I'm Elli Fischer, a writer, translator, historian, and rabbi with ADD. It's a fun combo. AMA!One of the hardest questions for me to answer is, "So what do you do?" I have the good fortune of doing lots of different things for a living, all at the same time. I'm 45, and I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. These days, I'm deeply involved in a really cool research initiative that I co-founded with Moshe Schorr a few years ago, calledHaMapah . The basic premise is that the history of halakhah is far more dynamic and spontaneous than people usually think, and we're developing the tools to demonstrate it. Related is thePrenumeranten Project , in which we are studying and creating a database of, basically, subscription-based crowdfunding campaigns to publish Jewish books, starting in the late 1700s. For the past 15 years or so, my main occupation has been translating and editing. You've likely read something I edited or translated, whether a volume of R. Eliezer Melamed'sPeninei Halakha in English , the biography of Rav Amital , or Moshe Halbertal's new book on the concept of uncertainty in the Mishnah. Forthcoming translations include a book by Rav Nachum Rabinovich z”l, and a collection of responsa from the Nishmat Yoatzot program. Being a translator is like being in Kollel, except I also make a living. I'm also constantly jumping down rabbit holes (or "rabbi holes"). One example: Dainy Bernstein put out a call for papers on Orthodox childhoods, and I responded with a chapter that's been sitting in my gut for a few years on Country Yossi and the Shteeble Hoppers. An article on the history of the idea that the Israelites in Egyptdidn't change their name, language, or dress is another such rabbit hole; it may also be the first footnote to Lipa Schmeltzer's "Shyni Ve-Chamishi" in an academic paper. And not long ago,Dovid Bashevkin and I presented a paper on Jewish bookshelves at an international Zoom conference, just for the heck of it. There's more. It's hard to keep track. I’ve written for a bunch of publications, from Commentary , JRB , and Moment to the Lakewood Scoop , and at least a dozen others. The past few years, most of my non-academic articles have appeared atLehrhaus , a web publication that I co-founded. Then there are the side gigs, which includes being on the lecture circuit and conducting illegal weddings . I'm also back at school, completing a Master’s thesis on Rav Asher Weiss at Tel Aviv University. Before moving (back) to Israel, I was a teacher/rabbi, most recently serving as the JLIC rabbi at the University of Maryland. I realized in 2007 or so that I'd have to reinvent myself and do something different, so writing, my hobby, became my career, and teaching was relegated to the side. I do not want to retire, ever. Why would I? So that I can spend more time doing the things I love doing? I’m already doing them. Plus, I can’t afford to retire. Some other things about me that you may find interesting: I have broken into Jewish cemeteries in 5 different countries. I (and others) gave Neptune its Hebrew name, Rahav. I live down the street from what may be the oldest shul in the world. The greatest lesson I learned from my father is that being funny and being serious is no contradiction. I will never write "as an Orthodox rabbi" or "as a Jew." Don't tell me that you're an expert; I'll conclude that you’re probably not one. Instead, show me. I think ADD is a gift, and sometimes I think that it's now an evolutionary advantage. I make a lousy foot soldier and I make a lousy boss, so I'll always be self-employed. You can follow me on Twitter or Facebook . You will likely disagree with a lot that I have to day, but I hope, at least, that you'll find it informative, entertaining, and thought-provoking. Ask me anything except which of my 4 kids is the favorite. Aside from the general complications of a question like that, at least one of my kids is lurking here.
The Lives of NapoleonTwo hundred years after his death, what more is there to say about Napoleon Bonaparte? He remains a perennially popular subject for works of history aimed at the general reader, whether conventional biographies or more specialised studies on aspects of his life, regime and cultural legacy. If, as the Napoleonic historian Philip Dwyer suggests, writing a biography is like...1
The Life Story of The Oldest Tree on EarthRevered for its beauty and its longevity, the ginkgo is a living fossil, unchanged for more than 200 million years. Botanist Peter Crane, who has a written what he calls a biography of this unique tree, talks to Yale Environment 360 about the inspiring history and cultural significance of the ginkgo.