Friday, November 18, 2011

A Note from Menachem Kellner

I received this e-mail yesterday from Menachem Kellner. I am posting it here with his permission.

Subject: two new books

Shalom, one and all.

Two new and very different books reached me this week:

1) Hannah Kasher, Al ha-Minim, ha-Epikorsim ve-haKofrim bi-Mishnat ha-Rambam (Tel Aviv: Ha-Kibbutz ha-Meuhad, in the series: 'Sifriyat Hillel Ben-Haim'). Hannah is a past master of close readings of Maimonidean texts and this 200-page book unpacks the implications of Hilkhot Teshuvah III.6-8. I read an earlier version of this book and recommend it highly and look forward to studying this final version.

2) Yizhak Sheilat, Bein ha-Kuzari la-Rambam (available through the website of Yeshivat Birkat Moshe in Ma'aled Adumim). Rabbi Sheilat has been putting the world of Rambam studies in his debt through his editions and tranlsations of many of Rambam's Arabic texts. In his notes to these editions he has consistently engaged in what might be called a moderate attempt to 'Halevi-ize' Rambam. I therefore approached this book with a certain amount of trepidation. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that while R. Sheilat certainly seeks to transpose Rambam into an Halevian key (anyone familiar with my book, Maimonides' Confrontation with Mysticism, will know how unsympathetic to that approach -- as I trust, would be Rambam himself), he does so in an 'upfront' and remarkably moderate fashion. For a book which in my estimation is fundamentally wrong-headed, it is very well done and worthy of study.

Professor Menachem Kellner
Dept. of Jewish History and Thought, University of Haifa
Senior Fellow, Institute for Philosophy, Political Theory and Religion, Shalem Center, Jerusalem

Monday, October 17, 2011

New Work on Brecher's Commentary on the Kuzari

just published:

Michael L. Miller, "'Your Loving Uncle': Gideon Brecher, Moritz Steinschneider, and the Moravian Haskalah," in Studies on Steinschneider: Moritz Steinschneider and the Emergence of the Science of Judaism in Nineteenth-Century Germany, ed. Reimund Leicht and Gad Freudenthal. Leiden: Brill, 2012, pp.37-80.

Friday, June 25, 2010

New Edition of Korobkin's English Translation

Click on the image to enlarge the flyer.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Reviews of my book.

To my knowledge, four reviews of my book have been published to date. These not only offer some corrections to my work but also in many senses new data for the reception of the Kuzari.

Hava Tirosh-Samuelson in The American Historical Review 114, 3 (June 2009): 818-819.

Allan Nadler in the Forward, July 22, 2009, also reviewing R. Scheindlin, The Song of the Distant Dove.

Gianfranco Miletto in European Journal of Jewish Studies 3 (2009): 272-273.

Jean-Pierre Rothschild in Revue des ètudes juives 168 (2009): 572-574.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The supposed Karaite-Khazar connection

On p.259 of my book, I briefly discuss the controversy over the supposed discovery of the gravestone of "Isaac Sangari," by Abraham Firkovich in the nineteenth-century in terms of belief about the authorship of the Kuzari.

In the course of my research, I missed this fascinating article on the affair:

Dan Shapira, "Yitshaq Sangari, Sangarit, Bezalel Stern, and Avraham Firkowicz: Notes on Two Forged Inscriptions," Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi 14 (2002-2003): 293-317.

I thank Daniel Lasker of Ben Gurion University for the reference. Professor Lasker also tells me that more information is available in Shapira's new book: Matsevot bet ha-ʻalmin shel ha-Yehudim ha-Ḳaraʻim be-Ts’ufuṭ-Ḳalʻeh, Ḳrim (Jerusalem, 2008).


Mikhail Kizilov informs me about his two co-authored articles and his new book from Brill:

Kizilov, Mikhail, and Diana Mikhaylova. “The Khazar Kaganate and the Khazars in European Nationalist Ideologies and Scholarship.” Archivum Eurasii Medii Aevi 14 (2005): 31-53.

