This article examines a narrative about a seven-headed demon in Bavli Kiddushin 29b as an entry point into a much broader conversation about the Talmud's demonology. I first lay out the interpretive challenges of the story, then argue that B. Kiddushin's demonic discourse has more in common with ancient Near Eastern demonologies that it does with contemporaneous Zoroastrian materials. Two particular aspects of the rabbinic depiction of the demon in B. Kiddushin align with Mesopotamian characterizations of demons: (1) the physical description of the demon as a seven-headed serpent, and (2) his demonic nature. At the same time, the way that the rabbis describe the mode of the demon's defeat strongly parallels contemporaneous Syriac Christian modes of exorcism. This article demonstrates that the talmudic story exists at the intersection of more ancient and contemporary concerns and typifies rabbinic selectivity in adopting and adapting available discourses about demons. To conclude, I discuss some of the broader implications of this observation for our study of the Babylonian Talmud in its Sasanian cultural context.
What is the possibility of secular law in the religious Jewish state? This article will focus this question on the attitude of Zionist halakhic decisors toward the secular law of the land when that land is the State of Israel. Are these decisors willing to recognize Israeli law as falling into the halakhic category of “the King's Law” (mishpat ha-melekh)? Halakhic literature offers various justifications for the king's authority. The first justification is philosophical and jurisprudential; the second is political; and the third is legal in nature. Various justifications for the King's Law yield different models of its force and authority, which contrast in the relationship they posit between the King's Law and Torah Law. This article examines this question from the perspective of the legal discussion of the relationship between competing systems of law (private international law and issues related to the conflict of laws).
The Jewish Tandelmarkt in Prague's Old Town was a nonresidential Jewish exclave, situated outside of Prague's Jewish Town. This thriving marketplace afforded Jewish merchants and peddlers an opportunity to ply their wares in the Old Town, but it also left them unprotected in the face of physical and verbal attacks. This article examines memoirs, travelogues, guidebooks, newspapers, novels, and visual images to understand how the Tandelmarkt (junk market) functioned in various discourses about Prague Jewry, especially in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Jews were vulnerable and exposed in the Tandelmarkt, but the centrality and visibility of this marketplace also allowed non-Jews to observe their "exotic" Jewish neighbors. A nineteenth-century novelist described the Tandelmarkt as a "theater" where passersby could "lose themselves" for half an hour in its disarray and commotion. At times it was a theater of violence, where Jews fell victim to attack. It was also a theater of emancipation, where Jews could show their Christian neighbors that they were capable of self-improvement and change.
In an era when cannibalism occupied the European imagination and became a political weapon that could be effectively aimed against the Other within or elsewhere, as well as a test case for the concept of humanity, it is hardly surprising to find similar rhetoric in internal Jewish discourse of the early modern era. This article shows Rabbi Jacob Emden's contribution to this discourse in the eighteenth century, and extends the boundaries of the scholarly discussion beyond establishing Jewish-Christian proximity. Emden's halakhic position on the question "Is it permissible to benefit from the cadaver of a dead gentile?" (She'elat Ya'avez) connects cannibalism and theological heresy springing from an overly literal reading of the rabbinical canon, as well as ties it to the concept of the seven Noahide laws. For Emden, the consumption of human flesh, literally and particularly metaphorically, distinguishes between the sons of Noah and heretics, as well as between humanity and savages. Emden advanced this concept in his polemical writings against the Sabbatian heresy in the 1750s, when he became embroiled in controversy with Rabbi Jonathan Eibeschutz and the Frankists.
This study is an attempt to reconstruct the intellectual life of the Crimean Jewish communities (both Rabbanite and Karaite) from the Middle Ages to early modern times in their wide cultural context. The article is based on manuscripts related to Solkhat, the regional capital of the Golden Horde, and Genoese (and early Ottoman) Kaffa, which can shed light on the spiritual life of their Jewish communities. These manuscripts provide us with a perspective on the areas of interests, patterns of knowledge, and modes of study prevalent in these Jewish communities. They offer evidence for the contents of Jewish libraries and the span of Crimean Jews' intellectual contacts with their Jewish and non-Jewish cultural environments.
An award-winning poet, an accomplished Talmudist, and a frequent contributor to the pages of Haaretz, Admiel Kosman is hardly new to the scene of contemporary Hebrew letters. However, his work only recently became accessible to English readers when the first translated volume of his poetry appeared in 2011. Reading his work within the context of Martin Buber, whom Kosman regards as his “rebbe,” one discovers a profound challenge to principles of relation—political as well as personal—that are grounded in fixed categories of identity and belonging. Drawing upon the Song of Songs, which whispers throughout his work, Kosman offers us a strong counterresponse to the dominant model of the lyric monologue, with a poetics that aspires towards the dialogic.