For those of you who couldn’t make it to last night’s event– we’re sorry, but we unfortunately failed to to take Germany-USA into account when reserving the space a few weeks back. I would like to summarize some of the topics and projects that were discussed for the benefit of the larger Talmud Blog community and also to help developers and digital humanists at large understand the problems facing talmudists.
After an extremely helpful introduction on what the term “open” means by the apostle of digital humanities in the Holy Land, Sinai Rusinek, yours truly attempted to briefly summarize the main stages of rabbinic text curatorship and which websites talmudists use while performing such “manuscript work.” One of the issues I raised is the simple inconvenience of having to keep track of what is out there: the internet is a big place, and the number of websites containing either images or transcriptions of manuscripts is constantly growing. Between the National Library’s online catalog, which links to every available online image of Hebrew manuscripts, and The Talmud Blog‘s “Toolbox,” one can get to all of these different resources, but it is unfortunate that there is not more of an attempt to centralize all of these different projects under one roof.
The conversation quickly turned to the question of what questions we can ask using our computers, and three different subfields quickly emerged. The first two dealt with working with manuscripts:
A) How can we use computers to help us edit rabbinic texts? This question was addressed via two parallel projects, one led by Hayim Lapin and another by Daniel Stoekl ben Ezra, both of whom began editing the text of the Mishnah ahead of English and French translations and are now working together. Different issues that arose under this topic were how to crowd-source such relatively mundane tasks as transcribing manuscripts and tagging lemma, using Hebrew in TEI, and to what extent should scholars make their synopsi or databases of manuscripts available to the public. For example, many of the transcriptions currently available online are presented as PDFs, but others may want to access them in different formats so that they can more easily (and legally, where those issues arise) use them in making their own editions or to ask other questions of the text.
B) Can computers help us ask questions with regards to what one participant termed “fundamental issues of how the Bavli was formed and transmitted?” Time and again, and especially now that the Cairo Genizah corpus is more readily available, a certain brand of philological work of the Bavli has problematized the notion that we can use Lachmannian stemmatics to try and understand the relationship between manuscripts. How can we use computers simply to keep track, quantify, and characterize the various differences between talmudic manuscripts? As mentioned, these questions pertain not just to how to “edit” the talmudic text- what the text can be- but also to the very question of what the talmudic text is.
C) Manuscripts aside, what other questions can we ask of rabbinic texts using computers? The questions that came up for the most part dealt with the Bavli, harkening back to some issues discussed here on the blog. Itay Marienberg-Milikwosky of Ben Gurion University’s Department of Hebrew Literature described some of the projects he has started working on in a Franco Moretti inspired lab for digital humanities at Ben Gurion. One of the projects he is working on is trying to restructure how we think of the sugya. Given that the term itself is somewhat foreign to the Bavli and is largely a construct of later interpreters, Itay has been using word-frequency statistics and other quantitative computations to map the Bavli differently, taking special note of how- and perhaps even why- the Bavli repeats itself (“חזרתיות” in his words). You can be assured that Shai and I will be pressuring Itay to guest-post on his findings.
Additional themes that arose related to the relationship between the academic talmudist and the programming or non-academic other. In terms of the latter, how much can projects such as Sefaria (presented by Ephraim Damboritz) and Sefer haAggadah (presented by Amit Assis) benefit from academic talmud? In terms of the former- how and where should talmudists be working with programmers? On the one hand, some talmudist participants were adamant about not studying programming and insisting on working alongside programmers instead. At the other end of the spectrum were those eager to create programming boot camps for talmudists and other humanities scholars. In between were the newbies who got lost after the ‘m’ of XML. Either way, it was clear that talk of “open resources” brings together scholars who are themselves rather open to new ways of thinking about their research.
I would like to see a couple of things come from this evening. First of all, it is clear that a growing number of talmudists are excited by the possibilities that digital humanities opens open up before them, and that many of them already have some idea of how they would like to use moderately sophisticated programs in their own research. I think it would be great if we could use The Talmud Blog– perhaps in the comments section here, through guest posts and maybe even by adding a forum- to create some kind of clearing space for ideas and projects. Such a space is needed to connect people who may have similar projects in mind, to generate discussions about what we can do with digital humanities, and to address the more philosophical questions of how humanities scholarship is changing before our eyes in this digital age. Let us know what you think!
Joint meeting of the Talmud Blog and Digital Humanities Israel
Next Thursday evening, June 26th, The Talmud Blog and “Digital Humanities Israel” will be holding a joint meeting at the “Open Hub” of The National Library in Givat Ram (1st floor) on the topic of open digital resources in the study of the Bible, Mishnah, and Talmud (BMT):
How can open digital resources contribute to BMT scholarship? What new questions can be asked using digital tools and methods?
