Monday, March 17, 2008

New Book Tries To Argue with Merkaz HaRav Head

Here's the book:

Reckless Rites: Purim and the Legacy of Jewish Violence
Elliott Horowitz

Cloth | 2006 | $37.95 / £22.50
356 pp. | 6 x 9 | 18 halftones.

Historical accounts of Jewish violence--particularly against Christians--have long been explosive material. Some historians have distorted these records for anti-Semitic purposes. Others have discounted, dismissed, or simply ignored the evidence, often for apologetic purposes.

In Reckless Rites, Elliott Horowitz takes a new and forthright look at both the history of Jewish violence since late antiquity and the ways in which generations of historians have grappled with that history. In the process, he has written the most wide-ranging book on Jewish violence in any language, and the first to fully acknowledge and address the actual anti-Christian practices that became part of the playful, theatrical violence of the Jewish festival of Purim. He has also examined the different ways in which the book of Esther, upon which the festival is based, was used by Jews and Christians over the centuries--whether as an ancient mirror of modern tribulations or as the scriptural basis for anti-Semitic claims regarding the bloodthirstiness of the Jews.

Reckless Rites reassesses the historical interpretation of Jewish violence--from the alleged massacre of thousands of Christians in seventh-century Jerusalem to later medieval attacks on Christian symbols such as the crucifix, transgressions that were often committed in full knowledge that their likely consequence would be death.

A book that calls for major changes in the way that Jewish history is written and conceptualized, Reckless Rites will be essential reading for scholars and students of history, religion, and Jewish-Christian relations.

Elliott Horowitz, a native of New York City, is Associate Professor of Jewish History at Bar-Ilan University, Israel. He is coeditor of the Jewish Quarterly Review.


"Reckless Rites is an excellent read, and for a book on such a serious subject not devoid of humor. . . . [I]t's most important purpose . . . is to throw a very large bucket of cold water over the misconceptions and the willful misreading of history in which we all too easily indulge."--Rabbi Dr. Charles Middleburgh, Jewish Chronicle

"In his new book, Elliot Horowitz attempts to undermine the conventional wisdom about Jews and violence. Focusing on Purim, he convincingly shows that the image passed down over the centuries, of Jewish passivity and nonviolence during the medieval period, is, if not wrong, at least in need of correction. . . . [A] thought-provoking book, whose trees are often as memorable as the forest."--Kalman Neuman, Jerusalem Report

"The book is a valuable contribution to what appeared to be an already enormous volume of religious history. The author's presentation of a well-researched and thoroughly analyzed history of Jewish violence that accompanies a sacred festival makes this an extraordinary book."--Willem F M Luyt, Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae

"Reckless Rites is a provocative volume, rich in historical detail. Horowitz tells a story, not without humor, that attempts to connect events of the distant past with contemporary conflicts. Unusual for a work of history, Reckless Rites is also a good read."--Irven M. Resnick, AJS Review

Table of Contents:

Illustrations xi
Acknowledgments xiii
Introduction 1


CHAPTER ONE: The Book of Esther For and Against 23
CHAPTER TWO: A Pair of Queens 46
CHAPTER THREE: Mordecai's Reckless Refusal 63
CHAPTER FOUR: The Eternal Haman 81
CHAPTER FIVE: Amalek The Memory of Violence and the Violence of Memory 107


CHAPTER SIX: "The Fascination of the Abomination" Jews (and Jewish Historians) Confront the Cross 149
CHAPTER SEVEN: Mild Men or Wild Men? Historical Reflections on Jews and Violence 187
CHAPTER EIGHT: Ancient Jewish Violence and Modern Scholarship 213
CHAPTER NINE: Purim, Carnival, and Violence 248
CHAPTER TEN: Local Purims and the Invention of Tradition 279

(Kippah tip: Seforim)

Well, you might think all this is academic. Right?

