Page 103 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 30

Basic HTML Version

K
le in
— P
ro fe ssor
L
ou is
G
inzberg
9 1
first great achievement was in the field of
aggadah.
His
The
Legends of the Jews
is now a classic and is still without peer. It
was “a first attempt to gather from the original sources all Jewish
legends in so far as they refer to biblical personages and events,
and reproduce them with the greatest attainable completeness
and accuracy.2 These included folklore, fairy tales, legends and
all forms of storytelling. Subjects akin to these are comprehended
in the terminology of the postbiblical literature of the Jews under
the inclusive description of
aggadah.
Prof. Ginzberg holds that many Jewish legends may be culled
not only from the writings of the synagogue, but also from the
writings of the church, because certain Jewish writings were
rejected by the Synagogue and accepted by the church, such as
the Pseudepigrapha. Hence, in the notes to the
Legends,
which
show an amazing command of the general field of folklore, he
ranges far and wide in the church literature to find the sources
of many of the legends. The church fathers are quoted extensively.
(His doctoral thesis was
Die Haggadah bei den Kirchen Vaetern.)
Parallel stories are quoted from later literature and from the sagas
of other peoples. Prof. Ginzberg concludes that the Jews may be
considered the great disseminators of folklore.3 In the notes one
also finds a running commentary on much of the Apocrypha, the
Pseudepigrapha, as well as of Talmudic Midrashim. No wonder
many Ph.D. dissertations were built upon these notes!
Practically all his other major works dealt with the
halakhah
and halachic literature. Prof. Ginzberg gives his reason for the
choice. Many factors, he claims, enter into the creation of any
distinctive national culture: political, economic, social and spir­
itual motives all play their part. The
halakhah,
as the expression
of our national life, is the most faithful reflection of their
unfolding.4
In his works, Prof. Ginzberg emphasized that the
halakhah
was
the living expression of the inner life of the people rather than
the creation of the House of Study, as claimed by many detractors
who said it was an ivory tower without any vital connection with
daily life. This thesis is emphasized explicitly in a lecture he gave
at the Hebrew University in 1929.5 In this discourse he deals
with the major controversies in the ancient
halakhah
as well as
with many of the important enactments, and shows how they were
rooted in the economic, social and political realities of the day.
a
The Legends of the Jews
(Philadelphia,
1909
-
1938
) , vol.
1
, p. XI.
3
Ibid., VII, IX, XII.
*On Jewish Law and Lore
(Philadelphia,
1955
), p.
78
.
6
Published in Hebrew by the Hebrew University (Jerusalem,
1931
) , and
in English translation in On Jewish Law and Lore.
See also “On the Sig­
nificance of the Halakhah
for Jewish History,” Students, Scholars and Saints
(Philadelphia,
1928
) , pp.
109
fE.