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DISCUSSION SUMMARY James Alison opened the discussion by askingwhy in the world rabbis from back in the lllh and 13th centuries were talking about this. Kimelman (with Goodhart agreeing) replied that talmudic reflection, though it may have some reference to "reality," was not primarily reducible to the social-political conditions ofthe people doing the thinking, that it is primarily reflection upon reflection upon reflection of texts, plus interpretation and commentary. David Vanderhooft asked about the apparent dichotomy oftext versus history. Goodhart noted that there is always some correspondence. Talmudic interpretation doesn't violate history, but doesn't depend on it either. Kimelman noted that history exists in the mind of the perceiver. Thus, unless you are God, there can't be an argument between what actually happened (which only God can know) and how it is perceived. There's no such thing as history that has not been constructed through a text. Robert Hamerton-Kelly then began a long debate/discussion with Kimelman which began with Hamerton-Kelly trying to get Kimelman to take some kind ofpractical ethical position regarding contemporary Israeli extremist violence, and regarding the claim of these people—such as the venerators of Baruch Goldstein, the Hebron mass murderer of Muslim Palestinians—to legitimate their violence from a recently revived tradition traceable back from the anti-Roman zealots (see Josephus) to the Maccabees, and back to Joshua. Kimelman, while indicating his ethical disapproval ofthe violence ofthese extremists, maintained that this too was an illustration of his basic position that it was a situation of different traditions of text-based arguments. In the course of this he also illustrated not only how the Jewish traditions managed to deal with embarrassingly violent biblical texts by finding ways to de-absolutize, limit, or relativize 78 them, but also pointed out how the strong—dominant, he would claim— tradition of talmudic interpretation had an amazingly strong trajectory in the direction of limiting violence. When Hamerton-Kelly insisted that we are dealing here not just with textual interpretations, but living historical interpretations, Kimelman was able to point out that, even here, the radical extremists, because they were Jews, tried to base their argument and their practical legitimizing of violence on a text. Their favorite texts are those (such as Deuteronomy 25:17-19 and 1 Samuel 15:1-35) that command the eradication of the Amalekites, thus turning Amalek into a metaphor for a people desiring the total annihilation of the Jews. However, in modern history, the only ones who can "live up" to this metaphor are the Nazis of 1943 when Hitler commanded that trains continue to be assigned to bringing Jews to Auschwitz rather than to bringing much-needed help to the then retreating German forces on the Russian front. This seemed to answer the apparent objection that Kimelman was attempting to deal only with texts and not with reality. Vern Neufeld Redekop then proposed putting this whole discussion into the perspective ofthe grand Girardian scheme and how, in that scheme, destructive mimetic violence is dealt with either by scapegoating or by introducing teaching that tries to get beyond scapegoating and limiting it. That, precisely, is what Kimelman has shown Torah (and talmudic interpretation) tohavebeendoing. Redekop, recallinghis own research into the death penalty in the Bible, reported that his research showed that the direction of the Torah is toward limiting the violence, and thanked Kimelman for pointing out that the tradition of talmudic interpretation he has been expounding has been doing that in spades. Kimelman then recalled his earlier studies on nonviolence. The first step in countering violence is to recognize and counteract the tendency to demonize the enemy. The second step is, then, in the Jewish tradition, to fighttexts with texts. Kimelman also tookthis occasion to "demythologize" the common scholarly misunderstandings about "holy war" that have been popularized by Gerhard von Rad and followed by most Protestant scholarship. Goodhart took this occasion to support Kimelman's position that the Jewish way is to fight texts with texts. He also, at this point, qualified somewhat the criticism he made in his formal response about Kimelman espousing a position ofrealpolitik to the neglect ofthe prophetic tradition. He also pointed out that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1930-1200
Print ISSN
1075-7201
Pages
pp. 77-79
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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