THE SPRINGS OF JEWISH LIFE by Chaim Raphael

THE SPRINGS OF JEWISH LIFE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A broad historical survey of Jewish identity that achieves its stated aim of being ""sad without self-pity, involved without megalomania, proud . . . without vainglory."" Raphael is a Research Fellow in Jewish Social History at the Univ. of Sussex. His approach, though it rests on solid scholarship, is popular, uncluttered, and simple enough for readers with little or no knowledge of Judaism. Within the immense span of his topic, Raphael inevitably stresses certain areas over others. He concentrates on the sparsely documented but critical period between Ezra and Judah ha-Nasi; on Christianity's break with Judaism; on traditional religious, as opposed to modern secular, ways of being Jewish. He points out the recurrent pattern of Jewish intercourse with Gentile culture, though he rather underplays the disruptive effects such ""learning avidly from the outside"" could and does have. And, finally, he recapitulates the saga of Jewish survival and celebrates the rebirth of the state of Israel with unabashed emotion. Raphael studies the five or so centuries separating the emergence of the ""Torah of Moses"" as a sacred institution and the triumph of rabbinism because they were the crucible for normative Judaism. They were also capped by two developments with long-term tragic implications: the Roman devastation of Judea and the growth of Christian anti-Semitism. The Pharisees might have avoided the first, Raphael follows Abraham Schalit in suggesting, with more political realism and skill. On Jewish-Christian revelations, Raphael is consistently balanced and fair, as he traces the devolution from ""rabbi Jesus"" to the fanatical Jew-baiting of John Chrysostom (d. 407). Readers wishing a full presentation of events from, say, the end of the Bar Kokhba Revolt to the Holocaust will have to look elsewhere; but Raphael's sober, conservative account does a fine job of putting Judaism in full historical perspective.

Pub Date: Oct. 20th, 1982
Publisher: Basic Books