Page 35 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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HOLTZ/A LIFETIME OF READING
2 7
Death
(JPS, 1986). Secondary literature that will be o f use
includes: Shalom Spiegel, “On Medieval Hebrew Poetry,” in
The
Jewish Expression,
edited by Judah Goldin; Edward Greenstein,
“Medieval Bible Commentaries,” in
Back to the Sources: Reading the
Classic Jewish Texts.
LEGAL SOURCES
It was in the medieval period that Judaism saw the emergence
of the great law codes, guides to halakhic behavior based on tal-
mudic discussions, responsa (practical questions asked of hala­
khic authorities) and ongoing debate and analysis. For halakhic
sources the most accessible text is the Mishneh Torah o f Maimon-
ides. Excerpts from the Mishneh Torah and the philosophical
works can be found in the excellent collection edited by Isadore
Twersky,
The Maimonides Reader,
(Behrman House, 1972).
Another important philosophical work, and one that is accessible
to the non-specialist is Judah Halevi’s
Kuzari
(Schocken, 1964).
Perhaps the easiest way to get a taste of these materials is by using
the textbook edited by Louis Jacobs,
Jewish Ethics, Philosophy and
Mysticism
(Behrman House, 1969).
For assistance in understanding these texts one might turn to
Isadore Twersky,
The Maimonides Reader,
“Introduction” and his
essay, “The Shulkhan Arukh: Enduring Code of Jewish Law” in
TheJewish Expression,
edited by Judah Goldin. See also “Medieval
Jewish Philosophy,” by Norbert M. Samuelson, in
Back to the
Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish Texts.
Another striking aspect of Medieval Jewish thought is the
important role played by Jewish mystical thinking, Kabbalah.
This is literature of speculation about the nature of God which
places its emphasis on the
experience
of confronting the divine.
The kabbalistic system is complex, profound and theologically
daring.
There are now a number of mystical texts available, at least in
part, in English translation. Most important is Daniel Matt’s
anthology,
The Zohar: The Book of Enlightenment
(Paulist Press,
1983). Readers will benefit from two wide ranging and important
anthologies: Louis Jacobs,
Jewish Mystical Testimonies
(Schocken,
1977) and Benzion Bokser,
The Jewish Mystical Tradition
(Pilgrim,
1981).
All study of Jewish mysticism begins with the work of the great