In The En Yaaqov: Jacob ibn Habib’s Search for Faith in the Talmudic Corpus, Marjorie Lehman argues that the En Yaaqov’s anthologizer, Jacob ibn Habib, purposely sought to create a collection of Talmudic aggadah that resembled the Talmud in various aspects of appearance and feel. Ibn Habib did this in order to provide a foundational text that would enable Jews to perceive the Talmud as a constructive theological document.
Drawing aggadic passages from the Talmud approximately two decades after the expulsion from Spain, Jacob ibn Habib created the En Yaaqov by removing the majority of the Talmud’s legal portions while preserving the original order of the Talmud’s tractates and chapters. He also added his own introduction and running commentary. Lehman traces the historical path leading up to the first printed edition of the En Yaaqov, taking the reader on a journey through the intellectual culture and theological intricacies surrounding its creation, and elaborating on the contributions of the En Yaaqov to the development of faith. Ibn Habib’s experiences as a Spanish Jewish exile, forced to flee Spain in 1492, prompted him to evaluate the impact of the expulsion on the curriculum of Jewish study and to make decisions not only about how the Talmud should be studied in the name of spiritual restoration, but also about how Jews could survive future challenges by cultivating a sustainable, faithful relationship with God. This insightfully researched book will be informative to scholars of Talmud and Rabbinic Literature, late-medieval intellectual history and culture, Sephardic history, and the history of the Jewish book as well as to readers interested in the still-popular En Yaakov.
Marjorie Lehman, Associate Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics, The Jewish Theological Seminary.