The Talmud Blog and Digital Humanities Israel will dedicate a special joint meeting to open digital resources, tools and studies in Bible, Mishnah and Talmud scholarship.
Resources and projects dedicated to ancient Jewish sources will be presented, along with new ideas for possible implementations of digital tools and methods for the study of these resources. No prior technological knowledge is required! An open discussion session will follow.
Doors open at 19:00. Presentations by Yitz Landes (The Talmud Blog), Sinai Rusinek (Digital Humanities Israel), Ephraim Damboritz (Sefaria), and others will begin promptly at 19:30.
We’ll be starting at 7:30 PM Jerusalem time (12:30 in New York). For those of you joining us virtually, Adam’s source sheet is available here and the original Syriac texts can be found here. The Google Hangout can be accessed here. And below you’ll be able find the video stream on YouTube. Questions can be asked either over Google Hangout or in the comments section.
UPDATE: THE EVENT CAN BE VIEWED HERE
The Talmud Blog Live: Adam Becker in Conversation with Ishay Rosen-Zvi on the Evil Inclination in Syriac Literature and its Implications for the Bavli
It has been quite some time since the virtual community known as the Talmud blog has gotten together. So we’re thrilled to announce yet another Talmud Blog “live” event, which will take place next Thursday, May 15 at 7:30 PM at Ohel Moshe 5, Jerusalem. We’ll be hosting Professor Adam Becker of New York University who will be talking on the Evil Inclination in Syriac and its implications for the Bavli, with a special focus on the fifth century Syriac writer Narsai, and his homilies on Lent. Professor Ishay Rosen-Zvi of Tel Aviv University, author of Demonic Desires: “Yetzer Hara” and the Problem of Evil in Late Antiquity, will be responding to the talk.
Reader’s interested in attending are strongly encouraged to RSVP either by emailing us (thetalmudblog [at] gmail [dot] com) or for those with facebook, preferably via the Facebook event page. For those who will not be able to make it, the talk will be streamed here on the Talmud Blog and on Google Hangout (add thetalmudblog [at] gmail [dot] com to your circles).
For those who won’t be able to make it in person, we’ll be live streaming the first session of a four part series taught by David Brodsky of Brooklyn College on “Rabbinic Literature and Its Dis-Contents: Situating the Genres of Talmud and Midrash in Their Civilizational Context.” This session is entitled “The Alexandrian School of Homeric Interpretation and the Origins of Midrash,” and will be streamed on the Drisha Institute’s ustream channel starting at 7:00pm EST. If you cannot make it live (physically or virtually), the class will be made available later for download. And as always, questions can be left in the comments section below.
It is our pleasure to announce an upcoming series of classes that we are presenting along with the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education in New York. On Wednesdays October 30th, November 6th, 13th and 20th Prof. David Brodsky of Brooklyn College’s Department of Judaic Studies will be teaching a class entitled “Rabbinic Literature and Its Dis-Contents: Situating the Genres of Talmud and Midrash in Their Civilizational Context:” Continue reading
Over the past two years of blogging here at the new Talmud Blog, it has been more than a pleasure for us to meet interested readers from all over the world and various walks of life. While most of these “meetings” and discussions have only been held virtually, through our own events and other outlets we have also had the opportunity to meet in person. Next week, as scholars of Jewish Studies converge on Jerusalem for the 16th World Congress of Jewish Studies, we will be holding a Talmud Blog event catered to readers of the blog who may be in town as well as to a larger general audience:
“?מה יש לתלמוד להציע לתרבות הישראלית”
“What does the Talmud have to Offer Israeli Culture?”
Yair and Moulie’s conversation will based on Moulie’s current project, “The Beginning of Talmudic Culture,” and will include a discussion of Yerushalmi Hagigah 1:7.
The event, which will take place in Hebrew, is kindly being hosted by The Carousela– a cafe/restaurant in Rehavia- and will take place next Sunday, July 28th, at 7:30 pm. Please RSVP in the form below or through the Facebook event.
[All are also invited to Ophir’s concert on the following Wednesday (the 31st)!]
Check back here at 5pm Jerusalem Time (10am Eastern Standard Time) for a Live Stream of the fourth Talmud blog event:
The Talmud and its World:
Reading the Bavli Alongside its Late Antique Neighbors
A Text-based Conversation with Iranist Yuhan Vevaina (Stanford) and Mandaic Scholar Charles Häberl (Rutgers). Facilitated by Shai Secunda (Hebrew University).
Last Wednesday night, a mixed group of retirees, middle-aged Jerusalemites, and younger students convened at the National Library of Israel for the second event of the series “Meetings in the Bavli,” titled “The Talmudic DNA.” The evening began with a reading of the sugya of “zeh neheneh v’zeh lo haser” from Bava Qamma 20a-20b by the Israeli blogger/scholar of religion/activist/social critic par excellence, Tomer Persico. Continue reading