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Lookstein Announcements - Bookjed Digest 178

Lookstein Announcements are a service of the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education, Bar-Ilan University  NETWORK*LEARN*GROW

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In this Newsletter:

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* 1. Book Reviews:
Discovering Second Temple Literature: The Scriptures and Stories that Shaped Early Judaism
By Dr. Malka Z. Simkovich
Reviewed by Yitzchak Etshalom

* The Virtue of Nationalism
By Yoram Hazony
Reviewed by Mali Brofsky

* 2. Online Book Reviews:
ANNE FRANK’S DIARY: The Graphic Adaptation 
Adapted by Ari Folman
Illustrated by David Polonsky 
Reviewed by Ruth Franklin

* The Rabbinate in Stormy Days: The Life and Teachings of Rabbi Yitzhak Isaac HaLevi Herzog, The First Chief Rabbi of Israel
By Shaul Mayzlish
Reviewed by Baruch and Judy Sternman

* 3. New online research tool, the Tiberias Stylistic Classifier for the Hebrew Bible
* 4. Book announcements:
Hilkhot Avelut: Understanding the Laws of Mourning
by Rabbi David Brofsky


* Encyclopedia of Jewish Values: Between Man and Man
by Rabbi Dr. Nachum Amsel

* Subscription Details

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Healthy competition is always a good thing (or, in the words of the sages: “jealousy among teachers increases wisdom” (Bava Batra 21a). Apparently there are more options for siddurim now than there were in the recent past -
https://www.jta.org/2019/01/15/culture/artscroll-prayer-books-have-dominated-in-orthodox-synagogues-for-decades-is-that-ending/ 

Shalom


1. Book Reviews:
Discovering Second Temple Literature: The Scriptures and Stories that Shaped Early Judaism
By Dr. Malka Z. Simkovich
Reviewed by Yitzchak Etshalom


The half-millennium from the middle of the 3rd century BCE to the middle of the 3rd century of the common era was foundational as well as formative; foundational for the various sects that evolved into Christianity and formative for Judaism. The tumultuous geo-political shifts that shook the Levant, from the conquest of Alexander through the conversion of Constantine gave birth, nearly simultaneously, to the church and to rabbinic Judaism. The period is of ongoing interest to Jewish and Christian theologians and historians. Numerous archival finds of the past 120 years, most notably the Cairo Genizah and the Dead Sea Scrolls, have shed significant light on the era, its people, beliefs, practices and sects. 

There are several seminal texts and compilations that shed much light on the era.  Victor Tcherikover's Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews (1959), Shaye Cohen's From the Maccabees to the Mishnah (1987)  and Lawrence Shiffman's From Text to Tradition (1991) are three great works, each with its own focus and strengths, that come to mind. However, for the novitiate, first taking an interest in this period, a new volume has been published which is a welcome addition to that bookshelf.  

Dr. Malka Z. Simkovich has provided a wonderful entry point into this world and some of its literature with the publication of her Discovering Second Temple Literature. She devotes over half of the volume to providing background to the various communities (Jerusalem, Alexandria and Antioch), recognizable groups who contributed to the literature ("wisdom seekers", sectarians and "interpreters of Israelite history"), devoting an entire chapter (deservedly so) to the life and works of Josephus Flavius.  When discussing the "sects", she shares some of the scholarly debate about the community and library at Qumran and about the provenance of some of the literature of the period. 

She prefaces this broad sweep with a well-written introduction to two of the significant treasure troves of period material unearthed in the last 120 years – the Cairo Genizah (beginning in the 1890s) and the Dead Sea Scrolls (since 1947). Along with that, Simkovich takes us on a brief tour of monasteries where significant manuscripts of the period works have been found.  

Finally, with all of this preparatory material presented, the author tells us about the literature. Since the literature is the purpose of the volume, we ought to put most of our attention here. 

Besides Josephus as historian, she presents an intriguing approach to appreciating the oeuvres of the period – seeing them all as Biblically related. She accurately casts the notion of a "canon" as something far from sealed and complete, at least during the pre-millennial years. As such, she posits that a Jew living in the 1st century (on either side of the millennial line) might, if wealthy enough, be an "owner of two scrolls [who] might have placed Judges, a text that would come to be regarded as canonical, on a shelf next to Jubilees, a document that would later be excluded from the canon, and this owner might have considered both scrolls to be equally sacred." (p. 203). 

She divides the literature into three groups: "The Codified Bible", "The Rewritten Bible" and "The Expanded Bible." 

