Fall 2019, Vol. 109.4
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THE EVOLUTION OF RABBINIC law into a sophisticated and elaborate system took place during the first centuries of the Common Era in the shadow of Roman imperial power. The rabbis were clearly aware of Roman jurisdiction, as it shaped juridical practices and the legal atmosphere in the provinces and, like all other inhabitants of Roman provinces, they could not escape its control over their daily lives. But what role did this legal environment have in shaping the rabbis' own lawmaking? This question is essential for studying the development of early rabbinic law and is also pertinent to our understanding of the legal culture in the provinces of the Roman Empire as a whole.
THREE LATE THIRTEENTH-CENTURY Jewish sources describe the dramatic death on 22 Kislev 5025 (December 19, 1264) of a Christian convert to Judaism named Avraham ben Avraham avinu (Abraham son of our father Abraham) of Augsburg. The first of these sources is the Nuremberg Memorbuch, which was created by Isaac ben Samuel of Meiningen in 1296 to commemorate deceased community members. The Memorbuch states that Avraham of Augsburg "was disgusted by the gods of the nations," "hacked off the heads of idols"—presumably Christian devotional objects, such as crucifixes or statues of saints—"trusted in the Eternal One," and was tortured and "burned [at the stake by Christians] for the [sake of the] unity of God."
IN ONE OF HIS LETTERS sent from Safed to Kraców, Shlomo Shlomel Meinstral presents several episodes related to the life and works of the kabbalist Avraham ben Eliezer ha-Levi Berukhim (1515–93). A native of Dresnitz (Strážnice) in Moravia, Shlomo Shlomel immigrated to the Holy Land in 1602—thirty years after Yitsḥak Luria Ashkenazi (1534–72) had passed away and nine years after Avraham ha-Levi's death. From Safed, he sent several epistles to Eastern Europe, where three of them were compiled and published as Shivḥe ha-Ari. An additional document, to which scholars usually refer as Shlomel's fourth epistle, was not integrated into the hagiographical collections on Luria and his fellowship. While we only know of one version that survived in manuscript, it has nevertheless had a significant impact on Jewish communities over the last four centuries. Its popularity is due to the fact that different sections were included in several highly influential books of the early modern period, among them Naftali Hertz Bakhrakh's Emek ha-melekh (Amsterdam, 1648), the first comprehensive Lurianic work that appeared in print and one of the major sources for Lurianic teachings before the printing of Ets ḥayim in 1782; Tsevi Hirsh Kaidanover's musar classic Kav ha-yashar (Frankfurt, 1705–6), which was issued bilingually and therefore reached both a Hebrew and a Yiddish reading public; Zekharia Simner's charm book Sefer zekhirah ve-'inyane segulah (Hamburg, 1709); and the anonymous, allegedly Sabbatian musar work Ḥemdat yamim (Izmir, 1731–32).
THIS PAPER OFFERS a new perspective on the mystical writings generated by the "Ma'aminim" (the faithful). The Ma'aminim, a group commonly known by their derogatory Turkish name Dönme (turncoats),1 were descendants of Sephardic Jews who interpreted the conversion to Islam of their messiah—Shabbetai Tsevi—as a necessary step toward redemption, forming a secret community of converts in his wake. The Ma'aminim lived in Ottoman Salonica, one of the most important port cities of the Ottoman Empire, the largest center of Sephardic Jews, and home to various Muslim and Christian communities. The Ma'aminim were formally Muslim and part of Ottoman Islamic society, yet they maintained cryptic associations and practiced in secret a unique messianic religion. As a result of this secrecy, their intellectual, social, and spiritual world has long been terra incognita to outsiders.
ON MAY 16, 1925, the front page of The Light, Lahore's bimonthly magazine of the Ahmadiyya Society for the Propagation of Islam, proclaimed in bold uppercase letters: "GREAT GERMAN SCHOLAR WON." The ensuing article reported the conversion to Islam of Hugo Marcus (1880–1966), a "scion of a high German family, a Ph.D. of Berlin University, a scholar of distinction and author of good many books," whose articles revealed a "remarkable grasp of the inner beauty of the Message of Islam." There were several inaccuracies in the article's description of Marcus. He had, indeed, published prolifically in the fields of moral philosophy and aesthetics, and his writings on Islam had also been well received, garnering him the praise of Muhammad Iqbal, the spiritual father of the future Pakistani state. The "great scholar" touted in the headline, however, had received his Ph.D. not from Berlin but from the University of Bern. If the mistaken alma mater could be written off as a journalistic slipup, the aristocratic pedigree attributed to Marcus seemed somewhat more consciously contrived. The celebrated "scion of a high German family" was in fact the son of Jewish industrialists who had lost their fortunes in the wake of the First World War. Passing Jewishness off for aristocracy was a far stretch, even for a period as socially transformative as the Weimar era. At the time when his conversion was so proudly announced, Marcus was a forty-five-year-old bachelor living with his aged mother and supporting himself as a private tutor.
