cover image “And You Shall Tell Your Son”: Identity and Belonging as Shaped by the Jewish Holidays

“And You Shall Tell Your Son”: Identity and Belonging as Shaped by the Jewish Holidays

Yitzhak (Itzik) Peleg, trans. from the Hebrew by Nancy Rosenfeld. Academic Stud

Peleg (Going Up and Going Down), an emeritus professor of Bible studies at Gordon Academic College, Israel, studies the relationship between Jewish holidays and identity in this uneven outing. The author digs into the history behind numerous holidays and explains how they foster memory and belonging. For example, he contends that the tradition of reading the Book of Ruth on Shavuot likely began in the eighth century and promotes an inclusive vision of Judaism through its account of Ruth, a Moabite who joined the Israelites despite prohibitions against Moabites elsewhere in scripture. Peleg examines changes in how holidays are observed, noting that Rosh Hashana was a joyful celebration before the destruction of the temple changed the cultural needs of the Jewish community and transformed the holiday into a more contemplative affair. While there are some provocative ideas on how holidays might be updated for contemporary times, such as rethinking the number of fasting days and finding more opportunities to emphasize joy rather than mourning, not all are well-developed, making this more of a starting point for further discussion than a road map. Readers attuned to how Jewish holidays shape religious identity would be better off with Abigail Pogrebin’s My Jewish Year or Michael Strassfeld’s The Jewish Holidays. (Sept.)