passages from the Book of Proverbs, with emphasis on intellectual and philological issues in the light of ancient Near Eastern literature, rabbinic commentary, and medieval and modern Jewish exegesis.
BIB 8305 Book of Job in the Jewish Exegetical Tradition
Analysis of Job, its message and literary structure in light of modern scholarship and the Jewish exegetical tradition. Philological interpretations of Rashi, Joseph Qara and Rashbam; philosophical interpretations of Sa'adia, Abraham Ibn Ezra and Maimonides; Nahmanides' Kabbalistic approach. Implications for Jewish biblical hermeneutics: literary nature of Scripture, the role of peshat as opposed to other layers of meaning in Scripture.
BIB 8310 Song of Songs: Readings in Biblical Poetry
In-depth study of Shir HaShirim, its language, structure, imagery, and depiction of human and spiritual love; literal vs. allegorical readings in rabbinic and medieval commentaries; modern scholarship, with special emphasis on literary analysis; medieval and modern theories of poetics as applied to Biblical poetry.
BIB 8609 Book of Chronicles
Selected passages from the Book of Chronicles, with emphasis on philological, literary, historical, and theological issues; critical examination of recent Jewish commentary on Chronicles in the light of contemporary Biblical studies.
This course surveys the various ways in which Egypt and Israel interacted in biblical times, and the ways in which understanding ancient Egypt can help understand the Bible. Topics covered include linguistic influences, historical interactions from the Late Bronxe Age through the Persian period, literary and religious influences and commonalities (hymns, and psalms, wisdom literature, love songs, prophesy, creation, monotheism) and the place of Egypt in Israelite thought.
BIB 9001 Approaches to the Study of Biblical Law
The methodological issues inherent in the study of Biblical law. The various approaches to the study of Biblical law will be examined and critically evaluated. Permission of the instructor to take courses is required.
BIB 9065 Parashat Mishpatim
A close reading of the Biblical text utilizing medieval and modern commentaries; special attention to ancient Near Eastern legal texts as an exegetical tool.
BIB 9655 Biblical Aramaic: Book of Daniel
Philological exegesis of Aramaic passages of Daniel based on concomitant study of Aramaic grammar.
JPH 5011 Survey of Medieval Jewish Philosophy
Basic trends (Kalâm, Neoplatonism, Aristotelianism, critique of Aristotelianism) as reflected in the writings of major exponents; religious and philosophical backgrounds and historical settings; readings in the primary and secondary literature.
JPH 5012 Survey of Modern and Contemporary Jewish Philosophy
Impact of modern culture and philosophy on Jewish thought; basic trends (rationalism, idealism, neo-Kantianism, existentialism) as reflected in the writings of major exponents; readings in the primary and secondary literature.
JPH 5015 The Problem of Evil in Modern Jewish Philosophy
A detailed analysis of the treatment of the problem of evil in Modern Jewish philosophy, addressing both pre- and post-Holocaust thought. Thinkers to be studied will be selected from among the following: Baruch Spinoza, Hermann Cohen, Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig, Rav Kook, Richard Rubenstein, Emil Fackenheim, Eliezer Berkovits, and Rav Soloveitchik. Emphasis will be placed on the bearing of the responses studied on the question of the nature of Modern Jewish philosophy.
JPH 5350 Introduction to Jewish Mysticism
Survey of major currents in Jewish mysticism in their historical and literary context from the merkavah speculations of late antiquity to the Kabbalah of 16th-century Safed. Themes discussed will include: conceptions of God, conceptions of the Torah, reasons for the commandments, evil, eschatology, piety, esotericism, and mystical experience. Readings in selected primary and secondary literature.
JPH 5360 Introduction to Hassidic Thought
Survey of the major themes of Hassidic thought through an examination of the works of its major exponents including the Baal Shem Tov, the Maggid of Mezhirech, R. Jacob Joseph of Polonoye, R. Menahem Nahum of Chernobyl, R. Shneur Zalman of Lyady and others. Particular attention will be paid to the intellectual and historical contexts in which Hassidism flourished. Relevant secondary literature will also be considered.
JPH 6111 Fundamental Beliefs and Dogmas
Maimonides' 13 principles in the light of antecedents and in the context of his halakhic and philosophic writings; analysis and critique by his successors, especially Crescas, Albo, and Abravanel.
JPH 6190 Jewish Eschatology
Messiah, resurrection, and world to come; Biblical and rabbinic antecedents; Sefer Zerubbabel; relevant chapters of Saadiah’s Emunot ve-De´ot; Maimonides’ views as found in his various writings; Nahmanides’ Sha´ar ha-Gemul.
