There are many approaches to reading the Hebrew Bible, from the pietistic in both Jewish and Christian traditions to the scholarly. Gabriel Josipovici’s approach is not about seeking the reductive ‘meaning’ of a text, but encouraging readers into an open relationship with the text in order to preserve the ambiguities and mysteries that adhere to such texts. Joseph’s encounter with an unnamed stranger in Genesis 37 is used as an illustration of this approach. Standing ‘face to face’ with the text requires humility, and trust in the storyteller.
Rabbi Lionel Blue taught prayer and spirituality at Leo Baeck College to generations of rabbinic students. Unafraid to speak about his own experience of God, crossing the boundaries to experience the worship of other faiths, he passed on to his students his respect for the integrity of other faiths, their texts and their form of worship. He was a consummate writer of prayers, capturing the worshipper's own sense of inadequacy and humility when standing before God, while at the same time acknowledging the value of our 'good works'. This personal remembrance of Rabbi Lionel Blue pays tribute to a wise, understanding, intuitive and kind teacher, a man of unflinching honesty, full of humility and self-deprecating but witty humour.
We are honored and delighted that our journal has won a prestigious “Prose”award for being 2008’s Best New Journal in the Social Sciences and Humanities, an award given by the Association of American Publisher’s Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division. Humility is in order and we will try to find time for it in a later issue of the journal.We are fortunate to have an involved and talented editorial board and submissions from top writers and scholars. All of us are committed to the subject of movies and mind because it opens so many doors for our understanding of art and science, the mind and brain, ourselves and others.
Rabbi Lionel Blue's extraordinary achievements and contributions to the post-war development of Anglo-Jewry are reviewed by means of personal reminiscences stretching back more than fifty years. It is suggested that they essentially derive from three personal characteristics - humour, humanity and humility - combined with a fierce intellectual passion and honesty that is sometimes overlooked. Key to Lionel's work and life was his personal relationship with God. Reference is made to the central role that his homosexuality played in his life, particularly in his work with those suffering from HIV Aids. Here he was a pioneer, as he was also as Britain's radio rabbi, the founder of the first Jewish-Muslim-Christian work, the new type of prayer book or the essential role of European Judaism.
Over the past decade a shift can be noticed from ecological restoration to ecological design, where ecological design stands for a technocratic approach that courts hubris and mastery rather than humility and self-restraint. Following Eric Higgs, this shift can be seen as a “hyperactive and heedless response“ to global environmental change, especially climate change. The new technocratic approach may be best characterized as enlightened (or prudential) anthropocentrism, where nature is only allowed that degree of agency which is required to deliver the services that are essential for human well-being. It is not only questionable if we have the scientific and technical abilities to purposeful design ecosystems that will serve our needs, but also if the new approach will be sufficient to protect biodiversity in the long run.
The Image of God in the Study Hall – 'Masculinity' versus 'Femininity'
This article presents a new reading of the tragic end of R. Johanan and Resh Lakish (BT Bava Metzia 84a). It reviews the traditional apologetic interpretations of the narrative, as if it was meant to aggrandize these sages' devotion to the value of Torah study – before rejecting this understanding, arguing that the intent of the narrative is to present these sages in a critical light, as being repositories of knowledge, while lacking the attribute of humility. The article analyses the narrative from a gender perspective, and shows that the phallic model of the two males is surprisingly contrasted with the wife of Resh Lakish – despite her being a woman and apparently totally illiterate - as a spiritually mature model, who stands outside the exclusive club of Torah scholars.
Steven M. Whiting
After Different Drummers (1992) and The Twisted Muse (1997), Michael
H. Kater has presented Composers of the Nazi Era: Eight Portraits, as
“the last in a trilogy on the interrelationship between sociopolitical
forces on the one side, and music and musicians in the Third Reich,
on the other” (264). The author is Distinguished Research Professor
of History at the Canadian Centre for German and European Studies
(York University). The author of the present review, a musicologist,
must express his gratitude to Professor Kater for helping to
make it professionally unacceptable to restrict oneself anymore to
“the music itself” when considering certain composers active in Germany
of the 1930s. By the same token, Kater’s reticence about “the
music itself” (which presumably springs from humility) will leave
many a musicologist itching to adduce (if not consult) the scores to
confirm or to contest Kater’s points, for Kater is writing about lives,
not works, unless the works have impinged on biographical issues.
Dryden, in that famous Preface to the Fables (1700), remarked, ‘…there is such a variety of game springing up before me, that I am distracted in my choice, and know not what to follow. It is sufficient to say, according to the proverb, that here is God’s plenty’. That remark, especially the last phrase, has stuck to the Chaucer he re-presented, and with justice. This editor could in all humility echo Dryden: the range of topics to discuss, which deep reading in and around Chaucer suggests, is vast, and the range of interest in the articles in these two special issues of Critical Survey on Chaucer runs down only some of the game.
Longfellow and the Campaign for Poets' Corner
David Haven Blake
In 1884, a bust of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was unveiled in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey, positioning the American between memorials to Geoffrey Chaucer and John Dryden. Longfellow was the first foreign author thus honoured, and his selection created transatlantic controversy. Through newspapers and correspondence, this article explores how Longfellow's bust came to be in Poets' Corner, tracing the role of its organizer, Dr William Cox Bennett, his benefactors in government and the Palace, and a host of distinguished contributors to the campaign. While nineteenth-century celebrity is often described as a public phenomenon accompanied by crowds of cheering admirers, the memorialization campaign centred on transatlantic elites who praised Longfellow's virtue, humility, and internationalism. The article examines how the campaign shaped the meaning of both Poets' Corner and late nineteenth-century transatlantic fraternity and argues that it also became the setting for conflicting ideas about literature, cosmopolitanism, national memory, and Victorian racial theories.
In the footsteps of Hermann Cohen, 'the idea of humanity in the correlation of the unity of God', Leo Baeck rises out of the experience of the First World War beyond being the Nebenmensch to become the Mitmensch, who lives forever with the Divine Mitleid, compassion. God must love the poor man, since man ought to love his poor Mitmensch, fellow man (p. 15 in Leo Baeck, Teacher of Theresienstadt). In 1922, Leo Baeck expressed this new awareness of correlation in his unique language, the 'twofoldness', in his extraordinary, beautiful essay 'Mystery and Commandment': 'There are two experiences of the human soul in which the meaning of his life takes on for a man a vital significance: the experience of commandment; or as we may also put it, the knowledge of what is real and the knowledge of what is to be realised …' This twofold experience could also be called humility and reverence. Humility is the feeling for that deep and mysterious sphere in which man is rooted, and reverence is man's feeling that something higher confronts him, and whatever is higher is ethically superior and therefore makes demands and directs, speaks to man and requires his reply, his decision. The true expression of this twofoldness is faith and social action, as Leo Baeck expresses at the end of This People Israel: 'What was confused becomes definite; clearly pre-empts what had been confused,' and 'The man of this earth works for something to come into being which this earth itself does not give.' And the great hope, that this is achievable, that tikkun olam is never an illusion beyond our grasp, is given ever again in the birth of a child.