Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Oh for a Book...And a Shady Nook (John Wilson)

Hazal assert: 'One whose head aches, let him occupy himself with Torah' (Eruvin 54a). Taking some latitude with that adage, I'd like to note a few bibliographic developments.

I. A Daughter's Tribute

Last night marked the launching of the Hebrew version of Dr. Rivka Teitz Blau's biography of her father, the legendary Rav Pinhas M. Teitz זצ"ל, Chief Rabbi of Elizabeth, New Jersey (and a lot more than that). The new edition of Learn Torah, Love Torah, Live Torah: Harav Mordechai Pinchas Teitz, the Quintessential Rabbi is entitled ושמחת בחייך and should be required reading for anyone interested in a) American Jewish History b) the History of twentieth century Orthodox Judaism c) finding an inspiring role model for the twenty-first century. (I especially liked the part about how Rabbi Teitz was ejected from the Agudas haRabbonim because he was too 'modern,' only to later become part of its presidium,on his terms.) Writing a biography of one's parent is a daunting challenge, but the author carries it off with an enviable combination of scholarship, aplomb and affection.

The evening was highlighted by a talk delivered by Rav Haim Sabato, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Birkat Moshe in Ma'aleh Adumim and best-selling author. Rav Sabato, whose prose is nothing less than enchanting, and richly evocative of Jewish Life and Literature in a manner more elegant, more melifluous, less cynical though no less angst ridden than Agnon, spoke of the task of the rabbi. I hope to post his remarks another time. Suffice it to say that he kept returning to the importance of belief, of faith and pure commitment. His words fit Rav Teitz perfectly. That too was no mean achievement.

II. Ashkenazic Mentalite

I am pleased to announce that the latest volume of Brill's Jewish-Chistian Perspectives Series, edited by Professor Joshua Schwartz and Dr. Marcel Poorthuis has just been issued. Entitled, A Holy People Jewish and Christian Perspectives on Religious Communal Identity , it includes a chapter by yours truly, '‘Qehillah Qedosha’: Sacred Community in Medieval Ashkenazic
Law and Culture.'
Its a further effort on my part to use Sociological and Anthropological tools of analysis together with the History of Halakha. It also represents an early effort in a direction that I'm taking in the book I'm writing.

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