The Grace of God and the Grace of Man: The Theologies of Bruce Springsteen
Published: Lingua Press, 2016
Bruce Springsteen’s words and music have been part of the American landscape for nearly half a century, and are today cherished by millions worldwide. Indeed, Springsteen has been known to inspire religious devotion among his fans, and his shows with the E Street Band are often compared to a revivalist congregation. However, there has not been a comprehensive scholarly study of the biblical and theological motifs in Springsteen’s lyrics. Until now. Reading Springsteen’s songs as one would a poem, The Grace of God and the Grace of Man sheds new light on Springsteen’s work. The book’s first section examines the theological overtones of Springsteen’s early albums, focusing on his critique of traditional religious institutions and the promise of this-worldly salvation through romantic love and the open road. This trajectory in Springsteen’s writing reaches an exhilarating apex in Born to Run, only to be methodically dismantled in the subsequent Darkness on the Edge of Town. The second section of the book examines the ways in which Springsteen reworks three traditional terms in his work after Darkness on the Edge of Town: sin, grace, and the struggle within. Drawing on songs from across Springsteen’s later work, the book demonstrates that Springsteen consistently situates these terms in the lived struggle to overcome the forces that pull us away from our better selves. Sin is the surrender to these forces, and grace the blessings that come from overcoming them; both result from the struggle within. The third and final section, “Springsteen’s Midrash,” examines songs that explicitly interpret biblical passages, including “Into the Fire,” “Adam Raised a Cain,” and the hauntingly beautiful “Jesus Was an Only Son.” The Grace of God and the Grace of Man’s close readings of Springsteen’s songs provide a wealth of local insights as well as a new critical framework for the appreciation of this major American artist.
Intuitive Vocabulary: German
Published: Lingua Press, 2013
English and German are sister languages, but as sometimes happens in families, time and distance have taken their toll, and their shared roots are not always visible. This book allows English speakers to recover these original ties and use their native knowledge of English to more easily acquire German vocabulary. A great learning tool for students of German, and for lovers of English.
Intuitive Vocabulary: Spanish
Published: Lingua Press, 2019
Learning the vocabulary of a foreign language is difficult. Intuitive Vocabulary: Spanish pairs Spanish and English cognates, providing a familiar and easy introduction to thousands of Spanish words. A wonderful resource for anyone learning Spanish or curious about the roots of English.
Scripture and Tradition: Rabbi Akiva and the Triumph of Midrash
Published: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015
The earliest rabbinic commentary to the Book of Leviticus, the Sifra, is generally considered an exemplum of Rabbi Akiva's intensely scriptural school of interpretation. But, Azzan Yadin-Israel contends, the Sifra commentary exhibits two distinct layers of interpretation that bring dramatically different assumptions to bear on the biblical text: earlier interpretations accord with the hermeneutic principles associated with Rabbi Ishmael, the other major school of early rabbinic midrash, while later additions subtly alter hermeneutic terminology and formulas, resulting in an engagement with Scripture that is not interpretive at all. Rather, the midrashic terminology in the Sifra's anonymous passages is part of what Yadin-Israel calls "a hermeneutic of camouflage," aimed at presenting oral traditions as though they were Scripture-based injunctions.
Scripture and Tradition offers a radical rereading of the Sifra and its authorship, with far-reaching ramifications for our understanding of rabbinic literature as a whole. Using this new understanding of the Sifra as his starting point, Yadin-Israel demonstrates a two fold break in the portrayal of Rabbi Akiva: hermeneutically, the sober midrashist who appeared in earlier rabbinic sources is transformed into an inspired, oracular interpreter of Scripture in the Babylonian Talmud; while the biographically unremarkable sage is recast as a youthful ignoramus who came to Torah study late in life. The dual transformations of Rabbi Akiva—like the Sifra's hermeneutic of camouflage—are motivated by an ideological shift toward a greater emphasis on scriptural authority and away from received traditions, an insight that sheds new light on the vexing question of midrash and oral tradition in rabbinic sources. Through this close examination of a notoriously difficult text, Scripture and Tradition recovers a vital piece of the history of Jewish thought.
Scripture as Logos: Rabbi Ishmael and the Origins of Midrash
Published: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004
The study of midrash—the biblical exegesis, parables, and anecdotes of the Rabbis—has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years. Most recent scholarship, however, has focused on the aggadic or narrative midrash, while halakhic or legal midrash—the exegesis of biblical law—has received relatively little attention. In Scripture as Logos, Azzan Yadin addresses this long-standing need, examining early, tannaitic (70-200 C.E.) legal midrash, focusing on the interpretive tradition associated with the figure of Rabbi Ishmael.
This is a sophisticated study of midrashic hermeneutics, growing out of the observation that the Rabbi Ishmael midrashim contain a dual personification of Scripture, which is referred to as both "torah" and "ha-katuv." It is Yadin's significant contribution to note that the two terms are not in fact synonymous but rather serve as metonymies for Sinai on the one hand and, on the other, the rabbinic house of study, the bet midrash. Yadin develops this insight, ultimately presenting the complex but highly coherent interpretive ideology that underlies these rabbinic texts, an ideology that—contrary to the dominant view today—seeks to minimize the role of the rabbinic reader by presenting Scripture as actively self-interpretive.
Moving beyond textual analysis, Yadin then locates the Rabbi Ishmael hermeneutic within the religious landscape of Second Temple and post-Temple literature. The result is a series of surprising connections between these rabbinic texts and Wisdom literature, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Church Fathers, all of which lead to a radical rethinking of the origins of rabbinic midrash and, indeed, of the Rabbis as a whole.