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Reading Talmudic Sources as Arguments: A New Interpretive Approach elucidates the unique characteristics of Talmudic discourse culture. Approaching Talmudic literature from a linguistic perspective, the book shows the extensive and hidden ways in which later rabbis used early formulations. Applying Quentin Skinner's interpretive question “What was the author doing in composing the text in this particular way?" to Talmudic literature reveals that Talmudic debate is not only about ideas, concepts and laws but also about the latter's connection to pre-existing formulations. These early traditions, rather than only being accepted or not, are used by later generations to build their own arguments. The book articulates the function of tradition at the time that Rabbinic Judaism was forged.
Toward a Social History of the Jewish Community in 16th-Century Rome
Author: Serena Di Nepi
Translator: Paul M. Rosenberg
With this English edition of Surviving the Ghetto, Serena Di Nepi traces the troubled and compelling history of the birth of the ghetto in sixteenth-century Rome. From the arrival of the Sephardim to the Italian wars, and the incredible story of an accusation of ritual homicide that was never made, the research sketches a picture of Jewish society, its institutions and its ruling class during the first fifty years of segregation. How did Jews react to the ghetto? Did their institutional organization change, and how? What was the impact of the restrictive laws regarding their professions and their working environment? What was the role of the rabbis in such a problematic moment? What became of Rome’s Jewish bankers? This book addresses these questions.
The Dialectics of Jewish History in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, Studies in Honor of Professor Israel Bartal
Editors: Paweł Maciejko and Scott Ury
This collection explores the different ways that intellectuals, scholars and institutions have sought to make history Jewish. While practitioners of Jewish history often assume that “the Jews” are a well-defined ethno-national unit with a distinct, continuous history, this volume questions assumptions that underlie and ultimately help construct Jewish history. Starting with a number of articles on the Jews of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Poland and Hungary, continuing with several studies of Jewish encounters with the advent of nationalism and antisemitism, and concluding with a set of essays on Jewish history and politics in twentieth-century eastern Europe, pre-state Palestine and North America, the volume discusses the different methodological, research and narrative strategies involved in transforming past events into part of the larger canon of Jewish history.

Abstract

This study examines the respective theological assumptions of two major forces in nineteenth-century Judaism—the Musar and the early Hasidic movements, and the way in which the budding concept of the unconscious illuminates both. Often translated as an ethical approach, the Musar movement originated from Lithuania and focused on Torah study as it deemed Talmud insufficient to create a deep, emotional attachment to Judaism; yet, despite their shared emphasis on emotions and their criticism of talmudic studies, the Musar movement was at odds with Hasidism, the mystical Jewish current that swept Eastern Europe from the eighteenth century onward. Through an examination of the biblical motif of the binding of Isaac, and the reaction of Abraham, this article will probe both movements’ analysis of the patriarch’s psychological make up. Such a comparison of their understanding of the pre-conscious psychic states will illustrate the nature of their theological opposition.

In: European Journal of Jewish Studies
In: European Journal of Jewish Studies
In The Cave 3 Copper Scroll: A Symbolic Journey, Jesper Høgenhavn presents a reading of the Copper Scroll as a literary text. For more than 60 years, scholars have debated whether or not the treasures recorded here reflect historical realities. This study argues that the dichotomy between “facts” and “fiction” is inadequate for a proper understanding of the Copper Scroll. The document was designed to convey specific images to its readers, thus staying true to the format of an instruction for retrieving hidden treasures. Yet, the evoked landscape is dense with symbolical associations, and the journey through it reflects deliberate narrative patterns. The scroll was written against the background of the social and political turmoil of Jewish Palestine in the 1st century CE, and reflects contemporary concerns and interests.
Author: Jonathan Garb

Abstract

Perhaps the key term in musar writing is yir’ah. In early modern musar texts, usually incorporating kabbalistic discourse, this term is rendered as ‘fear.’ A striking exception is R. Moshe Ḥayyim Luzzatto’s Mesillat Yesharim, arguably one of the canonical texts of Jewish modernity. A close reading of the chapters devoted to yir’ah reveals that Luzzatto frames this term as ‘awe,’ moving away from the discourse on punishment and hell typical of early modern musar. An examination of the psychology behind this move shows that Luzzatto associates fear with the lower instinct of self-preservation, calling for its sublimation into self-abnegation in awe of divine presence. Mesillat Yesharim then became foundational for similar moves in later Jewish modernity. Without wishing to venture into claims as to inter-religious influence and response, it is instructive to compare Luzzatto’s approach to that of his Christian contemporaries, the ‘fire and brimstone’ preachers of the Great Awakening.

In: European Journal of Jewish Studies
Author: Elke Morlok

Abstract

Isaac ben Moshe Halevi (Isaac Satanow, 1732–1804) serves as an interesting example of how Jewish intellectuals offered alternative ways of entering the new era. Unlike other authors, Satanow does not explicitly concentrate on secularization or assimilation in his writing, but instead intends to revive traditional values and writing by putting them into a new cultural and intellectual framework. Satanow combines relevant topics from Jewish tradition with scientific discoveries, philosophical reasoning, and kabbalistic thought. An analysis of Satanow’s unique combination of literary and intellectual corpora from various periods and backgrounds offers a more nuanced picture of European Jewish intellectual history and challenges the grand narratives of scholarship. Furthermore, an awareness of the deep impact of German philosophy and natural science on Satanow’s thought provides insight into his relationship with the majority culture and his Eastern European background and also shows how his concept of modernity seeped in via complex networks.

In: European Journal of Jewish Studies
In: The Cave 3 Copper Scroll: A Symbolic Journey
Studies on the Reception of Levi ben Gerson’s Philosophical, Halakhic and Scientific Oeuvre in the 14th through 20th Centuries. Officina Philosophica Hebraica Volume 2
Gersonides’ Afterlife is the first full-scale treatment of the reception of one of the greatest scientific minds of medieval Judaism: Gersonides (1288–1344). An outstanding representative of the Hebrew Jewish culture that then flourished in southern France, Gersonides wrote on mathematics, logic, astronomy, astrology, physical science, metaphysics and theology, and commented on almost the entire bible. His strong-minded attempt to integrate these different areas of study into a unitary system of thought was deeply rooted in the Aristotelian tradition and yet innovative in many respects, and thus elicited diverse and often impassionate reactions. For the first time, the twenty-one papers collected here describe Gersonides’ impact in all fields of his activity and the reactions from his contemporaries up to present-day religious Zionism.