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“A Fall of Snow Maintains the Warmth of the Earth”

Léon Brunschvicg in the Eyes of Emmanuel Levinas and the Search for Universalism in Judaism

Hanoch Ben-Pazi

Abstract

This essay attempts to shed light upon the European Jewish partnership in the second half of the twentieth century, through an analysis of the persona of the philosopher Léon Brunschvicg, one of the major teachers of Emmanuel Levinas. Beyond the inherent interest in his intellectual stature and prominence as a philosopher, our study will reveal an additional aspect of the French-Jewish partnership at the turn of the century, and will reconsider the import of assimilation—as an enabler of Jewish involvement in Western civilization. The moral and intellectual appreciation that Emmanuel Levinas had for his teacher, Léon Brunschvicg, motivated him to call for a return to Jewish cultural discourse, and to honor the role models whose Judaism found expression not through their national or religious commitments, but rather through their universal concerns.

Amir Mashiach

Abstract

R. Ẓvi Yehudah ha-Kohen Kook (RẒiYah, 1891–1982), the head of the yeshivah at “Merkaz ha-Rav” in Jerusalem, was one of the most prominent religious Zionist leaders of the twentieth century. He was also the son of R. Abraham Isaac ha-Kohen Kook, a relationship that had a decisive impact on his thought and work throughout his life. The purpose of the present study is to shed light on RẒiYah’s attitude toward work. Did he see work as a basic human obligation spelled out by the physical need for survival? Did he associate an ideological value with work, as part of a worldview integrating religious values with extra-religious ones, similar to socialism? Or did he see work as a religious value, one that stemmed from his theology?

Einat Davidi

Abstract

This article identifies a set of plays written in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by ‘new Jews’ in the Western Sephardi Diaspora, as autos sacramentales. It discusses essential characteristics of this genre, such as the dual—theomachic and psychomachic—level, the triangle constellation of allegorical characters with human nature in its center and the representatives of good and evil on both sides, and the parallelism created in the play between the cosmic story, the story of humanity, and the story of the individual human soul. It is argued that these characteristics are to be found in plays written by Jews in the Early Modern Era. The article maintains that the appearance of this corpus of plays in the history of Jewish writing indicates that an underlying structure of the psychic and historical consciousness of Western culture had not skipped the Jewish cultural world.

Batsheva Ben-Amos

Abstract

Chaim Kaplan (1880–1942), principal and owner of a private elementary Hebrew school in Warsaw, wrote a personal diary from 1933 to 1942. So far, only the WWII years have drawn scholarly attention. However, the interpretation of the diary also requires reading his available unpublished entries. An internal dialogical structure dominates his diary where he engages “the other” that interacts with his own inner voice. His pre-war identity is constructed of different and contradicting facets of Zionist ideology, traditional Jewish value system and way of life, and Polish citizenship. When the war broke out, the diary’s range of voices decreased with Kaplan’s position. His rhetoric displays a clear split between “we” and “them” following the ‘dichotomy’ of congregation and segregation. He expresses a greater empathy toward the Jewish “other” as a fellow sufferer, yet his concern with representing truth remains. To maintain this duality, Kaplan developed a literary ‘alter ego.’

Meir Seidler

Abstract

This article focuses on one of the central issues in Moses Maimonides’ Jewish philosophy: the quest for the rationale of the commandments. Maimonides regards this quest as religiously obligatory. However, on two occasions he points to diverging scriptural evidence to underline his claim. By juxtaposing the two different scriptural proofs adduced by Maimonides, his use of hermeneutics in the service of philosophy is exposed in the inner precincts of Judaism: in regard to Judaism’s particularistic law. In terms of spiritual leadership, Maimonides’ dual scriptural approach enables him to bring his philosophical message home to different audiences.

David Rothstein

Abstract

Second Temple, rabbinic, and Samaritan sources preserve a variety of interpretations and (re)formulations of Leviticus 21:9. The pivotal issue informing the various approaches to this verse is the identity of the person “profaned” by the conduct of the priest’s daughter; specifically, is it the daughter, herself, or her father who is (directly) affected? The present essay examines various rabbinic and Samaritan interpretations of this verse, noting the exegetical (i.e., morphological and syntactic) similarities and differences obtaining among these positions. Especial attention is devoted to the formulation of Targum Onqelos, for which two explanations are proposed, and the similar exegetical features reflected in Samaritan renderings of this passage. It is demonstrated that, like Targum Onqelos and additional rabbinic/Jewish targumic sources, Samaritan sources indicate that some Samaritan students of Leviticus understood Lev 21:9 to mean that it is the daughter, herself, who is profaned by her conduct.

Alexander van der Haven

Abstract

A record from 1 November 1655 of a donation to a certain Sarah from Poland is probably the first documented historical appearance of Sarah the Ashkenazi, future wife of messiah Shabbetai Tzevi. Individually recorded donations by the Sephardic community to Polish refugees were quite unusual in these years, but, according to later biographical sources, the future messianic bride Sarah displayed a great talent for persuading others, and this explains why Amsterdam’s Portuguese Mahamad would give her money. Arriving as a Polish refugee around the time of this record, Sarah the Ashkenazi told a fantastic autobiographical tale that made her stand out among the other refugees and forged a bond of kinship with an earlier refugee. Moreover, she might have claimed clairvoyant abilities.

Anna E. de Wilde

Abstract

As a first step towards more research in the field of Jewish private libraries and Hebrew auction catalogues, this zuta focuses on the understudied corpus of 18th-century Hebrew book sales catalogues printed in the Dutch Republic. It is not always clear if these 18th-century catalogues contain collections from private libraries or retail stocks of publishers, printers, or booksellers. In this article I will analyse and compare the title pages of several catalogues, in order to understand the meaning of the phrase ʿal yede in relation to ownership of the catalogued collections.

Zvi Ron

Abstract

This article traces the origin and development of the by now ubiquitous Ashkenazic custom for the bride to circle the groom under the chuppa. The custom began as circling three times, and various reasons were given for this particular practice. Due to kabbalistic influence, the custom shifted from three circuits to seven, the common custom today. The reasons given also changed over time, reflecting changing attitudes to the symbolism of the wedding ceremony.