BOOKLOG How the rab­bis made his­tory

The Jewish Chronicle - - Judaism - RE­VIEWED BY RABBI HAR­VEY BELOVSKI

Rabbi Binyamin Lau, Mag­gid, £16.99

THE SEC­OND of Rabbi Dr Benny Lau’s mon­u­men­tal Chachamim se­ries to be trans­lated into English, this work, like its com­pan­ion three vol­umes (three so far), looks at the de­vel­op­ment and chal­lenges of the Jewish peo­ple through the lives and teach­ings of rab­bini­cal lead­ers.

Subti­tled From Yavneh to the Bar Kokhba Re­volt, this vol­ume cov­ers the tu­mul­tuous pe­riod af­ter the destruc­tion of the sec­ond Tem­ple. It fo­cuses on the strug­gle to de­velop a sus­tain­able Ju­daism in a post-destruc­tion mi­lieu, the chal­lenges posed by the Ro­man oc­cu­pa­tion of the Land and the de­vel­op­ment of rab­binic au­thor­ity and ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems in Yavneh.

He draws on an im­pres­sive range of con­tem­po­rary rab­binic sources, me­dieval and other clas­sic com­men­taries, as well as more aca­demic schol­ar­ship. Of note are his ref­er­ences to Pro­fes­sor A.J. Heschel’s ap­proach to the sem­i­nal de­bates be­tween Rab­bis Akiva and Ish­mael and his ex­ten­sive use of schol­arly his­tor­i­cal works to sup­port his un­der­stand­ing of the Bar Kochba re­volt.

The style is se­ri­ous yet ac­ces­si­ble, and Lau’s text (ex­pertly trans­lated) reads less like a col­lec­tion of dis­crete stud­ies than a nov­el­like co­her­ent whole. One way in which he a c h i e v e s t his i s by s e g u e i n g from one sec- tion to an­othe r us i ng a p a r t i c u l a r rab­binic fig­gure; the study dy of Rabbi Akiva’s per­sonal con­tri­bu­tion to To­rah study is fol­lowed by a study of his redemptive as­pi­ra­tions which par­tial fu­elled the Bar Kochba re­volt. An eru­dite and in­for­ma­tive work, one I rec­om­mend. Har­vey Belovski is rabbi of Gold­ers Green Syn­a­gogue

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