Jun 20 2016

Three upcoming events on ancient and early medieval Jewish medicine (Berlin)

Courtesy of Lennart Lehmhaus:

We would like to draw your attention to and cordially invite you to THREE upcoming events on the topic of ancient and early medieval Jewish medicine.

The Berlin based research project A03 on Talmudic and Byzantine medical knowledge, run by Markham J. Geller and Philip van der Eijk (AvH-professor, Humboldt University Berlin), will host Dr. Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim as a research fellow in June (20 – 29 June 2016).

Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim (Goldsmiths, University of London) will present and discuss in various formats (workshops/lecture) her current research into the early history of a medical tradition in Hebrew (Book of Asaf/Sefer Refu’ot) and on the transfer of medical knowledge between East (China/Tibet/Central Asia) and West (Graeco-Roman/ Persian and Arabic traditions).

Tuesday, 21 June (ca. 15:00- 17:30, TOPOI library, ground floor) Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim will host a reading workshop (texts in translation) on the topic “The Hebrew Book of Asaf on Humours and Winds”.

LINK:
<https://www.academia.edu/26247041/Workshop_The_Hebrew_Book_of_Asaf_on_Humours_and_Winds_21_June_2016_FU_Berlin>

Thursday, 23 June (16:30-18:00, TOPOI library), Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim and Lennart Lehmhaus (A03-SFB 980, FU Berlin) will discuss the issue of “Bloodletting between the Talmudim and the Hebrew Book of Asaf” from a comparative perspective (as part of the course “Medizin im Talmud”, but open to all).

LINK:
<https://www.academia.edu/26247206/Reading_Session_Bloodletting_between_the_Talmudim_and_the_Hebrew_Book_of_Asaf_Thursday_23_June_2016_FU_Berlin>

Friday, 24 June (10-12), Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim will present a lecture within the framework of the SFB 980 Jour Fixe on “The Silk-Roads as a model for exploring Eurasian transmissions of medical knowledge”
(SFB-Villa, Schwendenerstr. 8, 14195 Berlin).

LINK:

https://www.academia.edu/26247428/SFB_980_Lecture_The_Silk-Roads_as_a_model_for_exploring_Eurasian_transmissions_of_medical_knowledge._Friday_24_June_2016_SFB_980_FU_Berlin

Everyone is welcome. Due to a limited number of seats,  please RSVP to: info@sfb-episteme.de

The fellowship is generously sponsored by the Collaborative Research Center/ SFB 980 “Episteme in Motion. Transfer of Knowledge from the Ancient World to the Early Modern Period”)


Apr 21 2016

A happy Passover!

Category: Announcements,Judaismalobel @ 11:48 am

fullmoon

Wishing everyone who celebrates the holiday a happy, healthy, and kosher Passover!

We’re looking forward to spending it with our dear friends, who are like family to us. Weather-permitting, I can’t wait to do some astronomical observing.

From our home to yours, may you know joy and freedom this year and always!

To You alone we give thanks. Even if our mouths were filled with song as the sea, and our tongues with joyous singing like the multitudes of its waves, and our lips with praise like the vast expanse of the sky; and our eyes shining like the sun and the moon, and our hands spread out like the eagles of heaven, and our feet swift like deer, we would still be unable to thank You, oh God of our ancestors, and to bless Your Name, for even one of the thousands of millions, and myriads of myriads, of favours, miracles and wonders which You have done for us and for our ancestors before us.


Jul 19 2015

New(ish) publication: The Scientification of Religion: An Historical Study of Discursive Change, 1800-2000, by Kocku von Stuckrad

scientification

In The Scientification of Religion: An Historical Study of Discursive Change, 1800-2000 (De Gruyter, 2014), Kocku von Stuckrad describes “the discursive constructions of  ’religion’ and ‘science’ through the disciplines of astrology, astronomy, psychology, alchemy, chemistry, and scientific experimentation more generally. The second half of the book explores the power of academic legitimization of knowledge in emerging European modernities.” (Source: Review by Kristian Petersen, accessible here.)

The table of contents for this volume may be found here.

An interview with von Stuckrad on a wide range of topics, including Theosophy, marginalized knowledge, Earth-based spirituality, Jewish mysticism, Paganism, and contemporary science, is also available at the above link at the bottom of the page. This is one of the best interviews I’ve listened to in a while.

I have yet to read this volume, but look forward to doing so. I also welcome scholarly guest reviewers in the broadly overlapping areas of astronomy and religion. If you have read this book (or plan to) or other volumes spanning astronomy (and/or space) and religion, and wish to post a review here, please e-mail me at a_lobel@live.concordia.ca.

