Rituals of Childhood: Jewish Acculturation in Medieval Europe
In medieval times, when a Jewish boy of five began religious schooling, he was carried from home to a teacher and placed on the teacher's lap. He was then asked to recite the Hebrew alphabet and lick honey from the slate on which it was written, to eat magically inscribed cooked peeled eggs and cakes, to recite an incantation against a demon of forgetfulness, and then to go down to the riverbank with the teacher, where he was told that his future study of the Torah, like the rushing river, would never end. This book--Ivan Marcus's erudite and novel interpretation of this rite of passage--presents a new anthropological historical approach to Jewish culture and acculturation in medieval Christian Europe.
Marcus traces ancient Jewish and Greco-Roman elements in the rite and then analyzes it from different perspectives, making use of narrative, legal, poetic, ethnographic, and pictorial sources, as well as firsthand accounts. He then describes contemporary medieval Christian images and initiation rites--including the eucharist and the Madonna and child--as contexts within which to understand the ceremony. He is the first to investigate how medieval Jews were aware of, drew upon, and polemically transformed Christian religious symbols into Jewish counterimages in order to affirm the truth of Judaism and to make sense of living as Jews in an intensely Christian culture.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - karl.steel - LibraryThing
Through “historical anthropology” Rituals of Childhood traces the development of a rite of passage for Jewish boys, the school initiation ceremony, from its origins in premedieval mnemonic memory ... Read full review
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acculturation adult age thirteen ancient Jewish Arukh Ashkenazic associated Avot baptism bar mitzvah begin biblical Bonfil bread chapter child's initiation childhood Christian culture circumcision Cohen Compare custom Deuteronomy Deuteronomy 33:4 early medieval eating Eleazar Eleazar of Worms elements eucharist father festival foods Germany gestures ha-Torah havdalah Hayyim Hebrew alphabet Holy honey cakes illumination incantation initiation rite Israel Isserles Jewish culture Jews Judah Judaism learning Leipzig Mahzor letters Leviticus magical Mahzor Vitry manna manuscript Marcus medieval Ashkenaz medieval Jewish Meir memory metaphor Middle Ages Midrash minhag Mishnah mnemonic Moses Mount Sinai Muslim phrase Pietist POTAH practice prayer Qalir Rabbah rabbinic Rashi recite refers religious rites of passage ritual sacrifice school initiation scroll Sefer ha-Asufot Sefer ha-Roqeah Shabbat Shavuot Sifre Song of Songs sources study Torah sweet symbolic synagogue tablet Talmud tefillin thirteenth century tion Torah study Torah teacher Tosafists tradition twelfth century verse written