Bernard Revel Graduate School
The Sermon as Art Form and Historical Resource
Spring 2002

Professor Marc Saperstein

This course is intended to introduce students to the investigation of medieval, early modern, and modern Jewish sermons through a close reading of selected texts. Methodological problems, such as the relationship between the extant written record of the sermon and the oral communication, will be addressed. Our goal is to cultivate an appreciation of the sermon both as a genre of Jewish literature and as a resource for understanding the rabbi and his congregation within a specific historical setting.

Main Books for Required Readings:

Marc Saperstein, Jewish Preaching, 1200-1800 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989).

Marc Saperstein, "Your Voice Like a Ram’s Horn" (Cincinnati: HUC Press, 1996).

Course Outline:

1: January 23 – Introduction to the Course; Rabbinic Sermons and Midrash


Leviticus Rabbah, section 3, paragraphs 1, 4-6.

2. January 30 - Christian Sermons in Antiquity


John Chrysostom, "Homilies Against the Jews" (or "Against the Judaizing Christians"), Homily 1 (

Augustine, Sermon 4, sections 8-22, in The Works of Saint Augustine: Sermons I (1–19) ed. John E. Rotelle (Brooklyn: New City Press, 1990), pp. 15–19, pp. 188–97 (and see also p. 228, section 3).

3. February 6 - Medieval Sermons and the Midrashic Structure


Derashot u-Ferushei Rabbenu Jonah Gerundi (Jerusalem, 1980), Sermon on Pekudei, pp. 148-154 (13th century).

Joshua ibn Shueib, Derashot R"Y Ibn Shueib al ha-Torah u-Mo‘adei ha-Shanah (Jerusalem: Lev Sameah, 1992), Sermon on Shemot, pp.103-110.

Background Reading

Jewish Preaching, pp. 63-79.

4. February 13 - The Influence of Philosophy on the Preacher


Jacob Anatoli, sermon on Shemot, in Malmad ha-Talmidim (Lyck, 1866 and reprints), pp. pp. 45a - 49a (13th century).

Shem Tov ibn Shem Tov, Wedding Sermon on Bereshit in Derashot Shem Tov ben Shem Tov (Salonika, 1525; reprint edition Jerusalem, Hebrew University, 1973), pp. 5c-7c (15th century).

Background Reading:

Jewish Preaching, pp. 380-83.

"Your Voice": pp. 74-87, 200-207.

5. February 20 - Popularizing Esoteric Beliefs

Israel of Belzyce, in Jewish Preaching, pp. 286–300.

Elijah of Izmir, in Jewish Preaching, pp. 301–26.

Background Reading:

Robert Bonfil, "Preaching as Mediation Between Elite and Popular Cultures: The Case of Judah Del Bene," in David Ruderman, ed., Preachers of the Italian Ghetto (University of California Press, 1992), pp. 67-88.

6. February 27 – Eulogies (1)


Israel, author of "Dover Mesharim," 1. Eulogy for a Young Student; 2. Introduction to Sermon On the First Anniversary of his Father’s Death (from manuscript, transcriptions by instructor, 15th-16th century).

Samuel Uceda, 1. Eulogy for R. Isaac Luria, in Mordecai Pachter, Me-Tsefunot Tsefat (Jerusalem: Merkaz Zalman Shazar, 1994), pp. 59-68; 2. On the first Anniversary of his Mother’s Death, in Derashot Rabbi Shmuel de Uceda al ha-Torah, ed. Samuel Yerushalmi (Jerusalem: 1951), pp. 137-40 (16th century).

Background Reading:

Elliott Horowitz, "Speaking of the Dead" The Emergence of the Eulogy among Italian Jewry of the Sixteenth Century," in Ruderman, Preachers of the Italian Ghetto, pp. 129-62.

7. March 6 – Eulogies (2)


Saul Levi Morteira, Eulogies for Dr. David Farrar (1624), in "Your Voice": pp. 367-98; Eulogy for David Masiah (transcription from manuscript provided by instructor)

Background Reading:

Marvin Fox, "The Rav [Rabbi Soloveitchik] as Maspid," in Collected Essays on Philosophy and on Judaism 3 vols. (Binghamton: Global Publications, Binghamton University, 2001), 2: 153–70.

8. March 13 - Speaking about Christianity to Former ‘New Christians’


Morteira: Giv’at Sha’ul, Amsterdam 1645, Sermons 41 (Va-Ethanan) [and 49 (Ha’azinu)]. (These two sermons were not printed in the Warsaw editions because of the censor.)

Background Reading:

"Your Voice": pp. 45-74.

9. March 20 - The Sermon of Rebuke (Tokheha)


Saul Levi Morteira, "The People’s Envy," in Saperstein, Jewish Preaching, pp. 270-85 (Hebrew text optional: Giv’at Sha’ul, Warsaw, 1902 and 1912, Sermon 13, Shemot).

Jewish Preaching, pp. 57-63, 412-28.

