Rabbi David E. S. Stein DavidESStein @ aol.com

Selected Scholar-in-Residence Topics

I. The Hebrew Bible: Establishing the Text and Its Plain Sense


The History of the Bible Text and its Transmission through the Ages.   Just how fixed (or how uncertain) is the text of the Hebrew Bible? What textual variance is built in? How was the text transmitted to us? Who have been the key figures in that process? What was the profession of scribe like? What was the profession of early printers like? What difference have technological innovations made?


What Is Torah and What Are We Supposed to Do with It?   How do Jews define “Torah”? If one doesn’t believe that God dictated the Torah to Moses, then what makes it sacred? How do we read Torah profitably? How do Midrash and Kabbalah approach the Torah text? How many authentic meanings can a word or verse have?


Philology: How Do We Know What Ancient Hebrew Words Mean?   Biblical dictionaries are assembled by folks centuries after the Bible was composed; how do they decide what a word means in such an ancient language? What does a dictionary really tell us about what a word means? What do we learn from a word’s root meaning? Or from a closely related languages? Why do experts sometimes offer diverse opinions about what a given word means?


How to Think Like an Ancient Israelite: Decoding the Bible’s Gender Clues.   What went without saying between the composers of biblical books and their ancient audience? How does our interpretation of the text change depending upon our assumptions as readers?


Gender at Mt. Sinai.   According to the Torah, were women present for the Revelation at Sinai or not? How do we know?


God’s Gender.   What gender is the deity that the Torah presents to its audience? How do we know?


The Art and Science of Bible Translation.   What goes into preparing a translation of the Bible? How is it different from simply looking up words in a dictionary? Why do translations so often differ from each other? Which of the existing translations is the best?


The Haftarot: Liturgical Diversity and the Conventions of Publishing.   Where does a haftarah come from? How do the editors of chumashim know which haftarah is the right one? Why do haftarot sometimes differ from one chumash to another? What do these differences tell us about ritual pluralism in Jewish history?

II. Marriage among the Jewish Denominations of the Middle Ages


What Does the Traditional Ketubah (Wedding Contract) Teach Us Today?


Jewish Marriage and Divorce a Thousand Years Ago.


Jewish Religious Pluralism a Thousand Years Ago.

III. Jewish Law and Human Conflict: Texts, History, and Historiography


The Torah’s Criminal Laws as Spiritual Discipline.   Is it true that the classic Rabbis regarded the Torah’s criminal laws as primarily a tool for personal growth, with little practical import? If so, how did pre-modern Jewish communities cope with crime?


Everyone Who Stood at Sinai: The Role of Laypersons in Developing and Applying Jewish Law.   Historically, not only rabbis but also lay persons have helped to determine Jewish law and its application. What do rabbinic and historical texts tell us about this little-known aspect of Jewish communal governance?


Medieval Initiatives to Address Physical Violence by Jewish Husbands.   How does our understanding of domestic violence shift when we treat women as history’s subjects rather than as its objects? What happens when we focus on human strengths rather than weaknesses? What do we learn from history when we read aloud vignettes of real-life cases, as extracted from medieval legal records?


“Did Maimonides Really Say That?” Examining the Claim That He Condoned Wife-Battering.   A thorough review of a terse legal statement and the controversy it has engendered.



Updated 2 November 2009Culver City, California, USA