Page 156 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

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ities) and ongoing debate and analysis. For halakhic sources the
most accessible text is the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides. Ex­
cerpts 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 Philosohy,” by Norbert M. Samuelson, in
Back to the Sourc­
es: Reading the ClassicJewish Texts.
Another striking aspect of Medieval Jewish thought is the im­
portant 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 kabbal­
istic 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 an­
thology,
TheZohar: TheBookofEnlightenment (Pau\istJ?ress,
1983).
Readers will benefit from two wide ranging and important anthol­
ogies: Louis Jacobs,
Jewish Mystical Testimonies
(Schocken, 1977)
and Benzion Bokser,
TheJewish Mystical Tradition
(pilgrim, 1981).
All study of Jewish mysticism begins with the work of the great
Gersom Scholem. His
Major Trends inJewish Mysticism
(Schocken,
1961) is the best source for studying the whole range of expression
in this area. It may be a daunting task, even though it is beautifully
written, but the “Introduction,” at any rate, is a must. A good short
overview of the field with a close reading of a few texts can be
found in the essay on “Kabbalistic Texts,” by Lawrence Fine, in
Back to the Sources: Reading the ClassicJewish Texts.
Next we could turn to Hasidism. No movement in Jewish reli­
gious life has so captured the imagination of the Jewish people in