Languages of Community: The Jewish Experience in the Czech Lands

Languages of Community: The Jewish Experience in the Czech Lands

Languages of Community: The Jewish Experience in the Czech Lands

Languages of Community: The Jewish Experience in the Czech Lands

Synopsis

"An engaging and highly nuanced portrait of one of European Jewry's most interesting but least known communities. . . . Kieval has a masterful command of a century and a half of Czech Jewish history, which he brings to bear in a sophisticated manner. "--David Sorkin, author of "Moses Mendelssohn and the Religious Enlightenment"

"Uniformly erudite, yet readable and lively. . . . The book will be widely read not only by historians of modern Jewry but by all those interested in the tortured and difficult path of this part of Europe towards the creation of a plural and civil society."--Antony Polonsky, editor of "Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry"

Excerpt

The Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 65B, reads:

Rava said: If the righteous wished, they could create a world, as it is written [Isaiah 59:2]: “It is your iniquities that have separated you from your God” [i.e., made a distinction between you and God]. Rava created a man and sent him to Rabbi Zera. Rabbi Zera spoke to him but he [the man] did not answer. Then he [Rabbi Zera] said to him: You are from the companions [i.e., a creature created by the rabbis]. Return to your dust. Rabbi Hanina and Rabbi Oshaia spent every Sabbath eve studying the Book of Creation (Sefer Yežirah); a third-grown calf was created for them, and they ate it.

An observation:

Prague's oldest existing synagogue, the thirteenth-century Altneuschul (Staronová synagoga), to this day follows an idiosyncratic—and apparently unique—liturgy during Friday evening services. Psalms 92 (the psalm for the Sabbath day) and 93 are said in their entirety and then repeated before the cantor issues the formal call to prayer (Barekhu).

A modern rendition of the Golem story reads:

Der Golem

During the reign of Rudolph ii there lived among the Jews of Prague a man named Bezalel Löw, who because of his tall stature and great learning, was called “der hohe” [the Great] Rabbi Löw. This rabbi was well versed in all of the arts and sciences, especially in the Kabbalah. By means of this art . . .

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