Tamar Alexander, Amela Einat (eds.) Tarat Tarat - Jewish Folk Tales From Ethiopia
Rella KushelevskyMoses and the Angel of Death
Galit Hasan-RokemThe Web of Life - Folklore in Rabbinic Literature

Tarat Tarat - Jewish Folk Tales From Ethiopia
Tamar Alexander, Amela Einat, (eds.),
Tel-Aviv: Yediot Achronot, 1996.
139 illustrated pages.
The book includes 80 folk tales selected from an initial collection of 370 tales. Told originally in Amharic by Ethiopian Jews. the stories have been documented and translated into Hebrew by the Ethiopians themselves. The book is divided into five chapters. which focus on a number of different themes and genres:
  1. "Medicine for Love:" folk tales and fairy tales about family relationships. directed mainly at women and children.
  2. "The Squirrel,the Lion and the Ape;" fables and allegorical animal tales about friendship and enmity.
  3. "A Distant Brother is Better Than a Close Friend:" moralistic tales emphasizing normative values such as hospitality, reward and punishment.
  4. "The Death and Resurrection of Rba Gvar-Hana:" humoristic tales, jokes, and anecdotes about a trickster involved in the struggle for daily survival.
  5. "The Jewish Kingdom in Ethiopia:" historical legends about prominent figures in Ethiopian Jewry.
These stories frequently reflect characteristics the Ethiopian Jewish heritage shares with both universal and general Jewish traditions. For example, the story "Lama Bure" is an Ethiopian version of the story-tvpe "Cinderella." told the world over. Among the moralistic tales. "The Rabbi and the Butcher," is one of the most predominant stories in general Jewish culture. The story about "The Bridegroom Predestined to Die on His Wedding Day" is found in an earlier form in Jewish Midrashic literature. Every culture has its own version of the character of the double-faced fool: the trickster and the simpleton. This character is Juha in Oriental Arabic and Jewish cultures; Hershel in East European Jewish culture; Til Ollenspeigel in Europe; and Aba Gvar-Hana in Ethiopia. Similarly the animal tales exemplify one of the most ancient genres in human culture.

However. despite the parallel stories, themes, and plots which link these tales to folk tales of other cultures. it is possible to identify motifs and textures which are uniquely Ethiopian: for example. in the animal tales the ape is the clever animal, rather than the fox as in European tradition. All the Ethiopian tales in all the genres express characteristic themes of hunger, poverty, the struggle to cultivate the land and the profound effort made to keep Jewish tradition alive and to perpetuate its customs.

The legends contained in the final chapter express unique traditions particular to Ethiopian Jewry. Some of these legends focus an historical figures like King Todoros and Menelik, son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, which link Ethiopian culture to Jewish historical sources. There are also stories centering on the subject of martyrdom, of Ethiopian Jews choosing to die rather than convert. The prevailing themes however, are those of heroism and actiue war--themes which are extremely rare in all other Jewish folk tales of the diaspora. These heroic tales can be directly linked to Israeli stories and stories of the Zionist movement, The probable explanation for this phenomenon is the historic fact of an independent Jewish kingdom in Ethiopia.

In addition to the literary and aesthetic value of the stories, this collection provides the reader with a rare glimpse into the unique cultural traditions of Ethiopian Jewry.

Moses and the Angel of Death
Rella Kushelevsky
Studies on Themes and Motifs In Literature Series, Horst S. Daemmrich, ed., vol. 4. Including indexes and classified bibliography
Peter Lang. New York 1995
Moses' Struggle for life on the threshold of the Promised Land and his enigmatic death have captured the imagination of the Jewish people. From the early Midrashic texts of the second century onwards, the dramatic and compelling story of Moses' death steadily evolved, manifesting itself in over eighty versions in print and manuscripts. This panoramic view of the resultant thematic series uncovers a consistent dialectic perception of Moses and his death, embodied in a rather fixed narrative pattern. rich in folkloric motifs. Against the constant features of this series, individual differences along the versions reflect a literary-cultural process of change and development. A comparison to non-Jewish sources places the series within its Jewish cultural context. The work presents a first complete English translation of three major sources.- Tanhuma va-Ethanan 6, Midrash Petirat Mosheh Rabbenu Alav ha- Shalom, and Petirat Mosheh Ms Parma 327, hereby first published.

The theme is explored by means of a new thematological approach which underlies an ongoing prject at Bar-Ilan University of the Encyclopedia of Narrative Themes In Jewish Literature, carried out by Yoav Elstein, Avidov Lipsker and the author. The method offers tools for investigating a particular, well-defined literary unit, namely the thematic, homogeneous series of Jewish sources. The analysis is carried out at the level of the material itself as well as at the functional, structural, and ideological levels.


Galit Hasan-Rokem

English title:
The Web of Life - Folklore in Rabbinic Literature
The Palestinian Aggadic Midrash Eikha Rabba
Am Oved Publishers Ltd Tel-Aviv 1996
ISBN 965-13-1111-8

The book presents a multi-level discussion of the Palestinian Aggadic Midrash Eikha Rabba. By making folk creativity and folk culture its point of departure for interpreting a rabbinic text, this book suggests a new outlook on the sources of inspiration, creativity and influences which stimulated the makers of the Aggadic Midrash. Whereas prevailing views have focused on the sources of midrashic creativity within male-centered and patriarchal institutions such as Bet Ha-Midrash (the house of learning) and Bet Ha-Knesset (the synagogue), here we are introduced to the creative impetus of such cultural and social institutions as the home and the family, women's communities, the market place, urban and rural public spaces. The illumination of everyday life of Late Antiquity, conceived of as a cultural category, seeks to liberate the text from the interpretative monopoly of orthodoxies.

The author: Prof. Galit Hasan-Rokem chairs the Jewish and Comparative Folklore Program at the Hebrew University and teaches at the Department of Hebrew Literature. Among her former publications: Proverbs in Israeli Folk Narratives - A Structural Analysis of Folklore, Folklore Fellows Communications 232, Helsinki 1982; The Wandering Jew - Interpretations of a Christian Legend, co-edited with Alan Dundes, Bloomington Indiana 1986; Adam le-adam gesher - Proverbs of Georgian Jews in Israel, Jerusalem 1993 (Hebrew); Untying the Knot - On Riddles and Other Enigmatic Modes, co-edited with David Shulman, New York 1996.

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