Thursday, December 08, 2016

Another review of Fine, The Menorah

BOOK REVIEW: Author sheds light on the menorah (Jonathan Kirsch, Jewish Journal).
A Star of David may appear on the flag of Israel, but a much older symbol of Judaism and the Jewish people is the menorah, the seven-branched candelabrum that can be seen among the looted treasures of the Jerusalem Temple as depicted in the marble bas-relief on the Arch of Titus in Rome. The moment when cultural historian and Talmudist Steven Fine came face to face with this ancient artifact — he was in Italy studying the arch in 2012 — is described in Fine’s magisterial book from Harvard University Press, “The Menorah: From the Bible to Modern Israel.”

And how could I not quote this paragraph?
Fine, a professor of history at Yeshiva University, has spent “considerable time with images that today are called ‘symbols,’ ” and the whole point of his book is to excavate and explain the meanings that are evoked by the menorah over its long history. Indeed, he acknowledges that The New York Times once referred to him as “the Jewish Robert Langdon,” a reference to the “symbolist” who is the fictional hero of “The Da Vinci Code,” but he insists that his own work is based on “the close study of texts and artifacts in a real attempt to let these disparate forms ‘speak’ to each other.”
This review is aimed at a popular audience, but it is considerably more sympathetic and more substantial than the earlier review in the New York Times.