Baghdad in Jewish History

The city of Baghdad was founded by Caliph Al-Mansur on this date in 762 CE. However, a Babylonian city of that name is mentioned in the Talmud, which was compiled nearly three centuries earlier, indicating that Mansur rebuilt an already-existing Persian town. Sitting on the left bank of the Tigris River, Baghdad was very close to two centers of Jewish scholarship, Sura and Pumbedita, and Baghdadi […]

Read More

January 28: Nahman Avigad in the Old City

Israeli archaeologist Nahman Avigad, who excavated the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem and discovered remnants of the Jewish revolt against Rome that was crushed by Titus, as described in the work of Josephus, died at 86 on this date in 1992. Avigad also worked on excavating Masada as well as the caves […]

Read More

Mirror and Enigma: The Go-Between Women

by Susan Reimer-Torn THERE ARE NO LAWS I know of that prohibit the embellishing upon an aggadic story. On the contrary, the liberal art of narrative reinvention fits squarely in the centuries-old midrashic tradition of taking a simply or cryptically told story and embroidering upon it according to our own imaginative wiles. There is so […]

Read More

Mirror and Enigma: The Talmud’s Buddy Movie

Models of Masculinity by Susan Reimer-Torn WOULD ANY ATTEMPT to profile the Jewish male lapse into an irritating stereotype? Probably. But the rabbis of the Talmud do not flinch from examining issues of masculinity, and their portrait of the ideal male has left an imprint on Jewish cultural assumptions to this day. Some aspects of […]

Read More

May 16: Saadia Gaon

The preeminent Talmudic scholar of Babylon in the 9th century, Egyptian-born Saadia ben Joseph, known as Saadia Gaon (“Gaon” is an honorific meaning one of splendor or genius), is thought to have died at age 60 in Sura on this date in 942. He was the first rabbinic authority to translate the Bible into Arabic, […]

Read More

The Bible as (Not!) History

by Bennett Muraskin PEOPLE OFTEN CLAIM that the history of the Jews dates back 4,000 years. Actually, it is closer to 3,000 years, but that’s still a long time, in human terms. Certainly, few non-fundamentalists take the Adam and Eve or Noah stories literally, but many people do insist, on no firmer historical basis, that […]

Read More

October 17: The End of the Babylonian Exile

Cyrus (Kurash) the Great marched into Babylon on this date in 539 BCE. His name is invoked twenty-three times in the Bible, as he decreed, during his first year on the throne, the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, which had been destroyed by the Babylonian conqueror, Nebuchadnezzar II, in 586 BCE. Cyrus’s decree ended […]

Read More