Hebrew literature


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Hebrew literature

  1. 1.  literature written by Jews in Hebrew and, by extension, certain theological and scholarly works translated from the Hebrew by Jewish scholars  Hebrew was the principal literary language of the Jews until the 19th century, when European languages came into use for works of modern Jewish scholarship and Yiddish became a vehicle of literary expression  Since the establishment of Hebrew as the official language of Israel in 1948, a large body of fiction and nonfiction has been written in the language
  2. 2.  Ancient Hebrew literature consists mainly of the Hebrew Bible (also known as the Old Testament).  It forms the bedrock of much subsequent Hebrew literature as a source of authority, themes, and language.  Viewed in literary terms, the core of the Hebrew Bible is an epic saga that extends from the book of Genesis to the book of Kings and describes the formation of the Jewish people and their relation with God.  This story is told through different kinds of literary materials, mainly narrative, poetry, and law.
  3. 3.  A consciousness of time pervades the Bible.  Rather than presenting a set of unchanging truths, the Hebrew Bible tells the story of a relationship that unfolds in history.  This relationship is embodied in the concept of the covenant, a compact in which God promises to protect Israel and Israel promises to keep the divine law.  After relating the events leading up to the institution of the covenant (in the books of Genesis and Exodus), the narrative describes a widening cycle of disobedience, warnings from Hebrew prophets, and punishment.  This cycle leads to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, the Babylonian captivity, and the return to Israel.
  4. 4.  Some books of the Bible are written entirely in poetry, including Psalms, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes.  In addition, whole poems and poetic fragments are scattered throughout the narrative sections as well.  When poetry appears in conjunction with narrative, its function is to extract and heighten the religious message being conveyed.  Within the poetry sections, the telling of the covenant saga alternates with hymns, in which the listeners are invited to join in praising God’s intervention in history.
  5. 5.  The biblical story, in the Book of Exodus, leads to the revelation of the Torah (Law) to the Israelite people at Mount Sinai.  The revelation represents the formal offering and acceptance of the covenant, whose terms are set out as a set of divinely ordained commandments.  God’s protection of Israel within the vicissitudes of history is made dependent upon faithfulness to these commandments.
  6. 6.  The role of prophet is the true calling in the Hebrew Bible.  The prophet is chosen by God to be the vehicle, often involuntary, for God’s word.  This burden is difficult, and often anguished and dangerous.  The prophet has the gift of moral vision, which comprehends the relationship between the present actions of the nation and the terms of the covenant.  In addition, the prophet alone understands that the corruption he sees will inevitably result in God’s abandonment of Israel and its destruction.  The challenge becomes how to communicate this unpopular message.  The prophet performs symbolic acts to draw attention to it, but in the end must rely upon words of persuasion, employing such means as hyperbole (exaggeration), parable (literary illustration), ridicule, figures of speech, and dramatization.
  7. 7.  Changed historical circumstances, including subjugation of the Jews by the Romans and others, created a need for further developments in Hebrew law and religious ideas in the first centuries of the 1st millennium AD.  After the completion of the Hebrew Bible and the end of prophecy, God’s will could be discovered only through the interpretation of the written record of what had already been revealed.  A new class of religious leaders called rabbis (“teachers”) arose to teach the law and apply it to current conditions. The rabbinic period lasted for about the first 500 years of the Christian Era.
  8. 8.  Rabbis derived their authority from mastery of the oral Torah.  This they conceived of as a body of law and interpretations, which was revealed to Moses along with the written Torah and subsequently passed down by word of mouth from teacher to disciple.  The two main types of the oral Torah are Halakhah and Haggada. Halakhah consists of statements about practical legal matters and obligations, whereas the Haggada comprises legends and lore that surround the law.
  9. 9. The Mishnah, which was compiled in Palestine around AD 200, is a brief legal code that summarizes the decisions of the oral Torah under six headings: agriculture, festivals, civil law, women, ritual purity, and sacrifices. Like biblical law, the Mishnah does not simply record the law but also offers a map of an ideal sacred world.
  10. 10.  The discussions about the Mishnah were compiled and edited into the Talmud.  The Palestinian Talmud was completed about AD 500 and the Babylonian Talmud about AD 600.  Unlike the Mishnah, which is a code organized around topics, the Talmud, a document of vastly greater length, is a commentary that seeks to reconstruct and understand the reasoning behind the Mishnah’s concise rulings.  The Babylonian Talmud became the universally accepted authoritative text of world Jewry and the chief object of scholarly study until the modern period of Hebrew literature.
  11. 11.  The thousand years following the Arab conquest of Palestine in the 7th century saw a great flowering of Hebrew literature. Although it continued to focus on law and interpretation, Hebrew literature branched into many new areas of creativity during this period.  The earliest Hebrew prayer books were compiled about 880, and the first dictionary of the Talmud was written about 900.  The era was also notable for Sefer ha-Mitzvot (The Book of Precepts), calling for a return to Scripture, written about 770 by Anan ben David, the founder of the Jewish sect of the Karaites. Rhymed Hebrew poetry was first written in the 8th century.
  12. 12.  HASKALAH - In the late 1700s the efforts of German Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn to acquaint the Jews of central Europe with Western culture initiated the movement known as the Haskalah (“enlightenment”).  NATIONAL REVIVAL - Within the context of national renewal, Hebrew literature took an inward turn to examine the dilemma of the individual.  IN THE NEW HOMELAND - The settlement of Jews in Palestine during the first half of the 20th century gave a new impetus and direction to Hebrew literature, although the first émigré prose writers were still emotionally tied to the past.  ISRAELI LITERATURE - The establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 thrust into prominence a younger generation of writers who had grown up in the new land and knew little of east European Jewish life.
  13. 13.  What is a psalm?  sacred song or poem of praise  Analysis:  VOICE – speaker (mask, apostrophe, conversation)  STANZA  TONE – poet’s attitude toward the subject  IMAGERY – visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile  FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE
  14. 14. SYMBOLISMS shepherd want green pastures quiet waters restores paths of righteousness name’s sake valley evil rod and staff table enemies oil cup goodness and mercy house of the Lord