Exile and the Jews


Exile and the Jews

Literature, History, and Identity

Edited by Nancy E. Berg and Marc Saperstein

JPS Anthologies of Jewish Thought Series

300 pages


April 2024


$35.00 Add to Cart
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April 2024


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eBook (PDF)
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April 2024


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About the Book

This first comprehensive anthology examining Jewish responses to exile from the biblical period to our modern day gathers texts from all genres of Jewish literary creativity to explore how the realities and interpretations of exile have shaped Judaism, Jewish politics, and individual Jewish identity for millennia. Ordered along multiple arcs—from universal to particular, collective to individual, and mythic-symbolic to prosaic everyday living—the chapters present different facets of exile: as human condition, in history and life, in holiday rituals, in language, as penance and atonement, as internalized experience, in relation to the Divine Presence, and more. By illuminating the multidimensional nature of “exile”—political, philosophical, religious, psychological, and mythological—widely divergent evaluations of Jewish life in the Diaspora emerge. The word “exile” and its Hebrew equivalent, galut, evoke darkness, bleakness—and yet the condition offers spiritual renewal and engenders great expressions of Jewish cultural creativity: the Babylonian Talmud, medieval Jewish philosophy, golden age poetry, and modern Jewish literature.

Exile and the Jews will engage students, academics, and general readers in contemplating immigration, displacement, evolving identity, and more.

Author Bio

Nancy E. Berg is professor of Hebrew and comparative literature at Washington University in St. Louis. She is the author of Exile from Exile: Israeli Writers from Iraq and coeditor with Naomi B. Sokoloff of the National Jewish Book Award–winning What We Talk about When We Talk about Hebrew (And What It Means to Americans). Marc Saperstein served as principal and professor of Jewish history and homiletics of the Leo Baeck College, London. His dozen books include “Your Voice like a Ram’s Horn”: Themes and Texts in Traditional Jewish Preaching, a National Jewish Book Award winner in Scholarship, and Agony in the Pulpit: Jewish Preaching in Response to Nazi Persecution and Mass Murder, 1933–1945.


“Carefully researched and beautifully presented to create cross-generational conversations, moving from universal and existential to collective Jewish expressions of the diasporic condition, Exile and the Jews is both accessible to the general reader and invaluable to the student or scholar of Jewish studies.”—Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi, author of Booking Passage: Exile and Homecoming in the Modern Jewish Imagination

“I enthusiastically endorse this fascinating anthology as a textbook for higher education.”—Rifat Sonsino, rabbi emeritus, Temple Beth Shalom, Needham, Massachusetts, and author of Modern Judaism

