25 August 2006

My Critique on My Rabbinic Sleep Ethics paper

As YCT has recently published the second volume of Milin Havivin, there is much to discuss. In fact, KAAB has already discussed one of Dr. Friedman's articles. Clearly, the biggest, most researched article was written by my classmate, Steven Exler, though I'm still trying to work through it, is on something that is very relevant to this month: it's entitled "Teki’ot Transforming Texts: Elul Shofar Blasts in Medieval Minhag". Also of note is David Kasher's "Defending Derash: The Gur Aryeh’s Approach to Hermeneutics", which is beautifully written and deals with people (mainly MO) being a little unsatisfied with Rashi's commentary to the Humash and with people being also a little unhappy with Artscroll. Very worth checking out.
However, I wanted to deal with my article (Drew Kaplan, "Rabbinic Sleep Ethics: Jewish Sleep Conduct in Late Antiquity," Milin Havivin 2 [June 2006], 83-93) in this posting. I welcome comments on my paper - you may e-mail me at drewkaplanis@yahoo.com, though I request that people try to remain cordial in their comments. Before anybody submits any comments, compliments, or criticisms of my paper, let me offer some of my own first.
Although I was happy with my paper on the whole, I do have what to say regarding it.
Firstly, the title - I probably should've thought about the title a second time as the "Jewish Sleep Conduct..." sounds like a description, whereas I was trying to discuss not what they did so much as what they said to do. Just because someone says something doesn't mean that they do it ("Do as I say, not as I do."). However, in response to this argument, I think it's reasonable to assume that they tried to follow it (although we know what happens when we assume...), so the title doesn't totally not fit.
Regarding the term of "sleep ethics", which, although I didn't coin (see various postings on the Internet for this term (that I Googled): here, here, and here), I refer to it in a certain way. I don't mean how do we treat others or others treat us in times of trying to sleep or when one is sleeping (although it can/could include such understandings), but how one is to conduct or not to conduct oneself when sleeping. True, this is more individually focused, but still good. When one thinks of ethics, one probably thinks about how to treat others, but that's not the understanding, per se, with which I am operating.
Next is the problem with trying to discuss how the Rabbis spoke of sleep ethics without trying to deal with larger issues of how they viewed sleep (a larger philosophy of sleep). Yes, there are a number of footnotes that show that I actually was engaged in this endeavor, but I think a more accurate description would be to say that I actually tried to avoid discussing larger philosophies of sleep operating at the time of our Sages. This is a problem for this article, but I hope to explore it further in future articles.
One gaping hole that not only could I not help but noticing and which I'm sure many others would see and easily scratch their heads is that on the penultimate page (p. 92), I record Rav's proscription against diurnal sleeping more than a horse sleeps and discuss it, but I don't say how long a horse sleeps. Now most people reading that would see that as a glaring error. However, in most of my drafts of this paper, I had included a little discussion of this length of time, citing the same article as I had in n. 45 about horse sleeping habits and tossing in an aharon's citation of two other aharonim's opinions (yes, he actually cites three, but the third is a bit unlikely). However, this is missing. In a later article, I hope to mention it - probably in my Zohar and sleep article.
This mention of
aharonim brings me to me next criticism - that aside from citing Rashi a lot and Tosafos a little, I brought in a couple of aharonim in n. 14. I imagine that in future papers, I will cite more, as my facility with them will increase.
Those are my main criticisms. I am happy about a few other things in the article, but I will leave them for others to notice.


Anonymous said...

Congrats on getting your article published. I'd love to read it soon.

Drew Kaplan said...

You certainly can. Either by going online and reading the .PDF file or by contacting office@yctorah.org for a copy of the journal.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on your article. I specifically appreciate your choice of topic...very relevant to life.