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"Yetzer Hara" and the Problem of Evil in Late Antiquity
In Demonic Desires, Ishay Rosen-Zvi examines the concept of yetzer hara, or evil inclination, and its evolution in biblical and rabbinic literature. Contrary to existing scholarship, which reads the term under the rubric of destructive sexual desire, Rosen-Zvi contends that in late antiquity the yetzer represents a general tendency toward evil. Rather than the lower bodily part of a human, the rabbinic yetzer is a wicked, sophisticated inciter, attempting to snare humans to sin. The rabbinic yetzer should therefore not be read in the tradition of the Hellenistic quest for control over the lower parts of the psyche, writes Rosen-Zvi, but rather in the tradition of ancient Jewish and Christian demonology.
Rosen-Zvi conducts a systematic and comprehensive analysis of the some one hundred and fifty appearances of the evil yetzer in classical rabbinic literature to explore the biblical and postbiblical search for the sources of human sinfulness. By examining the yetzer within a specific demonological tradition, Demonic Desires places the yetzer discourse in the larger context of a move toward psychologization in late antiquity, in which evil—and even demons—became internalized within the human psyche. The book discusses various manifestations of this move in patristic and monastic material, from Clement and Origin to Antony, Athanasius, and Evagrius. It concludes with a consideration of the broader implications of the yetzer discourse in rabbinic anthropology.
From Soul Talks to Talk Radio in Israeli Culture
The vision of communication as authentic dialogue, as the mutual communion of souls, has animated a great many twentieth century discussions of language and communication, both in scholarly writings and in various forms and contexts of popular culture. In its various manifestations, this communicative utopia has identified dialogue or conversation as a locus of authenticity of both individuals and groups. This study traces the ways in which this utopian vision of communication has played itself out in the particular context of Israeli society through the twentieth century, encapsulating central trends in the evolving Israeli cultural conversation over the years. In this sense, it is a historically-situated study of the cultural fluctuations of a given society in all its particularity. In another sense, however, it seeks to offer a more general statement about the culturally constructed nature of the quest for authenticity as a project of modernity by focusing on conceptions of communication and language as its quintessential loci.” —From the Introduction by Tamar Katriel
Varieties of Jewish Identity
Diaspora, considered as a context for insights into Jewish identity, brings together a lively, interdisciplinary group of scholars in this innovative volume. Readers needn't expect, however, to find easy agreement on what those insights are. The concept "diaspora" itself has proved controversial; galut, the traditional Hebrew expression for the Jews' perennial condition, is better translated as "exile." The very distinction between diaspora and exile, although difficult to analyze, is important enough to form the basis of several essays in this fine collection.
"Identity" is an even more elusive concept. The contributors to Diasporas and Exiles explore Jewish identity—or, more accurately, Jewish identities—from the mutually illuminating perspectives of anthropology, art history, comparative literature, cultural studies, German history, philosophy, political theory, and sociology. These contributors bring exciting new emphases to Jewish and cultural studies, as well as the emerging field of diaspora studies. Diasporas and Exiles mirrors the richness of experience and the attendant virtual impossibility of definition that constitute the challenge of understanding Jewish identity.
Jewish Constructions of Race During the Long Eighteenth Century
European Jews, argues Iris Idelson-Shein, occupied a particular place in the development of modern racial discourse during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Simultaneously inhabitants and outsiders in Europe, considered both foreign and familiar, Jews adopted a complex perspective on otherness and race. Often themselves the objects of anthropological scrutiny, they internalized, adapted, and revised the emerging discourse of racial difference to meet their own ends.
Difference of a Different Kind explores Jewish perceptions and representations of otherness during the formative period in the history of racial thought. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including philosophical and scientific works, halakhic literature, and folktales, Idelson-Shein unfolds the myriad ways in which eighteenth-century Jews imagined the "exotic Other" and how the evolving discourse of racial difference played into the construction of their own identities. Difference of a Different Kind offers an invaluable view into the ways new religious, cultural, and racial identities were imagined and formed at the outset of modernity.
