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Abstract

The current article discusses the origins and formation of the Jewish custom of hanging ostrich eggs in the synagogue. This habit has been more common in specific countries such as Yemen, and in cities in the land of Israel, such as Safed, Meron, and Jerusalem. The initial reason given for hanging the eggs was that they might arouse one to concentrate on prayers, as like eggs, prayers are fruitful when accompanied by concentration and true intent. This explanation is based on the “miraculous power” of the ostrich’s sense of sight, capable of warming the eggs and causing them to hatch.

In: European Journal of Jewish Studies

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
In: The Cave 3 Copper Scroll: A Symbolic Journey