Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gerim Heyitem

A friend of mine just launched a website aiming to bring together anti-racist rabbis. The website is here. There's a growing list of links here.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dr Miriam Goldstein at the National Library

Dafkesher was kind enough to send me his notes from today's event at the National Library. They're abbreviated, but very informative:
Live blogging: Miriam G is part of the growing circle of scholars who are into the growing field of Judaeo-Arabic studies, which is an interdisciplinary field. She is also an interdisciplinary student of three universities. Recent publications and PhD thesis etc.
Miriam herself: thanks for coming, and thanks to the library. The birth of the concept of authorship in JA lit. in the Mid. Ages. If I were to speak about the entirety of A lit., I could talk about that too, and this is an innovation in A lit in 9-10 c., which has been negelected. I want to talk about how these concepts came into J thought, Js who wrote in A.
Background first, about the A world, and then about the Js.
Important period, transition in A lit. 7th c., birth of Quran, not much more written. What exists is mostly oral. Some epigraphy and letters and lists and contracts. Not much lit. Xs and Js did not have written material in A. There was i.e. oral NT in A, and JA lit which was oral. Q is first big written document in A. Writing of books in A comes after this. Writing was a subject of debate. What do you mean you can write in your own book, and learn from books? You have to learn from hearing, from people. But they did write, and the idea sunk in by the 9th c. Then you could learn form written things. How did they write in A? Q is not such a great example, hard to follow. One of the elements that shaped the mode of writing is the translation movement. We see by the mid-end 8th and into the 9th c. a very wide activity of Translation from Syr. Pahl. Greek, Sanskrit. Let's say an Arab who knows Q and the oral tradition starts in 8-9 c. to be exposed to a wide variety of material of different kinds. Exposure to these works which came from other cultures will influence A books. Say Aristotle – Books, chapters, etc. Enough BG.
Let's look at the Js. At the time, 90% of the J world was within an A speaking culture. J should be compared to As. If we look at the situation of Js and scholarly Js and their writing, we will see that the situation is similar – but they had much more material to work with, more traditions (not writing). The centrality of orality is similar. There was not much written J material: Torah, Hekhalot, notebooks or whatever that might be, maybe responsa, but orality was central to the culture.
When As came – language changed in (6)7c. Js start conversing in A instead of Aramaic/Hebrew. Centers of power and learning expand and the yeshivot are weaker, and in 7-8 c there are movements that challenge the Ys, like the Karaites. We hear about others from historians. We see that there are centers of learning in other places. These changes affect the sources already in the 9th c. Q to Rav Natronai from North Africa: Js would like to use an A translation with the Aramaic in torah reading. He says no, but RSG writes an A translation himself. 10th c. muslims already comfortable to write, and Js concur. R. Drori first scholar of this. Motivation for this change, there are no written works with authors in 9th c, i.e. HG and HP, but in 10th c. there is an author who is willing to say that there is something new. RD says motivation comes from Karaites who were freer to adopt new language and new genres. RSG was willing to write in A and made A and authorsip and novelty "kosher". Translations also influences Js. New Genres: Theology, Dictionaries, Grammar, Commentary. Things came from traditional sources, but forms and disciplines were influences by surroundings. There must have been a greater consciousness of the concept of the author.
We will read from two prefaces written by a K scholar, Baghdad, 10th c. Yaquub Al-Qirqasaani. Similar to RSG (who took from whom?). Bibliophile. Met with Bishops and Muslims. Wrote several works, two survived, one was published, Kitab al-anwar, theology and halakha, description of all religions that he knows and a description of K halakha. Al-K was not accepted by the K community. Was a bit separatists. Kit. Al-Riyyad, book of fields and gardens, was accepted, in rm 221 we can find MSS of this work commentators in Jeru. Accepted Al-K on the Torah. I will present parts of each of them. Both of these prefaces were discovered by others. Q of all authors is most conscious of these questions. .
He starts with Bsmillah, like all A authors, then praise of God, then preface. Al-K speaks of this practice, and uses Biblical sources to justify this practice. Then justifies the praise etc. Then the preface. Saw both books as one unified commentary. Polemic against manichaeans. Solution of problems in the Torah. Important to talk about simple things. Book is like building. But also important not to be ignorant of simple things for simple people. Marks elements of preface. Very rare. Usually just convention. Speaks of how to write. Do not ignore simple things.
Books of lights: beginning is missing. MS hard to read. Translation from edition. Criticizes those who conduct polemic w/o quoting opponents and explain their opinions. Important to start with prefaces and introductions. Uses Baraita derabbi Ishmael for this.
Importance: influence of these concepts goes quite deep. JA torah commentary has great consciousness of biblical authorial techniques. (MGs article in J of Sem studies). We have not yet examined the repercussions of this transition in JA lit.