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Jews and Words (Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization)by Amos Oz
Synopses & Reviews
Why are words so important to so many Jews? Novelist Amos Oz and historian Fania Oz-Salzberger roam the gamut of Jewish history to explain the integral relationship of Jews and words. Through a blend of storytelling and scholarship, conversation and argument, father and daughter tell the tales behind Judaism’s most enduring names, adages, disputes, texts, and quips. These words, they argue, compose the chain connecting Abraham with the Jews of every subsequent generation.
Framing the discussion within such topics as continuity, women, timelessness, and individualism, Oz and Oz-Salzberger deftly engage Jewish personalities across the ages, from the unnamed, possibly female author of the Song of Songs through obscure Talmudists to contemporary writers. They suggest that Jewish continuity, even Jewish uniqueness, depends not on central places, monuments, heroic personalities, or rituals but rather on written words and an ongoing debate between the generations. Full of learning, lyricism, and humor, Jews and Words offers an extraordinary tour of the words at the heart of Jewish culture and extends a hand to the reader, any reader, to join the conversation.
"These four long essays — really more of a free-flowing conversation between the noted Israeli novelist and his daughter, a historian — focus primarily on the Jews as 'a nation only by virtue of its texts,' from the Bible to the work of contemporary Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai — and the interpretations and argumentations that flow from them. The authors, secular Jews who are lovers of the Hebrew Bible, note that 'Genesis, Isaiah, and Proverbs are our pyramids... our Gothic cathedrals... undemolished in the flow of time.' They look specifically at the role of 'vocal women,' such as Eve and Lilith, in the Bible and biblical legends. The authors also delve into how the classic Jewish narratives treat time and timelessness, as when a midrash (rabbinic pedagogic story) achieves the 'brazen transcendence of time' by having Moses learn about the teachings and terrible fate of Rabbi Akiva, who lived more than a millennium later. A spirited epilogue looks at the strong Jewish tradition of irreverence toward most everything, including God, and cites another novelist, who said that contemporary Judaism's 'rendezvous with Western humanism is a fateful one, formative... irrevocable.' Oz and Oz-Salzberger's discussion is sometimes disjointed and rambling, but far more often playfully instructive; it will appeal to lay readers interested in a nonreligious Judaism based on contemporary readings of traditional and more modern Jewish texts." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A celebrated novelist and an acclaimed historian of ideas, father and daughter, unravel the chain of words at the core of Jewish life, history, and culture
About the Author
Amos Oz is the internationally renowned author of more than twenty works of fiction and numerous essays on politics, literature, and peace. He is also professor of literature at Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva. Fania Oz-Salzberger is a writer and history professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Haifa. She recently held the Leon Liberman Chair in Modern Israel Studies at Monash University, and a Visiting Laurance S. Rockefeller Professorship for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton University.
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