Leadership and Conflict

BookLeadership and Conflict

Leadership and Conflict

Tensions in Medieval and Modern Jewish History and Culture

The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

2014

October 30th, 2014

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This masterly collection of essays offers a multifaceted analysis of how Jewish leaders in medieval and early modern times responded to the challenges presented by a changing world. Based largely on the study of sermons and response - genres that show them addressing real situations in the lives of their people - the book reveals how they handled intellectual, social, and political diversity and conflict. As medieval Jews were exposed to new philosophical ideas, many began to question and challenge rabbinical leadership. Leadership and Conflict explores the process by which these ideas became more accessible, the doubts that consequently arose regarding certain biblical and rabbinic texts, and the attempt by some leaders to ban the study of philosophical texts altogether. The book also addresses the rhetoric of rebuke used by preachers to criticize behavior within their community that they considered to be a violation of Jewish law and tradition. Another set of challenges to traditional Jewish life emerged from political developments in the wider world, including the unification of France, the Spanish Inquisition and Edict of Expulsion, and the beginning of the Counter-Reformation. Leadership and Conflict asks whether criticism of the talent and leadership of rabbis in such times of crisis was justified. The final section of the book is devoted to conflicting attitudes within Jewish society: towards the Holy Land, exile and diasporic existence, and messianic movements and personalities. Leadership and Conflict represents three decades of scholarship by Professor Marc Saperstein, a distinguished historian. Bringing his perceptive essays together in a single volume allows a new generation of students and scholars to have access to his insights and conclusions.

Reviews

‘A fascinating book about Jewish society in the medieval and early modern eras written through the prism of rabbinic sermons and Jewish responsa by one of the pre-eminent scholars of these mediums. Written clearly, it is accessible to the scholar and the interested general reader.’
David Tesler, Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews

'Marc Saperstein has written several books on medieval and modern rabbinic literature. Every one of them has achieved a rare balance between deep erudition and broad perspective . . . a fascinating and crucial take on the topic. The book is an important contribution to the study of Jewish philosophy and social history.'
Pinchas Roth, Jewish

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Author Information

Marc Saperstein is Professor of Jewish Studies at King's College London, and Professor of Jewish History and Homiletics at Leo Baeck College, London, where he formerly served for five years as Principal. He is the author of several books, and is widely recognized as the leading authority in this generation on the history of the Jewish sermon in medieval and modern times.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Cover1
Half Title2
Title Page4
Copyright5
Dedication6
Acknowledgements8
Contents12
Note on Transliteration14
Introduction16
PART I TWO MODES OF RABBINIC LEADERSHIP26
1. The Preaching of Repentance and the Reforms in Toledo, 128128
2. Legal Decision-Making in Fourteenth-Century Toledo: The Responsa of Rabbi Judah ben Asher44
PART II INTELLECTUAL CHALLENGE AND CONFLICT72
3. Philosophy and Jewish Society in the Late Middle Ages74
4. The Conflict over the Ban on Philosophical Study, 1305: A Political Perspective109
5. Cultural Juxtapositions: Problematizing Scripture in Late Medieval Jewish and Christian Exegesis128
6. Ein li esek banistarot: Saul Levi Morteira’s Sermons on Parashat ‘Bereshit’155
PART III LEADERS FACING COMMUNITIES IN UPHEAVAL192
7. Jewish Leadership in the Generation of the Expulsion194
8. Rabbis, Martyrs, and Merchants: Jewish Communal Conflict as Reflected in the Responsa on the Boycott of Ancona219
9. Four Kinds of Weeping: Saul Levi Morteira’s Application of Biblical Narrative to Contemporary Events236
10. Attempts to Control the Pulpit: Medieval Judaism and Beyond252
PART IV CONFLICTING ATTITUDES TOWARDS EXILE, THE LAND, AND THE MESSIAH266
11. ‘Arab Chains’ and ‘The Good Things of Spain’: Aspects of Jewish Exile268
12. The Land of Israel in Pre-Modern Jewish Thought: A History of Two Rabbinic Statements286
13. Messianic Leadership in Jewish History: Movements and Personalities306
Bibliography334
Index of Passages Cited372
General Index376