Varieties of Hermeneutical Experience: A Conference in Honor of Michael Fishbane

Michael Fishbane's scholarship has spanned the range of Jewish history -- from the Hebrew Bible and classical Midrash through medieval Kabbalah and modern Jewish thought -- and he has also pressed contemporary Jewish theology forward in astonishing ways through his own constructive writings.

The Nathan Cummings Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Jewish Studies, Michael Fishbane retired in 2022 after over thirty years of service on the Divinity School faculty.

Throughout the various branches of Fishbane's academic explorations, there is the continuous thread of hermeneutics, his enduring interest in how human beings are always already interpreting at the intersection of tradition and presence. For Fishbane, hermeneutics animates the core of Jewish religious culture, where boundaries between text and life melt into the most fertile wellsprings.

In honor of Prof. Fishbane's contributions, this conference,  generously cosponsored by The Joyce Z. and Jacob Greenberg Center for Jewish Studies and the Aronberg Lectures in Judaica Fund, will gather colleagues and former students to explore and build upon methods and insights at the heart of Fishbane's work. 

RSVPs are not necessary but do help us plan. RSVP here. 

Sunday, October 22 and Monday, October 23, 2023

All events are in the Lecture Hall on the third floor of Swift Hall except for lunch and the closing reception. Those events will be in the Common Room on the first floor.

Sunday, October 22

2:30-3pm, Registration and coffee

3pm, Welcome
James T. Robinson, Dean of the Divinity School, and Ken Moss, Director and Governing Board Member of the Greenberg Center for Jewish Studies  

3:10pm, Thematic Framing
Sam Shonkoff (Graduate Theological Union)

3:20-4:05pm, Reflections and Reminiscences
Deborah Green (University of Oregon),  Dov Lerner (Yeshiva University), and David Gottlieb (Spertus Institute)

4:20-5:20, Plenary Address by Arthur Green (Brandeis University)
“Celebrating a Deep-Sea Diver in Yam ha-Talmud, ‘The Sea of Learning.’”

5:20-6:30pm, Reception

Monday, October 23

8:30-9am,   Registration and coffee

9–10:30am,  Biblical Hermeneutics (Jeffrey Stackert, University of Chicago, chair)

  • Laura Lieber (Duke University), “The Eros of Abraham and the Poetics of Payyetanic Intertextuality”
  • Benjamin Sommer (Jewish Theological Seminary of America), “Prayer vs. Ritual, Prayer as Ritual, and Sacrificial Silence”

10:40am–12:10pm, Rabbinic Hermeneutics  (Margaret M. Mitchell, University of Chicago, chair)

  • Natalie Dohrmann (University of Pennsylvania), “On the Tannaitic Management of the 2nd Temple Literary Inheritance”
  • Joanna Weinberg (University of Oxford), “Hermeneutical theology in the sermons of Rabbi Judah Moscato (1532?-1590)”

12:10–1:10pm       Lunch in the Common Room

1:10–2:40pm, Jewish Spirituality and Hermeneutics   (James T. Robinson, University of Chicago, chair)   

  • Omer Michaelis (Tel Aviv University), “The Emergence and Character of Multi-layered Exegesis in Medieval Judaism"
  • Ora Wiskind (Michlalah Jerusalem College), “Reach into the Silence: Reflections on a Life with Words”

2:50–4:20pm, Contemporary Theology and Hermeneutics (Sarah Hammerschlag, University of Chicago, chair )      

  • Bernard McGinn (University of Chicago), “Modern Mystical Theology and Biblical Hermeneutics: Christian Test Cases”
  • Sam Shonkoff (Graduate Theological Union), “‘Not propositional but concrete through and through’: Michael Fishbane’s Conception of God”

4:20–4:50pm, Address by Michael Fishbane: “The Teacher and the Hermeneutical Task: Reflections after 50 Years”

4:50-6pm, Reception in the Common Room

This conference is free and open to the public. If you need an accommodation to attend this event, please call Irema Halilovic in advance at 773-702-7170.

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