Accounting for the Self: Preliminary Generic-Historical Reflections on Early Modern Jewish Egodocuments [Access article in PDF] Subject Headings:
Autobiography -- Jewish authors.
"Accounting for the Self" is a first attempt to discuss the ways in which Jews wrote about themselves before the modern period, i.e., before the influence of Rousseau gave rise to modern autobiographical writing among Jews. What did late medieval and early modern Jews think they were doing when they wrote about themselves? What generic forms were at their disposal and how did these forms lend themselves to different sorts of self-expression? As the terms "autobiography" or even "diary" were not yet in use, by what emic terms did pre-modern Jews refer to the egodocuments that they produced? One particular form of documentation, the pinkas or ledger-book used by individuals to track their personal finances and to enter memoranda seems also to have been deployed for what might be termed "religious self-chronicling" with increasing frequency in the early modern period, indicating perhaps a new attention to the significance and disciplining of the religious life of individuals.
History, Literature, Early Modern, autobiography, egodocuments, diaries, memoirs, Joseph Karo, Elazar Azikri, Hayyim Vital, tzava'ah, ethical will, pinkas/pinqas, kuntres, Samuel Falk
This article provides an overall survey of the state of the study of Jewish autobiography as a field, and, more generally, of the methodological challenges of this topic. The focus of the article is largely upon autobiographies written in Hebrew, though there is included a brief discussion of the specific dynamics of Yiddish biography. The first section of the essay provides a brief summary of the most significant and controversial points of debate in the study of autobiography per se. Building upon the work of several influential commentators, the next section of the essay advances the thesis that autobiography as we know it derives from Rousseau. There then follows a survey of the emergence of Rousseau-style Jewish autobiography in Eastern Europe, the chronology and extent of this phenomenon. The final section presents and summarizes, with extensive critical commentary, of the critical discourse, especially that written in and of Hebrew autobiography, in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
Scholarship as Moral Vision: David Flusser on Jesus, Paul, and the Birth of Christianity [Access article in PDF] Subject Headings:
Flusser, David, 1917-
Christianity -- Origin.
Paul, the Apostle, Saint.
David Flusser, the late Israeli scholar of the New Testament and early Judaism, wrote extensively on the figure of Jesus. He insisted that Jesus be understood entirely within the framework of first-century Palestinian Judaism. For Flusser, Jesus was not a critic of Judaism, not even a reformer, but the embodiment of what Flusser calls the moral essence of ancient Judaism. Against those who have seen in Jesus an illiterate am ha-arets, Flusser argued that Jesus was a Pharisee of sorts and that his teachings show traces of influence from the community at Qumran. By the same token, the gospels, and virtually all of later Christianity, get Jesus wrong, most notably the gospel of Matthew in the final stages of its redaction. Overall, Flusser sees in Jesus a moral exemplar for the modern world, for Jews as well as Christians. In his earlier writings, Flusser contrasted the figures of Jesus (seen in a thoroughly positive light), and Paul (more negatively). But in his later writings on Paul, Flusser moved toward a break with the traditional view of Paul as one who repudiated the Law, not just for Gentiles but also for Jews. Flusser was among the first to understand that Paul's arguments about the Law are addressed to an internal audience of Jesus-followers; his view that the Law was no longer valid applied only to Gentiles, never to Jews. This insight brought him to the brink of a total departure from traditional views of Paul as the father of Christian anti-Judaism.
Jesus, Paul, Gospels, Matthew, Law, Josephus, AmHa-aretz, New Testament, Christianity, Qumran, Shlomo Pines, David Flusser, Hillel, Gentiles, Mennonites
Beginning with the author's encounter with Gershom Scholem's "From Berlin to Jerusalem" as a graduate student, this essay compares the autobiographical writings of Scholem and Isaiah Berlin, particularly from the perspective of the portrayal of pivotal figures in the lives of each: S. Y. Agnon in the case of Scholem, and Lewis Namier in the case of Berlin. The essay also compares the errors of biographers with the lies of autobiographers, expressing a preference for the latter.
Jewish Autobiography, Gershom Scholem, S. Y. Agnon, Isaiah Berlin, Lewis Namier, Zionism
Kotik, Yekhezkel, 1847-1921. Journey to a nineteenth-century shtetl: the memoirs of Yekhezkel Kotik.
Assaf, David, ed.
Kotik, Yekhezkel, 1847-1921.
Journey to a Nineteenth-Century Shtetl: The Memoirs of Yekhezkel Kotik. Edited with an Introduction and Notes by David Assaf. Translated from the Yiddish by Margaret Birstein and edited by Sharon Makover-Assaf.
Biale, David, 1949-, ed. Cultures of the Jews: a new history.
Jews -- History.
Satlow, Michael L.
A History of the Jews or Judaism? On Seth Schwartz's Imperialism and Jewish Society, 200 B.C.E. to 640 C.E. [Access article in PDF] Subject Headings:
Schwartz, Seth. Imperialism and Jewish society: 200 B.C.E. to 640 C.E.
Jews -- History -- 168 B.C.-135 A.D.
Harris, Robert A.
The Rashbam Authorship Controversy Redux: On Sara Japhet's The Commentary of Rabbi Samuel Ben Meir (Rashbam) on the Book of Job (Hebrew) [Access article in PDF] Subject Headings:
Japhet, Sara. Commentary of Rabbi Samuel Ben Meir (Rashbam) on the Book of Job.
Samuel ben Meir, 11th/12th cent. Perush le-Sefer Iyov.
Idel, Moshe, 1947-
Some Forlorn Writings of a Forgotten Ashkenazi Prophet: R. Nehemiah ben Shlomo ha-Navi' [Access article in PDF] Subject Headings:
Nehemiah ben Shlomo, ha-Navi, fl. 13th cent.
Ashkenazim -- History -- Sources.
Scholarship of the thirteenth century Hasidei Ashkenaz as represented by the studies of Joseph Dan, has assumed the existence of two main schools (one related to the Kalomynus family, the other named the circle of the Unique Cherub), and a variety of different treatises written by anonymous authors. More recently Yehuda Liebes proposed to identify an additional circle related to an anonymous commentary on the seventy names of Metatron. The present study proposes to identify those and additional anonymous treatises as written by a certain Rabbi Nehemiah ben Shlomo the prophet, an early thirteenth century figures. Among those short writings the most important one are the so-called Sefer ha-Navon, a commentary on the Seventy Names of Metatron, and a commentary on Ezekiel's account of the chariot. Most of these writings are extant in few manuscripts, while the commentary on the seventy names of Metatron is found in several versions and has already been printed.
Rabbi Nehemiah' thought and style differ from the main schools, both because of the emphasis on the status of Metatron, and by the special interpretations given to the most anthropomorphic parts of the ancient Jewish literature. This author was less interested in Sefer Yetzirah, in philosophy or in magic than his Ashkenazi contemporaries. The impact of these writings are evident in the second part of the 13th century, in the fragments of Rabbi Moshe Azriel ben Eleazar ha-Darshan and in some texts of Abraham Abulafia's.