Page 172 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 47

Basic HTML Version

1 6 4
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
POPULAR APPEAL
Rabbi Huli did not think of the
Meam Loez
as an original
work. Rather, he saw himself as a compiler of many and diverse
classic Jewish sources. He was a popularizer, bringing a vast
array of knowledge to the public in a lucid and pleasant style.
Yet, his approach was indeed original. It was he who decided
what material to include and what to exclude; how to present
it in a lively literary style; how to capture the interest of his
readers and speak to their needs. The
Meam Loez
is interesting
not only for the rabbinic literature it presents, but for the at­
titudes and assumptions of its author. In many ways, the work
mirrors the spiritual life of the Judeo-Spanish-speaking world
of the time.
Rabbi Huli introduced his work with a presentation of four
fundamental ideas: 1) that God created the world, guides it,
rewards righteousness and punishes wickedness; 2) that God
gave the people of Israel the Written Torah and the Oral Torah,
both of which make clear our responsibilities; 3) that God com­
manded us to love our neighbors as ourselves; 4) that each per­
son must regularly contemplate his own mortality, realizing that
it is foolish to follow the ways of sinfulness. If one considers
these four principles, he will be able to attain righteousness and
avoid sin.
The
Meam Loez
is elaborate and wide-ranging. It is instructive
to consider some of the main themes which Rabbi Huli wove
through his work.
Rabbi Huli obviously stressed the importance of Torah study,
the foundation of Jewish knowledge and observance. God cre­
ated the world on condition that the people of Israel would
study Torah and fulfill the mitzvot; if they fail to do so, the
world will return to void and chaos (Genesis 1:31). Jews must
find sufficient time each day to study Torah and not give them­
selves completely to their business (Exodus 20:1). It is especially
sinful to waste time on Shabbat, when there is absolutely no
excuse for not engaging in Torah study. Even those who are
ignorant can go to the synagogue and listen to the teachings
of the rabbi (Exodus 20:1). Studying should be exciting and
creative. When the Almighty commanded us to be fruitful and
to multiply, He obligated us also to be fruitful in our Torah
study. We must first study and master the material. Then we