Current Issue Article Abstracts

Summer 2020, Vol. 110.3

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The Death of Beruriah and Its Afterlife A Reevaluation of the Provenance and Significance of Ma‘aseh de-Beruriah
Moshe Simon-Shoshan

This essay challenges previous scholarship regarding the provenance and meaning of the story of Beruriah’s downfall and death first attested in Rashi’s Talmud commentary. I argue that, contrary to the recent scholarly consensus, there is good reason to believe that Rashi drew on a much earlier tradition and that his account represents the only attested explanation for the Bavli’s reference to ma‘aseh de-Beruriah. I further present a new reading of the story, viewing it not as a polemic but as a complex narrative that exposes the rabbis’ own anxieties regarding women and their place within halakhic discourse and practice. 


Abraham in Wonderland: On Judeisapta and Imaginary Jewish Sovereignty in the Fourteenth-Century Austrian Chronicle (Österreichische Chronik von den 95 Herrschaften)
William C. McDonald

The late fourteenth-century Austrian Chronicle (Österreichische Chronik von den 95 Herrschaften), a prose work composed anonymously in Habsburg Vienna, contains a fabulistic history of Austria and its rulers––including a description of heraldic devices. According to the Chronicle, the first geographical designation for Austria was Judeisapta (lit: appropriate for Jews), a land named by a Jew but devoid of Jews. The initial settler, Abraham, was a pagan who, some eight centuries after the deluge, left Terra Ammiracionis (Wonderland) for Judeisapta. Later, Jewish rulers of Austria, under darkly articulated circumstances, converted from idol worship and then reverted to paganism in pre-Christian times. In conformity with the Augustinian scheme of the Ages of the World, Jewish sovereignty in the Chronicle is portrayed as evanescent and transitory, worthy of attention only as a preparatory stage for the Christian ascendancy. An important theme is the conversion of Austrian Jews, whose fictitious history betrays a fragile conception of religious affiliation.


“The Wedding Canopy Is Constituted by the Being of These Sefirot”: Illustrations of the Kabbalistic Huppah and Their Derivatives
Uri Safrai and Eliezer Baumgarten

From as early as the thirteenth century, the visual dimension of Jewish esotericism was manifest in various representations of the kabbalistic ilan (tree of life)—a diagram of the sefirot (emanations). Among the many kinds of the kabbalistic diagrams, this essay focuses on the early modern kabbalistic image of the huppah, the wedding canopy suspended over the bride and groom in a traditional Jewish wedding. These images represent the sefirotic structure as a ceremony, with bride, groom, and elements of the huppah as its dynamic components. 

In this essay, we discuss three pictorial traditions of the kabbalistic huppah that were produced throughout the sixteenth century. Given the similarities among them, it is evident that all of the diagrams are part of the same kabbalistic tradition was circulating during this period. That said, the drawings are not identical and, most importantly, appear in different contexts. We will thus analyze the divergent phases of the huppah’s representation in this tradition. At each stage, the canopy was endowed with special meaning that was influenced by the greater context in which it was produced and its relation to corresponding figures.


The Horizon Blossoms and the Borders Vanish: Peretz Markish's Poetry and Anarchist Diasporism
Anna Elena Torres

Hours before his arrest at Stalin's order on January 27, 1949, the Soviet Yiddish poet Peretz Markish gave his wife Esther Markish several manuscripts. Among these was Der fertsikyeriker man (The Man of Forty), a virtuosic and densely enigmatic eighty-page poem. Divided into two books, the poem moves from Expressionist scenes of war and revolution to visions of borderless space, radical temporality, and erotic liberation. Its regular amphibrachic tetrameter stabilizes Markish's extravagant metaphors and abstractions within a tightly-corseted form. As he handed her the documents, Markish told his wife: "[The Man of Forty] is the best thing I've ever done. I want you to take special care of it."


The Husserl-Heidegger Relationship in the Jewish Imagination
Daniel M. Herskowitz

This essay examines ways in which the troubled personal and philosophical relationship between the philosophers Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger was imagined, retold, and deployed in Jewish contexts. Focusing on the typological structures animating its reception, it argues that different narratives and ideological commitments concerning Judaism and Jewishness are absorbed in retellings of the Husserl-Heidegger episode. As such, these retellings offer a portal into major concerns in twentieth-century European Jewish thought and existence.

