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For Jews, one might posit that the composition of texts in manuscript never disappeared from Jewish culture.

In his Print, Manuscript, and the Search for Order, David McKitterick characterizes the relationship between print and manuscript in the early modern period as a long divorce. For Jews, one might posit that the divorce was never finalized: the composition of texts in manuscript never disappeared from Jewish culture. The writing of a Torah scroll, the composition of a mezuzah, and other such sacred objects continues uninterrupted. Even beyond these basic ritual functions, manuscript writing continued to play a crucial role in Jewish societies for centuries after the invention of printing, and manuscripts continue to exist in persistent tension with printed books.

Yaacob Dweck, “What Is a Jewish Book?,” AJS Review 34, No. 2 (November 2010), 371.

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The study of the Pentateuch with the view of indicating the re-attachment of halachoth to the written law was known as middoth

The study of the Pentateuch with the view of indicating the re-attachment of halachoth to the written law was known as middoth (modes, measures) or, in its Aramaic equivalent, mekilatha. Thus, we read: ‘Better is he who studies halachoth and is conversant with them, than he who studies halachoth and middoth and is not conversant with them, but – it is his ambition to be acclaimed a student of mekilan.’ The term ‘middoth’ and its Aramaic translation ‘mekilatha’ had also the meaning of a scroll or a set of rules. It may thus refer to a set collection of Beraithoth.

S.K. Mirsky, “The Schools of Hillel, R. Ishmael and R. Akiba in Pentateuchal Interpretation,” in Essays Presented to Chief Rabbi Israel Brodie on the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday, ed. H.J. Zimmels, J. Rabbinowitz, & I. Finestein (London: The Soncino Press Limited, 1967), 297.

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The renewed activity of re-attaching halakhot to the written Torah in Hillel’s time are due to the struggles of the times

The circumstances which brought about renewed activity in re-attaching halachoth to the written Torah at the time of Hillel are undoubtedly to be sought in the struggle of the Pharisees with the Sadducees, and in turn these circumstances necessitated the establishment of schools – the houses of Shammai and Hillel – who came occasionally together for academic discussions.

S.K. Mirsky, “The Schools of Hillel, R. Ishmael and R. Akiba in Pentateuchal Interpretation,” in Essays Presented to Chief Rabbi Israel Brodie on the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday, ed. H.J. Zimmels, J. Rabbinowitz, & I. Finestein (London: The Soncino Press Limited, 1967), 295.

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The legal device is introduced to preserve the principle and the purpose for which the law was ordained

The legal device is introduced to preserve the principle and the purpose for which the law was ordained. In Jewish law, likewise, the legal device was instituted not to circumvent the law, but to serve as a guard against the threatened neglect of a Biblical precept. It is scarcely necessary to stress that, as in the case of the Jewish people, changes, political, social and economic, have often taken place, the Jewish legislators felt impelled to contrive some legal instrument in order to preserve the idea and concept underlying a given precept. Such a device would help to maintain the Law and thus prove valuable in furthering the welfare of the individual, the group and the community.

M.S. Lew, “The Humanity of the Halachah,” Essays Presented to Chief Rabbi Israel Brodie on the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday, ed. H.J. Zimmels, J. Rabbinowitz, I. Finestein (London: The Soncino Press Limited, 1967), 244.

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Embracing the whole domain of existence, the halachah, far from taking no account of particular situations, has paid due regard to the humanities of life

The halachah has been ridiculed for its preoccupation with texts and hair-splitting minutiae even as criticism has often been levelled against Judaism for its arid legalism. In disparaging the halachah as a system cold, rigid, and impersonal, the critics overlooked or failed to see the ideas and concepts of humanity, sympathy and compassion that are embedded in the Jewish legal system and its literature. Embracing the whole domain of existence, the halachah, far from taking no account of particular situations, has paid due regard to the humanities of life. Indeed, like Biblical teaching, rabbinic legislation has been guided by the highest moral principles, social criteria, and considerations of human welfare.

M.S. Lew, “The Humanity of the Halachah,” Essays Presented to Chief Rabbi Israel Brodie on the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday, ed. H.J. Zimmels, J. Rabbinowitz, I. Finestein (London: The Soncino Press Limited, 1967), 243.

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Rejecting Judaism means not only rejecting traditional theologies, but also rejecting this core part of your self-identity

When a group of people share such a rich set of experiences and history, it really doesn’t matter whether or not they all believe the same things about God. The role of Jewish tradition in shaping our beliefs is so powerful, so primal, that it transcends the question of theology and becomes a simple fact about who we are. I can lose my faith in God, but I can’t change the fact that I’m Jewish anymore than I can change the fact that I was born American. Being Jewish is a principal part of what makes me “me.” Rejecting Judaism means not only rejecting traditional theologies, but also rejecting this core part of your self-identity, choosing to turn your back on a tradition that’s shaped your whole life to this date.

Zack Beauchamp, “Judaism Without God,” Tablet (25 June 2012) {http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/104444/judaism-without-god}

“…historic Judaism has been neither religion nor nationalism exclusively, but religion and nationalism organically intertwined”

In truth, historic Judaism has been neither religion nor nationalism exclusively, but religion and nationalism organically intertwined. Whoever attempts to separate them, to make the tradition appear as if it were only religion or only nationalism, will succeed in concocting an aberrant monstrosity, a caricature which won’t even resemble authentic Judaism.

Roland B. Gittelsohn, Partners in Destiny: Reform Judaism and Zionism (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1984), 2.

“Let the Jew really become familiar with this part of his heritage”

Let the Jew really become familiar with this part of his heritage. Let him, through a little effort at learning and devotion, come to know and to understand his faith, even if only in a very simple and elementary manner. He will soon realize that Judaism is a superb religious philosophy of life, a religion which is highly intelligent as well as being emotionally deeply attractive; that it is forward looking and indomitably hopeful; that it is a religion through which mankind can really seek and progressively find its salvation and happiness upon earth.

Leon I. Feuer, On Being a Jew (New York: Bloch Publishing Company, 1947), 76.

“we Jews almost defy definition. We are a unique demographic group; none of the customary sociological categories is a perfect fit for us”

We must begin by trying to define Judaism and the Jewish people, no easy task even for one who has spent a lifetime studying Jewish history. Worlds like religious and secular and nationalistic, which have clear-cut meanings in other contexts, become fuzzy and confused when applied to us. The plain fact is that we Jews almost defy definition. We are a unique demographic group; none of the customary sociological categories is a perfect fit for us.

 

We are a religious group, true, but simultaneously more than that. We share some facets of national existence, but not all of us partake of them fully. We are an ethnic entity, yet at the same time an admixture of many races. If we are to be defined with any measure of accuracy, a new term must be devised, peculiarly and uniquely for us.

Roland B. Gittelsohn, Partners in Destiny: Reform Judaism and Zionism (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1984), 1.

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“There is no young leadership if the young people branded as such have no real place in these bodies”

We have to make space for these young leaders in our normative governing structures. There is no young leadership if the young people branded as such have no real place in these bodies. Observing may be informative and donating a certain minimum gift is nice too, but to have young leadership means that they have a proportional share of the leadership body of the organization.

Sarah Eisenman, “A Young Leadership Lesson, From 1960?” eJewish Philanthropy (3 July 2012) {http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/a-young-leadership-lesson-from-1960/}