BEN-ZION DINABURG—later Dinur—began his Hebrew essay "The History of the Jews in the Land of Israel at the Time of the First Crusade" with the following words:
Our knowledge of the history of the Jews in Erets Yisra'el and their fate at the time of the conquest by the Crusader forces in the First Crusade is scant and extremely vague. Contemporary historians and chroniclers of that generation were all Western, therefore they most often spoke about the Gzerot Tatnu [the 1096 massacres], providing us with detailed information about the persecution of the [Jewish] communities in the Rhineland. […] But they did not touch on the situation of the communities in the East or their fate. […] Regrettably, until now the fragmented information and the little evidence regarding the Yishuv in Erets Yisra'el, which is scattered throughout the rich contemporary foreign literature, Western and Eastern, has not been collected. [End Page 631] My purpose is to try to illuminate in my paper a few points about the history of the Yishuv in this decisive period.
Dinur's essay, published in 1927, is the first study by a Zionist scholar wholly dedicated to the fate of the Jewish communities in Palestine at the time of the Crusades.
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Summer 2019, Vol. 109.3
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David N. Myers
THE TWO HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY of the founding programmatic statement of modern Jewish studies, Leopold Zunz's "Etwas uber die rabbinische Literatur" from 1818, is an invitation to reflect on the extraordinary growth and evolution of the field. It is hard not to be impressed by the scope of Zunz's manifesto or by his boldness in envisaging a new scholarly undertaking that would satisfy the high professional standards of Wissenschaft. With preternatural confidence, the young twenty-three-year-old Zunz drew a sweeping map of the field, imagining a vast range of disciplinary and thematic approaches to the study of Jewish literature, culture, and history in the postbiblical period.
The unstable political conditions of Zunz's day, punctuated by a rising tide of anti-Jewish expression and violence, and the absence of any enduring institutional framework to support Jewish studies, make his foresight all the more impressive. There is indeed something of the clairvoyant in the 1818 essay, and yet his prognosticating talents did abandon him in at least one regard. Zunz famously predicted that there would be fewer Hebrew books a century later than in his day. The rise of Zionism and the modern Hebrew movement guaranteed the failure of that prediction. The State of Israel would go on to develop the densest concentration of scholarly talent and institutional support in the world.
The rediscovery of medieval Jewish philosophy of religion as a model for a modern concept of Judaism was largely the work of several nineteenth-century scholars belonging to the movement for a Wissenschaft des Judentums, commencing in the 1820s in Germany. This study provides an account of the first critical-academic reception of Yehuda Halevi's twelfth-century work Sefer ha-Kuzari within the Wissenschaft movement between the years 1840 and 1865. In those years an interesting development can be observed. Contrary to the assumption that the reform-minded protagonists of the movement would neglect the antiphilosophical Kuzari in favor of Maimonides' rationalism in the Guide for the Perplexed, the essay finds that in the contemporary discussions of Halevi the opposite was the case. Beginning with the rediscovery of the Kuzari and the publication of the first academic editions of Halevi's philosophical work in the 1840s, the work was deeply appreciated by the Wissenschaft scholars for its promotion of Jewish spirituality as an alternative to dry legal talmudism. In more general terms, by rediscovering its own rich theological traditions from the Middle Ages, this first generation of university-trained Jewish scholars was able to build a new, independent, and complex self-image for Judaism in modernity without relying on Christian (Protestant) concepts or theological doctrine.
Heinrich Graetz, known to twenty-first-century readers as a famous historian of the Jews, was also a prolific and influential biblical exegete. With his passing in 1891, Graetz was remembered by subsequent generations as both historian and exegete, but by the mid-twentieth century Graetz's exegetical scholarship had been dropped from his intellectual biography. Recent publications have overwhelmingly focused on Graetz's historical writings, and we still lack a comprehensive account of Graetz's biblical hermeneutic and its broader cultural and political significance. Restoring Graetz's exegetical scholarship to his oeuvre substantially reorients our understanding of his thought: we regain access to some of the most fascinating and influential scholarship Graetz published that is not visible in his historical writings; we perceive a series of dialogical networks woven across the pages of his exegetical publications; we encounter several of Graetz's most polemical interventions in German historical and biblical scholarship; and we gain access to the full meaning of his historical writings. Even as we await a thorough account of Graetz's biblical hermeneutic, this essay offers an entrée into to Graetz's exegetical oeuvre by detailing how Graetz's exegetical scholarship determined the contours of his famous History of the Jews.
For most of the nineteenth century, German Jewish scholarship ceded the critical study of the Hebrew Bible to Protestant scholars at German universities. Sporadic efforts by the likes of Krochmal, Luzzatto, Geiger, and Zunz failed to overcome the ideological constraints that impeded the mounting of a Jewish response. To fill that void with a Jewish voice, Heinrich Graetz devoted the last twenty years of his life to a sustained critical study of the history and literature of biblical Israel. Given the dominance of Wellhausen's scholarship at the time, scholars have paid scant attention to the legacy of Graetz's prodigious output. The purpose of this essay is to assess his achievement and its shortcomings. In the end, Graetz legitimated the application of critical scholarship to the Hebrew Bible.
