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160 SHOFAR Summer 1996 Vol. 14, No.4 Bibliography (Jerusalem: Tamir Publishers). The editors of the 1995 anthology wisely chose lucid selective information for their articulate introduction. The short glossary of recurrent terms from Jewish life (pp. 427-432) may be useful for the student, offering assistance to the reader who is not rooted in Judaism (it includes, for example, "challah," "Eretz Yisrael," "Hanukkah," "mitzva," "Passover," "Purim," "Torah," and lessknown terms). In the notes (pp. 410-426) to particular references in the individual story the reader will find allusions and other clarifying remarks. The stories are organized in categories of six sections: The Signature Story, Tales of Childhood, The Artist in the Land of Israel, The Ancestral World: The Epic Life ofOne Town, Stories ofGermany, and The Search for Meaning. The general introduction (pp. 3-29) provides background for each category and connections between Agnon's literary work, the Jewish historical events of his time, and his biography. In addition to this general introduction, there is an introduction to each one of the six categories, which is designed to help the student focus on important elements in the stories and are not intended to replace close detailed interpretation of the text. The editors, Alan Mintz, a professor of modern Hebrew literature, and Anne Golomb Hoffman, a professor of English and comparative literature, both continue the praiseworthy tradition of this country to produce scholars with great passion for and deep understanding of Hebrew language and literature. In· conclusion, I will quote Robert Alter (in his book cover endorsement), another fruit of this land, a scholar of modern Hebrew literature who has made remarkable contributions to it: "S. Y. Agnon is the single modern master of Hebrew fiction, and this new collection gives American readers a nice sampling of the originality and complexity of his work." Lev Hakak Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures University ofCalifornia, los Angeles Literary Studies in the Hebrew Bible-Form and Content: Collected Studies, by Shemaryahu Talmon. Jerusalem: Magnes Press; Leiden: Brill, 1993. 317 pp. Ten of Shemaryahu Talmon's erudite and wide-ranging essays, most of them supplemented and reworked since their original publication, are Book Reviews 161 conveniently' collected in this volume. As promised in the subtitle, many deal in substantive ways with the interrelationship of form and content. Not as perspicuous, given its ambiguity in current biblical scholarship, is the title's first word. Talmon's purpose is not that of the literary critic illuminating belles lettres. Rather, through careful attention to details of the text-nuances of words, structural devices, repetition of verbal formulae, and the like-he endeavors to resolve exegetical and historical perplexities of the sort that have long been the focus of biblical scholarship . A number of Talmon's studies address or touch upon the use of the comparative method to shed light on the meaning of biblical passages. While acknowledging the contribution of comparative studies to the placement of Israel within her cultural context and to the elucidation of rare Classical Hebrew words and expressions, Talmon finds fault with undisciplined use of the method. He lays out his theoretical stance in "The Comparative Method in Biblical Interpretation: Principles and Problems." The biblical context, and inner-biblical parallels, must take precedence over external comparisons, the latter being restricted to cultures that are within the same"historic stream" as ancient Israel. One must understand the function of an element within its own cultural system before making external comparisons, and contrasts as well as similarities must be considered. These rather noncontroversial principles are more challenging in the application than in the formulation. We may take as an example "The 'Navel of the Earth' and the Comparative Method," in which the author disputes the notion that r'X~ "3r" in Judges 9:37 and Ezekiel 38:12 means "the navel of the earth," an expression that implies, as some would have it, a mountain sanctuary in the center of the world, serving as a link between the divine realm and the terrestrial one. In this view, the two biblical passages refer respectively to the sanctuaries on Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Zion. In a more mundane view one should read "navel of the...


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