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In the early custom of Ashkenaz, on the Shabbat preceding the beginning of the month, the coming of the new month (Rosh Ḥodesh) would be announced after the reading from the Torah and before the Torah scroll was returned to the synagogue's Holy Ark. The ritual included reciting the paragraph beginning with the words mi she-‘asah nissim (may He who performed miracles) and continuing with an announcement of the timing of Rosh Ḥodesh. In the second half of the eighteenth century, an addition to the liturgy appeared before the Mi She-‘asah Nissim section: a passage beginning yehi raẓon (may it be Your will) that the Babylonian Talmud relates was recited daily by the sage Rav following the Amidah prayer. This article suggests some reasons for the addition of the passage, traces the spread of the practice of its recitation among Ashkenazic communities, and concludes with an examination and explanation of two apparently erroneous additions to the Yehi Raẓon formula.
Mid-nineteenth-century Victorian England was roiled by public controversies regarding the legitimacy of biblical criticism, largely fueled by Anglicans and the Church of England establishment. Jews were well aware of these public controversies and even spoke out in a forthright manner. At this very juncture there was also a rather remarkable Jewish scholar, Marcus Kalisch, who began to advance critical notions in his commentary to the Pentateuch, ultimately coming to conclusions not altogether different from the leading critical scholars in Germany. This article explores the way in which Anglo-Jews first avoided, and then finally confronted, Kalisch's work, and what that said about communal sensitivities and self-consciousness.
In recent years, scholars have offered valuable critiques of American Jewish exceptionalism that reveal the historical inaccuracy of an exceptionalist scholarly framework. However, as this essay explains, untethering Jewish studies scholarship completely from exceptionalism discourse may risk overlooking the prevalence of these beliefs and what they tell us about those who propagated them. Exceptionalism does not need to be historically accurate for it to warrant attention from scholars. Nor must scholars approve of exceptionalism, or deem it a positive, for it to be a worthy subject of study. Scholars may indeed view American Jewish exceptionalism as a fantasy that prevents believers from seeing the reality—in particular the problems—of their situation, but the fact that this fantasy had so many fervent espousers should make it a matter of interest. Examining the trail of American Jewish exceptionalist voices reveals the multiple ways these voices have been deployed.
This article explores early modern practices of cooking and hospitality, both in and out of homes, in the Jewish ghetto of Frankfurt am Main. The focus is on Garküchen (eateries) and communal ovens, which were increasingly regulated by the community. Communal leaders employed creative strategies to find solutions for nourishing a growing local and visiting population in the limited space of the early modern Jewish ghetto. Their attempts to expand were propelled by concrete historical events, particularly by a series of fires, which shaped the physical spaces in which this process unfolded. Looking at these institutions allows for a reconsideration of the spatial boundaries of the Jewish ghetto.
One of the well-known conundrums of the Guide of the Perplexed, found in its last chapter, pertains to Maimonides's contradictory presentation of the hierarchy of human virtues and perfections. This article draws attention to a parallel between the paradox posed by the closing paragraphs of the Guide and the contradiction found in the concluding paragraphs of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, a parallel that has never been noted by students of Maimonides. The intention here is not to make a categorical statement about Maimonides's position on the core issues of the relationship between the intellect and the moral virtues. Rather, it is to shed new light on the unexpected structure of the last chapter, and thus also provide a significant addition to the important debate about Maimonides's position on these issues.
The maskilic characterization of the nineteenth century as a period of decline and ossification for Hasidism is increasingly eschewed by scholars, yet continues to mark current research in significant ways. As a case study, this article takes up Rabbi Shmuel Schneersohn of Lubavitch (“Maharash,” 1834–1882), rescrutinizing (1) the controversy surrounding the onset of his leadership, (2) his personality and charisma, (3) his methodological approach to the teachings and texts that he inherited from his predecessors, and (4) his theological contributions and their place in the broader trajectory of Chabad's intellectual history. His tenure emerges as a false twilight, in which a new foundation was laid for the perpetuation and expansion of Chabad-Lubavitch, as both an intellectual and activist movement, in the century that followed.
This is the first article-length treatment of the famous rabbinic dictum “These and those are the words of the living God, but the Law always follows Beit Hillel.” The statement's significance lies in the innovative manner in which it negotiates the monistic and pluralistic tendencies within the rabbinic tradition. “These and those …” first emerged in the late tannaitic or early amoraic period as a reworking of an earlier Tosefta text. The Yerushalmi, consistent with its overall monistic tendencies, cited this text only for its ruling in favor of Beit Hillel, marginalizing its affirmation that the teachings of Beit Shammai represent “the words of the living God.” The Bavli embraced both the pluralistic and monistic stances of “These and those …” and further placed the declaration in a wider narrative context, imbuing it with social and ethical significance.
This article suggests that bringing Jewish literature and Jewish thought into conversation can deepen our understanding of each. As an illustration of this interdisciplinary methodology, I offer a reading of Cynthia Ozick's 1987 Messiah of Stockholm. I claim that Ozick has embedded an argument about the relationship of post-Holocaust Jewry to the past into the literary features of her novel. Her argument draws in particular upon Leo Baeck's account of Judaism as focused on the present and future in contrast to the worshipful approach to the past characteristic of other religions. At the same time, I offer a more nuanced take on the fear of idolatry so often noted in analyses of Ozick's work and situate that fear in relationship to the literary theories of her predecessor Bruno Schulz, who plays a key role in the novel, and her contemporary Harold Bloom.