Carasik, Michael

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I'm a biblicist by training, with secondary interests throughout Jewish studies of the pre-modern era. I teach Biblical Hebrew at the University of Pennsylvania and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. My current publication for a general audience is The Bible's Many Voices, forthcoming in 2014 but available now for pre-order:,675820.aspx My major project is "The Commentators' Bible," an English-language edition of the Jewish commentaries on the Bible traditionally published as the "Miqra'ot Gedolot." Currently available volumes: Exodus —,675297.aspx Leviticus —,675296.aspx Numbers —,675295.aspx Deuteronomy — forthcoming Genesis — in preparation
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Now showing 1 - 10 of 23
  • Publication
    Review of Yairah Amit, Shoftim (Judges: Introduction and Commentary)
    (2000-01-01) Carasik, Michael
    Let me begin my review of Yairah Amit's Judges volume in the Mikra LeYisra'el commentary series by making an admission which, rumor says, more of my fellow reviewers make than do: I have not read this book--not, at any rate, from cover to cover. I make this admission with a clear conscience because of the hybrid nature of the commentary form, part introductory material, part reference work. What I have done, therefore, is to read the book's introduction and to use the rest of the book as its owners and borrowers will do, by consulting the commentary, the fifteen excurses, and the eight indexes (to biblical references, extra-biblical literature, textual witnesses, emendations, structural/redactional terms, religious terms, grammatical terms, and geographical names). My purpose was to get a sense of how useful the volume will be for me--and hence, I hope, for the typical reader of Hebrew Studies.
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    Exegetical Implications of the Masoretic Cantillation Marks in Ecclesiastes
    (2001-01-01) Carasik, Michael
    A rabbinic tradition preserved in b. Yoma 52a-b suggests that five biblical verses are "undecidable"--that is, it is not clear how they ought to be punctuated. This makes evident a fact that is not often noticed: the Masoretic punctuation of the Bible is sometimes exegetical in character. Simcha Kogut, in his recent book Correlations between Biblical Accentuation and Traditional Jewish Exegesis, has shown that the biblical text is sometimes punctuated "against" the peshat, the meaning which a "reasonable" reader would assume to have been intended by the author. Such punctuation is a silent commentary. The reason for it is not explained; but it would seem to be prompted by a desire to shape the meaning of the text, often to match it in an interpretation found in rabbinic literature. Choon-Leong Seow's recent Anchor Bible commentary on Ecclesiastes notes over a dozen probable or possible places in that book where biblical scholars have suggested that the Masoretic punctuation does not match the intended meaning of the text. The purpose of this paper is to analyze these cases to determine whether any of these examples were indeed prompted by exegetical concerns. In several cases, the Targum to Ecclesiastes translates the same word twice--that is, they translated simultaneously in accordance with two different decisions about how the verse should be punctuated. I suggest that, in many cases, the Masoretic decision to place a pause in a location that seems to contradict the peshat was similarly made not to contradict it, but to add a second possibility. Despite the restrictive quality of the vowels and punctuation marks which the Masoretes added to the traditional consonants, they may, paradoxically, have been actuated by a desire to preserve the indeterminability of the text.
  • Publication
    Janus Parallelism in Job 1:20
    (2016-01-01) Carasik, Michael
    In Job 1:20, Job performs four actions: 1) he rends his garment; 2) he shears his head; 3) he falls to the ground; and 4) he prostrates himself. The third of these can be read either (with the first two) as an act of mourning or (with the last) as an act of worship. I suggest that this is a deliberate literary choice: the poetic technique of Janus parallelism. Since Janus parallelism has already been demonstrated to be both frequent in the book of Job and significant for its meaning, this unexpected Janus parallelism in the prose portion of the book confirms that those chapters are not an early survival but a creation of the author of the book as a whole.
  • Publication
    Review of William P. Brown, Character in Crisis: A Fresh Approach to the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament
    (1997) Carasik, Michael
    "In American society renewed interest in the value of character has recently galvanized public and political discussion" (p. vii). Now William P. Brown, associate professor of Old Testament at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, has written a volume which looks at Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes, the three pillars of biblical wisdom literature, through the lens of character. The aim of his study is "to demonstrate that the idea of character constitutes the unifying theme or center of the wisdom literature, whose raison d'être is to profile ethical character" (p. 21). The book is divided into six chapters. An introduction and a brief conclusion surround chapters on each of the biblical books; Job is treated in two separate chapters.
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    Midrash: The Story Behind the Story
    (2003-01-01) Carasik, Michael
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    Review of Joel M. Hoffman, And God Said: How Translations Conceal the Bible's Original Meaning
    (2012-01-01) Carasik, Michael
    A little learning, they say, is a dangerous thing. Joel Hoffman's background would seem to have left him with more than just a little learning, but a reading of his book And God Said demonstrates that he still falls well within the danger area. It's too bad, because his topic is one that deserves a good book for a general readership; and Hoffman himself has a few worthwhile things to say.
  • Publication
    Response to Aryeh Cohen "Notes Towards an Erotics of Martyrdom"
    (1997) Carasik, Michael
    I would like to thank Aryeh for his reading of b. Sanh. 74a-75a. The mark of a good reading, to my mind, is that it does not merely explain a text, but suggests further creative interaction with it; and Aryeh's reading has done this for me. I will focus my remarks on the chief line to which Aryeh drew our attention (his line #25, in my translation): "so also must (s)he be slain rather than he transgress." Just as the textual crux of *t/yehareg* provided Aryeh with the kind of uncertainty into which a wedge that opens the text for interpretation can be fit, lines 24 and 25 both share a grammatical indeterminacy that prompts further reflection. But bear with me a moment on my way to the Sanhedrin text; as a student primarily of the Tanakh, not the Talmud, I have a biblical errand to run before I can get there.