Hebrew U trained Roni Shweka‘s dissertation bears the title Studies in Halakhot Gedolot: Text and Recension. For the past year or so he’s been hanging out at Oxford’s Yarnton Manor analyzing genizah fragments alongside some of the field’s most experienced readers of medieval manuscripts. His new book, Shir Chadash, is a collection of “derashot” on various songs of different musicians in the Israeli rock scene. In an interview, Haaretz’s music reviewer Ben Shalev summarizes Shweka’s contribution to Israeli music criticism:
Nobody else has thought or written about Israeli music like that… Nobody else has dove into the depths of the Talmud and Gemara in order to find possible keys for explaining recent rock songs.
Israeli Renaissance, anyone?
4 thoughts on “From R. Simeon Qayyara to Meir Ariel”
I’m sure that Shweka is much greater talmid hacham than Shweki is, and I’m sure that he has a lot more interesting things to say about rock lyrics than the many Tosafists at songmeanings.com, but I think he has about as much a chance of sparking a secular talmud revival as Bob Dylan does by opening his Israeli set with “Gonna Change My Way of Thinking” from his born-again album. Rock on, Yitz.
On this I’ll have to disagree with you, Zohar. With all my pessimism, the renaissance of the Jewish bookshelf in Israel, even if there was a short break and a move away from Bible towards other sources like Talmud, hassidut, and in particular piyut, is growing stronger – especially in pop-culture. Just read Azzan Yadin’s insightful review of Hadag Nahash’s recent album at Jewish Review of Books: http://www.jewishreviewofbooks.com/publications/detail/a-measure-of-beauty.
Somewhat apropos of this discussion, see Tomer Persico’s article on Yeshivat Talpiot:
This may come as news to the academic lot, but rabbis have been correlating Talmud and Midrash with contemporary music for a very, very long time. It’s good sermon material.
Rabbis know that in order to elevate their communities, they must first “debase” themselves by absorbing popular culture. After all, “if you wanna kiss the sky, you better learn how to kneel.”
Here’s something of this genre that I wrote a few years ago (after seeing U2 in concert last night, I
ll probably re-post before Shabbat):