Kizilov, Mikhail, Diana Mikhailova. „Khazary i Khazarskii kaganat v evropeiskikh
natsionalisticheskikh ideologiiakh i politicheski orientirovannoi nauchno issledovatel’skoi literature.” Khazarskii Al’manakh 3 (Khar’kov, 2004): 34-62.

Mikhail Kizilov, The Karaites of Galicia: An Ethnoreligious Minority Among the Ashkenazim, the Turks, and the Slavs, 1772-1945. Leiden: Brill, 2009.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fano 1506 edition for sale

On June 25, Kestenbaum and Company will auction a copy of the 1st edition of the Kuzari, Fano 1506. Details here.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Errata I

Two readers of my book have pointed out to me a serious error I made in regard to the Gaon of Vilna. Lawrence Kaplan suggested that I take a second look at a particular passage when I saw him at a conference in December and more recently Arie Stern wrote to me to point out that something seemed wrong with my translation of a description of the Gaon's endorsement of the Kuzari. I am very grateful to them for pointing this out. I hope readers of the book who also spot the error somehow find their way to this blog and see this correction as I do not know whether there will be a second edition and an opportunity for me to correct the mistake in print.

Here is how I quoted the Gaon of Vilna (The Kuzari and the Shaping of Jewish Identity, p.275):

“And the Gaon lamented over Sefer Menorat ha-Maor and Sefer Hovot ha-Levavot, except for the section on the unity of God. Instead of this section, however, he would say that one should learn the Kuzari ha-Rishon which is holy and pure and the fundamentals of the faith of Israel and the Torah are hanging in it; and he would lament over Sefer Mesilat Yesharim.”

The source of this statement is a nineteenth-century work by Baruch Broyde included in his Sefer Beit Yaakov (Jerusalem, 1994).

Messrs Kaplan and Stern both raised a question about my translation “lamented over.” And indeed, I made a big mistake here.

I first saw a copy of Sefer Beit Yaakov in Jerusalem in 1997-1998 and took my notes on it rather quickly--too quickly as it turns out.

More than 10 years later, the book is now available in digital format at Comparing the digitized version to my notes from a decade ago, I see immediately where I went wrong:

The text actually says that the “Gaon honored Sefer Menorat ha-Maor and Sefer Hovot ha-Levavot, except for the section on the unity of God..... and he honored Sefer Mesilat Yesharim.”

Where the original text had “מחבב” I mistakenly transcribed "מיבב". I was taking notes on the computer and I’m not a very good typist in Hebrew. Apparently, I mistakenly typed a “yud” rather than a “het.”
In other words, I read it as a form of the verb יבב (to lament, to weep, to wail) rather than the correct “honored” (or “loved” or “cherished”).

The correct reading also makes much more sense, especially given my other findings. The Kuzari, held in very high regard, is cited as the proper substitution for the highly philosophical section of Hovot ha-Levavot which is otherwise an honored book, along with the other musar classics, Menorat ha-Meor and Mesilat Yesharim.

On the basis of my misreading I advanced the notion that perhaps the Gaon’s disciples were somehow trying to counter the popularity of these books among Hasidim. This notion must be entirely discounted when the passage is read correctly.

I do not think this detracts from my overall argument that the Kuzari functioned as an authority for maskilim, Hasidim, and mitnagdim for most of the nineteenth century and that the Kuzari was considered a “safe” way to learn some philosophy. Indeed, the correct reading may actually strengthen the larger argument of the book.

I accept full responsibility for this error and for not re-checking the Hebrew. Although I only discovered that the book was available on-line this spring after receiving Mr. Stern’s note, I should have endeavored to check the original before publication.

A series of lessons in what to avoid in scholarship--my note-taking was too hasty; I should have paused longer over what seemed to be a strange statement in a primary source; and I should have re-checked the original before publishing a translation.

(Another small error: the work included in Sefer Beit Yaakov is “Tosefet Maaseh Rav” not “Toledot Maaseh Rav.”)

I expect other readers will find other errors; please write and let me know about them.