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Prooftexts93 My greatest caveat, and it is a serious one, is the strictly liturgical question of how tradition is appropriated in the ritual act of prayer. Granted that Falk has every right to provide new blessings with a novel fixed formula, it still does not follow that in practice, people will pray from The Book ofBlessings, and if they do not pray Falk's blessings, they will not own them. It may turn out that The Bookof Blessings is a Pyrrhic victory for the author, who has justified her every move beyond academic reproach, but whose blessings are still so unblessing-like in form that almost no one uses them. Her BookofBlessings will turn out to be a Book of Poems, perhaps, or a book of thought-producing anomalies—exactly what the author did not want and fought so hard to avoid. The publishers have not helped here, since as every prayer-book publisher knows, no one buys multiple copies of liturgies that come thickly packaged and dearly priced ($50, $70 in Canada). They have packaged it like a book of poetry, one poem on a page, not like a liturgical work where entire rubrics run together. People are likely to make multiple copies of one page or another, then insert them into standard services as alternative readings from the pulpit. In so doing, they will subvert the entire purpose of the author: to provide an alternative liturgy for people who want to own the past but cannot do so with what they perceive as alienating formulas resonant with hierarchy and filled with God imagery that they cannot fathom or even bear. That would be a shame. But only time will tell, and meanwhile, Falk's Book of Blessings stands out as a liturgical and literary masterpiece that should be bought, studied, prayed from, and assimilated into our communal consciousness. It is a culminating work of a gifted author who celebrates her generation of Jewish feminism, and does so splendidly. LAWRENCE A. HOFFMAN Department of Rabbinics Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, New York Science Fiction in the Age of Jewish Enlightenment Joseph Perl's Revealer of Secrets: The First Hebrew Novel, translated with an introduction and notes by Dov Taylor. Boulder, Colo.: Modern Hebrew Classics, Westview Press, 1997, lxxxv + 377 pp. Perhaps it was due to the then recent death of William S. Burroughs, but when I first read Rabbi Dov Taylor's extraordinary translation of Joseph Perl's Revealer ofSecrets, I was reminded throughout of a postmodern satire. Like works such as Naked Lunch and T7ie Wild Boys, Perl's novel—Megale temirin in the original—deals in conspiracies and conspiracy theories; in moments of great erudition mixed with almost pornographic episodes of low comedy. Like Burroughs in The Ticket That Exploded, Perl mixes rustic dialects with a comic collision of social and professional jargons. Like Nova Express, Revealer ofSecrets makes use of a bona-fide science-fiction subtext to set its plot in motion. For Perl, the sciencefiction premise involves a narrator who uses practical kabbalah to render himself invisible, thereby enabling him to rifle through desks and gather correspondence 94REVIEWS undetected, which in turn provides accréditement for the assemblage of letters that constitutes the narrative. More broadly, however, Perl presents through this device a conflict between competing notions of science—one of the Jewish tradition, the other of European modernity. At one end of the spectrum lie the Hasidim whom Perl satirizes; their science is the kabbalah and its offshoots of mystical speculation, through which the believer not only expected to receive insight into the workings of the physical world, but also sought to control, or supersede, natural phenomena. At the other extreme are the Maskilim, the adherents of Jewish Enlightenment, for whom Perl has written his parody, and who are, in the upside-down world of the narrative, the villains of the story. Their science is ours: the science of observable phenomenon , natural processes, and logical analysis. What distinguishes Enlightenment epistemology from our own, however, is the confidence that the Maskilim invested in science to disclose the workings ofwhat they assumed to be an orderly universe. In fact, their faith in the ability...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3311
Print ISSN
0272-9601
Pages
pp. 93-100
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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