Mira Balberg

Professor & Endowed Chair in Ancient Jewish Civilization

Mira Balberg received her PhD from Stanford University in 2011. She is a scholar of ancient Mediterranean religious history, with a focus on the emergence and development of Judaism in antiquity (200 BCE–500 CE). She is especially interested in the cultural contacts of Jews with their surrounding communities and with the imperial forces that shaped the Middle East in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Her main specialty is Judaism in Roman Syria-Palestine in late antiquity, and particularly the development of rabbinic Judaism in this period. She mainly studies 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.

Balberg’s first book, Purity, Body, and Self in Early Rabbinic Literature (University of California Press, 2014) examines how ancient Near Eastern ideas and practices of bodily purity were reconfigured by Palestinian rabbis of the 2nd and 3rd centuries through the influence of Greek and Roman medical and philosophical doctrines. Her second book, Blood for Thought: The Reinvention of Sacrifice in Early Rabbinic Literature (University of California Press, 2017), engages with the process known as “the end of sacrifice” – that is, the rapid decline and ultimately demise of sacrificial modes of worship in the Mediterranean region in the first half of the first Millennium C.E. Her third book, When Near Becomes Far: Old Age in Rabbinic Literature (Oxford University Press, 2021), co-authored with Hebrew Literature scholar Haim Weiss, explores the rabbinic representations of old age through legal, ritual, and narrative sources. Other topics on which she has published include the human body and its changing cultural meanings in ancient Jewish texts, ancient theories of self and subjectivity, and the production of knowledge in late antiquity.

Prof. Balberg is currently completing a study of forgetfulness as a practice of everyday life in ancient Judaism.

Select publications



When Near Becomes Far: Old Age in Rabbinic Literature (co-authored with Haim Weiss). Oxford University Press, 2021.

Blood for Thought

Blood for Thought: The Reinvention of Sacrifice in Early Rabbinic Literature. University of California Press, 2017.

Purity body and self

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

Open u

Gateway to Rabbinic literature (in Hebrew). The Open University Press, 2013.


Articles (see also https://ucsd.academia.edu/MiraBalberg)

  • “Between Public and Private, between Blood and Meat: The Duality of the Passover Sacrifice” [in Hebrew]. Teu’dah 31 (2021), 481–503.
  • “Raise my Eyes for me: Gazing at Old Age in Talmudic Narrative.” [in Hebrew] (co-authored with Haim Weiss) Oqimta 6 (2020): 41–
  • “Unforgettable Forgotten Things: Transformations in the Laws of Forgotten Produce (shikhehah) in Early Rabbinic Literature.” Oqimata 5 (2019):1–33.
  • “Pour Water in a Pitcher for Them and Squawk to Them like Roosters: Aging and Parenthood in Talmudic Narratives” [in Hebrew] (co-authored with Haim Weiss) Ot: A Journal of Literature and Theory 8 (2019): 181–211.
  • “Religious Studies in a Post-Secular World: Local and Global Contexts” [in Hebrew].  Theory and Criticism 50 (2019): 275–
  • “The Will of Others: Coercion, Captivity, and Choice in Late Antiquity” (co-authored with Ellen Muehlberger). Studies in Late Antiquity3 (2018).
  • “That Old Man Shames Us: Aging, Liminality, and Antinomy in Rabbinic Literature” (co-authored with Haim Weiss). Jewish Studies Quarterly1 (2018): 17-41.
  • “Ritual Studies and the Study of Rabbinic Literature.” Currents in Biblical Research1 (2017): 71-98.
  • “Omen and Anti-omen: The Rabbinic Hagiography of the Scapegoat’s Scarlet Ribbon.” Archiv für Religionsgeschichte1 (2016): 25-54.
  • “Once More, with Feeling: Sacrificial Worship between Rabbinic Literature and Contemporary National-Religious Discourse” [in Hebrew]. Theory and Criticism 46 (2016): 13-39.
  • “In and Out of the Body: The Significance of Intestinal Disease in Rabbinic Literature,” Journal of Late Antiquity2 (2015): 273-287.
  • “Artifacts.” In Late Ancient Knowing: Explorations in Intellectual History, eds. Catherine M. Chin and Moulie Vidas. University of California Press, 2015, 17-35.
  • “The Animalistic Gullet and the Godlike Soul: Reframing Sacrifice in Midrash Leviticus Rabbah.” AJS Review2 (2014): 221-247.
  • “Impure Scholasticism: The Study of Purity Laws and Rabbinic Self-criticism in the Babylonian Talmud” (with Moulie Vidas). Prooftexts3 (2013): 312-356.
  • “Pricing Persons: Consecration, Compensation, and Individuality in the Mishnah.” Jewish Quarterly Review2 (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 Quarterly3 (2012): 181-206.
  • The Clever Among them say…: Pain, Gender, and the Law in the Talmudic Law of Restitution” [in Hebrew]. In Pain, Flesh and Blood: Representations of the Body in Illness, Suffering, and Pleasure, eds. Orit Meital and Shira Stav. Ben Gurion University Press, 2013, 101-125.
  • “Rabbinic Authority, Medical Rhetoric, and Body Hermeneutics in Mishnah Nega‘im.” AJS Review2 (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]. Tarbitz4 (2005): 523-66.