JEWISH PASSAGES: Cycles of Jewish Life

Harvey E. Goldberg, Author . Univ. of California $27.50 (392p) ISBN 978-0-520-20693-9

In this often fascinating book, Hebrew University anthropologist Goldberg uses his discipline to shed light on the tremendous diversity within Judaism regarding various passages of life. Drawing on ancient and modern texts and rituals, he examines the stages along life's way from its beginnings (birth, circumcision and naming) to its center (marriage, pilgrimage and the creation of identity), and its end (death, mourning and remembering). For example, Goldberg traces circumcision to its most ancient meanings in biblical times and then examines the ways that various Jewish communities through history have retained the meaning of circumcision while adapting the practices associated with it to their own cultural milieu. For example, Goldberg writes that circumcision among Libyan Sephardim is an elaborate ritual in which the infant boy's eyes are made up with cosmetics, like a girl's, but a rigid gender separation is otherwise preserved. In his comments on birth ceremonies and rituals, he restores the role of women to a central place within the Jewish community by looking at how those ceremonies connect with other aspects of Jewish life. Goldberg concludes that passages and rituals along the way of the Jewish life cycle not only mark individual identity but also tie that identity closely to a community. Four appendices contain an outline for a circumcision ceremony, a ceremony for naming a daughter, a commentary on the tefillin and the shma' [the Shema; Deuteronomy 6:4–9] and elements of the marriage service and blessing. Despite a sometimes dense academic tone, Goldberg's richly detailed book offers a marvelous tour of the markers of Jewish life and community. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 08/04/2003
Release date: 10/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 392 pages - 978-0-520-91838-2
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