What a month it has been since my last blog post! The deliverance from the bondage of Egypt is only the beginning of a much deeper transformation in the Jewish spirit leading up to the encounter with the divine at Mount Sinai… Or is it? Shavuot seems like the most auspicious moment to delve into the legacy of Louis Jacobs.
Some of you will recall the significance of the number 22, which I expounded in my blog in February. I’m delighted to announce that I’ve made some further progress in locating and uploading the entries from Michael Fischer’s bibliography onto the website. And today, I am proud to announce that all but one article are now available to consult on the website! The two latest entries, “Israel Revives Hakhel” and “Conscription of Women – The Halachic Background” (both written in 1952), stand among the earliest publications of the late Rabbi Jacobs, when his stature in the Orthodox establishment in the country still stood virtually unchallenged.
So you might wonder, what is this last article which I haven’t been able to locate? Quite simply, the very first one to appear in the bibliography: “Laws of marriage and divorce in Israel” (published in Jewish Review 6 (69), 21 January 1949). Quite astonishingly, the relevant issue of Jewish Review does not appear in any catalogue in the country! Having searched COPAC, British Library, Bodleian, Weiner Library, LSJS, and Leo Baeck, I’ve come to suspect it has been lost, somehow… So I’ll put the message out here, as a last resort: if any of our readers might be able to find it somewhere, please do get in touch!
I hinted above at the very significant change in the way the Orthodox establishment related to Louis Jacobs before and after the Affair. It is worth noting that, on this matter, his relationship with Orthodox rabbis did not remain the same in the following decades. The following two articles, written by Rabbi Jeffrey Cohen, illustrate this perfectly! The first, “In Defence of Tradition”, was a pamphlet published at the height of the scandal offering some critical comments on We Have Reason to Believe. The second, “A Rabbi for All Seasons”, appeared 39 years later – a much more gentle and deferential review of Their Heads in Heaven and Jewish Preaching.
And indeed, one can hardly remain unimpressed by Jacobs’s erudition when consulting the wealth of material on the website! A blog post should not exceed a certain length, so I’ll simply restrict myself here to articles placed on the website over this past month, and on the subject of Talmud. For those wish to rediscover a classroom experience, we have an instructive four-part introduction to the Babylonian Talmud delivered at Oxford’s Centre for Postgraduate Hebrew Studies in 1992. I’ve also uploaded a dozen previously unpublished articles focusing on specific talmudic sugyot, which were not included in his, Rabbinic Thought in the Talmud. Some wonderful material to study alongside such talmudic passages as Berakhot 3a-b, Bava Kama 13b-14a, Eruvin 3a-b, or Kiddushin 41a-43b. There are a few more as well, if you check the website!
Finally, as Shavuot approaches, I’ll leave you with two short divrei torah on the subject. The first delves into the custom of tikun leil, a night spent in learning, while the second focuses on the actual meaning of the holiday. Inspiring thoughts!
With that, I wish all our Friends a hag sameah!