Background Reading:

"Your Voice": pp. 127-46.

Saperstein, "The Rhetoric and Substance of Rebuke: Social and Religious Criticism in the Sermons of Hakham Saul Levi Morteira," Studia Rosenthaliana 34 (2000): 131–52.

10. April 10 – Reaction to Historical Events

Ezekiel Landau, Eulogy for the Empress Maria Theresa, 1780, in "Your Voice Like a Ram’s Horn," pp. 445-84, and Sermon for Shabbat ha-Gadol, 1782, in Jewish Preaching, pp. 359-73.

Background Reading:

"Your Voice": pp. 147–61.

April 17 – Yom ha-‘Atzma’ut: No Classes

11. April 24 - Occasional Sermons (British: 19th Century)

David Woolf Marks, "God Protects Our Fatherland," (Day of Humiliation and Prayer … for the troubles in India, Oct 7, 1857), and "The Passover and the Emancipation Act" (April 18, 1859), in Marks’ Sermons, second series (London: Trübner & Co, 1995), pp. 155–65, 223–37.

Herman Adler, "Judaism and War," "The Late Queen," "The Nation’s Prayer," "Memorial to the Jewish Soldiers," and "The Russo-Jewish Martyrs," in Anglo-Jewish Memories (London: Routledge and Sons, 1909), pp. 106–133, 141–56.

Moses Hyamson, "In Memoriam: Queen Victoria," in The Oral Law and Other Sermons (London: David Nutt, 1910), pp. 161–67.

12: May 1: Zionist Preachers


Yizhak Nissenbaum, Mo‘adim: Rerashot le-Hagim u-le-Mo‘adim (Jerusalem: Reuben Mass, 1967), pp. 174–90 (3 Pesach sermons).

Zevi Hirsch Mazliansky, "Israel’s Deluge," "Jacob and Esau," "Jacob’s Dream," and "The Kiss of the Enemy," in Sermons (New York: Hebrew Publishing Company, 1926; reprint 1960), pp. 71–77, 103–12.

Yehuda Amital, Ha-Ma’alot Mi-Ma’amaqim (Alon Shevut: Agudat Har Zion, 1974), pp. 76–83 (Yom Yerushalayim, 1973).

13. May 8: World War II (Orthodox Rabbis)


J. H. Hertz, "Civilian Morale" (1st day of Pesach, 1942), "The Day of Atonement" (Yom Kippur, 1942), "England, Awake," (Day of Fast and Mourning for the Victims of Mass Massacres of Jews, Dec. 13, 1942), in Early and Late (Hindhead, Surrey: Soncino, Press, 1943), pp. 14–18, 32–36, 80–85.

Akiba Predmesky, "The Ark of G-D Has Been Taken," and Walter Wuerzburger, "The Individual in the Crisis" (both Yom Kippur, 1943), in Manual of Holiday and Occasional Sermons, ed. Bernard L. Berzon (New York: Rabbinical Council press, 1943), pp. 51–70.

14. May 15 - World War II (Conservative and Reform Rabbis)


Israel Levinthal, "Wherefore Is the Earth Destroyed? (Rosh Hashanah, 1939), "Is It Death or Rebirth of the World That We Behold?" (Rosh Hashanah, 1941), "The Jewish V for Victory Campaign" (Yom Kippur, 1941), in A New World Is Born (Funk and Wagnalls, 1943), pp. 40-47, 7-14, 48-53.

Harold Saperstein, "Unconquered" (RH, 1939), "Sufferance Is the Badge" (RH, 1940), "Undying Fires" (RH, 1941), "The Mount of Sacrifice" (RH, 1942), in Witness from the Pulpit (Lexington Books, 2000), pp. 68-95).

Jacob Rudin, "God In the Blackout" (RH, 1940), in Very Truly Yours: A Creative Harvest of Forty Years in the Pulpit (Bloch Publishing Company, 1971), pp. 234–39.

15. May 22 – Student Reports on Final Papers

Requirements for the Course

Each Student is to Submit Two Pieces of Written Work

1. An annotated translation (with brief introduction) of a Hebrew sermon text written no later than the 18th century. (The model for this may be the translations in Jewish Preaching). This should not be one of the sermons read for class, but it may be another sermon from the same preacher. The choice should be a sermon that is not excessively long. Annotation should identify sources cited by, or alluded to by, the preacher, and any other matters that would make the text more accessible to the general reader. (40%)

2. A final research paper, due on May 22 (the final meeting of the class, on a topic of the student’s choosing in consultation with the instructor. Students are welcome to choose a theme in the sermons of a medieval or early modern preacher. However, it is also perfectly acceptable to focus on sermons from the 19th or 20th century (published or in the archival papers at Yeshiva University or the Jewish Theological Seminary). The paper should be about 20 pages, double-spaced. Students will be asked to hand out a one-two page précis, and give a five minute oral summary of their main conclusion, at the final meeting. (50%).

3. Attendance, preparation, participation in class (10%).