Robert A. Harris is associate professor of Bible at The Jewish Theological Seminary, teaching courses in biblical literature and commentary, particularly medieval Jewish biblical exegesis.
Over the years, Dr. Harris has served JTS in a variety of roles, including assistant to the director of The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary, professor-in-residence at Camp Ramah in the Poconos, and director of musical theater productions.
An expert in the history of medieval biblical exegesis, Dr. Harris's dissertation was titled The Literary Hermeneutic of Rabbi Eliezer of Beaugency. In 2004, Dr. Harris published a book in the Brown Judaic Studies series, Discerning Parallelism: A Study in Northern French Medieval Jewish Biblical Exegesis. In addition, he has published many articles and reviews in both American and Israeli journals. Dr. Harris regularly delivers papers at academic conferences, such as the International Medieval Congress and the World Congress of Jewish Studies; many of his addresses have been published in various scholarly and academic journals.
Dr. Harris also lectures on biblical narrative and Jewish liturgy in congregations and adult education institutes around the country. One of his most popular series is "Unfolding the Text: An Introduction to Jewish Medieval Bible Commentaries" (the first chapter of which is entitled "I Peshat the Torah!"); Dr. Harris is currently at work on a book on this subject. Other topics include "Murder, They Wrote," a study of biblical murder narratives; "Threes Become Four: How the Maxwell House Haggadah Became a Canonized Text"; and "That Kislev Affair: What Really Happened at Hanukkah?" Dr. Harris's forthcoming books include Rabbi Eliezer of Beaugency's commentary on Amos and Jonah (with selections from Isaiah and Ezekiel).
Dr. Harris has served as a rabbi in several congregations in the United States and Israel, including the Pelham Jewish Center in Westchester County, New York, and Moriah Synagogue in Haifa.
Read Rabbi Harris's High Holiday sermons for 5770:
For the past several years, Dr. Harris has taught in the Meah Program, the renowned adult education course administered by the Boston Hebrew College. He spent 1995–1997 as a visiting scholar at the Bible Department of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and returned there again in the summer of 2007 as a visiting associate professor. Dr. Harris is past president of the Society for the Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages, a constituent organization of the International Medieval Congress. In 2004 and 2007, he taught in Moscow at JTS's Project Judaica at the Russian State University for the Humanities.
Dr. Harris regularly performs with his garage band, SR2 (Shake, Rabbis and Roll), and composes original rock 'n roll. In 2006, he and his band completed a second studio CD (Keep Your Day Job!) and also issued a live album (Live at Primetime). The band's 2003 release, Tales from the Upper West Side, reached the nonexistent "aluminum" category on the music charts.
An erstwhile actor who performed in musical and dramatic productions in the New York area, Dr. Harris is past director of Theater at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. There, he translated more than a dozen musical comedies into Hebrew. Dr. Harris also directed musical productions in Hebrew at JTS as well as in Jewish schools around the metropolitan area. He has continued his interest in musical theater by producing concert versions of Gilbert & Sullivan operettas each year for charitable causes. In the early '90s, Dr. Harris did stand-up comedy at New York's Stand Up, New York! club—where he was once voted "New York's Funniest Rabbi"—and at the Concord Hotel in the Catskills.
Dr. Harris is a graduate of the Joint Program between JTS and Columbia University, having received a BA in Ancient Studies from Columbia and a BHL in Talmud from JTS. He also received an MA in Judaica, MPhil in Bible, rabbinical ordination, and a PhD from JTS.
Dr. Harris's wife, Nellie, is a Jewish educator, and the two are the proud parents of daughters Naamah and Merav.
BIB 3516: Jewish and Christian Exegesis
BIB 5581: From Derash to Peshat
BIB 5012: Survey of Pentateuch
BIB 7570: Rashbam
BIB 5805: Book of Exodus
The Literary Hermeneutic of Rabbi Eliezer of Beaugency, directed by Professor Edward L. Greenstein. The Jewish Theological Seminary, 1997. UMI Number: 9720941.
Discerning Parallelism: A Study in Northern French Medieval Jewish Biblical Exegesis. Providence: Brown Judaic Studies, 2004.
Unfolding the Text: Reading the Rabbis Read the Bible (Or "I Peshat the Torah!"). In preparation.
"Twelfth-Century Biblical Exegetes and the Invention of Literature." Commentaria 2 (2009): 311–29.
"Rashi and the 'Messianic' Psalms." Birkat Shalom: Studies in the Bible, Ancient Near Eastern Literature, and Postbiblical Judaism Presented to Shalom M. Paul on the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday. Chaim Cohen, Yictor Avigdor Hurowitz, Avi Hurvitz, Yochanan Muffs, Baruch J. Schwartz, and Jeffery H. Tigay, eds. Pages 845–62. Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 2008.
"Rashi's Introductions to His Biblical Commentaries." Shai le-Sara Japhet: Studies in the Bible, its Exegesis and its Language. Moshe Bar-Asher, Dalit Rom-Shiloni, Emanuel Tov, and Nili Wayzana, eds. Pages 219*–241.* Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 2007.
"Contextual Reading: Rabbi Eliezer of Beaugency's Commentary on Jonah." Bringing the Hidden to Light: Studies in Honor of Stephen A. Geller. Diane Sharon and Kathryn Kravits, eds. Pages 79–101. Winona Lake, IN: JTS, in collaboration with Eisenbrauns, 2007.
"Structure and Composition in Isaiah 1–12: A Twelfth Century Rabbinic Perspective." As Those Who are Taught: The Reception of Isaiah from the LXX to the SBL. Claire Mathews McGinnis and Patricia Tull, eds. SBL Symposium Series, pages 171–187. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2006.
"The Rashbam Authorship Controversy Redux: On Sara Japhet's The Commentary of Rabbi Samuel Ben Meir (Rashbam) on the Book of Job." The Jewish Quarterly Review 95:1 (Winter, 2005): 163–181.
"The Recitation of 'Amen' Between Ge'ulah and Tefillah of the Shaharit Service." Rabbincal Assembly, 2003.
Read selected articles by Robert A. Harris.
Podcasts and Commentary
Parashat B'reishit 5770
"Google It" by Shake Rabbis and Roll