It’s time for Writer Wednesday, when I discuss another author and his or her book. Today’s feature is The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words, 1000BCE -1492CE by Simon Schama.
Hanukkah begins next week and celebrates the miraculous longevity of oil, a fundamental component of life, especially in a time before electricity.
Words too empower life and are essential to our livelihoods. Within this book, Schama examines not just the enduring Jewish population, but the longevity of their words as well. Against persecution and obstacles at times, this is somewhat of a miracle in itself.
Schama also though illustrates a story beyond common knowledge, one that challenges assumption. There were populations of Jews who mixed peacefully with Arab neighbors for centuries. There were mosaics in some Jewish synagogues depicting animals and even people. Both Christianity and Islam interacted with Judaism– at times at odds, yes, but also learning customs from each other that influenced practice. Did you know that the separation of Jewish men and women in the temple was not an ancient custom but only came about later? Did you know that much of Westminster Abbey was financed by a Jewish family whose wealth was confiscated upon their deaths? Within these pages are many little known or even unknown stories, spanning over two thousand years of Jewish history. As Schama illustrates, though, this history includes the Middle East, Africa, Europe and every major religion of the time. Therefore, Schama insists, and I am inclined to agree, that the Jewish story is a human story, of all of our histories- in its rich interplay of culture and time.
From a literary perspective, this book is also fascinating because it is the story of the words of the Jewish faith, the writing of the Talmud and the Mishna, what influenced their creations and how the surrounding cultures accepted or rejected their ideas.
In this holiday season, where all observant hearts are more inclined toward peace, it is important that the stories of the past be told, so that a greater understanding can be achieved. Simon Schama’s book contributes to that cause.
My best to you all,