Portrait of Dr. Michelle LevineDr. Michelle J. Levine, associate professor of Bible at Stern College for Women, was invited this summer to participate in a special international conference on research in the Bible and biblical exegesis, Bakesh Torah, which was held at Bar-Ilan University in Israel in honor of the 90th birthday of renowned biblical scholar, Uriel Simon.

Dr. Levine presented on the topic, “Ramban’s Literary Approach to the Poetic Efficacy of Biblical Metaphor and Simile,” in which she analyzed how the preeminent 13th-century Spanish commentator, Moses ben Nahman (Ramban), illuminates the versatile inventiveness and creative dynamism of biblical metaphor and simile, in relation to the exegetical influences of his Ashkenazic and Andalusian predecessors.

Dr. Levine examined illustrative examples of Ramban’s analysis of biblical imagery prevalent in Jacob’s deathbed blessings to his sons and Moses’ parting blessings to the tribes.

She also spent much of her summer lecturing to various audiences.

As the scholar in residence this May at the Jewish Center of the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Dr. Levine lectured on the prayer of Shema and the blessings that precede this prayer, which focus on the creation of light and the luminaries, as a means of emphasizing God’s control over nature and His divine will to create a world that has a purpose which will be fulfilled by the nation of Israel in its performance of the Torah and mitzvot. She developed this theme by analyzing how an additional light, the light of redemption, is introduced into these prayers, in order to signify the interconnection between God’s luminous creation of the world and the anticipation that His brilliant resplendent presence will be manifest in the future messianic period.

Dr. Levine also presented on the topic of “Ramban’s Commentary on Az Yashir: The Poetic Artistry of a Biblical Song,” in which she examined how the noted medieval exegete, Naḥmanides, reveals a keen literary sense of the poetic style and structure of the Song of Sea through his intuitive perceptions of its artistic composition and cohesive and tightly organized themes.

In her Kew Gardens Hills community, Dr. Levine spoke on the topic of “The Mitzvah of Shabbat—A Taste of Gan Eden,” in which she discussed the deep significance of Israel’s obligation to observe Shabbat by delving into the meaning of shamor based on its first appearance in the Torah in the Garden of Eden story. The Garden of Eden provided the utopian environment for humanity to implement the divine will. By observing Shabbat, Israel is tasked to recreate this ideal atmosphere, recalling and revitalizing its national, spiritual mission to fulfill the purpose for which God created the world. In this vein, Jews reaffirm on Shabbat how their commitment to fulfilling the Torah and its commandments, the symbolical Tree of Life, enables them to realize their holy purpose as God’s chosen nation.

For the three-week period before Tisha B’Av, Dr. Levine presented a lecture on “Immo Anokhi Be-Tzarah”—Finding God in Our Exile,” in which she applied biblical, rabbinic, and midrashic sources to explore Israel’s status in its relationship with God, despite having been banished to exile. In particular, Dr. Levine examined how the divine name Ehyeh epitomizes the perpetual presence of divine providence, even when the Jews reside in foreign lands. God’s providential presence in exile motivates Israel to pray and repent in order to bring about the promised redemption.

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