This essay situates the Ottoman-born Abraham S. Yahuda (1877–1951) at the center of modern Jewish historiography. In the process, the essay demonstrates how Yahuda held a Jewish studies chair at a major Western university a full decade before Salo Wittmayer Baron (1895–1989) and Harry Wolfson (1887–1974). One intervention offered by this essay is methodological: the recovery of this forgotten figure, whose papers are dispersed across archives in multiple continents, suggests not only the ways that the material archive can challenge given historical narratives. Such work also provides a kind of history of a discipline, albeit through an encounter with its limitations; in the case of Yahuda these limitations are inextricable from the complex legacies of scholarship, empire, and the state and can therefore be studied as part of a process of coming to terms with such forms
Taking the paradigm of a bridging of "Orient" and "Occident" as a point of departure, this essay illustrated some of the ways in which Abraham Shalom Yahuda mediated this perceived divide, as he stood at the intersection of multiple and often conflicting scholarly and ideological movements and alliances, including Wissenschaft des Judentums, Sephardism, Zionism, and loyalty to the British Empire. Through discussion of his interactions with Jewish and Spanish scholars, leaders of the Zionist movement, and British colonial officials, this essay demonstrates how Yahuda profitably engaged in these relations, as he merged his sensibilities from the world of powerful Sephardi oligarchs in late Ottoman and early Mandatory Jerusalem and what has been rendered the "politics of notables" of the late Ottoman period with an Orientalist scholarly orientation. Yahuda's assimilation of the expectations others had projected onto him as a "good Oriental turned Occidental" shaped his self-fashioning, as it allowed him to fluidly move in and out of different milieux; yet this also complicates our understanding of his process of de-Orientalization to which others had alluded. I demonstrate that Yahuda was not "de-Orientalized" but was in fact very much caught up in the scholarly Orientalism and the ongoing imperial politics of his time. Ultimately he was unable to broker various imperial tensions and divides along the Oriental-Occidental axis.
Abraham Shalom Yahuda contributed significantly to Samaritan studies. This essay offers a first attempt to outline his activities in this field, relating particularly to the so-called Samaritan Book of Joshua "discovered" by Moses Gaster—the so-called Abisha-scroll of the Samaritan Pentateuch—and to Yahuda's important role in the trade of Samaritan manuscripts. Yahuda's interest in Samaritan studies is to be understood in the context of Wissenschaft des Judentums, in which the prominence of Samaritan studies is striking and likely finds its explanation in the German Jewish search for a Jewish identity that was different from and outside the traditional world of Ashkenazi Judaism.
From Saadia to Yahuda: Reviving Arab Jewish Intellectual Models in a Time of Partitions
Almog Behar and Yuval Evri
Numerous intellectuals associated with the Hebrew Haskalah and the Arabic al-Nahda movements sought to "return" to key historical figures in Jewish and Arab culture—a project that allowed for the reinterpretion of a historical figure's work and image. Within twentieth-century Arab Jewish thought, we find a growing interest and engagement with the Arab Jewish legacy of the medieval Muslim world. The legacies of medieval writers like Saadia Gaon, Moses Ibn Ezra, Yehuda Halevi, and Maimonides became sites of exploration, investigation, and symbols of an Arab Jewish and Sephardi heritage. In this essay, we investigate the role of Saadia Gaon in Abraham Shalom Yahuda's scholarly and political work. We examine the different ways in which Yahuda shaped Saadia as a political and intellectual model vis-à-vis the Wissenschaft des Judentums scholars of Yahuda's generation and the al-Nahda circles
This essay explores the ways in which Abraham Shalom Yahuda (1877–1951) mobilizes Arabo-Islamic culture for the construction of Hebrew culture as manifested in his writings that treat Arabic literature. The essay's argument comprises two parts: first, that Yahuda's production of Arabic poetical literature endeavored to familiarize Jewish communities, in particular European Jews, with Arabic culture. As such, I argue that Yahuda did not Hebraize Arabic poetical texts nor he Judaize Arab figures that he treated. Rather, he preserved essential characteristics that were intended to acquaint European Jews with the otherness of Arabs and simultaneously with the Jewish self. Second, Yahuda's efforts also sought to draw a connection between contemporary Jews and their "Israelite brethren"—in Yahuda's words—as Yahuda concurrently urged his Hebrew-reading audience to embrace spiritual and moral values that characterized the Jewish forefathers. Prominent Arab figures, particularly poets, represented the perfect example to transmit moral values that Jews needed in order to restore their relation with the land of their ancestors. In advocating for embracing moral values such as bravery, loyalty, and hospitality, Yahuda's noble Arabs and heroes represented the Orientalism of Arabic culture and its relevance to the Jews of his time, highlighting the common denominators between Arabs and Israelites.