Arts & Culture

The New Jew Canon: Sefer Ha-Aggadah, Open Closed Open, At the Root of this Longing

The New Jew Canon is a long-term project that seeks to canonize essential Jewish (and some Non-Jewish) reads as recommended by extraordinary rabbis, experts, and cultural leaders. Suggestions are welcome via comments or email. Title: Sefer Ha-Aggadah/The Book of Legends, … Read More

By / September 2, 2008

The New Jew Canon is a long-term project that seeks to canonize essential Jewish (and some Non-Jewish) reads as recommended by extraordinary rabbis, experts, and cultural leaders. Suggestions are welcome via comments or email.

Author:

Hayyim Bialik and Y.H.Rawnitzky, Yehuda Amichai, Carol Lee Flinders

Description:

Sefer Ha-Aggadah/The Book of Legends: Legends from the Talmud and Midrash is not a new work in any sense of the word, but it is a crucial addition to every Jewish library. About a hundred years ago, Hayyim Bialik and Y.H.Rawnitzky organized much (certainly not all) of the staggering wealth of classical Rabbinic stories, homilies, interpretations, legends and everyday tales in a way that's easy to access for folks of all backgrounds of Jewish education. Here, you don't need to have a yeshiva education in order to get at the yummy stories and dip a little deeper into how Jews do Torah. There are Hebrew and English editions available, and some friends of mine are even about to start a year-long Sefer Ha-Aggadah blog/reading group, so it's a perfect time to get in on the fun. Also canon-worthy is Yehuda Amichai's Open Closed Open, searing and beautiful poems about faith, God, the Jewish people, Israel, and how achingly difficult it is to be a human being sometimes. These are poems of the deepest kind of Jewish engagement: the kind that refuses to be placated by easy answers, that confronts God with the prooftexts of our own lives.  There is nothing else like them. Lastly, a vote for a book that's not technically Jewish, but of indisputable value to those who care about faith and feminism: Carol Lee Flinders' At the Root of this Longing: Reconciling a Spiritual Hunger with a Feminist Thirst. Flinders, a scholar versed in Christian and Hindu contemplative practices, asks some of the most important questions of our day about the ways feminism and spiritual practice might contradict each other, and how they might be able to, in the end, save one another. I might spend the rest of my career referring back to the book's fifth chapter.

Recommended By:

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg is the author of the just-released Surprised By God: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Religion (Beacon Press) and editor of Yentl's Revenge: The Next Wave of Jewish Feminism (Seal). She's also editor of a forthcoming anthology on Judaism and sex, co-editor of a forthcoming series of books on Jewish ethics, and has written for all sorts of periodicals and books over the years. She teaches and lectures nationwide, is based in the Boston area, and blogs at http://danyaruttenberg.net.

The New Jew Canon is a long-term project that seeks to canonize essential Jewish (and some Non-Jewish) reads as recommended by extraordinary rabbis, experts, and cultural leaders. Suggestions are welcome via comments or tips. For more New Jew Canon recommendations, visit Jewcy's New Jew Canon Listmania.

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