Page 67 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 14

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that followed him. On the contrary, one is amazed at the breadth
of interest of so preoccupied a scholar and so prolific a writer as
Rashi. There is hardly an area of human experience that is alien
to him. In his commentaries on the Bible and Talmud as well as
in his other disquisitions, he displays familiarity not only with the
wine industry in which he engaged, but also in other areas such as
coining, engraving, bird hunting, fish and bear husbandry, glass
work, botany, ship repairs and military affairs.
I t might prove fruitful to investigate the sources of his knowl-
edge in so wide a field of human experience and to ascertain to
what extent they shaped Rashi’s worldliness and his pragmatic
approach to problems relating to Jewish law and tradition. For
the purpose of this paper, we shall limit our study to an issue which
has been a bone of contention between liberal and traditional
religionists, namely, the problem of adjustment of Jewry and
Judaism to new social, cultural and economic realities.
The problem of group relations and their effects upon the
individual and upon society has held the interest of social thinkers
since time immemorial. In more recent years, the subject of
acculturation and transculturation has become one of the major
fields of study for anthropologists and sociologists. As a result of
diligent research and field investigations, the studies have yielded
a rich harvest of new knowledge and a broader understanding of
the growth and development of cultures and of the changes result-
ing from their impact upon one another. While there are many
theories and interpretations as to the rise, development and
decline of civilizations, a central theme seems to run like a gos-
samer thread through the writings of social scientists. That theme
expounds the decisive effects of group interaction upon the outlook
and experience of all societies, big or small, primitive or advanced.
Modern social studies have also established that all social group-
ings, no matter how isolated or self-sufficient they may seem to be,
do, at one period or another in their development, receive and
exercise, consciously or unconsciously, considerable influence upon
one another. Indeed, a human society is yet to be found which,
at one time or other, has not engaged in some form of interaction
with another group, to its benefit or detriment.
If this has been the fate of societies living under limited geo-
graphic, social and economic conditions, how much more does it
apply to the Jewish community, whose history ranges through
many lands and cultures from the dawn of civilization unto our
own day. Yet, up to modern times there has prevailed in Jewish
tradition the theory of
23.9), “Lo, it is a people that shall dwell alone and shall not be
reckoned among the nations.” This implied a conception of a