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
The most common English translations of the Bible often sound like a single, somewhat archaic voice. In fact, the Bible is made up of many separate books composed by multiple writers in a wide range of styles and perspectives. It is, as Michael Carasik demonstrates, not a remote text reserved for churches and synagogues but rather a human document full of history, poetry, politics, theology, and spirituality.and#160;Using historic, linguistic, anthropological, and theological sources, Carasik helps us distinguish between the Jewish Bibleandrsquo;s voicesandmdash;the mythic, the historical, the prophetic, the theological, and the legal. By articulating the differences among these voices, he shows us not just their messages and meanings but also what mattered to the authors. In these contrasts we encounter the Bible anew as a living work whose many voices tell us about the world out of which the Bible grewandmdash;and the world that it created.
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About the Author
An excerpt from Jews and Words
Jewish continuity always hinged on uttered and written words, on an expanding maze of interpretations, debates, and disagreements, and on a unique human rapport. In synagogue, at school, and most of all in the home, it always involved two or three generations deep in conversation.
Ours is not a bloodline but a textline. There is a tangible sense in which Abraham and Sarah, Rabban Gamliel, Glickel of Hameln, and the present authors all belong to the same family tree. Such continuity has recently been disputed: there was no such thing as "Jewish nation," we are told, before modern ideologues deviously dreamed it up. Well, we disagree. Not because we are nationalists. One purpose of this book is to reclaim our ancestry, but also to explain what kind of ancestry, in our view, is worth the effort of reclaiming.
We are not about stones, clans, or chromosomes. You don't have to be an archeologist, an anthropologist, or a geneticist to trace and substantiate the Jewish continuum. You don't have to be an observant Jew. You don't have to be a Jew. Or, for that matter, an anti-Semite. All you have to be is a reader.