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Hebrew Studies 39 (1998) 267 Reviews pression in their sennons. Some preachers, perhaps a significant number of them, considered the sennon an appropriate vehicle for presenting moral and philosophical ideas. Accordingly, no connection with any particular time or place was necessary in such sennons, and thus the preacher had no reason to discuss contemporary events. Other preachers, however, felt obligated to discuss contemporary issues, e.g., when their audiences were in need of solace and reassurance, and contemporary events were accordingly discussed in such sennons. Shaul Regev Bar-llan University Ramat-Gan 52900,Israel regevs@mail.biu.ac.iI HURBAN: RESPONSES TO CATASTROPHE IN HEBREW LITERATURE. By Alan Mintz. Pp. xiv + 283. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1996. Paper, $16.95. The reissue of Alan Mintz's superb Hurban: Responses to Catastrophe in Hebrew Literature is a welcome event in literary and Holocaust studies. Mintz's groundbreaking study of the representation and interpretation of catastrophe in the Hebrew literary tradition continues to illuminate and to challenge popular scholarly views on the Holocaust in literature and to force a rethinking of our reading of Hebrew literature. Ambitious both in scope and depth, Hurban places imaginative responses to the Holocaust on the continuum of responses to catastrophe in Hebrew literature and in the Jewish tradition, rather than looking at Holocaust literature in isolation and across cultures. This approach enables Mintz to develop a sense of how a particular culture interprets and absorbs (or fails to absorb) events that threaten its collective identity and continuity. Like other events, the Holocaust acquires meaning in particular interpretive communities. Central to Mintz's work is his concept of catastrophe, defined not as a measurement of pain, suffering, or death, but by the degree to which an event engenders a crisis of continuity for the culture. Thus, Mintz does not focus on the level of actual suffering, but the challenge posed by an event to the Jewish community'S sense of itself, its role in history, its connection to God and the covenant-in short, to the paradigms of meaning by which the Jewish community understands itself. Thus, Mintz asserts, "a destruc- Hebrew Studies 39 (1998) 268 Reviews tive event becomes a catastrophe when it convulses or vitiates shared assumptions about the destiny of the Jewish people in the world." Rather than focusing on tragedy as an expression of fascination with the death of Jews or Judaism, Hurban explores the work of Hebrew literature as a vehicle for the reconstruction of Jewish society in the aftermath of such catastrophes, a vehicle for what Mintz terms "creative survival." Under the rubric of literature fall not only poetry and fiction, but also prophecy, rabbinic exegesis, and liturgy. This literature seeks to represent, repair, and in other ways respond to catastrophe's "power to shatter existing paradigms of meaning," offering a means to reshape or reinstate the paradigm. To understand the movement of literary responses in this reconstructive project fully, Mintz analyzes a number of pertinent factors and strategies. He explores, for example, the implication of a writer's relationship to the event-a relationship of time, proximity, personal involvement-as well as the writer's relationship to the Hebrew literary tradition and the writer's own act of writing. In addition, he examines the role of literary strategies in negotiating meaning, such as the use of particular modes (metaphor, parable, or personification, for example) and the image (or absence) of the enemy. Beginning with a close reading of portions of the Book of Lamentations and Isaiah, Hurban studies the rhetoric of mourning and consolation in biblical prophecy. It then examines the midrash that interprets Lamentations against the backdrop of the fall of Jerusalem and the subsequent exile. Rabbinic interpretation of Lamentations looks to sacred texts to give meaning to the events of their own time and to provide hope and consolation . Although, as Mintz insightfully illustrates, Lamentations is not at all a book of consolation, the rabbis succeeded in reading it in such a way as to affirm a sense of justice and the continuity of the covenant. Embedded in rabbinic parables and in midrashim depicting victimization and martyrdom is the assurance of future redemption, linked to a view...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1681
Print ISSN
0146-4094
Pages
pp. 267-270
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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