Modern midrash: the retelling of traditional Jewish by David C. Jacobson

By David C. Jacobson

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I have received it and have told it anew ... as one who was born later. I bear in me the blood and the spirit of those who created it, and out of my blood and spirit it has become new. I stand in the chain of narrators, a link between links; I tell once again the old stories, and if they sound new, it is because the new already lay dormant in them when they were told for the first time. 1 This passage from the introduction to Martin Buber's collection of retold versions of Hasidic tales Die Legende des Baalschem (The Legend of the Baal Shem [Toy]) (1907) reflects an approach that pervades the work of most writers who have engaged in the modern midrashic retelling of Hasidic tales.

Rawnitzki, and Mimekor , edited by M. Y. Berdyczewski. Included in this category would be various collections of Hasidic tales presented in a manner that is relatively faithful to the original sources, for example haganuz, edited by M. Buber, and Sifreihem shel tsaddikim, edited by S. Y. Agnon. On the other end of the spectrum are works of poetry, fiction, and drama which focus on the portrayal of contemporary experience but make significant use of allusions to traditional Jewish narratives as a means to do so.

Agnon. On the other end of the spectrum are works of poetry, fiction, and drama which focus on the portrayal of contemporary experience but make significant use of allusions to traditional Jewish narratives as a means to do so. A large proportion of works of belles-lettres by Hebrew writers in the twentieth century fall into this category. Modern midrash, which consists of retold versions of traditional Jewish narratives, is located in the middle of this spectrum. It maintains much of the plot and characterization in the traditional narratives on which it is based, but it takes great liberty in adding and subtracting aspects of the narratives' content and imaginatively retells the narratives in a more contemporary style.

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