Food and Identity in Early Rabbinic Judaism – By Jordan Rosenblum

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BREATH OF LIFE: GOD AS SPIRIT IN JUDAISM. ByRabbi Rachel Timoner. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2011.Pp. xxi + 136; $16.99.Written for Christians and Jews, this fascinating studyexplores Gods Spirit through Jewish rabbinic tradition.Timoner shows that Gods Spirit is the life source for everyperson; indeed, each person is unique due to neshamah,the unique breath that God particularly gives to each. Trulytranscendent, God is not ultimately spirit, as Christianityoften teaches, but God has spirit. Spirit, the means of Godsspecial relationship to creation, is how God gives peopleleadership gifts: wisdom, intuition, understanding, discern-ment, artistic abilities, and courage for prophetic speechand action. Timoner variously teaches that God partnerswith people to accomplish his purposes, gives capacities,rests upon people for given seasons and distinctive pur-poses, and works through peoples hearts, all via spirit;these are facets of spirituality held dear particularly byPentecostals and charismatics. Moreover, ruachs gifts canbe developed and enhanced by moral living, practicinghumility, and yearning to cooperate with Gods purposes.In synergistic fashion Timoner says, Receiving Godsspirit is not a passive affair. If we want to understand rev-elation, we need to turn toward God and open our heartstoward understanding. This book is a rich source for the-istic reection, lifes origins, prayerful meditation, inner-religious dialogue about Gods creative activity, and what itmeans to be human.Edmund RybarczykVanguard UniversityJudaism: Hellenistic through LateAntiquityFOOD AND IDENTITY IN EARLY RABBINICJUDAISM. By Jordan Rosenblum. New York: CambridgeUniversity Press, 2010. Pp. xiv + 223. Cloth, $89.00.Rosenblums volume is a welcome addition to thegrowing interest in food in religious studies. The focus of thisstudy is the means by which the earliest strata of the malerabbinic scholarly elite (the tannaim) actively constructedmultiple facets of their identities through their food prac-tices. Rosenblum argues that tannaitic adumbrations andexpansions of biblical food restrictions were guided by thedesire to make distinctions not only between Jew and non-Jew, but between men and women and between elite and laymale Jew. An opening chapter on the realia of what thetannaim ate is particularly useful in grounding the laterchapters discussions of commensality. Among the manyvirtues of this book is Rosenblums synthesis of diversemethodological approaches and his nuanced challenges tothe reigning anthropological literature on food and foodtaboos. This study would nd an excellent home equally ingraduate-level (and even upper level undergraduate) courseson the ancient Mediterranean world and rabbinics and infood studies courses.Mara BenjaminSt. Olaf CollegeTORAH CENTERS AND RABBINIC ACTIVITY INPALESTINE 70-400 CE: HISTORY AND GEO-GRAPHIC DISTRIBUTION. By Ben Zion Rosenfeld.Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism, 138.Leiden: Brill, 2010. Pp. ix + 320. Cloth, $147.00.This volume deals with the centers for the rabbinicstudy of Torah in the Land of Israel from the destruction ofthe Second Temple until the early fth century, when theJewish patriarchate (Nasi) was abolished. The focus of thevolume is on the geography and characteristics of settle-ments where the study took place. The chapters treat thevarious settlements by region (Judea, Galilee, the coastalcenter, and the Golan Heights). Attention is focused on indi-vidual settlements and what is known about rabbinic studyin each of them. The topic of geography and intellectualactivity is one with great potential. However, the book has noclosing chapter with general conclusions, and it is strikingand somewhat surprising that there are almost no referencesto Christianity or to intellectual activity of non-Jews in theregion in the book. To his credit, the author goes out of hisway to point out that many rabbinic sources cannot be reliedon and consistently checks for veracity of sources. The bib-liography and notes are heavily slanted to Hebrew and tosome extent English sources, while material in German andother languages gets much less attention. This books mainuse will probably be as a reference work.Shaul StampferHebrew UniversityJudaism: MedievalHISTORY AND FOLKLORE IN A MEDIEVALJEWISH CHRONICLE: THE FAMILY CHRONICLEOF AHIMAAZ BEN PALTIEL. Edited by Robert Bonl.Studies in Jewish History and Culture, Vol. 22. Leiden: Brill,2009. Pp. xvii + 402; Cloth, $189.00.The family history or chronicle written by Ahimaaz benPaltiel in Capua (Italy) and preserved in a manuscript copyin the library of the Cathedral of Toledo is a unique text inmedieval Jewish literature. Written in 1054, it deals with theancestors of the author in the previous two hundred years.There is no other text like it that deals with this period andfrom a personal point of view. Bonl gives an annotatedtranslation of the text (with the original Hebrew), but thebulk of the volume is devoted to an analysis of the contentsof the chronicle. He discusses the text, the historical setting,the Jewish communal life, the family life, as well as popularculture and religion of the period. The editor is an acknowl-edged master of the eld, and his fascinating and stimulat-ing analysis brings to life a period about which little wasReligious Studies Reviewrsr_1607 106..160 VOLUME 38 NUMBER 2 JUNE 2012106


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