Sunday 26 May 2024

473) ‘Der Pintele Yid’ − the evolution of the term and concept


This article based extensively on the research by Professor Yehuda Liebes[1] examines the theological development of the term ‘Der Pintele Yid.’ We trace the evolution of conceptualisations of ‘energy points’ from emtza (center), to nekuda (point), to Pintele Yud and finally to Pintele Yid. 

Der Pintele Yid is the Yiddish equivalent of haNekuda Yehudi or haNekuda haYehudit, which, in its common usage today, simply refers to an essential ‘point’ of Jewishness that lies dormant within every Jew even the most assimilated and emerges at unexpected times. 

Sunday 19 May 2024

472) Expanding on Rabbinic Distinctions Between the Titles and Texts of the Psalms


Psalms in the Aleppo Codex showing spacing after the paratexts


This article examines how the subtle ‘textual framing’ embedded within the titles and headings of texts, and can affect texts even before they are read. Using the Psalms as a point of departure, 116 of the 150 psalms, begin with introductory titles or superscriptions also known as paratexts. An example of a paratext would be “Lamenatzeach – For the Choirmaster; or “Livenei Korach – For the sons of Korach. Depending on the editions, these paratexts are often distinguished from the base or main text of the Psalms by some form of spacing to indicate that they were not part of the original text. The purpose of these paratexts was to frame the Psalms for the reader. We first show how the Talmudic rabbis dealt with these paratexts by either heeding, ignoring, altering or challenging them. Then we attempt to extend and analogise this rabbinic approach and apply it to the ubiquitous ‘paratexts’ or ‘framing devices’ inherent, not only in the Psalms but within the presentation of all forms of theology in general. In other words, we look at the important but often unnoticed ways religion is framed and presented to the people. We also note a contemporary example of paratextual framing in a recently published popular edition of the Hebrew Psalms, which subtly interpolates a Jewish messianic reading into its English “explanatory translation.” Essentially, this study explores the paratext as an idiom for the general framing devices of religious ideology and suggests similar multifaceted responses as those adopted by the rabbis in their relationship to Psalm framing.

Sunday 12 May 2024

471) Tzafnat Paneach – a ‘counter Rashi’ commentary

Extract from a 1364 manuscript of Tzafnat Paneach by R. Eleazar Ashkenazi


This article based extensively on the research by Professor Eric Lawee[1] − is divided into three parts:

Part 1 is a brief presentation of how the early Rashi texts were surprisingly diverse, and only emerged in the ‘standard’ form as we know them today at around the sixteenth century.

Part 2 looks at the early rabbinic reception of the Rashi texts.

Part 3 discusses and examines extracts from a little-known fourteenth-century ‘counter commentary’ to Rashi’s commentary. This ‘counter commentary’ was authored by R. Eleazar Ashkenazi, a Maimonidean rationalist, and entitled Tzafnat Paneach (Revealer of Secrets). 

Sunday 5 May 2024

470) Nineteenth-century Jewish Messianism



In our lifetimes, we have experienced multiple events that have sparked the notion that there is something unique in the air and Mashiach is on the way. Many great leaders have indeed declared this to be the case and it has become rather commonplace in the minds of the masses across the religious and even the secular spectrums that we are living in messianic times. Some suggest that Mashiah is already here. While this may or may not be the case, this article looks at another period in Jewish history (and there have been very many similar periods) where the same sentiment had been expressed. We shall explore various approaches to messianism during the nineteenth century as articulated by some in rabbinic leadership positions. 

This article based extensively on the research by Dr Arie Morgenstern[1] − examines some of the messianic statements emerging from rabbinic leadership in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. These statements were generally made in reaction to specific events of the Modern Period, which began around the French Revolution of 1789 and culminated with universal messianic expectations for the year 1840 − the year for the Messiah to appear according to predictions in the Talmud and Zohar.