Exploring the subject of Jewish philosophy as a controversial construction site of the project of modernity, this book examines the implications of the different and often conflicting notions that drive the debate on the question of what Jewish philosophy is or could be. The idea of Jewish philosophy begs the question of philosophy as such. But "Jewish philosophy" does not just reflect what "philosophy" lacks. Rather, it challenges the project of philosophy itself. Examining the thought of Spinoza, Moses Mendelssohn, Heinrich Heine, Hermann Cohen Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, Margarete Susman, Hermann Levin Goldschmidt, and others, the book highlights how the most philosophic moments of their works are those in which specific concerns of their "Jewish questions" inform the rethinking of philosophy's disciplinarity in principal terms. The long overdue recognition of the modernity that informs the critical trajectories of Jewish philosophers from Spinoza and Mendelssohn to the present emancipates not just "Jewish philosophy" from an infelicitous pigeonhole these philosophers so pointedly sought to reject but, more important, emancipates philosophy from its false claims to universalism.
the Bible's many voices
In this fascinating book, Knohl shares his understanding of how the Torah was edited into its final form. He bridges the gap between ancient Israel (c.1400-586 B.C.E.) and Second Temple times (c.536 B.C.E.-70 C.E.) by showing the continuity between these eras and the gradual evolution of the biblical worldview, which formed the foundation of later rabbinic Judaism. The book focuses on the editing of the Torah, interpreting the textual evidence, most notably contradictions and redundancies, to show that the idea of a pluralistic understanding of Revelation can be traced back to the editing of the Torah itself. Knohl's interpretation of biblical composition challenges a popular trend in contemporary biblical scholarship: the idea that ancient Israel never existed as a historical reality, but was invented and "retrojected" back in time by later Israelite priests as part of their national myth.
Jewish Identity, the Soviet Intelligentsia, and the Russian Orthodox Church
Doubly Chosen provides the first detailed study of a unique cultural and religious phenomenon in post-Stalinist Russia—the conversion of thousands of Russian Jewish intellectuals to Orthodox Christianity, first in the 1960s and later in the 1980s. These time periods correspond to the decades before and after the great exodus of Jews from the Soviet Union. Judith Deutsch Kornblatt contends that the choice of baptism into the Church was an act of moral courage in the face of Soviet persecution, motivated by solidarity with the values espoused by Russian Christian dissidents and intellectuals. Oddly, as Kornblatt shows, these converts to Russian Orthodoxy began to experience their Jewishness in a new and positive way.
Working primarily from oral interviews conducted in Russia, Israel, and the United States, Kornblatt underscores the conditions of Soviet life that spurred these conversions: the virtual elimination of Judaism as a viable, widely practiced religion; the transformation of Jews from a religious community to an ethnic one; a longing for spiritual values; the role of the Russian Orthodox Church as a symbol of Russian national culture; and the forging of a new Jewish identity within the context of the Soviet dissident movement.
Crypto-Jewish Martyrdom in the Iberian World
Miriam Bodian's study of crypto-Jewish martyrdom in Iberian lands depicts a new type of martyr that emerged in the late 16th century -- a defiant, educated judaizing martyr who engaged in disputes with inquisitors. By examining closely the Inquisition dossiers of four men who were tried in the Iberian peninsula or Spanish America and who developed judaizing theologies that drew from currents of Reformation thinking that emphasized the authority of Scripture and the religious autonomy of individual interpreters of Scripture, Miriam Bodian reveals unexpected connections between Reformation thought and historic crypto-Judaism. The complex personalities of the martyrs, acting in response to psychic and situational pressures, emerge vividly from this absorbing book.
Jewish, Literary, and Moral Perspectives
Nobel Peace Prize recipient Elie Wiesel, best known for his writings on the Holocaust, is also the accomplished author of novels, essays, tales, and plays as well as portraits of seminal figures in Jewish life and experience. In this volume, leading scholars in the fields of Biblical, Rabbinic, Hasidic, Holocaust, and literary studies offer fascinating and innovative analyses of Wiesel's texts as well as illuminating commentaries on his considerable influence as a teacher and as a moral voice for human rights. By exploring the varied aspects of Wiesel's multifaceted career—his texts on the Bible, the Talmud, and Hasidism as well as his literary works, his teaching, and his testimony—this thought-provoking volume adds depth to our understanding of the impact of this important man of letters and towering international figure.