Academic Year 2010-2011
Mishael Zion is a Faculty Fellow at the Skirball Center for Adult Jewish Learning and a student at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT) Rabbinical School. Hailing from Jerusalem, Mishael served on the faculty of the Hartman Institute and worked for Israeli Television’s Channel Two. Mishael studied Anthoropolgy and Jewish Thought at Hebrew University and yeshiva studies at Yeshivat Maale Gilboa. Mishael is the author of the Israeli best-seller “HaLaila HaZeh: Haggadah Yisraelit” (2004) and of the English “A Night to Remember: The Haggadah of Contemporary Voices" (2007). He lives in New York with his wife Elana and two daughters.
The Torah: A Cultural Commentary?
Laying the groundwork towards a rereading of the Torah through art, poetry, culture and philosophy
(Mentored by Professor Gary Anderson, Joint Tikvah/Straus Fellow)
I intend to continue exploring the interface between academic scholarship and popular Jewish publications through creating a new Miqraot Gedolot style publication of the Five Books of Moses: a linear interpretation of the biblical text collected from rabbinic midrash to contemporary art, literature and poetry, including both classical and contemporary interpretations, Jewish and non-Jewish readings, religious and secular perspectives.
The driving force behind this project is the recognition that across the Western world, a deep disconnect from the Bible has taken place. As part of the secularization project, the biblical canon—the master narratives of Western culture—has been left out of the curriculum of European and American schools. While the pre-modern authoritative reading of scripture is no longer possible—or desirous—a new, cultural reading of the biblical text has not been cultivated.
The premise of this project is that the “nomos and narrative” of the Bible have served as the basis for much of Western and Jewish culture, and that a reading of the Bible through its myriad of interpretations, from antiquity to today, yields a deeper understanding both of the Bible and of human civilization.
Benefiting from the scholarly milieu of The Tikvah Center, I hope to hone a method for a 21st Century cultural interpretation of the legal sections of the Torah, and consider, especially, how biblical law can be highlighted through contemporary issues and analogies, as well as how biblical law has shaped communities in the past and how it inspires modern community's cultural products.