The "Codified Bible" refers to those works which regard the Bible itself  with a sense of canonicity (hence "codified") and operate as translations, which include, perforce, some manner of interpretation. This section chiefly comprises Targumim, the various translations into Greek and Aramaic that were produced by the different Jewish communities through the period. In a surprising move, she includes Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, which is significantly later than the period under discussion – although she acknowledges that it was completed after the Islamic conquest. (For those interested, the names of Ishmael's wives given in TPJ at Genesis 25 are the same as some of the women in Mohammed's court including his wife and his daughter; this passage is surely 7th century or later. Recent scholarship indicates that it may have been composed in the 13th century!). Her short note introducing Targum Onqelos identifies the source of the attribution of this Targum to the Roman convert Onqelos – even though this is a matter of significant scholarly debate.  

The "Rewritten Bible" introduces the reader to the many texts produced during the period which are proto-Midrashic and which weave the Biblical story around enhancements and addenda – much in the same manner as we teach little children. For the uninitiated, this section is an eye-opener, learning that the authors of this early style of commentary, felt a great sense of ease in interspersing the newer "traditions" into the older text. These books operate as text-based "Midrashim", such as the Genesis Apocryphon (found in Qumran) and the book of Jubilees. These two, along with numerous other period works, add details, conversations, dreams and visions and more into familiar Biblical stories in a style that is more or less familiar to students of Midrash. In addition, there are volumes which act as independent stories and "testaments" about the Biblical characters we know. One fascinating collection is the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs (Tzava'at haShevatim) where each of Yaakov's sons shares his ethical will before dying; each with a theme that relates to a story (where possible) that that character is associated with in Tanakh. The books of Baruch 2 and Ezra, both pseudepigrapha (i.e. falsely attributed to an author), the Testament of Avraham and many others fit this genre. It would have been helpful to have Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews included in this chapter, as it may be the most well-known example of "Rewritten Bible." One of the many enjoyable discoveries with which Simkovich entertains her readership is the "Greek Esther". Since traditional Jews are all familiar with the story of Esther – both what is in that story and what is famously missing (God's Name, any mention of religious practice or devotion on the part of the heroes), it is exciting to learn of the "religious additions" in the Septuagint and the other period texts. Following these versions, both Mordekhai and Esther are devout, practicing Jews who pray, have divine visions and maintain their religious commitments throughout.

The "Expanded Bible" includes books which go far afield of Biblical stories, developing minor Biblical characters such as Asenat, Yoseph's Egyptian wife, fictional characters patterned after Biblical ones such as Judith (the heroine who defeated an Assyrian general – patterned after Yael of Shoftim) or various angelic and demonic characters whose character may have been lifted from the Bible but permutated into something entirely new – such as Satan.  

Dr. Simkovich's panoramic vista of the period and its literature is a wonderful entry point, whetting the intellectual appetite and, without opening any doors too widely, inviting her audience to enter the period and learn about that formative period and the texts that helped shape our national and religious identity.    


The Virtue of Nationalism
By Yoram Hazony
Reviewed by Mali Brofsky


The word “nationalism” currently sits at the center of a charged public conversation. Much of the debate centers around what the word “nationalism” is understood to mean or to imply. Yoram Hazony’s book The Virtue of Nationalism is a welcome addition to this discourse. In his book, Hazony gives a robust and clear explanation of his definition and understanding of the concept of nationalism. His approach sets out to defend and preserve the moral character of nationalism, while staunchly defending the particularistic nature of the idea, and explaining its utility as a political model. 

Hazony sets at odds two fundamental political models: nationalism and imperialism. He attempts to explain the advantages of the nationalist model, as well as to present and critique the shortcomings of the imperialist model. He includes the current movement toward globalization in the later model, as shall be discussed further.

The heart of the book is Hazony’s historical and philosophical understanding of the nationalist political model. His argument centers around how political entities are formed. He asserts that they are formed not through abstract theoretical decisions, (as in the model described by, for example, John Locke). Instead, he argues, they evolve out of “ties of loyalty”.

After passing through the phase of tribalism, where clans and tribes find themselves locked in perpetual battle with each other, a group of tribes decide to ties themselves together to facilitate living in harmony and increase mutual advantage to all. While the individuals may give up a degree of freedom to join this larger bond, this is willingly relinquished in light of the advantages, but the central point is that it works primarily because the group feels tied and bound to each other by a sense of shared values, traditions, and history. They function much the way a family functions, willing to undergo sacrifice because of a larger sense of commitment and belonging, or loyalty, to the group. People not originally part of the group are free to join, and find a harmonious place within the group. This explanation, which relies on actual tendencies in human nature, rings very true.