This essay considers the ways in which German Jews negotiated the new experiences of time and space during their vacations in the Third Reich. We argue that their reflections on vacations facilitated a rich discourse on the essence of Jewish bourgeois identity at a time of fundamental transitions. Our analysis utilizes three types of sources that encompass a variety of perspectives and sensibilities: personal diaries of Jewish vacationers, photo albums of Jewish families on vacations, and writings on vacations in Jewish newspapers. Following insights from the sociology of time, the article examines how reflections on vacations participated in the formation of the Jewish “lived time” under Nazism. Within this framework, our analysis indicates the dual function of vacation: as a realm of (bourgeois) normality, which underscores continuity, on the one hand; and, on the other hand, as a break with the normal flow of time, an ephemeral shelter from the experience of crisis. Consequently, the essay illuminates the roles that vacations played in the transformation of the spatial identity of German Jews. The steadily narrowing choice of vacation resorts accessible to them instigated various reactions among German Jews. In their reflections on the places of vacations, some conceived taking a vacation as an act of defiance, underscoring continuity in middle-class experiences, whereas others depicted the new spatial experiences as an opportunity to rethink Jewish identity.


Jewish Lullism around the Expulsion: A Spanish-Catalan Fragment in Hebrew Characters from Ramon Llull’s Introductorium Magnae Artis Generalis
Ilil Baum

This essay demonstrates that the work of the Catalan philosopher Ramon Llull was read by Sephardic Jews around the time of their expulsion from Spain and contextualizes Jewish Lullism in terms of sociocultural identity. I identify a curious Hebrew fragment of seventeen philosophical definitions as having been extracted from Llull’s centum formae (hundred forms) in his Introductorium magnae artis generalis. It is written in a peculiar Catalanized Castilian in Hebrew script that seems to indicate the existence of a lost Catalan version of the work. I situate the copying and especially its readership as coming from the milieu of Sephardic Jewish physicians in Italy, probably shortly after the expulsion. Llull’s readership among these physicians reveals that his method was perceived as relevant for the trained Jewish physician and for the study of scholastic logic, both prior to and after the expulsion, reflecting the high degree of Jewish absorption and adoption of the Christian cultural trendsof late fifteenth-century Spain, particularly Catalonia. An appendix offers a critical edition of the fragment with contrastive comments to known Latin manuscripts. 


Reviving a “Juniper in the Desert” A Hebrew Exchange between Mordecai Kaplan and His Daughter Hadassah, 1932–1933
Sharon Ann Musher

In August 1932, when nineteen-year-old Hadassah Kaplan learned that she would no longer be able to teach in the New York public school where she had been a substitute teacher, she decided, instead, to travel to Mandatory Palestine. Her parents, including the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism, Mordecai Kaplan, agreed that she should spend the year studying Hebrew and exploring Palestine’s capacity to revitalize Judaism as a civilization. Within her first month abroad, Hadassah began corresponding with her father in Hebrew. This note includes an exchange of Hebrew letters between Mordecai and Hadassah in which he articulated his loneliness as he sought to revitalize Judaism in the United States. He asked Hadassah if “a man like me [should] settle in the Land of Israel?” She shared her father’s question with two of his friends, the Hadassah founder Henrietta Szold and the Zionist educator Jessie Sampter, who  expressed reservations about Kaplan migrating. But Hadassah liked the idea. She argued that this was a place where he could pursue his own happiness, having already done enough for the “spiritual state” of the Jewish people. The discussion between father and daughter offers insight into their reflections on what role the Hebrew language and the Land of Israel should play in their personal lives as well as for the Jewish people more generally. Within the year, Hadassah returned to New York where she and her father lived most of their lives. Nevertheless, each remained committed to Hebrew and Zionism, with Mordecai briefly settling in Israel after retiring in the mid-1970s. 

Critical Edition of a Fragment of Ramon Llull's Centum Formae in the Introductorium Magnae Artis Generalis
Ilil Baum

This appendix accompanies the essay by Ilil Baum, "Jewish Lullism around the Expulsion A Spanish-Catalan Fragment in Hebrew Characters from Ramon Llull's Introductorium Magnae Artis Generalis," JQR 110.3 (2020): 553–573.

The following critical edition presents a late fifteenth- or early sixteenth-century fragment from the Vatican Library (MS Vat. ebr. 375, ff. 50r–51r), written in Catalanized Castilian in Hebrew script. It contains seventeen philosophical definitions that I identify as part of Ramon Llull's lists of centum formae(hundred forms) in his Introductorium magnae artis generalis (Introduction to the great general art; also known as Liber de universalibus, The book of universals). The edition is meant to make this material accessible to researchers interested in the study of Jewish-Christian intellectual relations in the Iberian Peninsula, particularly with regard to the reception of the work of Ramon Llull. It includes a reproduction of the Hebrew text, a transcription and critical edition with comparison to the known Latin manuscripts in the footnotes, and an English translation.