Wednesday 26 November 2014 – 5.30pm, B104, Brunei Gallery, SOAS

Wealth occupies an ambivalent position in the Hebrew Bible. On the one hand, material abundance is considered God’s gift to men. On the other hand, wealth has the potential to seduce one away from God. This ambivalence hints at the complicated relationship between economy and religion. While these two discourses are often considered separate, economic and divine circulations are mutually embedded, affecting each other in a series of negations, analogies and competitions.

Considering the complicated relationship between economy and religion, this lecture will explore the crucial position that money and economy occupy in Shmuel Yosef Agnon’s first novella And the Crooked Shall Be Made Straight, published in 1912 in the Land of Israel. The story of the bankruptcy of middle-class shopkeepers Menasheh Hayim and his wife Kreindel Tcharni in mid-nineteenth century Galicia exposes the economic infrastructure of religious thought, constructing capitalism and religion as two systems of debt and credit, destined for crisis. Whereas Menasheh Hayim’s subsequent journey as a beggar is constituted via debts to divine and monetary economies, his eventual death, exchanged for his wife’s life, functions as the only gift in Agnon’s text which bypasses the economy of debt and credit. Read this way, Menasheh Hayim’s death for a real other against the demands of an external economy becomes a critique of both the traditional and modern Jewish subject, constituted through debt to religion or its modern substitutes such as capitalism or Zionism.

All Welcome.

This event is free and there is no need to book.