JPH 6201 Jewish Ethics
Selected philosophical texts dealing with such problems as good and evil, Divine providence and human freedom, virtue and vice, the individual and society, and the nature of human happiness; concepts in general ethical and social theory as basis for comparison.
JPH 6447 The Ba'al Shem Tov
An examination of the life and teachings of the Ba'al Shem Tov and a critical assessment of relevant scholarship. The Ba'al Shem Tov's teachings will be situated within the context of the history of Jewish mysticism.
JPH 6522 Secrecy in Jewish ThoughtDr. DauberAn examination of the theological and social ramifications of secrecy in Jewish thought. Readings will include works of Maimonides, Samuel ibn Tibbon, and various kabbalistic authors.
JPH 6640 Philosophy of Jehuda Halevi
Major concepts of Halevi's thought based on an analysis of selections from his Kuzari; religion and philosophy, prophecy, inyan elohi, am segullah, philosophy of law, and servant of God; religious, philosophical, and historical backgrounds.
JPH 6651 Philosophy of Maimonides
Major concepts of Maimonides' philosophical thought, based on analysis of selections from his Guide for the Perplexed, treatises, and halakhic writings; influence of Biblical-rabbinic tradition on Maimonides' thought; Greek and Arabic backgrounds of his philosophy; supplementary readings from commentaries on the Guide and from the secondary literature; emphasis on methodology, Biblical exegesis, and physical and metaphysical questions.
JPH 6662 Philosophy of Gersonides
Selected topics in the philosophy of Levi ben Gershom (Gersonides); influence of his predecessors, especially Maimonides and Averroes.
JPH 6665 Philosophy of Joseph AlboDr. Hyman
Major themes in Albo's Ikkarim: primary and derivative principles of the Torah; natural, conventional, and Divine laws; nature of belief; purpose of human life; and eschatology.
JPH 6714 Philosophy and the Concept of Mitzvah
This course is devoted to two of the most significant philosophical issues relating to the concept of mitzvah and is thus split into 2 parts. Part I develops a contemporary approach to the project of Ta’amei ha-Mitzvot out of the critical study of previous approaches from the history of Jewish philosophy. Part II is devoted to the conceptual analysis of models of freewill and responsibility in Jewish philosophy.
JPH 6715 Sefer ha-Bahir
An intensive study of a foundational text of Kabbalah. Particular attention will be paid to the light this text sheds on the history of Kabbalah, on the development of kabbalistic symbolism and conceptions of the divine, and on the varieties of Jewish mystical experience.
JPH 6735 Kabbalistic Views of Maimonides
An examination of kabbilistic attitudes toward the thought of Moses Maimonides. We will consider a variety of stances ranging from attempts to reconcile Maimonidean and kabbalistic thought to bitter criticism.
JPH 6744 Topics in the Zohar
The seminar will focus on the section of Yitro from the Zohar. An examination of the literary context of zoharic homilies. Issues to be discussed will be the textual-redactional history of the work, and the kabbalistic interpretation of revelation and the mystical body of Torah, God, and Israel.
JPH 6745 Topics in 13th-Century Kabbalah
An examination of the key themes of the formative period of Kabbalah. Topics studied will include: "origins" of Kabbalah, relationship to Maimonides, role of Sefer Yetsirah, Catalonian versus Castilian Kabbalah, kabbalistic theosophy, theories of evil, views of the nature of language, reasons for the commandments, and mystical experience. Readings will be taken from the works of Asher b. David, Ezra of Gerona, Azriel of Gerona, Jacob ha-Kohen, Isaac ha-Kohen, Todros Abulafia, Moses de Leon, and Josef Gikatilla.
JPH 6760 Messianism in Kabbalah & Hasidut
An examination of the development of Kabbalistic and Hasidic views on messianism through a close reading of selected Zoharic, Lurianic, and Hasidic texts, and relevant scholarship.
JPH 6860 The Early Modern Period: Spinoza & Mendelssohn
Whether Baruch Spinoza can be thought of as a “Jewish philosopher” has always been a subject for debate. This course will analyze his key philosophical ideas in relation both to his medieval Jewish forbears and the major Jewish thinker who followed him—Moses Mendelssohn. Topics to be covered will include: the nature of God; the immortality of the soul; freedom and determinism; the status of Jewish Law; and the relationship between religion and state.