The advantage of this model is that each self-created autonomous nation has something unique to contribute to the larger whole, while living in harmony with each other. This is contrasted not only with the abstract Lockian theory, but also with imperialism. Imperialism attempts to impose a sense of belonging over multiple, varied groups of people who have no natural sense of shared connection, under the banner of a theoretical idea carried by the larger Empire, a much more difficult system to maintain. 

Hazony claims that this vision of nationalism is grounded in the Biblical ideal, and that this Judeo-Christian vision formed the basis for many traditional nation states. His claim that this idea is grounded in the Jewish Biblical tradition is a fair one. It calls to my mind the perspective I believe is found in the thought of Rav Kook. Rav Kook develops this idea in several places in his writings, including in his essay describing the historical development of the Jewish people. There he describes how nations are formed, and argues that each nation has its own unique character to contribute to the world (LeMahalach HaIdiyot BeYisrael (Orot).)  

In another passage discussing the relationship between the Jewish people and the other nations of the world, Rav Kook writes:
God did a great favor (tzdaka) with His world, by not putting all the talents in one place, in one person, in one nation, in one land, ... Rather, the talents are diffused and spread out, and the necessity of ultimate perfection … which will necessarily come to the world, will be the collection of all these talents to the glory of God (translation mine) (Orot 152) 

A reading of the Biblical book of Judges supports the idea that the Bible recognizes the consequences and inadequacies of the tribal system. The book of Samuel (chapters 8 and 12) demonstrates that notwithstanding the theological complexities inherent in appointing a king, ultimately the creation of a nation state is necessary good, as only a nation with a centralized government capable of taxing the population and maintaining a militia is a viable long-term political system. In addition, as Hazony points out, the eschatological vision of Isiah chapter 2 is one in which multiple nations exists in harmony. There is no overreaching globalist meta-nation; rather the various nations live in peace, consciously choosing of their own volition to seek out Jerusalem as a place from which morality and justice emanates. 

This explication of how nation states are of service to the world, and how they contribute to the most functional political and social order, is valuable for another reason. It helps explain why Judaism as religion does insist upon the concept of the Jewish people having an ideal vision of themselves as living as a nation within the context of an independent state, as opposed to a more universalist religious vision.

At first, when Hazony elided globalism and imperialism into one system, I saw this as a shrewd sleight of hand. After all, Empires impose their sovereignty through military power, while is globalism not freely chosen by its participants? However, Hazony actually sets out a thoughtful case for his assertion that globalism is actually another version of imperialism. He argues that any system which will set to impose its larger vision on a diverse group of states that do not organically share this larger vision, will at some point have to resort to coercion, a coercion that exists not from within the state itself, but from above it, from the larger world order.  The liberal belief in universalist and globalist values, and the sense that those enlightened by this advanced understanding are justified in imposing their will on the illiberal and uneducated masses who cling to their outmoded nationalist loyalties (e.g. the response to Brexit et al.), is a current-day example of this.

Of particular interest to Jewish educators is Hazony’s discussion of the modern State of Israel. Israel is, by definition, a state founded on the principles of nationalism. This is why its very existence is increasingly seen as illegitimate in the larger world. In addition, according to Hazony, while other nation states are seen as underdeveloped, and therefore not yet ready to reject nationalism, Israel is expected to be advanced enough to recognize nationalism’s evils and to reject it. One of the most interesting sections in the book is Hazony’s analysis of the opposing lessons that Israel, in contrast to much of the rest of the world, took from the Holocaust. For Israel, the message of the Holocaust is that only a strong nation state can defend the Jewish people from the recurrence of such a calamity, and thus the solution to the Holocaust is nationalism. For the rest of the Western world, who identify Nazism with nationalism (-Hazony disagrees, arguing that the Nazis were more imperialists than nationalists), the lesson from World War Two is that nationalism is the greatest danger to the world. In these ways, Israel is fundamentally at odds with the rest of the Western world.

In final portion of the book, Hazony offers arguments against the conventional theory that nationalism necessarily leads to hate in the form of racism and nationalist supremacy. I would posit (and this is my own formulation, not Hazony’s), that the flaw in this particular anti-nationalist argument is the following: this type of hate is it is endemic not to nationalism, but to any system that identifies individuals exclusively on the basis of their belonging to a group; the individual is identified as part of a group, and then hated for being part of the hated group. On the far right, this takes the form of racism. On the far left, this takes the form of radicalized identity politics, which as stated above, classifies individuals solely as members of a group, and then feels legitimized in hating that group for various reasons, (often related to their being identified as oppressors). Hazony’s formulation of this idea claims that imperialists, in hating those who resist their imperialist vision, historically have hated no less than nationalists (communism is one of a number of salient example).

