Myths of Meritocracy and the Hebrew Bible with Eva Mroczek

Event Date: Tuesday, September 8 - 5:00 pm to 6:15 pm

Online event. Register here to receive the Zoom link.

Do people really reap what they sow? Is the world set up to reward good people and punish bad ones? What does the Hebrew Bible and its Jewish interpreters say about these questions?

We will begin with a study of the biblical story of Cain and Abel. Why did God accept one brother’s gift, but reject the other? The story itself, like many biblical stories, is full of gaps--including, literally, some missing words!—and does not give us the explanations we seek. Jewish interpreters were troubled that the story makes it look like God plays favorites, and some readers sympathized with Cain’s anger. We will connect these traditions to another famous biblical tale of unjust treatment: Job, a righteous man who is afflicted with terrible suffering—even though he’s done everything right.

We will discuss how early Jewish readers interpreted, questioned, and struggled with their sacred texts, and how these traditions can help us think about justice and meritocracy today. Is our opinion on whether life is fair determined by how we ourselves are treated?

Eva Mroczek is the Director of the Jewish Studies Program at UC Davis. She is interested in early Judaism, apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the history of biblical interpretation. She is the author of The Literary Imagination in Jewish Antiquity (2016), and is working on a book about manuscript discovery stories, old and new.

Presented by the Department of Jewish Studies as part of the Fall 2020 Lectures in Jewish Studies. Sponsored by the Department of Classics and the Jewish Community Library.

Free and open to the public.

Prof. Rachel Gross