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Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory (The Samuel and Althea Stroum Lectures in Jewish Studies) Paperback – April 1, 1996
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"Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi is an exemplary Jewish historian of the Jews, and with Zakhor he becomes an exemplary theorist of the troubling and possibly irreconcilable split between Jewish memory and Jewish historiography. . . [Zakhor] may well be a permanent contribution to Jewish speculation upon the dilemmas of Jewishness, and so it may join the canon of Jewish wisdom literature."―New York Review of Books
"A remarkable book that discusses the millennial tension between the age-old Jewish commandment - and tradition - of remembrance and the relatively new Jewish interest in history."―American Historical Review
Top Customer Reviews
That being said, one might assume that Jews and Judaism naturally place a great emphasis on the history of the Jewish people. Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi in his work Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory, however, argues that what has been understood as history in Jewish circles from the Biblical era until fairly recent times is considerably different that what the modern reader might expect in light of the importance of and emphasis placed on memory. Until recently as Yerushalmi notes, a general lack of interest in historical events that were disconnected to the theological concerns of the Jewish community existed, so much so that an interest in history was as Solomon Ibn Verga writing in the Middles Ages, seen as a "Christian" custom.
The seeming disconnect between memory, history, and histiography according to Yerushalmi is surprising given the fact that beginning with the Tanakh, an emphasis, or better said a command to remember is given. For Yerushalmi, the principal goal of Zakhor is to understand the relationship of Jews to their past and the place of the historian in that relationship. What Jews remembered, or chose to remember is the subject of Yerushalmi's quest.Read more ›
In the second phase, the Middle Ages Yerushalmi outlines the major division which dominates the work, between processes of collective memorization through ritual and religious practice which are not connected with everyday historical happening- and between the writing of history which is connected with historical happening. Yerushalmi says that from the time of the fall of the Second Temple and most especially in this period of the Middle Ages, the Jews remember without remembering historical events. The 'collective Zakhor' or command to collective remembrance ( which he says distinguishes the Jewish Religion) is done without writing the history of the people. The history of the people is avoided. The writing of history is considered by Rambam a low form of intellectual endeavor. The process of collective remembering is done through the living of the Jewish holidays each of which connects up with some historical memory. It is done through Memorbuchs of communities which have suffered in the Crusades.
In the third period which comes immediately after the expulsion from Spain i.e. in the beginning of the sixteenth century there is somehow a return to looking at the actual events of contemporary history but this by framing them in world- historical narratives.
The last period Yerushalmi writes about is the modern one in which there is a return to attending to the events of Jewish history.Read more ›
The author identifies himself as a professional historian. (p. 81). He alludes to the J, or Yahwist, writer (p. xxv), which implies that he accepts the JEPD hypothesis and its rejection of the historicity and the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. On the other hand, he takes a middle view of the Bible between that of it being "factual" in the modern sense or "fictional" in the modern sense. (p. 13). He stresses the fact that later Bible authors did not rewrite earlier portions of the Bible to fit the realities of the more recent epochs. (p. 13).
In medieval Jewish thinking, Christianity became Esau, and Islam became Ishmael. (p. 36). The author touches on the form of Jewish martyrdom during the 1st Crusade, "Confronted with the intolerable--the gruesome scenes of Jewish mass suicide in the Rhineland, which which, by mutual consent, compassionate fathers took the slaughterer's knife to their children and wives and then to themselves rather than accept baptism--the chronicles of the Crusades turn repeatedly to the image of Abraham, ready to slaughter Isaac at Mount Moriah." (p. 38). For more on this martyrdom, please click on Two Nations in Your Womb: Perceptions of Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, and read the detailed Peczkis review.
Yerushalmi occasionally mentions the Talmud. He cites the tractate NIDDAH, which mentions the fetus in the womb knowing the entire Torah, only to lose this knowledge at the moment of birth owing to the actions of an angel. The child is thus forced to learn the Torah anew while growing up. (p. 108). [How does this square with Jews being among the strongest champions of abortion rights, which, of course, implicitly or explicitly reject any humanity of the fetus?]
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory, by Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, presents some obvious conclusions about the role of history in Jewish collective life. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Eric Maroney
A hard read, but amazing. Plow through the first 20 pages and it gets easier to read.Published 5 months ago by ZeeBee
This is a classic! Yerushalmi went on to read the beautiful and moving "Interminable Judaism: Freud's Moses."Published 17 months ago by Mom with Ph.D.
Complex discussions regarding Jewish History and Jewish memory. Not an easy read, but the author is well informed, with interesting and unique ideas. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Kindle Customer
This beautiful treasure of a book illustrates how the Jewish people brought meaning to their history.Published 22 months ago by DIANNE G CARTWRIGHT PHD
it's fabulous. lots of information, admirable temperate voice, lots of wisdom. A must read work for anyone interested in the subject.Published on June 5, 2014 by Michael Ledeen
This is an essential book to anyone interested in Jewish History. This book should be read before one starts to study Jewish history because the book is all about the importance... Read morePublished on April 7, 2013 by Johnman