Think again and read here:-

Speaking at the collective funeral of all eight young victims, which took place the next day at Merkaz ha-Rav, Rabbi Yaakov Shapira, who recently succeeded his late father as head of the Yeshiva, said that “the murderers are the Amalek of our day, coming to remind us that Amalek has not disappeared, just changed its appearance.” He also saw the attack as “a continuation of the 1929 massacre,” in Hebron, many of whose 67 victims were students of the famed local Yeshiva.

Although the rabbis of the Talmud have taught us that “a man is not to be held responsible for things said in a time of sorrow” (Baba Batra, 16b), I beg to differ with Rabbi Shapira on both points. Regarding the latter, it is not likely that Abu Dhaim, who was not much older than most of his victims, ever heard of the massacre in Hebron. He was much more concerned with the 126 Palestinians, many of them women and children, who were killed by Israeli forces in Gaza during the first week of March, 2008, in their (perhaps overzealous) attempt to save the lives of Israeli women and children in Sderot and Ashkelon. By contrast, Baruch Goldstein, like most Jewish residents of the Hebron area, had been well aware of (if not obsessed with) the bloody massacre that took place some three score and five years earlier, and it is his murderous action in that same city which is is better described “a continuation of the 1929 massacre.”

With regard to the alleged Amalekite affiliation of “the murderers,” Rabbi Shapira is on even shakier ground. As every student in his yeshiva knows, the biblical Amalek was the grandson of Esau, the older son of Isaac. The Arabs, by contrast, are seen as descendants of Ishmael, the half-brother of Isaac. Rabbi Shapira presumably meant that those behind the murder of his young students were Amalekites in the metaphorical sense. But in that sense, it may be argued, so was Dr. Baruch Goldstein.

I left this comment there:

For the Bar Illan scholar: Rabbi Yosef Ber Soloveitchik wrote “I heard the answer from my father of blessed memory. Every nation that conspires to destroy the Jewish people is considered by the halakhah to be Amalek. My father added that as concerns Amalek itslef we were commanded to perform two mitzvot: (a) [for the individual] to blot out the memory of Amalek , which is incumbent on everyone [to slay] any individual member of Amalek [that he encounters], as expounded in the Torah portion of Ki Tetzeh, “You shall blot out the memory of Amalek” (Deuteronomy 25:19), and (b) [for the community] to engage in communal military preparednes for war against Amalek, as it is explained in the Torah portion of B’shalach, “The Lord will wage war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Exodus 17:16). With relation to any other nation that stands ready to destroy us, we are [now after the time of Sennacherib] commanded to wage war against it [even] whil it prepares for war against us, and our war against it is a “War of Mitzvah”, in accordance with the command of the Torah that “The Lord will wage war with Amalek from generation to generation.” However, the destruction of individuals, which is derived from the Torah portion of Ki Tetzeh, refers only to the biological descendants of Amalek. The words of Maimonides include the obligation to wipe out individuals, which does not apply to any other antion that plots destruction against the People of Israel. However, since the obligation of warring with Amalek pertains to such a nation (as well), he did not employ the phrase “And its memory has already been lost.”

And further:-

The Mossad HaRav Kook editon of Ish HaEmunah includes Kol Dodi Dofek and on page 101, RJB writes [my translation YM]: “the evil machinations of the Arabs are not directed only towards the political independence [of the state of Israel] but to the very existential essence of the Jewish community in toto. They aspire to destroy, *chaliliah*, the *Yishuv*, from man to woman, from child to infant, from bull to sheep. At one of the assemblies of the Mizrachi, I said in the name of my father, my teacher z”l, that the portion in the Torah “Hashem wages war against Amalek from generation to generation” is not limited in its community application as a *milchemet mitzva* to a certain race, but is inclusive regarding the obligation of rising up against any nation or group that is infused with irrational [crazed?] hatred, and directs its hate against *Knesset Yisrael* …In the 1930s and 1940s, this role was filled by the Nazis and Hitler at their head. They were Amaleks, representatives of the pathological animosity of the last period. Today, the masses of Nasser and the Mufti are substituting for them.”

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