Mira Balberg

Assistant Professor of Religion
Department of Religious Studies
Office: Crowe Hall, 1860 Campus Drive, 4-137
Phone: (847) 467-1746
E-Mail: m-balberg@northwestern.edu
On leave during 2014-15

Mira Balberg specializes in ancient Judaism, with a focus on early rabbinic literature. She holds a B.A. and an M.A. from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a PhD in Religious Studies from Stanford University. Her areas of teaching include Hebrew Bible, Second Temple literature, Hellenistic Judaism, and rabbinic literature. She is particularly interested in the ways in which the Jewish Literature composed in the Hellenistic and Roman era interprets and transforms biblical institutions, concepts, and values, often through dialogue and interaction with Greek, Roman, and early Christian cultures. Her book Purity, Body, and Self in Early Rabbinic Literature (University of California Press, 2014) explores the ways in which the rabbis who created the Mishnah (a third-century legal code) reshaped the biblical discourse of ritual purity and impurity and refocused it around the self and its subjective relationships with its body and environment. Others topics on which she has worked include questions of personhood in rabbinic literature, the human body and its changing cultural meanings in ancient Jewish texts, and the production of knowledge in late antiquity. She is currently working on a book exploring the transformation of sacrifice in early rabbinic literature.

Selected Works


Purity, Body, and Self in Early Rabbinic Literature. The University of California Press, forthcoming 2014.

Gateway to Rabbinic literature (in Hebrew).  Ra'anana: The Open University Press, 2013.



“Artifacts.” In Late Ancient Knowing: Explorations in Intellectual History, eds. Catherine M. Chin and Moulie Vidas. University of California Press, forthcoming 2015.

“The Animalistic Gullet and the Godlike Soul: Reframing Sacrifice in Midrash Leviticus Rabbah.” AJS Review 38.2, forthcoming 2014.

Impure Scholasticism: The Study of Purity Laws and Rabbinic Self-Criticism in the Babylonian Talmud” (with Moulie Vidas).” Prooftexts 32.3 (2013): 312-356.

 “Pricing Persons: Consecration, Compensation, and Individuality in the Mishnah.” Jewish Quarterly Review 103.2 (2013): 169-195.

“The Emperor’s Daughter’s New Skin: Corporeal Identity in the Dialogues of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Hanania and the Emperor’s Daughter.” Jewish Studies Quarterly 19.3 (2012): 181-226.

“Rabbinic Authority, Medical Rhetoric, and Body Hermeneutics in Mishnah Nega‘im” AJS Review 35.2 (2011): 323-346.

“Between Heterotopia and Utopia: Two Rabbinic Narratives of Journeys to Prostitutes” (in Hebrew). Mekhkare Yerushalyim be-sifrut ivrit 22 (2008):191-214.

“Hilkhot Nedarim and Nazir in the book of Halakhot Gedolot” (in Hebrew). Tarbitz 72:4 (2005): 523-566.

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