With this post I’m starting a new series that I call “Biblicist’s Holiday.”
When I first went to graduate school, my teacher Moses Shulvass (a professor of Jewish history) was somewhat disappointed that I wasn’t following him into his own field. But he respected my choice to study Bible and encouraged me to read the Bible in Hebrew every day rather than be the kind of scholar who studies a Bible translation.
He died toward the end of my first year at Brandeis, and in his memory I finally took his advice and began to read the Bible in Hebrew daily. The eminently readable Koren edition of the Bible is marked into sections (with Hebrew letter-numerals in the outside margin) that supposedly divide the Bible up into exactly 364 daily readings, and that’s the schedule that I followed.
I went through this yearly cycle 6 or 8 times before abandoning it for other things. But (as I mentioned in an earlier post) a few years ago circumstances led me to learn my way through the Talmud on the daf yomi cycle. I am continuing to study Talmud, though at a much slower pace, and (somewhat after the nick of time) have also started working systematically through the Mishnah with the commentary of Maimonides. But it seemed appropriate to resume my daily Bible reading practice again, too.
Since my reading is not tracking along with anyone else, I don’t follow this schedule as “religiously” as I did the somewhat grueling daf yomi schedule. (I’m already a year behind everyone else on that this time.) In the Bible, I’ve just recently finished reading through the Pentateuch.
In the books of Genesis through Deuteronomy, each page I read was crammed with book darts to remind me of possible subjects for my weekly “Torah Talk” podcast. (Click on it in the right margin or subscribe via the iTunes Store.) But now I have begun reading נ”ך — the Prophets and Writings — and my mind is a bit freer. Hence, the “Biblicist’s Holiday.”
Since my podcast follows the weekly synagogue Torah reading schedule, there’s little opportunity there to discuss other parts of the Bible for their own sake. Most of the things that interest me either wouldn’t make a scholarly article or will not become one for lack of time. So I intend to use the “Biblicist’s Holiday” rubric to point out the things I find as I read along — interesting, fun, or just curious.
I found when I was doing this during my graduate studies that moving through the Bible at a steady pace always led to interesting intersections with the more purposeful work that took me to the biblical text. That has already happened this time as well, as I’ll discuss in my next post.