To conclude with Hazony’s own words
What I propose is ...a view that recognizes the larger interest that all mankind share in a world of independent and self-determining nations, each pursuing interests and aspirations that are uniquely its own …The nationalist, we may say, knows two very large things, … He knows that there is great truth and beauty in his own national traditions, and in his own loyalty to them, and yet he also knows that they are not the sum of human knowledge, for there is also truth and beauty to be found elsewhere... the nationalist, while remaining loyal to [his] tribe, nevertheless recognizes the immense value that is found in the unity of these diverse tribes and the peace that exists amongst them. 
Hazony concludes with an incisive point: the desire to believe that there is some overarching globalist view that can be imposed from above and that will solve all of humanities ills, is, at its root, an immature one. The mature individual recognizes that one cannot escape one’s personal obligation to search and create morality and meaning, and to live in harmony with those who are attempting to fulfill the same unique obligations. Hazony posits that the same holds true for humanity at the national level.  
There is much of value to be gained from this book; much of the above arguments are expanded upon in greater depth. It is a worthwhile and stimulating read for any Jewish educator grappling with these timely issues.


2. Online Book Reviews:
ANNE FRANK’S DIARY: The Graphic Adaptation 
Adapted by Ari Folman
Illustrated by David Polonsky 
Reviewed by Ruth Franklin


https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/09/books/review/anne-franks-diary-in-graphic-form-reveals-its-humor.html

<<
Because of the special circumstances of its creation and publication — Miep Gies, one of the office employees who sustained the Franks by bringing supplies and news from the outside world, gathered Anne’s papers after the family’s arrest and gave them to Otto, the only Annex inhabitant to survive, when he returned from Auschwitz — many readers have treated the “Diary” as something akin to a saint’s relic: a text almost holy, not to be tampered with. Thus the outcry that greeted the discovery that Otto, in putting together a manuscript of the “Diary” for publication in 1947, had deleted whole passages in which Anne discussed in graphic terms her developing sexuality and her criticism of her mother, and the excitement when, in 1995, a “Definitive Edition” appeared, restoring much of the deleted material. Meanwhile, the enormously successful Broadway adaptation of the “Diary” has been severely rebuked for downplaying Anne’s Judaism and ironing out the nuances of her message. “Who owns Anne Frank?” Cynthia Ozick asked in an essay that berates the Broadway adapters for emphasizing the uplifting elements of Anne’s message — particularly the famous quotation, “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart” — while insufficiently accounting for her hideous death, at age 15, in Bergen-Belsen.

Into this quagmire bravely wade Ari Folman and David Polonsky, the creators of “Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation,” a stunning, haunting work of art that is unfortunately marred by some questionable interpretive choices. As Folman acknowledges in an adapter’s note, the text, preserved in its entirety, would have resulted in a graphic novel of 3,500 pages. At times he reproduces whole entries verbatim, but more often he diverges freely from the original, collapsing multiple entries onto a single page and replacing Anne’s droll commentary with more accessible (and often more dramatic) language. Polonsky’s illustrations, richly detailed and sensitively rendered, work marvelously to fill in the gaps, allowing an image or a facial expression to stand in for the missing text and also providing context about Anne’s historical circumstances that is, for obvious reasons, absent from the original. The tightly packed panels that result, in which a line or two adapted from the “Diary” might be juxtaposed with a bit of invented dialogue between the Annex inhabitants or a dream vision of Anne’s, do wonders at fitting complex emotions and ideas into a tiny space — a metaphor for the Secret Annex itself.
>>


The Rabbinate in Stormy Days: The Life and Teachings of Rabbi Yitzhak Isaac HaLevi Herzog, The First Chief Rabbi of Israel
By Shaul Mayzlish
Reviewed by Baruch and Judy Sternman


https://jewishaction.com/books/reviews/the-rabbinate-in-stormy-days-the-life-and-teachings-of-rabbi-yitzhak-isaac-halevi-herzog-the-first-chief-rabbi-of-israel/

<<
Unfortunately, the English-language reader has had little opportunity to become acquainted with this man of towering character, a Torah scholar and major modern Jewish thinker who not only lived history but helped to shape it. Although he himself published countless articles, as well as a comprehensive work entitled Main Institutions of Jewish Law, comprising two of a planned five volumes on the subject, his contribution to the Jewish nation has been generally overlooked. Now, with the publication of Mayzlish’s book, that deficiency has thankfully been rectified. A translation of the Hebrew biography that was published in 1991, the English version was sponsored by Rabbi Herzog’s grandchildren and includes a foreword by his grandson, former Knesset Member Yitzhak (Isaac) Herzog, as well as an English translation of the original foreword to the Hebrew version by Rabbi Herzog’s son Chaim. The book is an attractive, hardcover, coffee table-sized book, a detailed and well researched account, full of black-and-white photographs and copies of letters, speeches and other texts, allowing the reader to get a sense of the time period, as well as of the vast extent of the rabbi’s influence.

