Page 104 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 8 (1949-1950)

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J EW I S H BOOK A N N U A L
98
and the philologic-historical approach of the student of the
jue-
dische JVissenschajt
־,” he was able to advance the study of the
Halachah intrinsically as well as to shed light on many of its
historico-literary problems.
In his epoch-making
Meqomah shel ha-Halachah b'Hochmat
Yisrael
and elsewhere he has maintained vigorously with penetrant
acumen and an imposing array of facts the following two proposi-
tions. One that the Halachah takes primacy as a source of Jewish
thought and history, and two that it was a concomitant and
coefficient of life and not scholastic dry rot.
To substantiate his thesis, he makes Talmudic law divulge its
secrets as if it were touched by a magic wand. Here are two or
three of the laws he has probed. In Palestine, Jews refrained
from selling merchandise to pagans on the three days preceding
their holidays. The famous Babylonian scholar Samuel restricted
the prohibition to the day of the holiday. Why? Because in the
former country “Judaism and Paganism were locked in combat
for many centuries.” Of the Babylonians, however, a Babylonian
Amora remarked that they were “not to be considered idolaters
in the real sense of the word.” The Talmud relates that the first
“pair” of transmitters in the chain of tradition subjected glass-
ware to the laws of Levitical purity. Professor Ginzberg points
out that it was neither more nor less than an economic measure
aimed to protect the manufacturers of and dealers in earthenware
and metal vessels, which vessels were susceptible to impurity,
against the competition of the foreign commodity, glass, which
suffering from no such handicap, was becoming very popular.
The Hillelites and Shammaites, he revealed, were not recluse
pedants engaged in a battle of words but the representatives of
different economic and social strata clashing over the interests of
their respective groups.
Professor Ginzberg is the scholar with the living comprehensive
soul of the poet. There is nothing prosaic or insensible in this
man of fragments and annotations. There is unique charm in this
Genizah-dweller. The muse which fluttered over him at the time of
his literary debut has never deserted him. The exuberant fancy,
sauce piquant, the easy and spontaneous wit of his theatrical
reviews reappear in his lectures, footnotes, conversation, and anec-
dotes with which he delights to regale his friends. His humor is
as lambent as are his
Hiddushim
and his store of stories as inex-
haustible as his Talmudic erudition.
And he is no more and no less the philosopher than was the
largest number of his predecessors in the chain of tradition which
he has represented with so much distinction, dignity, and convic-
tion. He has, the admission is inevitable, not defined his insuf-