 


Jul 13 2015

Exhibit (San Francisco): “Night Begins the Day: Rethinking Space, Time, and Beauty,” at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

“Night Begins the Day: Rethinking Space, Time, and Beauty” looks like a marvelous exhibit. An artistic take on the Jewish day, which begins the night before, it runs through September 20 at the CJM, 736 Mission St., San Francisco. More information available at http://www.thecjm.org.

A quote in this Jweekly.com article describing the exhibit, however, caught my eye:

According to Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan, senior educator at Lehrhaus Judaica in Berkeley, the rabbis of early times had a deep understanding of astronomy: After all, the Jewish calendar follows the lunar cycle, and called upon Jews “to observe nature and be a part of this world.

“We have a tradition,” Wolf-Prusan notes, “that says, ‘Pay attention. See what’s around you.’ ”

There are certainly a number of rabbinic sources that support this viewpoint; Wolf-Prusan is not wrong, precisely. But in keeping with the old borscht belt adage “two Jews, three opinions,” I’d like to throw my own hat into the ring. While the Jewish calendar is lunisolar (not purely lunar), I would argue that the gradual move toward the fixing of the Jewish calendar (i.e., in place by the ninth-tenth centuries CE) turned rabbinic eyes away from direct celestial observation, not toward it. As per the research of Sacha Stern in ‘Calendars in Antiquity: Empires, States, and Societies’ (2012, Oxford University Press), this move was in keeping with the rise of the era of urbanization and fixed calendars (Stern 336). Aside from the recitation of the rosh hodesh (new month/moon) prayer (usually performed en passant) and the blessing on the sun recited every twenty-eight years (more about which, see here and here) Judaism is no longer focused on the skies. Heaven, yes, but not the heavens.

But here is the key. As is so often the case when analyzing rabbinic sources, particularly the Babylonian Talmud, multivocality reigns. This, combined with doubts cast upon the historicity of certain rabbinic institutions and astronomical-calendrical procedures makes it difficult, if not impossible, to unequivocally state that the rabbis all understood, let alone championed, the observation and study of the cosmos. In my own recent research, I demonstrate this rabbinic multivocality, highlighting views of the natural world on Earth, and perspectives on the heavens, that range from reverence and appreciation to outright scorn toward those who would waste time on any pursuit but the study of Torah.

That said, however, in addition to his own call for Jews to appreciate the natural world, Rabbi Wolf-Prusan also mentions that of the late rabbi and civil rights activist Abraham Joshua Heschel for “‘radical amazement’ — a sense of wonder that is a prerequisite to wisdom and faith.” It is on the contemporary scene that we see the opening of the floodgates of writing and political action — from Heschel’s call to similar calls for the preservation of nature as a “Torah responsibility” by the Rabbinical Council of America (Orthodox), as well as the Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist movements. In addition, the past few decades have brought with them new Earth-based Jewish groups, including Tel Shemesh, The Walking Stick Foundation, the Adamah Fellowship, and Wilderness Torah.

While these are most welcome changes, I leave open the question of whether these were borne of the classical sources themselves or whether they are, in fact, inspired but primarily contemporary shifts toward a more grounded (and cosmos-inspired) spirituality.


Oct 31 2014

Book review: Ancient Jewish Sciences and the History of Knowledge in Second Temple Literature

ancientjewishsciencescover

As promised, my review of the 2013 publication Ancient Jewish Sciences and the History of Knowledge in Second Temple Literature, edited by Jonathan Ben-Dov and Seth L. Sanders. New York: NYU Press.


Sep 17 2014

5000 year old lunar monument identified in Galilee

lunarmonument

 

Hebrew University Ph.D. candidate Ido Wachtel has discovered compelling evidence that a crescent-shaped stone structure located in the Galilee was not part of a fortifying wall as previously thought by scholars, but was a lunar monument.

According to Wachtel, and as cited by Livescience:

The shape may have had symbolic importance, as the lunar crescent is a symbol of an ancient Mesopotamian moon god named Sin, Wachtel said. [. . .] An ancient town called Bet Yerah (which translates to “house of the moon god”) is located only a day’s walk from the crescent-shaped monument Wachtel noted.

This is an exciting finding in Levantine archaeoastronomy, shedding light upon the context pre-dating the Hebrew Bible — particularly its polemic against astrolatry, as found in Deuteronomy 4:19, Deut. 17:3, 2 Kings 17:16, and elsewhere.