Table of Contents

Notes about the Cover
1. Exile as Human Condition
Birth as Exile
Midrash Tanḥuma, Pekudei 3
Exile from Eden
Genesis 3
Moses Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed (ca. 1190)
Don Isaac Abravanel, Perush ꜥal ha-Torah on Genesis 3 (late 15th century)
Amos Neufeld, “Exile” (1988)
2. Exile in Ancient History
Exodus 1:8–14
Ezekiel Landau, “Exile in Egypt versus Exile in Persia” (1782)
2 Kings 24:8–25:21
Psalm 137
Tanḥuma, Yitro 5 (8th–9th century)
Pesikta Rabbati 31:4 (ca. 845 ce)
Yalkut Shimoni, Psalms, Remez (section) 883, no. 16 on Ps. 137 (11th–14th century)
Israel Mattuck, “How Shall We Sing”
Amir Gilboa, “By the Waters of Babylon” (1953)
Lea Goldberg, “Night” (1955–56)
Yehuda Amichai, “If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem” (1968)
Rome and the Long Exile
Yalkut Shimoni (ca. 13th century)
Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah (ca. 7th–8th century)
Eikhah Rabbah (ca. 500 ce)
Profiet Duran (the Ephodi), “Epistle of Lamentation, Grief and Consolation” (1393)
Judah ben David ibn Yaḥya, “Me’orah” (ca. 1428)
Don Isaac Abravanel, “Letter to Yehiel of Pisa” (October 4, 1482)
Don Isaac Abravanel, Ma’yenei ha-Yeshu’ah (1496)
Don Isaac Abravanel, Zevaḥ Pesaḥ (1496)
Abraham Saba, “A Debate over Which Exile Is Worse” (ca. 1500)
Abraham P. Mendes, “The Sorrows and Consolation of Jerusalem: A Sermon for Shabbat Naḥamu” (1855)
3. Exile and Holidays
Tisha b’Av
Lamentations 5
Pesikta Rabbati 30:2 (ca. 845 ce)
Anonymous, “A Derashah on the Haftarah for the Ninth of Ab” (ca. 1700–1900)
David Einhorn, “For the Anniversary of the Destruction of Jerusalem” (1896)
Mordecai Ze’ev Feierberg, “Whither?” (1900)
Book of Esther 2:5–22
Amīnā (Binyamin ben Misha’el), Commentary on the Book of Esther (early 18th century)
Abba Hillel Silver, “But Mordechai Bowed Not Down” (1936)
4. Divine Presence in Exile
B. Megillah 29a
The Divine Presence amid Gentiles
Zohar I, 84b–85a
R. Nachman of Bratzlav, “The Lost Princess” (1816)
Providential Protection in Exile
Isaac ben Yedaiah, “Commentary on the Aggadot of the Talmud” (late 13th century)
Saul Levi Morteira, “Dust of the Earth” (ca. 1623)
Saul Levi Morteira, “Guarded Him as the Pupil of His Eye” (delivered 1631, published 1645)
Menasseh ben Israel, “To His Highnesse the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland” (1655)
Berr Isaac Berr, “Letter of a Citizen to His Fellow Jews” (1791)
Abandonment by the Divine Presence in Exile
Hayyim Nahman Bialik, “In the City of Slaughter” (1904)
5. Exile as Penance and Atonement
National Exile
Leviticus 26:31–45
Deuteronomy 28:64–69
Sanhedrin 37b (4th–6th century)
Zohar III, 115a–b (13th century)
Don Isaac Abravanel, Perush ꜥal ha-Torah on Leviticus 26:38–39 (late 15th century)
Don Isaac Abravanel, Perush ꜥal ha-Torah on Deuteronomy 28 (late 15th century)
Hermann Adler, A Course of Sermons on the Biblical Passages Adduced by Christian Theologians (1869)
Alexander Altmann, “Sermon for Rosh Hashanah 5695” (1934)
Individual Exile
Genesis 4
Augustine, “Reply to Faustus the Manichean” (ca. 400)
Tanḥuma, Bereshit 9 (ca. 400–600 ce)
Israel Brunn, She’elot u-Teshuvot (Responsa) nos. 265, 166 (15th century, published 1798)
Don Isaac Abravanel, Sefer Naḥalat Avot, Pirkei Avot 1.11 (1505)
Moses Cordovero, The Palm Tree of Deborah (1588)
Israel of Koznitz, “Avodat Yisrael to VaYetzei” (ca. 1750–1810)
6. Life in Exile
Advice and Rebuke
Jeremiah 29
Dunash ibn Labrat, “Reply to an Invitation to a Feast” (10th century)
Benjamin of Tudela, “Exilarch” (late 12th century)
Solomon Levi, Divrei Shlomo on Va-Yetse’ (1573)
Aaron Berechiah of Modena, “Shemot,” Derashot Maꜥavar Yabbok (1619)
Saul Levi Morteira, “The People’s Envy” (1622)
Charles Reznikoff, “Babylon: 539 B.C.E.” (1934)
Myron Ernst, “Exile” (1988)
7. Internalized Exile
Communal Identity in Exile
Yitzhak Baer, Galut (1947)
Eliezer Berkovits, “Galut, or the Breach between the Torah and Life—the Real Problem” (1943)
Eliezer Berkovits, “Galut and Eretz Israel” (1943)
Eliezer Berkovits, “Galut” (1973)
Self-Identity in the Diaspora
Isaac ben Yedaiah, Commentary on the Aggadot of the Talmud (late 13th century)
Judah Leib Pinsker, Auto-Emancipation (1882)
Amy Levy, “Captivity” (1889)
Hayyim Nahman Bialik, “Indeed This People Is Grass” (1897)
Joseph Hayyim Brenner, “Self-Criticism” (1914)
Jacob Klatzkin, “Boundaries” (1914)
Max Nussbaum, “To Travel and to Flee” (1939)
Natan Zach, “An Exile Poem” (1966)
Eli Amir, Tarnegol Kapparot (1982)
Joshua Sobol, Soul of a Jew: The Last Night of Otto Weininger (1983)
8. Exile in Medieval and Modern History
Muslim Spain
Moses ibn Ezra, “Ad An ba-Galut” (11th century)
Moses ibn Ezra, “Aḥar Yemei ha-Shaḥarut” (11th century)
Christian Spain
“An Anonymous Chronicle of the 1492 Expulsion” (ca. 1492)
Y. L. Gordon, “In the Depths of the Sea” (1884)
Exile from Elsewhere
Bābā’ī ibn Lutf, “How the Grand Vizier Found a Pretext against the Jews of Isfahan and Drove Them out of Their Homes” (ca. 1660)
Isaac Bashevis Singer, Love and Exile (1986)
Andre Aciman, Out of Egypt (1995)
Dina Elenbogen, “Exile: Losing the Motherland” (1999)
Exile of the Other
Sophia Parnok, “Hagar” (ca. 1920)
Lea Goldberg, “Fragment” (ca. 1970)
Edward W. Said, “Palestine, Then and Now: An Exile’s Journey through Israel and the Occupied Territories” (1992)
9. Language as the Locus of Exile
Babel and Afterward
Genesis 11:1–9
Anton Shammas, “On Exile and Literature” (1985)
Eva Hoffman, Lost in Translation (1989)
Haviva Pedaya, “A Man Walks” (1992)
Salman Masalha, “I Write Hebrew” (1997)
Giora Leshem, “My Mother’s Tongue Is Not My Mother Tongue” (2000)
10. Negation, Ambivalence, and Affirmation of Exile
Daniel al-Kumisi, “Appeal to the Karaites of the Dispersion to Come and Settle in Jerusalem” (10th century)
Judah Halevi, “My Heart Is in the East” (12th century)
Heinrich Heine, “Jehuda ben Halevy” (1851)
Theodor Herzl, Der Judenstaat (1896)
Moses Leib Lilienblum, “Derekh Teshuvah” (1899)
Ahad Ha’am, “The Negation of the Diaspora” (1909)
Rina Shani, “I Am in the East and My Heart Is in the East” (1970)
A. B. Yehoshua, “Exile as a Neurotic Solution” (1986)
Eva Hoffman, “Out of Exile: Some Thoughts on Exile as a Dynamic Condition” (2013)
Moses ben Nahman, “Disputation of Barcelona” (1263)
Dov Baer (the Maggid of Mezritch), “Harḥek mish’khen raꜥ” (ca. 1760–80)
Simon Dubnow, “The Affirmation of the Diaspora” (1909)
Judah Magnes, “Like All the Nations?” (1930)
Marjorie Agosin, A Cross and a Star (1995)
Marjorie Agosin, “I Invented a Country” (1994)
Source Acknowledgments

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