Page 155 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

Basic HTML Version

veloped 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 ofJewish
literature. It is during the medieval period that we see the emer­
gence 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 philosophy, but we
see the development of a new kind of Bible interpretation, the
pes­
hat
(or simple, contextual) method which appears almost scientific
in its orientation. Yet at the same time Jews are exploring mysti­
cism and also writing the great codes ofJewish 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 Abra­
ham S. Halkin, in
Great Ages and Ideas oftheJewish 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 Organi­
zation.
For the secular poetry in a readable translation (with excellent
commentary), use Raymond P. Schendlin,
Wine, Women andDeath
(JPS, 1986). Secondary literature that will be of use includes: Sha­
lom Spiegel, “On Medieval Hebrew Poetry,” in
TheJewish Expres­
sion,
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 talmudic
discussions, responsa (practical questions asked of halakhic author­
Lifetime ofReading