Cre­ativ­i­ty and Tra­di­tion: Stud­ies in Medieval Rab­binic Schol­ar­ship, Lit­er­a­ture, and Thought

Israel M. Ta-Shma
  • Review
By – March 2, 2012

The late Israel Ta-Shma was a pro­lif­ic and gift­ed writer. He fused a pro­found knowl­edge of Jew­ish legal sources with the lat­est the­o­ries in Euro­pean his­to­ry, plumb­ing the arcane depths of medieval Hebrew man­u­scripts and obscure his­tor­i­cal peri­ods with an ease that allows the read­er to enjoy the excite­ment of the chase. This vol­ume gath­ers six­teen of his Eng­lish arti­cles, most of which appeared over the course of the past two decades. For the inter­est­ed lay­man, it is an oppor­tu­ni­ty to dis­cov­er the rich­ness of Jew­ish intel­lec­tu­al his­to­ry dur­ing the Dark Ages.” 

One par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing top­ic dis­cussed here is Jew­ish set­tle­ment and intel­lec­tu­al activ­i­ty in Poland dur­ing the 13th cen­tu­ry. This his­tor­i­cal ques­tion is enlivened by a cause célèbre involv­ing a rab­bi who mar­ried a nurs­ing moth­er, against the will of his col­leagues. Ta-Shma drops tan­ta­liz­ing hints about a cen­sor­ship cam­paign waged against the lovestruck rab­bi, Jacob Sevara. 

Oth­er chap­ters deal with atti­tudes toward chil­dren in the Mid­dle Ages, the inter­ac­tion between Ashke­naz and Sefarad and the traces of Ashke­naz­ic cus­tom in the mys­ti­cal work, Sefer ha-Zohar. Sev­er­al chap­ters are devot­ed to reflec­tions on the work of Jacob Katz, anoth­er impor­tant schol­ar in the field of halakhah and history.

Discussion Questions