JPH 6862 Nietzsche & Modern Jewish Philosophy
Dr. RynholdFriedrich Nietzsche’s relationship to Judaism has long been a focus of scholarly debate. After some initial consideration of the classical debates, this course will focus primarily on the manner in which modern Jewish thinkers have implicitly and explicitly engaged with his controversial philosophy, in particular his potent critique of religion. Topics to be covered will include: 1) Nietzsche and Nazism; 2) Nietzsche’s attitude towards the Jews; 3) Nietzsche, Rosenzweig, and the nature of philosophy; 4) Nietzsche, Buber, and Nationalism; 5) Nietzsche, Soloveitchik, and Life-Affirmation; 6) Nietzsche, Rav Kook, and Atheism.
JPH 6872 Jewish Existentialism: Buber & Rosenzweig
A critical examination of some of the central themes that emerge out of the work of Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig, including, but not limited to, the nature of religious philosophy, human relationships (ethics), and the human-divine encounter (revelation). The course will focus primarily on developing these themes through close reading and analysis of primary texts.
JPH 6874 The Philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas
A study of Levinas’ philosophy that will concentrate on close readings of the often difficult primary texts in order to enable students both to become independent readers of the Levinasian corpus and to understand the key movements of Levinasian thought: What does it mean to speak of ethics as “first philosophy”? What do “Totality” and “Infinity” mean for Levinas? What is the “other” and why do we have an “infinite responsibility” toward it? And how does Levinas’ philosophy relate to his Jewish writings?
JPH 6876 Halakhah & Contemporary Legal Philosophy
This course is devoted to the critical analysis of attempts to apply models of Anglo-American jurisprudence to the halakhic system. Models to be considered will include legal positivism, natural law, Dworkin’s interpretive approach and Cover’s narrative approach.
JPH 6880 Themes in 20th-Century Jewish Philosophy
A critical examination of selected topics in 20th-century Jewish philosophy with a particular focus on the writings of some of the more neglected thinkers from the period such as Yeshayahu Leibowitz, Eliezer Berkovits, and Emil Fackenheim. Topics to be studied will include: conceptions of God, faith and theology; the status of ethics in contemporary Jewish law and thought; and conceptions of Zionism.
JPH 6885 The Philosophy of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik
A detailed study of philosophical themes in the writings of Rav Soloveitchik, based on an analysis of key texts and recent scholarship. Works to be studied will include: The Halakhic Mind; Halakhic Man; Confrontation; Lonely Man of Faith; and U-Vikkashtem mi-Sham.
TAS 5801 Introduction to Tannaitic Literature
Scope and nature of the Oral Law; jurisdiction and impact of the Anshei Kenesset Hagedolah, Sanhedrin, and the Hillel Patriarchate; analysis of literary forms, composition, and redaction of Tannaitic literature; Mishnah, Tosefta, and Midreshei Halakhah.
TAS 5804 Introduction to Amoraic Literature
Literary history and redaction of the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmudim and their interrelationship; yeshivot and prominent Amoraim in their geographic and historical setting; analysis of the Saboraic contribution to the Talmud, and its impact on geonic—post-geonic codifiers.
TAS 5871 Introduction to the Midrashic Literature of the Tannaim
Introduction to halakhic and aggadic Midrashim; definition of Halakhah, Mishnah, Midrash; origin and development of hermeneutic rules; schools of R. Ishmael and R. Akiba; development and structure of the tannaitic Midrashim: Mekhilta, Sifra, Sifrei, Mekhilta of R. Shimon bar Yohai, Midrash Tannaim, and Sifrei Zuta on Deuteronomy.
TAS 5872 Midrashic Literature of the Amoraim
Annual and triennial cycles of reading; origin of haftarah; the two Pesiktot; types of Midrashim: expositional, halakhic and aggadic, homiletic, historical and narrative, theological, esoteric, and apocryphal; Midrashim to be considered: Midrash Rabba, Tanhuma, Seder Eliyahu, Seder Olam, Pirkei de R. Eliezer, and Post-Amoraic Midrashim.
TAS 6520 Literature of the Rishonim
Development of halakhic literature in Europe. The literature of the academies and Rishonim in Provence. The Hidushim literature on the Talmud in Spain beginning with Nahmanides. Rashi's Talmudic commentary and its influence on the Tosafists and the Halakhah in France. Halakhic codices in Ashkenaz and their influence on the codification of the Tur and the Shulhan Arukh.
TAS 6817 Sources of the Babylonian Talmud
The use and origin of earlier sources by the redactors of selected Babylonian sugyot with a view to determine the principles by which these sources were selected, arranged, modified, interpreted, and reinterpreted.
TAS 6874 Classical Rabbinic Legal Thought
The interaction of the Babylonian Jewish community and the rabbinic élite with Middle Persian culture. Degrees of acculturation of various communities, especially Mahoza and Pumbedita. Topics covered include: rabbinic authority, relation with non-Jews, Jewish autonomy, and the function of Jewish courts.
