There Is What to Celebrate and What to Be Concerned About
The poet of Job, as I understand him, revels in language that can mean one thing and its opposite. The verb "excite" refers to arousal. In most forms, it conveys a positive sense of enthusiasm and pleasure. In other forms, it suggests agitation of a not necessarily positive kind. I have been genuinely gratified to witness the expansion of Jewish studies both numerically and qualitatively. Expertise has taken many forms, and I am glad that methodological sophistication and experimentation are high among them. The questions scholars pose have grown in complexity and diversity, and the answers have turned more and more contingent, which is to my way of thinking, more honest. More and more of us have become increasingly sensitive to issues of gender, racism, and classism. More and more of us have understood that only God can be said to take a neutral perspective, and fewer and fewer of us presume to be God. Two things agitate me in a negative way. While nose-to-the-grindstone philology should be a means and not an end in itself, it has always seemed to me to be a sine qua non of reading. I see too little investment in philological training. Second, demographic and cultural changes, and even more the uncertain economy, have led to a severe decline in the number of academic positions available to well-trained candidates, especially in Israel. Extraordinary efforts are needed in order to preserve academic excellence in Jewish studies by finding funding for excellent people.