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If this was a fully fleshed out article, this would be an important episode. As it is, we aren't told anything about this person except for this. This needs context and it doesn't belong in the first paragraph. Gateway to the Talmud.

Beth A. Berkowitz - Google Scholar Citations

Nova Iorque: Oxford University Press, Nova Iorque: Philip Feldheim, Why One Should Learn Torah. Acesso em: 5 dezembro The United Monarchy: Fact or Fiction? In: Vox Evangelica, v. Ramat Gan: Universita Bar Ilan. Programa digital em USB. Tel Aviv: Devir, Milon Even-Shoshan. Nova Iorque: Simon and Schuster, Michtam leDavid.

Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield, The Formation of the Babylonian Talmud. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, Promising Justice: Derrida with Jewish Jurisprudence.

Death Penalty in the Talmud

Yoseloff, I also think it's interesting that one can adopt a comparative approach without doing actual comparison between religious traditions. We both focus mainly on rabbinic religion of course, we do look at Greco-Roman and Christian materials when they help shed light on the texts that interest us, but I think we both begin with a primary interest in rabbinic materials for their own sake.

For us, the comparative approach is a way of framing the material; it envisions people from all kinds of backgrounds having an equal stake in the conversation. You often come across this kind of thing when you tell people you teach Religious Studies—all religions are really the same, everyone really worships the same God or gods, we all tell the same stories. On a certain level, that's true, we're all part of the same species and go through the same basic life processes, and of course you can compare religious concepts and rituals.

But that approach flattens out the very things that make religion interesting, as we've been discussing—if you have only the familiar or the pruned-down essence, you've lost distance, difference, and variation, in other words, complexity. Shanks Alexander: I completely agree with you that the danger of comparative work is when it flattens the richness of historical, cultural, and intellectual difference. I agree that Religious Studies fails if it espouses some kind of universalistic platitudes. It's especially problematic when the researcher constructs the so-called universal categories from their own cultural and religious perspective.

Berkowitz: I've come to embrace comparative work as it emerges from within a culture, not as something I myself have constructed which is not to say I am not still constructing the inquiry.

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Now I ask not how can I compare rabbinic cultures to, for example, Roman pagan cultures, but how do the Rabbis themselves do that? What impulse lies behind the need to find parallels or contrasts, for the Rabbis and also for the people who approach me with their theories of religion's universal sameness? Shanks Alexander: One of the things I find powerful about the Religious Studies approach is that it enables me to engage questions that religious people engage, while remaining in a secular context which is where I need to be if I am to be true to my own intellectual and cultural sensibilities.

I guess the comparative approach to religion is a safe haven for me in more than one way.

I find the questions that people engage in their performance of devotion, whether in ritual or text, to be humanly compelling. In the words of Robert Orsi, "Religions provide men and women with existential vocabulary with which they may construe fundamental matters, such as the meaning of and the boundaries of the self, the sources of joy, the borders of acceptable reality, the nature of human destiny, and the meaning of various stages of their lives.

It is through. You might say that I am attracted to studying religion generally—and rabbinic texts, specifically—because I, too, experience the human vulnerabilities that religious idioms provide a means of navigating.


When I succeed in reconstructing the ancient rabbis' performance of piety or devotion, I am at the very least moved, and maybe even transformed in some small way. If I am transformed, it is a transformation brought about by sympathetically imagining how religious idioms operate. Berkowitz: Religion and Religious Studies don't speak to me in the same way that they do to you. It's not that I don't experience my own vulnerabilities. I think it's that I'm suspicious of or alienated by others' efforts to express them for me, especially in a public setting.

Perhaps it is that alienation that leads me to ask the questions I do, such as: What is at stake when religious authorities articulate a route of redemption for others? To what ends do they formulate the meaning of the pain, death, hunger, and sexuality of which Orsi speaks? What are the politics of "the existential vocabulary" that religious traditions furnish?

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I am interested in the social or political or cultural conditions that make this existential vocabulary possible and that this vocabulary strives either to protect or to change. Like you, I sympathetically imagine religious idioms, as you described above, but I combine that with a sense that these idioms are thoroughly political in the broadest sense of politics in their origins and in their impact. Shanks Alexander: Orsi himself is quite sensitive to what you call the "politics" of religion. He writes that the "very same religious idioms do tremendous violence in society and culture and bring pain to individuals and families, all the while that they ground and shape the self, structure kinship bonds, serve as sources for alternate imaginings of the social world, and so on" Between Heaven and Earth , Berkowitz: When I speak of politics, though, I don't mean something necessarily negative or violent.

I refer to the webs of relationships and social meanings in which we live and which we are always negotiating. Religion can't help but be part of them, and I don't think of that as a failing or flaw.

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Shanks Alexander: To a certain extent, there is something a-historical about the connection we seek to establish with the subjects of our study though not the methods we use to achieve it. Ideally, however, identifying with the subject of one's study in our case, the rabbis should not lead to "subjective" research. Whenever we analyze a rabbinic text, we must maintain all the necessary disciplines of research.

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We must draw on philological training, attend to the intellectual and cultural contexts of late antiquity, and attend to the literary and generic conventions of the text. Orsi describes religious experience in a manner that manages to capture both that which is humanly compelling about it and therefore transcends time and place and that which is historically located and specific.

Orsi suggests that religious idioms are particular to time and place. Ironically, only when we do the scholarly work of describing religious idioms thickly which includes locating them historically and describing them in all of their particularities , can we appreciate that which is most humanly compelling about them.

Tosefta Avodah Zarah 2:5-7

Berkowitz: I agree with you on everything here. But I think the same is true for any field of the humanities—to do great work, one has to get to know one's subject of study very, very well, yet not get so lost in the details that one forgets what is actually interesting about it. Shanks Alexander: I'm inclined to say that rabbinic Judaism has no special status in the field of Religious Studies.