TAS 6877 Classical Rabbinic Thought I—The Tannaitic PeriodDr. ElmanMajor topics in tannaitic thought, such as God, Torah, human condition, yetzer ha-tov and yetzer ha-ra, sin and suffering, and Providence and Predestination; methodological issues
TAS 6878 Classical Rabbinic Thought II—The Amoraic PeriodDr. ElmanMajor topics in Amoraic thought, such as God, Torah, human condition, yetzer ha-tov and yetzer ha-ra, sin and suffering, and Providence and Predestination; methodological issues
TAS 6880 Sifrei on Numbers and Deuteronomy
Selected texts from the Sifrei and their interpretation by Rishonim and Aharonim; textual development of these midrashim in the light of the differing methodological approaches of the schools of Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Akiba.
TAS 6885 Classical Rabbinic Legal Exegesis
History, logic, and forms of classical rabbinic legal exegesis as found in the Babylonian Talmud; comparative materials drawn from the halakhic Midrashim and the Jerusalem Talmud.
TAS 6895 Topics in Aggadah
Nature and structure of Aggada and Homiletics in the Tannaitic and Amoraic Literature. Examination of a variety of methodologies, highlighting the interpretation of biblical texts, concepts and beliefs, and goals. Study of historical perspectives.
TAS 7521 She'iltot
Background of the formation of She'iltot of Rav Ahai Gaon; various editions according to manuscripts and first editions; She'iltot and their relation to the two Talmudim, Halakhot Gedolot, Midrash Yelamdenu, Midrash Vehizhir; various commentaries.
TAS 7523 Literature of the Geonim
Textual examination of geonic responsa; She'iltot; halakhic codices of the Geonim; halakhic monographs of Saadiah, Hofni, and Hai Gaon; introductions to the Talmud and Geonic literature in North Africa and Spain.
TAS 7541 Halakhic Literature of Spanish Jewry 10th-14th Century
The Halakhic literature of the post Geonic period. The classical works by the Rishonim of the three major centers of Sephardic Jewry: North Africa, Spain, and Egypt. The contributions of the Torah Academies headed by R. Hananel Ben Hushiel and R. Nissim Gaon in Qaytrawan; R. Moshe, Hanokh, Yoseph Ibn Abitur, Yoseph Gaon, Shmuel Ha-Nagid, Yehuda Abarzeloni and Isaac Ghayyat in Spain; R. Isaac Alfasi and R. Moshe Ben Maimon.
TAS 7544 Maimonides' Halakhic Writings
The historical background. The process of composing his works and their influence on his time and later generations. His commentaries on the Mishna, Babylonian and Palestinian Talmud, Sefer ha-Mitzvoth, and Mishneh Torah. Responsa, letters and the controversy surrounding his writings. A new study on the methodology of his writings based on unknown autograph fragments from the Cairo Geniza. Bibliographies on Maimonides.
TAS 7550 Middle Persian Language and LiteratureDr. ElmanIt is not on the website. Whoever is now handling this should post it with the following description: Introduction to Middle Persian language and literature, emphasizing its cultural and intellectual relevance to Babylonian rabbinic culture.
TAS 7554 Middle Persian Context of the Babylonian Talmud
Jews and Persian coexisted peacefully in Babylonia for 1,200 years. In Zoroastrianism, Jews found a religion with doctrines of reward and punishment, a future life, a messiah (actually, three messiahs), the extirpation of evil, laws of menstrual impurity—in short, a religion similar to their own. The result was a very comfortable exile, as R. Huna comments in Menahot 110a. This course will investigate the results of this long contact.
TAS 7809 The Editing of Critical Editions of Rabbinic Literature
Problems of editing early texts of Talmudic, halakhic, aggadic, Midrashic, and geonic literature, Rashi, the Tosafists and early halakhic and Talmudic commentaries by the Rishonim of Spain and Provence; methodology of editing the text by using manuscripts from various libraries, the Cairo Geniza, and early printing; variance footnotes, introductions, etc.; emphasis on new material from manuscripts and fragments.
TAS 7821 Textual Development of Mishnah and Talmud
The Mishnah and Talmud from the Saboraic Period until the recent, scientific editions, based on Geniza manuscripts, geonic Codices and Responsa, the Munich manuscript of the Talmud, the Parma manuscript of the Mishnah, and Geniza fragments of unknown printed editions of the Mishnah; early editions from Spain, Italy, until the Vilna edition, as well as hitherto unprinted material from the Institute for the Complete Israeli Talmud are examined.
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