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Transmitting Jewish Traditions

Transmitting Jewish Traditions: Orality, Textuality, and Cultural Diffusion

YAAKOV ELMAN
ISRAEL GERSHONI
Copyright Date: 2000
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 366
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt32bvjs
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  • Book Info
    Transmitting Jewish Traditions
    Book Description:

    This book examines the impact of changing modes of cultural transmission on Jewish and Western cultures over the past two thousand years. The contributors to the volume survey some of the ways-conscious and subconscious-in which cultural elements are selected, shaped, and transmitted, and some of the ways they in turn shape the future of their cultures. Focusing on a range of Jewish cultures from late antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the modern period, the authors consider both the transformation of traditions in their travels from one contemporaneous cultural context to another and their transformation within a single culture over time.Some of the studies in the book deal with the transition from mixed oral-written cultures to ones in which written-print is nearly exclusive. Other chapters deal with the processes of transmission such as anthologizing, translating, teaching, and sermonizing. By contextualizing Jewish culture within Western culture and including a comparative perspective, the book makes an important contribution to Judaic studies as well as to other areas of the humanities concerned with questions of textuality and culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14593-9
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    David B. Ruderman

    This fascinating volume of essays on the subject of learning, orality and literacy, and the transmission of knowledge in the Jewish tradition represents the second in our seriesStudies in Jewish Culture and Society.It brings together a rich sampling of the scholarly work accomplished during the academic year 1995–1996 among some twenty fellows from around the world invited by the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Advanced Judaic Studies to reflect on this broad theme from a variety of perspectives and disciplines. The group consisted of scholars who worked on the Hebrew Bible and Jewish literature of the Hellenistic-Roman...

  4. INTRODUCTION Transmitting Tradition: Orality and Textuality in Jewish Cultures
    (pp. 1-26)
    YAAKOV ELMAN and ISRAEL GERSHONI

    Nineteenth-century Jewish scholars were preoccupied with uncovering areas of history and culture previously ignored, neglected or otherwise lost (“the hunting and gathering” approach to cultural studies), and, with a few notable exceptions, much of the effort of twentieth-century Jewish cultural studies has been devoted to texts and textual changes, without much consideration of their wider cultural context. Understandably, even those exceptions—the work of Gershom Scholem and his successors comes to mind—had not until recently come to terms with the effects of changing modes of cultural transmission on the sum and substance of Jewish culture.

    The following essays constitute...

  5. ONE The Oral-Cultural Context of the Talmud Yerushalmi: Greco-Roman Rhetorical Paideia, Discipleship, and the Concept of Oral Torah
    (pp. 27-73)
    MARTIN S. JAFFEE

    The present essay attempts to make some progress in clarifying the role of writing in the transmission of early rabbinic learned tradition.¹ This attempt is nourished by a growing body of comparative studies focused upon the nature of scribal texts produced in cultures that preserve rich oral-traditional milieus.² In such cultural settings, the expression of communal literary tradition in writing does not necessarily establish a radical discontinuity from the orally rooted tradition. Rather, the written form enters the life of the oral tradition, each register of tradition modulating the other in diverse ways.³

    Texts composed in oral performance, to be...

  6. TWO Between Byzantium and Islam: The Transmission of a Jewish Book in the Byzantine and Early Islamic Periods
    (pp. 74-106)
    PAUL MANDEL

    We are standing in front of a good library of Jewish texts from the rabbinic period, which include the Mishnah, the Tosefta, the Palestinian and Babylonian Talmuds, and the many midrashim. How did these works come to us in the form in which they appear on this shelf? Of course, the various printed editions go back to the earliest printings from the turn of the sixteenth century, which were themselves based on manuscripts. The manuscripts, in turn, were copied one from another. It is a rather straightforward procedure to follow the works back in time, and the classic tenets of...

  7. THREE Orality and the Institutionalization of Tradition: The Growth of the Geonic Yeshiva and the Islamic Madrasa
    (pp. 107-137)
    DAPHNA EPHRAT and YAAKOV ELMAN

    Shlomo Dov Goitein rightly characterized the Jewish and Islamic components of a “Mediterranean society,” which extended far beyond the Mediterranean littoral, as “book cultures,” though important places were reserved for an oral component in both. The purpose of the following analysis, which is the product of a collaboration between an Islamicist and a Judaic scholar, is to determine more exactly the role that orality played within the elite educational institutions which coexisted in tenth-century Baghdad, the geonic yeshiva and the Islamic madrasa.

    The close cultural, geographical and temporal proximity of these two institutions, one of which was in decline and...

