Page 190 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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THEODORE WIENER
Jewish Literary Anniversaries, 1988
C o n t r o v e r s y i n J e w i s h
life did not originate with the Emancipa­
tion and concomitant assimilation in the nineteenth century. It
has been with us throughout our long history. The three person­
alities from the distant past whom we single out this year for
remembrance, Levi ben Gershom, Joseph ben Ephraim Caro,
and Hayyim ben Bezalel, provide proof positive that Judaism has
never been static, but gave ample opportunity for divergent opin­
ions. The unconventional views of Levi ben Gershom brought
him accusations of heresy, as Jewish philosophers engaged in
speculative thought along with their non-Jewish contemporaries
in the Middle Ages. Joseph Caro, whose
Shulhan Arukh
is recog­
nized as the code of practice for traditional Jews, did not escape
criticism for doing so. Hayyim ben Bezalel, in the same century,
complained that the compilation of such a work tempted students
to bypass the original sources of Jewish law, such as the Talmud,
and make them less dependent on their local rabbis and disre­
gard local customs not recorded in Caro’s work.
Naturally, different voices have been heard in the last 200
years, as Judaism faced new challenges. People as diverse as Sam­
son Raphael Hirsch, Claude G. Montefiore, and Samuel S.
Cohon have tried to give the answers to those who search. The
Zionist answer was given by Yehiel Michael Pines, Louis Lipsky,
and Abba Hillel Silver. Modern scholarship is represented by
Wilhelm Bacher, Abraham Z. Idelsohn, Cyrus H. Gordon, Harry
M. Orlinsky, and Robert Gordis. A coincidence brings father and
son, Isaac and Chaim Herzog, to these pages in the same year.
They are part of the Israel contingent, as are Itzhak Ben-Zvi,
Menachem Begin, and Rachel Katznelson-Shazar.
Hebrew literature is represented by Shmuel Yosef Agnon and
Abba Kovner; Yiddish writing, by Halper Leivick, Abraham
Liessin, and Celia Dropkin.
The introduction of movable type in the fifteenth century
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