PSchwartzrof. Schwartz is verbonden aan het Department of Land of Israel Studies aan de Faculteit van Jewish Studies aan de Bar Ilan Universiteit in Ramat Gan, Israël.

Bij de opening van het Academische Jaar 2006-2007 op 6 september 2006 hield prof. Schwartz een lezing getiteld "Broken beds and chairs in Mishnah Kelim".


There are many ways for a historian to write about a society, and the tools at his or her disposal are manifold and varied. The materials that we have chosen are somewhat unusual; the building blocks of our reconstruction are waste and rubbish. We intend to examine aspects of ancient Jewish history and Jewish society based on its debris and in particular, debris that is not discarded, but rather used, sometimes repaired and occasionally recycled into secondary use. In other words, we will study used and reused garbage. Litter and trash are our primary sources. Garbage is a mirror on our society. What you are is often what you break, throw out or do not want and what people say and what garbage says is sometimes divergent.

Theoretically, garbage is such a pervasive element in our society (after all, garbage is connected to almost every aspect of human activity, and waste is so central to our lives) that one might imagine that the study of waste would have attracted much academic interest. This, however, is certainly not the case and even modern garbology deals, for the most part, only with modern society. This conundrum is largely what differentiates garbology from archaeology. Archaeology usually deals with imperishables while garbology focuses on perishables and in particular the attempt to make the perishable imperishable through recycling. The archaeologist rarely has a chance to study the perishables of the ancient world; they have long disappeared. The recycled material of the ancient world is for the most part unidentifiable. This helps explain why garbology has rarely been used in the study of the ancient world.

We seek to somewhat circumvent this problem by making use of a rather radical strategy. While not disregarding the minimal relevant archaeological data, our primary source material will be literary, for the most part rabbinic, in particular the Mishnah and Tosefta of Tractate Kelim, which deals with issues of purity and impurity in relation to utensils. While utensils are mentioned throughout rabbinic literature, the format of Kelim, as we shall see, provides detailed information, albeit secondary and often tangential, about broken utensils and their repair or lack thereof and occasionally of their secondary recycled use. 

Deze wat gepopulariseerde lezing is inmiddels ook gepubliceerd onder de titel "Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, Prolegomena on Breakage and Repair in Ancient Jewish Society: Broken Beds and Chairs in Mishnah Kelim."