Jul 25 2014

Fantastic Fridays: Astronomical calculations of the beginning and end of Ramadan

Source: http://gulfbusiness.com/2014/07/first-day-eid-al-fitr-expected-fall-july-28/

Source: http://gulfbusiness.com/2014/07/first-day-eid-al-fitr-expected-fall-july-28/

The following two linked articles offer glimpses into the relationship between Islamic scholarship and the determination of the precise times of both the beginning of Ramadan and the appearance of the Shawwal crescent moon marking the first day of Eid Al Fitr at the end of the month of Ramadan.

What I find fascinating given my interest in ancient Jewish astronomy are the similar debates among religious scholars in both Islam and Judaism regarding the use of observation vs. astronomical calculation to determine the times of the holy days.

In Judaism, a functioning fixed calendar eventually came to exist by the early medieval period after centuries of debate, calendrical authority struggles, and the evolution of calendrical rules. Prior to these developments in Late Antiquity, the Jewish calendar was based on observations of the first lunar crescent, called the molad. Prior to Late Antiquity, during the Second Temple period and the Persian period, other time-reckoning systems were in use, some solar and some lunar.

In Islam, my understanding (perhaps colleagues in Islamic studies can clarify this further) is that various opinions and practices exist, with some countries relying on the traditional hilal sightings of the new crescent moon (for example, to establish the beginning of Ramadan) with the naked eye, some Muslims relying upon the visual sighting of the lunar crescent in either Saudi Arabia or their own country, and others using astronomical calculations.

(There is much that unites Judaism and Islam.)

A blessed Eid to all who celebrate it!


Feb 10 2014

Now available online! ‘Ancient Jewish Sciences and the History of Knowledge in Second Temple Literature’

For your reading and research enjoyment courtesy of the NYU Library’s Ancient World Digital Library, in partnership with the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW):

Ancient Jewish Sciences and the History of Knowledge in Second Temple LiteratureEdited by Jonathan Ben-Dov and Seth L. Sanders.

What is there to say but thank you?

N.B. One of my favourite introductory lines may be found in the above volume, in “Networks of Scholars: The Transmission of Astronomical and Astrological Learning between Babylonians, Greeks and Jews”, by Mladen Popović:

“What do we know about what ancient Jewish scholars knew about what Babylonian scholars knew?”


Jan 16 2014

4000 year old calendrical tablet unearthed

Currently being displayed at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem, this 4000 year old silt cuneiform tablet, inscribed in Akkadian, contains a schedule listing activities taking place during a week in the month of Shevat, highlighting its Babylonian antecedents. Are any readers of this blog planning to visit the exhibit? If so, I’d enjoy reading your comments.


Jan 03 2014

Recent publication: ‘New Heavens and a New Earth: The Jewish Reception of Copernican Thought’

newheavens

Published in 2013, New Heavens and a New Earth: The Jewish Reception of Copernican Thought, by Jeremy Brown (Oxford University Press) is described as the “first comprehensive examination of the Jewish reception of Copernican thought,” spanning four centuries of Jewish commentary on the Copernican model. In his research, Brown also demonstrates the ways in which religions tend to evolve to make room for new scientific findings, however threatening they may have initially appeared to be.

Here is the table of contents:

Introduction
Chapter 1 – Nicolas Copernicus and His Revolution
Chapter 2 – The Talmudic View of the Universe
Chapter 3 – David Gans and the First Mention of Copernicus in Hebrew Literature
Chapter 4 – The First Jewish Copernican: Rabbi Joseph Solomon Delmedigo
Chapter 5 – ”Copernicus Is the Son of Satan.” The First Jewish Rejections of Copernicus
Chapter 6 – David Nieto and Copernicanism in London
Chapter 7 – The Jewish Encyclopedias
Chapter 8 – The Eighteenth Century. Jews and Copernicus in the Newtonian Era
Chapter 9 – ”I Have Written a Book For the Young People.” David Friesenhausen’s Mosdot Tevel
Chapter 10 – The Nineteenth Century: Copernicus Without Hesitation
Chapter 11 – ”Let Copernicus and a Thousand Like Him Be Removed From the World.” Reuven Landau’s Rejection
Chapter 12 – The Modern Period
Chapter 13 – Relativity and Contemporary Jewish Geocentrists
Chapter 14 – Conclusions
Appendix
Bibliography

If any of my readers happen to pick this up, I’d welcome your comments here. Happy new year to all!

 

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