Judaism in Practice: From the Middle Ages through the Early Modern Period

Overview

This collection of original materials provides a sweeping view of medieval and early modern Jewish ritual and religious practice. Including such diverse texts as ritual manuals, legal codes, mystical books, autobiographical writings, folk literature, and liturgical poetry, it testifies to the enormous variety of practices that characterized Judaism in the twelve hundred years between 600 and 1800 C.E. Its focus on religious practice and experience -- how Judaism was actually lived by people from day to day -- ...
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Overview

This collection of original materials provides a sweeping view of medieval and early modern Jewish ritual and religious practice. Including such diverse texts as ritual manuals, legal codes, mystical books, autobiographical writings, folk literature, and liturgical poetry, it testifies to the enormous variety of practices that characterized Judaism in the twelve hundred years between 600 and 1800 C.E. Its focus on religious practice and experience -- how Judaism was actually lived by people from day to day -- makes this anthology unique among the few sourcebooks available.

The volume encompasses the broad scope and complex texture of Jewish religious practice, taking into account many aspects of Jewish culture that have hitherto been relatively neglected: the religious life of ordinary people, the role and status of women, art and aesthetics, and marginalized as well as remote Jewish communities. It introduces such remarkable personalities as Moses Maimonides, Leon Modena, and Gluckel of Hameln, and presents extraordinary texts on festival practice, Torah study, mystical communities, meditation, exorcism, the practice of charity, and folk rites marking birth and death.

Representing state-of-the-art scholarship by distinguished academics from around the world, the volume includes many materials never before translated into English. Each text is preceded by an accessible introduction, making this book suitable for college and university students as well as a general audience. Whether read as a deliberate course of study or dipped into selectively for a glimpse into fascinating Jewish lives and places, Judaism in Practice holds rich rewards for any reader.

Lawrence Fine is the Irene Kaplan Leiwant Professor of Jewish Studies and a member of the Religion Department at Mount Holyoke College. He is the editor of Essential Papers on Kabbalah, the translator of Safed Spirituality: Rules of Mystical Piety, The Beginning of Wisdom, and the author of Physician of the Soul, Healer of the Cosmos -- Isaac Luria and his Kabbalistic Fellowship.

"This is a rich collection. Fine has secured contributions, introductions, and a selection of materials from accomplished scholars in each area covered. There is no other volume like it. The book is well suited for an undergraduate readership in Jewish studies, and Fine's introduction is appropriate for readers encountering the study of Judaism for the first time." -- Robert S. Schine, Middlebury College, author of Jewish Thought Adrift: Max Wiener

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Editorial Reviews

The Forward
Lawrence Fine . . . has assembled an impressive array of writings that explore the variegated ways in which Jews have practiced their religion. . . . By giving us a variety of texts and materials that go beyond the boundaries of conventional sources, Fine has opened up ways of thinking about the Jewish experience that are likely to challenge readers' expectations. In doing so, he and his contributors raise essential questions about the nature of Judaism as a religion and a culture, shake readers out of complacency and leave us to wonder at the marvelous scope of the Jewish people's history.
"The Forward ry W. Holtz

Lawrence Fine . . . has assembled an impressive array of writings that explore the variegated ways in which Jews have practiced their religion. . . . By giving us a variety of texts and materials that go beyond the boundaries of conventional sources, Fine has opened up ways of thinking about the Jewish experience that are likely to challenge readers' expectations. In doing so, he and his contributors raise essential questions about the nature of Judaism as a religion and a culture, shake readers out of complacency and leave us to wonder at the marvelous scope of the Jewish people's history.
From the Publisher
"Lawrence Fine . . . has assembled an impressive array of writings that explore the variegated ways in which Jews have practiced their religion. . . . By giving us a variety of texts and materials that go beyond the boundaries of conventional sources, Fine has opened up ways of thinking about the Jewish experience that are likely to challenge readers' expectations. In doing so, he and his contributors raise essential questions about the nature of Judaism as a religion and a culture, shake readers out of complacency and leave us to wonder at the marvelous scope of the Jewish people's history."—Barry W. Holtz, The Forward
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691057866
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 11/5/2001
  • Series: Princeton Readings in Religions Series
  • Pages: 556
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.38 (d)

Table of Contents

Princeton Readings in Religions
Note on Transliteration and Acknowledgments
Contributors
Introduction 1
Rituals of Daily and Festival Practice
1 Communal Prayer and Liturgical Poetry 39
2 Italian Jewish Women at Prayer 52
3 Measuring Graves and Laying Wicks 61
4 Adorning the "Bride" on the Eve of the Feast of Weeks 74
5 New Year's Day for Fruit of the Tree 81
Rituals of the Life Cycle
6 The Role of Women at Rituals of Their Infant Children 99
7 Honey Cakes and Torah: A Jewish Boy Learns His Letters 115
8 Women and Ritual Immersion in Medieval Ashkenaz: The Sexual Politics of Piety 131
9 Life-Cycle Rituals of Spanish Crypto-Jewish Women 143
10 Ritualizing Death and Dying: The Ethical Will of Naphtali Ha-Kohen Katz 155
Torah, Learning, and Ethics
11 Moses Maimonides' Laws of the Study of Torah 171
12 An Egyptian Woman Seeks to Rescue Her Husband from a Sufi Monastery 186
13 A Monastic-like Setting for the Study of Torah 191
14 Religious Practice among Italian Jewish Women 203
15 A Mystical Fellowship in Jerusalem 210
16 The Love of Learning among Polish Jews 215
Religious Sectarianism and Communities on the Margins
17 Jewish Sectarianism in the Near East: A Muslim's Account 229
18 Travel in the Land of Israel 237
19 Karaite Ritual 248
20 Living Judaism in Confucian Culture: Being Jewish and Being Chinese 265
Art and Aesthetics
21 Defending, Enjoying, and Regulating the Visual 281
22 Illustrating History and Illuminating Identity in the Art of the Passover Haggadah 298
23 The Arts of Calligraphy and Composition, and the Love of Books 318
24 Jewish Preaching in Fifteenth-Century Spain 325
Magic and Mysticism
25 The Book of the Great Name 341
26 Visionary Experiences among Spanish Crypto-Jewish Women 348
27 Mystical Eating and Food Practices in the Zohar 353
28 Devotional Rites in a Sufi Mode 364
29 Pietistic Customs from Safed 375
30 Jewish Exorcism: Early Modern Traditions and Transformations 386
31 Rabbi Menahem Nahum of Chernobyl: Personal Practices of a Hasdic Master 399
Remarkable Lives
32 The Life of Moses ben Maimon 413
33 Dolce of Worms: The Lives and Deaths of an Exemplary Medieval Jewish Woman and Her Daughters 429
34 The Earliest Hebrew First-Crusade Narrative 438
35 Leon Modena's Autobiography 453
36 The Early Messianic Career of Shabbatai Zvi 470
37 The Life of Glikl of Hameln 483
38 Israel ben Eliezer, the Baal Shem Tov 498
39 The Scholarly Life of the Gaon of Vilna 513
App The Jewish Holidays 521
Index 523
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