Monday, May 21, 2007

To write a rabbinical biography:

From Joseph Davis's Yom-Tov Lipman Heller: Portrait of a Seventeenth-Century Rabbi:

"A rabbinical biography should not be merely a summary of a few talmudic decisions supplemented by a small assortment of biographical facts. It must present a balanced and rounded view of the subject's life, placing him in the context of a time, a place, and a community. It should follow the subject's development from youth to age, presenting his ambitions and his failures as well as his accomplishments. It should seek to explain the motives of his major decisions--his unconscious motives, if possible, as well as his conscious justifications. It should attempt to see the events of the subject's life from his own point of view, as well as from the author's. The lives of most of the great rabbis of the past, on account of the limitations of existing records, cannot be written in such an extensive and satisfactory way, but Heller's, as I have suggested, can be, and that has been my aim."

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