Page 63 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 4

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utilizes and develops homiletic exposition as a means of teaching
and inspiring his people. Now, however, two new features are
discernible. No longer is preaching a sporadic phenomenon, wholly
dependent upon the prophet’s inspiration or mood, but, rather
a regular feature of the fixed Sabbath or holy day service. Also,
since apparently exile had estranged many from their historic
Hebrew, the
, the interpretation of the Scriptural portion
(which Ezra ordained be read and explained to the congregation
as it assembled on Monday, Thursday and Sabbath) was rendered
in the vernacular.4 At first, fairly literal, it soon lent itself to the
many-faceted art of homiletics, and preaching as an integral part
of the Synagogue service was firmly established.
I t is interesting to note that both Josephus and Philo mention
preaching as a well-established and vital phase of the service, and
the repeated references to this institution of the Synagogue in
the New Testament are abundant proof of the firm position it
already had acquired in Judaism.
The Talmud mentions numerous occasions on which the rabbis
would preach. Some appeared to excel in the delivering of eulogies
and accordingly earned the special title of
.5 Probably
because of his eloquence and adroit use of the parable,6 Rabbi
Meir’s Sabbath sermons attracted huge throngs to the Synagogue.7
Interestingly enough, he would preach on Friday evenings as well
as on Saturday afternoons.
However, the compilation of the truly great homiletic literature
did not begin until after the close of the Talmudic period. I t was
the Gaonic period, from the sixth to the tenth century which
witnessed the crystallization and redaction of the various
Spain and Italy produced a number of eminent
preachers, attesting the wide-spread popularity enjoyed by
in those countries. This was not, however, true of other
European countries such as Germany, France, Poland, Austria,
Galicia, etc. Here the rabbi preached only on the Sabbaths pre-
ceding Passover and the Day of Atonement, and then it was to
explain the laws governing the proper observance of these holy
4Nehemiah 8.7-9.
6Moed Katan 25b.
8Sanhedrin 38.
7J. Sota 1, 4.