The Sages: Char­ac­ter, Con­text and Cre­ativ­i­ty; Vol. II: From Yavneh to the Bar Kokh­ba Revolt

Binyamin Lau; Ilana Kur­shan, trans.
  • Review
By – October 3, 2012

This series of lec­tures by an Israeli rab­bi, edu­ca­tor, and com­mu­ni­ty leader with a Ph.D. in Tal­mud from Bar-Ilan Uni­ver­si­ty attempts to bring togeth­er the reflec­tive world of the yeshi­va and method­olog­i­cal dis­ci­plines of the acad­e­my. The first vol­ume, pub­lished in 2010, focused on set­ting out a chronol­o­gy for hun­dreds of years of the Sec­ond Tem­ple peri­od; this one cov­ers the sev­en­ty years from Yavneh to the Bar Kokh­ba Revolt. Lau seeks to nego­ti­ate an approach some­where between pre­vail­ing aca­d­e­m­ic approach­es and tra­di­tion­al ones. He draws from the many rab­binic mate­ri­als based on accept­ing Aggadic tra­di­tions, unless they con­tra­dict one anoth­er or oth­er sources or are too clear­ly fan­ci­ful in his judg­ment.

Lau’s his­tor­i­cal dis­cus­sion traces the ten­sion that devel­ops between those who sup­port­ed Aki­va’s vision and aspi­ra­tions and those who opposed them. One of Lau’s inter­ests is the con­flict­ing dynam­ics with­in Judaism that emerge between those who want to pre­serve tra­di­tion­al inter­pre­ta­tions and those who regard change as an inher­ent­ly sacred part of inter­pre­ta­tion – a liv­ing con­cern in many areas of study and dis­course to this day. Sec­tions include Rab­bi Yohanan ben Zakkai and his Stu­dents; Yavneh: From Rab­ban Gam­liel to Rab­bi Yehoshua; The Gen­er­a­tion of Rab­bi Aki­va; Winds of War and Visions of Redemp­tion, and After the Destruction.

Mark D. Nanos, Ph.D., Uni­ver­si­ty of Kansas, is the author of Mys­tery­of Romans, win­ner of the 1996 Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award, Charles H. Revson­Award in Jew­ish-Chris­t­ian Relations.

Discussion Questions