  8. FOUR Transmission in Thirteenth-Century Kabbalah
    (pp. 138-165)
    MOSHE IDEL

    The study of the transmission of elements of culture, and their role in intellectual, religious, and other cultural change, may be carried out from various angles. Two in particular provide a salutary contrast to students of culture. On the one hand, there istranslatio studii,the translation of the subject from one cultural sphere to another, one school of thought to another. In the case of religious change, elements are transferred from one religion to another and cause change so great as to generate the recognition that another religion has been produced or, in cases of lesser change, generate syncretistic...

  9. FIVE Beyond the Spoken Word: Oral Tradition and Written Transmission in Medieval Jewish Mysticism
    (pp. 166-224)
    ELLIOT R. WOLFSON

    A salient feature of the proliferation of Jewish mysticism in the High Middle Ages is the apparent clash between the novel and unprecedented forms of Jewish spirituality, on the one hand, and the recurring claims that these forms are the authentic and ancient traditions of Judaism, on the other. The key to assessing the complex issues that arise from the affirmation of these ostensibly opposing views is an exploration of the cultural forms of transmission of knowledge and practice in the relevant mystical fraternities.

    In this study, I will examine the mechanism by which the Provençal and Spanish kabbalists of...

  10. SIX Publication and Reproduction of Literary Texts in Medieval Jewish Civilization: Jewish Scribality and Its Impact on the Texts Transmitted
    (pp. 225-247)
    MALACHI BEIT-ARIÉ

    In dealing with the scribal transmission of texts written in Hebrew script in the High Middle Ages we should first bear in mind two essential circumstances relating to the composition of medieval texts and their reproduction and dissemination which had an immense impact on the nature of the written transmission and the surviving texts. The first factor concerns the creation of written texts and medieval authorship, and relates to the way in which medieval authors viewed their ownership of their written works. The second one involves the individual nature of Jewish book production, and concerns the scribal re-creation of the...

  11. SEVEN The Sermon as Oral Performance
    (pp. 248-277)
    MARC SAPERSTEIN

    In his inaugural sermon, delivered at the Great Synagogue of Venice on August 14,1593, the talented prodigy Leone Modena compared the art of public speaking to two of the plastic arts so popular in contemporary Italy: painting and sculpture. The painter who makes a mistake has an opportunity to correct it and touch up his work by painting over the careless stroke, or incorporating it into a new design. Sculpture, by contrast, does not tolerate such error. One false blow with hammer and chisel changes the material permanently, in a way that cannot be undone. Writing is therefore analogous to...

  12. EIGHT From East to West: Translating Y. L. Perets in Early Twentieth-Century Germany
    (pp. 278-309)
    JEFFREY GROSSMAN

    Yiddish literature today is available to most of its readers only in translation, and however much one may wish it were otherwise, this is likely to remain the case in the near and more distant future. While there are various ways professional readers of Yiddish literature can respond to this situation, among them nostalgia and denial, one response, recognized by translators of Yiddish literature, at least in their capacity as translators, consists in taking problems of translating Yiddish literature seriously and, consequently, taking seriously the question of how translated Yiddish works function for an audience that cannot read the works...

  13. NINE The Kinnus Project: Wissenschaft des Judentums and the Fashioning of a “National Culture” in Palestine
    (pp. 310-323)
    ISRAEL BARTAL

    When the modern Jewish national movement awakened in the late nineteenth century, the question arose in full fury: what complexion would the Jews’ future “national culture” acquire? Thekulturquestion itself was not at all new: every innovative current in European Jewish society since the dawn of the Haskalah movement in the late eighteenth century had pondered it. However, the adjective “national” totally transformed the contours of thekulturdebate and endowed it with political and social implications of a new and, to that point, unfamiliar type. The urge to achieve a continuity of cultural values from the past and...

  14. TEN “Secondary Intellectuals,” Readers, and Readership as Agents of National-Cultural Reproduction in Modern Egypt
    (pp. 324-348)
    ISRAEL GERSHONI

    National culture in modern Egypt was the handiwork of intellectuals. Philosophers, authors, poets, playwrights, artists, journalists and educators(Udaba, Mufakkirun, Muthaqqafunin Arabic)—not politicians, technocrats, bureaucrats or military leaders—began molding it in the late nineteenth century, and gave it its definitive contours between the two World Wars. It was they who compiled its repertoire and invented Egypt’s national self-image, fashioning the constituent genres, themes and representations. It was also they who, via the print media, disseminated and conventionalized the culture throughout the various layers of the Egyptian public.

    Moreover, they were responsible for enlisting the political elites and...

  15. Index
    (pp. 349-353)