Oral Preaching and Written Sermons in the Middle Ages

in European Journal of Jewish Studies
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Our knowledge of the nature of medieval Jewish public sermons is limited and our conclusions mostly inferential. Nonetheless, based upon the sermon literature and through analysis of various introductions and manuals for preachers of the time, we can fairly accurately reconstruct the oral sermon. We know where and when sermons were delivered, their content, the characteristics of the various preachers, the expectations of the listeners and the efforts the preachers made to make their sermons appealing to a diverse audience. Inevitably, over the course of centuries, both the form and the content of sermons changed. This was in response to the shifting needs and desires of audiences and reflects the changes in orientation of the various periods, such as the move from philosophically based sermons to those with Kabbalistic or Halakhic content.

Oral Preaching and Written Sermons in the Middle Ages

in European Journal of Jewish Studies




DanHebrew Ethical and Homiletical Literature36.


Rabbi Yaakov AnatolyMelamed Ha-Talmidim (Lyck: M’kize Nirdamim1866) introduction.


Rabbi Yisrael NajaraMikvah Yisrael (Ramat-Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press2004) introduction; Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Modenah Midbar Yehudah (Venice: Daniel Zanetti 1602) introduction.


Rabbi Yoel Ibn Shu’eibOlat Shabbat (Venice: Zo’an de-Garah1576) sermon for Genesis. In his introduction Shu’eib speaks about the homiletic sermons though he does not mention that he was also a public speaker and that his book is the written adaptation of his sermons; Yizhak Ibn Aroyo Tanhumot El (Thessaloniki: David Azoviv 1578) introduction.


ZunzHomiletic Sermons in Israel36.


BettanStudies in Jewish Preaching92–95.


Rabbi Zekharia Al-DahariSefer Ha-Mussar (Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute1970). See the introduction for more on the author and his travels.


EldahariSefer Ha-Mussar117.


Rabbi Moshe AlfalasVayakhel Moshe (Venice: Daniel Zanetti1597) 147a.


Rabbi Yaakov di AlbaToldot Yaakov (Venice: Giovanni di Gara1609) introduction.


Rabbi Yosef Ibn YaḥyaPeirush l’Tehilim (Bologna: HaShotafim1538) 92c.


Rabbi Moshe AlmosninoPirkei Moshe (Thessaloniki: Y. Yabez1563) introduction.


See a similar critique by Shlomo Al-AmiIggeret Mussar (Vilna: Y.L. Metz1878) 48–49.


Robert BonfilAs By a Mirror: Jewish Life in Renaissance Italy (Jerusalem: Zalman Shazar Center1994) 119–142.


Joseph Hacker“Intellectual Activities among Jews in the Ottoman Empire in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries,” Tarbiz 53 (1984): 563–603.


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