Taubman Lectures in Jewish Studies

Published by: University of California Press

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Taubman Lectures in Jewish Studies

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Alef, Mem, Tau

Kabbalistic Musings on Time, Truth, and Death

Elliot Wolfson

This highly original, provocative, and poetic work explores the nexus of time, truth, and death in the symbolic world of medieval kabbalah. Demonstrating that the historical and theoretical relationship between kabbalah and western philosophy is far more intimate and extensive than any previous scholar has ever suggested, Elliot R. Wolfson draws an extraordinary range of thinkers such as Frederic Jameson, Martin Heidegger, Franz Rosenzweig, William Blake, Julia Kristeva, Friedrich Schelling, and a host of kabbalistic figures into deep conversation with one another. Alef, Mem, Tau also discusses Islamic mysticism and Buddhist thought in relation to the Jewish esoteric tradition as it opens the possibility of a temporal triumph of temporality and the conquering of time through time.

The framework for Wolfson’s examination is the rabbinic teaching that the word emet, "truth," comprises the first, middle, and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet, alef, mem, and tau, which serve, in turn, as semiotic signposts for the three tenses of time—past, present, and future. By heeding the letters of emet we discern the truth of time manifestly concealed in the time of truth, the beginning that cannot begin if it is to be the beginning, the middle that re/marks the place of origin and destiny, and the end that is the figuration of the impossible disclosing the impossibility of figuration, the finitude of death that facilitates the possibility of rebirth. The time of death does not mark the death of time, but time immortal, the moment of truth that bestows on the truth of the moment an endless beginning of a beginningless end, the truth of death encountered incessantly in retracing steps of time yet to be taken—between, before, beyond.

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Halakhah in the Making

The Development of Jewish Law from Qumran to the Rabbis

Aharon Shemesh

Halakhah in the Making offers the first comprehensive study of the legal material found in the Dead Sea Scrolls and its significance in the greater history of Jewish religious law (halakhah). Aharon Shemesh's pioneering study revives an issue long dormant in religious scholarship: namely, the relationship between rabbinic law, as written more than one hundred years after the destruction of the Second Temple, and Jewish practice during the Second Temple. The monumental discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in Qumran led to the revelation of this missing material and the closing of a two-hundred-year gap in knowledge, allowing work to begin comparing specific laws of the Qumran sect with rabbinic laws. With the publication of scroll 4QMMT-a polemical letter by Dead Sea sectarians concerning points of Jewish law-an effective comparison was finally possible. This is the first book-length treatment of the material to appear since the publication of 4QMMT and the first attempt to apply its discoveries to the work of nineteenth-century scholars. It is also the first work on this important topic written in plain language and accessible to nonspecialists in the history of Jewish law.

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Tales of the Neighborhood

Jewish Narrative Dialogues in Late Antiquity

Galit Hasan-Rokem

In this lively and intellectually engaging book, Galit Hasan-Rokem shows that religion is shaped not only in the halls of theological disputation and institutions of divine study, but also in ordinary events of everyday life. Common aspects of human relations offer a major source for the symbols of religious texts and rituals of late antique Judaism as well as its partner in narrative dialogues, early Christianity, Hasan-Rokem argues. Focusing on the "neighborhood" of the Galilee that is the birthplace of many major religious and cultural developments, this book brings to life the riddles, parables, and folktales passed down in Rabbinic stories from the first half of the first millennium of the Common Era.

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