Back To The Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish Texts

by Barry W. Holtz (Editor)

Paperback, 1986




Simon & Schuster (1986), Edition: Reprint, 448 pages


Essays analyze the major traditional texts of Judaism from literary, historical, philosophical, and religious points of view.

User reviews

LibraryThing member MarthaJeanne
So far my biggest problem is that when this book was reissued, no attempt was made to update the bibliographic sections at the end of each chapter. I would enjoy looking into some of the issues further, but besides prefering more recent books, it can be difficult getting books that are over thirty
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years out of print, but not old enough to be out of copyright.

Having finished, I can say that this book reads very well for one 30 years old. Although I assume some chapters might be written differently today, neither the language nor the content jar as books from this time often do.

Oh, yes. When I picked this up I was wondering whether to try learning Hebrew again. It served its purpose. The class starts a week from today.
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LibraryThing member simchaboston
Thorough and insightful primer on the core texts of Judaism. The best selections are the ones about the Torah and the Talmud, but most of the essays are well worth the read even for those familiar with these materials. The exception for me was the piece on medieval Jewish philosophers, which was a
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morass of unfamiliar names and terms, and the proofs included (without much translation into ordinary English) made the topic seem more impenetrable and inaccessible than ever. The bibliographies seem to be good starting points for more research, if somewhat out of date (unavoidable given the 1986 publication date).
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LibraryThing member keylawk
Brilliant exegesis of Scripture across the many forms. For example, in discussing the curiosity of procedures needed for purification (apparently some of God's creations are taboo or taher), a person defiled by leprosy can "reinstate himself in the divine presence" with a detailed ritual of birds
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dipped in colored water from a running source ("living water"). [94] But, "This is not the end. In the Torah's view, there are no accidents." [Where have we heard this before!] God programs every event in nature or history. [We note the absence of any entry of "Shoah" or "Holocaust" in the Index of this volume on the texts of Pre-Modernity.] If a person suffers a disease, such as leprosy, God is assumed to be afflicting that person for some cause, presumably a sin. Later, [and here is why this is a rich resource] the Book of Job will react to this theology and point to the saintly Job as an empirical challenge to the Torah's ideology." [95]

In presenting Biblical poetry, for example the poem of Job, the authors emphasize that this form is, like the religion itself, a "relational phenomenon". [121] The poet is always in "dialogue"--with tradition, collaborators, the audience, or even the future. The "wisdom poetry" of the Bible is pointed to as effectively exploiting personal involvement as a mode of instruction. "Thus the poem of Job does not formally, or didactically expound its profound insights into the nature of divine justice or the limits of human wisdom. Instead, its themes are developed at length through the sustained personal interaction between Job and his 'comforter,' as well as our own interaction with the various players in this drama." [121] For example, we participate with the reasoned dialogue of Eliphaz, calm at first in chapters 4-5, ruffled aggressiveness in chapter 15, and "ultimately his unbridled hostility" in chapter 22. This dialogue is "as much the message as the medium".
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Original language


Physical description

9.25 inches


0671605968 / 9780671605964
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