The author includes, for example, numerous letters of support and praise for Rabbi Herzog, written when he first announced that he would run for chief rabbi of Palestine following the death of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook. These letters, by many of the greatest rabbinic figures of the day, came in response to those who were vehemently opposed to his candidacy, declaring, in posters hung on the streets of Jerusalem, that “the holy city will not tolerate a ‘rabbi doctor’ in it.” Also reprinted is the text of the Prayer for the Welfare of the State of Israel, composed by Rabbi Herzog (with the help of S. Y. Agnon and others), which is still recited on Shabbat mornings in synagogues around the world, as well as a kinah (lament), which he penned after witnessing the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto. There is a photo taken just moments before Rabbi Herzog dramatically tore up the White Paper of the British Mandate in front of the Yeshurun Central Synagogue in Jerusalem in angry protest, an act which his son would later famously mimic on the floor of the UN in response to the proposed resolution equating Zionism with racism.
>>


3. New online research tool, the Tiberias Stylistic Classifier for the Hebrew Bible

I am pleased to announce the launch of an online research tool, the Tiberias Stylistic Classifier for the Hebrew Bible - https://tiberias.dicta.org.il. Under the direction of Prof. Moshe Koppel (Computer Science, Bar-Ilan University) and myself, Tiberias marshals cutting edge advances in the field of machine learning and computational linguistics to empower users to easily conduct their own experiments analyzing and classifying the texts of the Hebrew Bible measuring lexical, morphological and syntactic data. The majority of scholarly theories concerning authorial strands in the Tanakh and the dating of the biblical texts are hypothesized without reference to solid linguistic data. The verifiable data Tiberias produces is unavailable in any other platform, and promises to shed new light on these and many other scholarly questions.

Tiberias is easy to learn and use and employs no special languages or symbols in its queries. Tiberias is a product of Dicta (http://dicta.org.il/), a non-profit organization, and is available at no charge in the spirit of free and open inquiry. For a brief video overview of the Tiberias user experience and capabilities see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUx7VD6YHpw.

Dr. Joshua Berman


4. Book announcements:
Hilkhot Avelut: Understanding the Laws of Mourning
by Rabbi David Brofsky



Hilkhot Avelut: Understanding the Laws of Mourning explores a halakhic, conceptual, philosophical, and historical presentation of the laws of Jewish mourning. Like its companion volume, Hilkhot Mo’adim: Understanding the Laws of the Festivals, Rabbi Brofsky traces the halakha through its sources, from early to later commentaries and includes relevant debates among the posekim regarding contemporary applications. At times, historical and philosophical sources, as well as traditional “lomdus,” are woven into the chapter. This valuable book also discusses the laws of aninut, burial, avelut, Kaddish, and yahrzeit. A practical compilation of the laws of mourning and index are included.

Co-published by the RCA (Rabbinical Council of America), this is an essential resource for rabbis, community leaders, chaplains, hevrot kadisha, and beyond. Includes haskamot from Rav Mordechai Willig and Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon, and introductions by Rabbi Elazar Muskin and Rabbi Mark Smilowitz.

Maggid Books - www.korenpub.com


Encyclopedia of Jewish Values: Between Man and Man
by Rabbi Dr. Nachum Amsel


A continuation to his widely praised Encyclopedia of Jewish Values, Rabbi Nachum Amsel presents as organized compendium of Jewish values and ethics that deal with human interaction. The topics addressed in this work include Jewish attitudes to leadership, business ethics, modesty with dress, self-defense, peer pressure, family, friendships, and more. Gleaning from the Bible and classic Jewish texts, as well as later authorities such as Maimonides, Nachmanides, Rashi, and the Code of Jewish Law, this work is accessible to readers of many backgrounds.

Rabbi Dr. Nachum Amsel is the director of education at the Destiny Foundation and the author of The Jewish Encyclopedia of Moral and Ethical Issues and The Encyclopedia of Jewish Values.


Available at quality booksellers.

Encyclopedia of Jewish Values: Between Man and Man
by Rabbi Dr. Nachum Amsel
Urim Publications, 2019


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