Monday, June 7, 2010

Recent Publications, Tradition, TUMJ and the Rebbe

1 - Tradition - has become more disappointing with each issue. It seems a pity that a publication which has published many fascinating articles and editorials in the past, can give us nothing better then a stale argument against the Documentary hypothesis , and some obscure halachic analysis. Its sole saving grace is Prof. Leiman's column which unfortunately does not appear in this latest issue.

2 - The Rebbe, etc. - Although I cannot form a full opinion until I get a copy of the book, this seems to suffer from the same problem of most writing on both the Rebbe and Lubavitch community to date. That is, an excessive focusing on Messianism losing site of the many other important aspects. The Rebbe was a great leader, and a really impressive scholar for whom all "rooms of Torah were open before him". A majority of his many letters, speeches and writings have no connection to his Messianism.

He wrote many chiddushim on Rambam, Rashi on Torah, Kabbalah, etc and often had a highly original and interesting approach. I remember a particular chiddush that views the disagreement about the method of Biur Chametz based on the ancient idea of 4 elements and the original hylic element which I thought highly original. The Rebbe was also a great leader and was able to connect to each person on a personal level and provide advice and guidance as can be seen in his letters.

The excessive harping on Messianism obscures this and it would be nice to see a real intellectual profile. It is likely that the authors' profession as sociologists makes them unfit for the task of biographer. See here for a criticism of some of the research on the Rebbe's Paris-Berlin years.

3- TUMJ - is finally up after a 4 year (?) hiatus. Marc Shapiro translates R' Hirsch's speech in honor of Schiller. Schiller was also very much beloved in Poland as can be seen here and in numerous other sources, and in Lithuania, see Paula Wengeroff's Memoirs:

Regarding the girls singing in Hirsch's school (fn. 10), A similar report* is in HaLevanon of October 16, 1872 -

There are many other interesting articles such as on Chasam Sofer and copyright, and others which I will perhaps discuss in a later update.

[*] I mistakenly translated שירים as songs. The report is actually referring to poetry recital. My thanks to Prof. Shapiro for bringing this error to my attention.


Skeptic said...

I wouldn't be so quick to judge the book on the Rebbe. Having personally read it, it portrays a very balanced view of the Rebbe's life and tremendous accomplishments. And the criticism you link to regarding Berlin and Paris is obviously written by someone who hasn't read the book, since it answers a straw man and has very little relation to the actual content of the book.

Wolf2191 said...

YLikely you are right, I was just going on Nadler's review but I look forward to reading the book.

Chabad-Revisited said...


"the criticism you link to regarding Berlin and Paris is obviously written by someone who hasn't read the book"

I have read the book.

Your right. It has "very little relation to the actual content of the book", because I was specifically highlighting those details which the authors have conveniently overlooked.

Chabad-Revisited said...

For a more specific critique of the methodology of these academics see here:

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