Lead­er­ship and Con­flict: Ten­sions in Medieval and Ear­ly Mod­ern Jew­ish His­to­ry and Culture

Marc Saper­stein
  • Review
By – June 29, 2015

Marc Saper­stein has writ­ten sev­er­al books on medieval and mod­ern rab­binic lit­er­a­ture. Every one of them has achieved a rare bal­ance between deep eru­di­tion and broad per­spec­tive, find­ing the ways in which osten­si­bly eso­teric gen­res like ser­mons or aggadic inter­pre­ta­tion can be used to illu­mi­nate social issues. Lead­er­ship and Con­flict is a col­lec­tion of his stud­ies, most of which have appeared pre­vi­ous­ly in oth­er places. Bring­ing them togeth­er is itself a ser­vice, since some of them lan­guished in obscure pub­li­ca­tions. They have been some­what updat­ed. At least one high­ly impor­tant chap­ter, on the response of Rab­bi Judah ben Ash­er of Tole­do, appears here for the first time.

A fine exam­ple of Saperstein’s spe­cial and vital per­spec­tive is the chap­ter Phi­los­o­phy and Jew­ish Soci­ety in the Late Mid­dle Ages.” Hun­dreds of books and arti­cles have been devot­ed to the study of medieval Jew­ish phi­los­o­phy, and many of the pri­ma­ry sources are so well known as to be triv­ial. But Saper­stein reads those sources, and less­er-known ones, for the social his­to­ry of phi­los­o­phy and philoso­phers, pro­vid­ing a fas­ci­nat­ing and cru­cial take on the top­ic. This book is an impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion to the study of Jew­ish phi­los­o­phy and Jew­ish history.

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