Page 50 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

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42
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
SHIFT IN EMPHASIS
Throughout the early middle ages, we are presented with
a vision of Judaism that sees its halakhic manner of expression
slowly diminishing in favor of philosophy and mysticism. (It
will become clear presently why I think that the expansion in
cultural concerns is being read developmentally — that is, as
an advance beyond the earlier “halakho-centric” period.) Thus,
while there remain entries on important halakhic figures,
whether commentators or codifiers — Yitzhak (sic) Alfasi, Rashi,
Jacob Tam, Asher b. Yehiel, plus a survey article by Ephraim
Urbach on the Tosafot — there are now many articles on phi­
losophers and mystics. We would, of course, expect to find such
entries; their presence is worthy of mention here only because
of what we find as we move past the sixteenth century. For
when we do, we find that the articles pertaining to halakhists,
codifiers and talmudic commentators are very few and far be­
tween while the new focus is on philosophers and institution
builders of various types. Thus, such pivotal figures in the his­
tory of halakhah as Shlomo Luria, Yoel Sirkes, Yair Bacharach,
Abraham Gumbiner or Ezekiel Landau, to name but a few, are
not considered worthy of note; commentators David Frankel
and Moses Margoliot, who did so much to open the world of
Jewish learning to the Yerushalmi, are likewise ignored. We
do find entries for Yitzhak Elhanan Spektor and Israel Meir
Kagan (Hafetz Hayyim), but one is forced to wonder what the
criteria for inclusion are. Why them and not, say, (Hakham)
Zvi Ashkenazi or his son Yaakov Emden? In the case of Kagan
I suspect his association with the musar movement may have
influenced the decision to include him. Thus, he at least has
some quality that places him within the
Encyclopedia's
purview
of Judaism in the modern period, just as there are entries on
David Zvi Hoffmann and Ezriel Hildesheimer, each a significant
figure in the history of halakhah, but better known in the acad­
emy for other contributions. Be that as it may, it would seem
that the editor(s) became conscious of this bias against the con­
tributions of halakhists toward the end of his/their work, as
the
Encyclopedia's
original prospectus did not call for an article
on Moses Feinstein, although the actual finished work does con­
tain an article that was written after his death in early 1986.
Further, fairness demands that it be stated that the history of