The Three Blessings: Boundaries, Censorship, and Identity in Jewish Liturgy

Hardcover | January 7, 2011

byYoel Kahn

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According to historical teaching, a Jewish man should give thanks each day for 'not having been made a gentile, a woman, nor a slave.' Yoel Kahn's innovative study of a controversial Jewish liturgical passage traces the history of this prayer from its extra-Jewish origins across two thousandyears of history, demonstrating how different generations and communities understood the significance of these words in light of their own circumstances. Marking the boundary between 'us' and 'them,' marginalized and persecuted groups affirmed their own identity and sense of purpose. After the medieval Church seized and burned books it considered offensive, new, coded formulations emerged as forms of spiritual resistance. Owners voluntarilycarefully expurgated their books to save them from being destroyed, creating new language and meanings while seeking to preserve the structure and message of the received tradition. Renaissance Jewish women ignored rabbis' objections and assertively declared their gratitude at being 'made a womanand not a man.' Illustrations from medieval and renaissance Hebrew manuscripts demonstrate creative literary responses to censorship and show that official texts and interpretations do not fully represent the historical record. As Jewish emancipation began in the 19th century, modernizing Jews again had to balance fealty to historical practice with their own and others' understanding of their place in the world. Seeking to be recognized as modern and European, early modern Jews rewrote the liturgy to fit modernsensibilities and identified themselves with the Christian West against the historical pagan and the uncivilized infidel. In recent decades, a reassertion of ethnic and cultural identity has again raised questions of how the Jewish religious community should define itself. Through the lens of a liturgical text in continuous use for over two thousand years, Kahn offers new insights into an evolving religious identity and recurring questions of how to honor both historical teaching and contemporary sensibility.

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According to historical teaching, a Jewish man should give thanks each day for ''not having been made a gentile, a woman, nor a slave.'' Yoel Kahn's innovative study of a controversial Jewish liturgical passage traces the history of this prayer from its extra-Jewish origins across two thousandyears of history, demonstrating how differe...

Yoel Kahn, Ph.D., is an Ordained Rabbi and Director of the Taube Center for Jewish Life at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.

other books by Yoel Kahn

My People's Prayer Book Vol 5
My People's Prayer Book Vol 5

Kobo ebook|Jun 5 2013

$28.29 online$36.68list price(save 22%)
Format:HardcoverDimensions:240 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:January 7, 2011Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195373294

ISBN - 13:9780195373295

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. Defining Oneself Against the Other: Sources and Parallels in Late Antiquity2. Assimilation and Integration: The Classical Rabbinic Sources3. From Private Piety to Public Prayer: Reconciling Practice with Teaching4. Competitive Traditions: Early Palestinian Practice5. Censorship in Medieval and Renaissance Liturgy6. Women, Slaves, Boors and Beasts7. Material and Mystical World Views8. Recasting Boundaries and Identity in Nineteenth-Century European Prayer Books9. Identity and the Creation of Community in Modern American LiturgyConclusionAppendixBibliography