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Ancient Lore in the New World
Editor: Brian Ogren
Kabbalah in America includes chapters from leading experts in a variety of fields and is the first-ever comprehensive treatment of the title subject from colonial times until the present. Until recently, Kabbalah studies have not extensively covered America, despite America’s centrality in modern and contemporary formations. There exist scattered treatments, but no inclusive expositions. This volume most certainly fills the gap.

It is comprised of 21 articles in eight sections, including Kabbalah in Colonial America; Nineteenth-Century Western Esotericism; The Nineteenth-Century Jewish Interface; Early Twentieth-Century Rational Scholars; The Post-War Counterculture; Liberal American Denominationalism; Ultra-Orthodoxy, American Hasidism and the ‘Other’; and Contemporary American Ritual and Thought. This volume will be sure to set the tone for all future scholarship on American Kabbalah.

Abstract

This article focuses on one decade, 1874–1883, in the relatively long lifespan of the Hebrew weekly Ha-Tzefirah, which was founded in Warsaw in 1862. Applying computational tools to the study of the early Hebrew press requires a unique effort. The Hebrew language in general is distinct in its characters, morphological structure, and word order. The contribution of this proof-of-concept study is two-fold: First, computational analysis provides a long-term indication of trends in the discourse that cannot be attained through qualitative study. The second contribution is on the micro level: Computational analysis can potentially shed light, in a diachronic perspective, on the use of a specific term or the discussion of a specific geographical location.

In: Zutot

Abstract

In the editio princeps of the Mayse-bukh (Basel 1602) are circa 250 stories. The last one is a translation/reworking of a story that appears in Sefer Hasidim, and is about a bibliotaphos, someone who is ready to bury his books, but not to lend them. In this short paper, I try to show the differences between the Yiddish and the Hebrew source, suggesting that these differences can hint at historical and social transformations of the reading public of Yiddish texts in the Early Modern era.

In: Zutot
The Hebrew Chronicle of Pope Paul IV by Benjamin Neḥemiah ben Elnathan from Civitanova Marche (16th cent.)
In Living under the Evil Pope, Martina Mampieri presents the Hebrew Chronicle of Pope Paul IV, written in the second half of the sixteenth century by the Italian Jewish moneylender Benjamin Neḥemiah ben Elnathan (alias Guglielmo di Diodato) from Civitanova Marche. The text remained in manuscript for about four centuries until the Galician scholar Isaiah Sonne (1887-1960) published a Hebrew annotated edition of the chronicle in the 1930s. This remarkable source offers an account of the events of the Papal States during Paul IV’s pontificate (1555-59). Making use of broad archival materials, Martina Mampieri reflects on the nature of this work, its historical background, and contents, providing a revised edition of the Hebrew text as well as the first unabridged English translation and commentary.

Abstract

First published in Iton 77 in 1982, the poem ‘Tefillin’ by Yona Wallach sparked uproar and prompted various discussions by researchers (and journalists). This article discusses two aspects that have not been considered in previous research. First, Tefillin was written as part of a play based on Jacob Horowitz’s book Sefer Or zaruʿa (Tel Aviv 1927). Second, the poem was inspired by a text about Shabbtai Tzvi. This view is complemented here by additional mystical sources. Tefillin”s literary context alters prior perception of Wallach’s poetry and image as a writer: instead of being uninfluenced by literary traditions, I show how Wallach in fact participates in a tradition of texts. The insights and text analysis presented here put forward a crucial research agenda, claiming that Hebrew literary criticism can benefit from a thorough knowledge of Kabbalah research. The absence of this attitude from current research limits the commentarial potential.

In: Zutot

Abstract

The Latin authors of ninth-century Umayyad Córdoba Eulogius, Albarus, and Samson are known for their opposition to acculturation, Arabic learning, and, in the case of Eulogius and Albarus, their defense of the martyrs’ movement of the 850s. One generation later, the first known Christian-Arabic theologian of Hispanic origin appears, Ḥafṣ b. Albar. His adoption of Islamized Arabic has traditionally represented an ideological break from the previous generation of Christian intellectuals in Córdoba. This article questions this discontinuity through analysis of Samson’s Apologeticus contra perfidos (864 CE) and Ḥafṣ’s extant work. The article argues that the Apologeticus engages kalām and proves relevant for its Islamic context. Further, the article argues that Ḥafṣ’s work continues the project laid out by Samson, though with a more polemical eye towards Islam.

In: Medieval Encounters

Abstract

This article seeks to shed light on attitudes towards Jews and Muslims in the Kingdom of Naples during the early fourteenth century by examining references to non-Christians in the quodlibets, disputed questions, and sermons of the Dominican theologian John of Naples (Giovanni Regina, d. ca. 1348). John’s patron, King Robert of Naples (r. 1309–1343) has traditionally been portrayed as a more tolerant monarch than his predecessor Charles II, and John’s views seem to accord well with Robert’s: he does not advocate conversion, but rather allows Jews and Muslims a limited place within Christian society. Treating topics as diverse as biblical exegesis, blasphemy, sorcery, slavery, mercenaries, and medical ethics, John’s writings on Jews and Muslims were inspired both by traditional scholastic questions and contemporary events. While his views on non-Christians are far from positive, John stops short of disseminating the more virulent polemics of his time.

In: Medieval Encounters

Abstract

In the south gallery of the cloister of the Cathedral of Santa María, Girona, we find one capital that is differentiated from the rest because of its formal as well as its iconographic characteristics. The four faces of capital no. 4 contain two repeated and two alternating motifs: the archer on horseback and the lion attacking a bull. Both the dress of these horsemen and their physical traits identify them as Muslim horsemen. This identification creates an interpretive context for the capital as a whole that also conditions the reading of the conquering lion. Both images will be examined within their constructive context in the light of events and legends that surrounded the cathedral of Girona in the twelfth century. Moreover, we will trace the origin of these motifs that have their parallels in ivories of the art of the caliphal and taifa periods as well as in Catalan Romanesque and Sicilian-Norman art. This overview will enable us to interpret the meaning and significance of the capital in its historical-artistic context and enrich our knowledge of the artistic transfers between Andalusian and Romanesque art.

In: Medieval Encounters

Abstract

The Indiculus Luminosus has been discussed for its polemical depiction of Muḥammad, its author’s lament over the loss of Latinity in Umayyad Córdoba, or its relation to the so-called Córdoban Martyrs of the 850s. None of these, however, comprehends the purpose of the work as a whole. A layman, Paulus Alvarus, wrote the Indiculus in 854 CE to galvanize the Córdoban Christian elites to oppose Islam through public preaching and affirmation of their Christian identity without compromise. Asserting prophetic authority and appropriating ecclesiastical modes of discourse to engage and influence the elites of an early medieval society, Alvarus’s Indiculus provides a crucial, if idiosyncratic, witness to a time of profound cultural and religious change.

In: Medieval Encounters