Page 177 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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B
lum en f ield
— B
ooks
on
J
ew ish
E
ducation
157
summary, such as is called for in this paper, one can mention
only some of the major themes w ithout considering their import
in detail.
Nathan Morris’s first volume deals with the early beginnings
of Hebrew education as reflected in Biblical writings and in
Talmud ic literature; the second covers the period from the sev-
enth and eighth century up to the eighteenth. (A projected third
volume dealing with the modern period has not yet seen the light
of day.)
Nathan Morris’s method is both chronological and topical.
His first volume, after an introduction dealing with the “rise
of Jewish education,” goes into considerable detail with regard
to organization, housing, equipment, hours of instruction, en-
trance age, teachers qualification and supervision. Special atten-
tion is concentrated on curriculum, w ith particular reference to
the place of the Bible, and later the “written law” in courses
of studies, as well as comparisons between the Hebraic and
Hellenic concepts and practices of education. A ttention is also
given to ancient and early medieval ideas in methodology and
highly instructive chapters on the Jewish attitude to the child at
home, in the synagogue and community.
In the second volume the author deals with similar basic
subjects under changed conditions from Islamic culture to Chris-
tian lands and civilizations. Consideration is also accorded sig-
nificant personalities like Rashi and his disciples who played a
decisive role in the development of traditions and conditions
in Jewish education, as well as to literary sources like the
Sefer
H a s id im
(12th century),
Sefer H u k e ha -T o rah
(13th century),
and other significant writings that made an impact on Jewish
educational practices not only upon their contemporaries but also
on later generations up to modern times.
In his treatment Dr. Morris has drawn upon scholarly labors
of those who preceded him, but unlike some of them, he has
avoided overemphasizing the virtues o f Jewish education as com-
pared with that of other faiths and traditions, the hallmark of
apologetics. In some instances, particularly on the question of
compulsory education in ancient Israel, he engages in a long,
pilpulistic discussion about Joshua ben Gamala, whom tradition
considers the founder of the Jewish education system, to prove
there was no compulsory education in the first century C.E. In
this, as in other related discussions, the author seems to go over-
board to balance much that is boastful in some of the recent
writings on Jewish education, but whatever the reservations about
some of Nathan Morris’s views on events or personalities in
Jewish education, his
T o ld o t ha -H inukh Sh e l A m Y israe l
is the
finest extant study in the field.