Page 34 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
able way see Jacob Neusner,
The Oral Torah
(Harper and Row,
1986). For a general introduction to the Talmud see Adin
Steinsalz’s
The Essential Talmud
(Bantam, 1976).
Rabbinic texts are hard to just pick up and read without com­
mentary and assistance. For Talmud one is best off using Jacob
Neusner’s
Invitation to the Talmud
(Harper and Row, 1973).
The other great literature of this period is the literature of
commentary known as Midrash. For examples of Midrash a good
collection is Nahum Glatzer’s
Hammer on the Rock
(Schocken,
1962). See also Jakob J . Petuchowski’s
Our Masters Taught
(Cross­
road, 1982).
As a general introduction to Midrash including the explication
of examples of texts, see “Midrash” in
Back to the Sources: Reading
the ClassicJewish Texts.
The bibliography of the chapter gives fur­
ther guidance for other reading. To see the way that a theme is
developed throughout midrashic literature, see Shalom Spiegel,
The Last Trial
(Behrman House, 1979) (on the binding of Isaac
story) and David Max Eichhorn,
Cain: Son of the Serpent
(Rossel
Books, 1985) (on the Cain and Abel story).
We could then move on to look at the medieval period of Jew­
ish literature. It is during the medieval period that we see the
emergence of many new intellectual movements within Judaism,
and at first blush these can seem almost contradictory in spirit.
Not only do we find Jews reading Aristotle and writing philoso­
phy, but we see the development of a new kind of Bible interpre­
tation, the
peshat
(or simple, contextual) method which appears
almost scientific in its orientation. Yet at the same time Jews are
exploring mysticism and also writing the great codes of Jewish
law.
For the background of this age, the best sources to explore are:
The relevant sections in Robert Seltzer’s
Jewish People, Jewish
Thought
(Macmillan, 1980) and “The Judeo-Islamic Age” by
Abraham S. Halkin, in
Great Ages and Ideas of the Jewish People.
Translations exist for a number of the medieval commentators,
though they are not always easy to casually read through. One can
find Rashi on the Humash, Ramban (Nahmanides) and others.
Probably a better approach is to turn to the volumes by Nehama
Leibowitz,
Studies in. . .
published by the World Zionist Organiza­
tion.
For the secular poetry in a readable translation (with excellent
commentary), use Raymond P. Scheindlin,
Wine, Women and