Collected Essays

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Continuing his contribution to medieval Jewish intellectual history, Haym Soloveitchik focuses here on the radical pietist movement of asidei Ashkenaz and its main literary work, Sefer asidim, and on the writings and personality of the Provençal commentator Ravad of Posquières. In both areas Soloveitchik challenges mainstream views to provide a new understanding of medieval Jewish thought. Some of the essays are revised and updated versions of work previously published and some are entirely new, but in all of them Soloveitchik challenges reigning views to provide a new understanding of medieval Jewish thought.

The section on Sefer Ḥasidim brings together over half a century of Soloveitchik’s writings on German Pietism, many of which originally appeared in obscure publications, and adds two new essays. The first of these is a methodological study of how to read this challenging work and an exposition of what constitutes a valid historical inference, while the second reviews the validity of the sociological and anthropological inferences presented in contemporary historiography. In discussing Ravad’s oeuvre, Soloveitchik questions the widespread notion that Ravad’s chief accomplishment was his commentary on Maimonides’ Mishneh torah; his Talmud commentary, he claims, was of far greater importance and was his true masterpiece. He also adds a new study that focuses on the acrimony between Ravad, as the low-born genius of Posquières, and R. Zerahyah ha-Levi of Lunel, who belonged to the Jewish aristocracy of Languedoc, and considers the implications of that relationship.

'Like all of Professor Soloveitchik’s studies, the book is distinguished by the thoroughness of its scholarship and attention to even the smallest details... reading Professor Soloveitchik’s three volumes of magisterial essays will certainly engage and educate the reader, and one can only hope that we will merit to see a fourth volume in the not too distant future.'
Alan Jotkowitz, Lehrhaus

'In presenting new perspectives on medieval Jewish thought, these collected essays further underline Soloveitchik’s well deserved reputation as an adept, learned and gifted intellectual historian. Highly recommended for all libraries.' David B Levy, Association of Jewish Libraries News and Reviews

Author Information

Haym Soloveitchik is the Merkin Family Research Professor at Yeshiva University, New York, and the former director of the School of Jewish Studies at the Institute of Advanced Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has also taught at the Sorbonne and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. He has published books in Hebrew on pawnbroking and usury, Jewish involvement in the medieval wine trade, and the use of responsa as a historical source. Three volumes of his Collected Essays have been published by the Littman Library.

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
PART I. SEFER ḤASIDIMSpecific Studies1. Three Themes in Sefer Ḥasidim2. On Dating Sefer Ḥasidim3. Piety, Pietism, and German Pietism: Sefer Ḥasidim I and the Influence of Ḥasidei Ashkenaz4. Pietists and Kibbitzers5. The Midrash, Sefer Ḥasidim, and the Changing Face of God6. Two Notes on the Commentary on the Torah of R. Yehudah he-Ḥasid7. Topics in the Ḥokhmat ha-Nefesh
Methodological Issues8. On Reading Sefer Ḥasidim9. Sefer Ḥasidim and the Social Sciences
PART II. RAVAD AND PROVENÇAL STUDIES10. Rabad of Posquières: A Programmatic Essay11. The Literary Remains of the Gedol ha-Mefarshim: A Study in Personal Rivalry and the Repulsion of Opposites12. A Response to R. Buckwold's Critique of 'Rabad of Posquières', Part I13. A Response to R. Buckwold's Critique of 'Rabad of Posquières', Part II14. Jewish and Roman Law: A Study in Interaction15. The Riddle of Me'iri's Recent Popularity16. Printing and the History of Halakhah17. Angle of Deflection
Bibliography of ManuscriptsSource AcknowledgementsIndex of NamesIndex of PlacesIndex of Subjects