AI T’lEN To AKHENATON or AKHENATEN (Jews and Judaism)


(b. c. 1545), Chinese Jew through whom detailed knowledge of Chinese Jewry first reached the Western world at the beginning of the 17th century. Ai T’ien was born in *Kai-feng, Honan province, and obtained his licentiate in Chinese classics as a minor school official (chu-jen) in 1573. In 1605 he went to Peking to seek employment, which led to his eventual appointment at Yangchow. While in Peking, in June 1605, he visited the Italian Jesuit missionary, Matteo Ricci. Ai gave Ricci a detailed account of his own family and the status of the Jewish community in Kaifeng, as well as the relationship of the Jews with the local Muslims and Nestorian Christians. Ricci came to the conclusion that the community in Kaifeng were of Jewish descent and sent this information in a letter dated July 26, 1605, to the general of the Jesuit order in Rome. This was the first report to reach Europe concerning the existence of Jews in China, and a document of primary importance for Chinese Jewish history.


(Heb tmp129-65_thumb town in the Bouches-du-Rhone department, southern France. The first reference to the presence of Jews in Aix-en-Provence dates from about 1283. They then owned a synagogue and a cemetery situated at Bourg St.-Saveur, which was under the jurisdiction of the archbishop. In 1299 they contributed to the annual tax paid to the count by the Jews of Provence. The Jewish population in 1341 numbered 1,205 (about V11 of the total), occupying 203 houses, mainly on the Rue Verrerie (called Rue de la Juiverie until 1811); not far from there the du Puits-Juif still exists (probably the public well in this street gave rise to the legend that the Jews owned a medicinal spring). A synagogue was situated on the corner of the Rue Vivaut and Rue Verrerie, and another (1354) in the lower town. In 1341 King Robert of Anjou attempted to set up a compulsory Jewish quarter, but notwithstanding repeated injunctions it had evidently failed to materialize by 1403. The community in Aix was administered by at least two syndics. The Jews did not have to pay taxes to the municipality since they contributed to the annual tax paid by the Jews of Provence to the crown. The contributions of Aix Jewry amounted to 16% of the total in 1420, and to over 25% in 1446.

By letters patent of Sept. 25, 1435, Jews were prohibited from practicing brokerage, and were obliged to wear the Jewish *badge. These restrictions followed the anti-Jewish riots, which had taken place in 1430, when nine Jews were killed, many were injured and 74 were forcefully baptized. A general amnesty was subsequently granted to the inhabitants of Aix. The position of the Jews in Aix was ameliorated when, in 1454 King Rene of Anjou allowed them to employ Christian servants, reduced the size of the badge, and exempted Jews from wearing it while traveling.

When in 1481 Provence passed to France, Louis xi confirmed the privileges formerly enjoyed by the Jews of Aix and Marseilles. Aix Jewry again suffered disaster, however, when on May 10, 1484, they were attacked by bands of marauders from the Dauphine and Auvergne and the highlands of Provence. The raids were repeated intermittently until 1486. In that year, the Aix municipality asked Charles viii to expel the Jews. The general decree of expulsion, issued in 1498, became effective in 1501. The Parliament of Provence reissued the prohibition on Jews settling in Aix in 1760, 1768, and 1787.

In cultural matters, the Aix community took a prominent part in the *Maimonidean controversy that divided Jewish scholars. The Jews of Aix were mentioned by the Provencal poet Isaac b. Abraham ha-Gorni who criticized them for their inhospitable attitude toward strangers.

Shortly after 1789 nine Jewish families from Avignon settled in Aix-en-Provence. The Jewish population numbered 169 in 1809 and 258 in 1872 (out of a total population of 29,000), dwindling to 214 in 1900. In the mid-19th century Aix was the center in which the former traditions of the *Comtat Venaissin communities were most faithfully preserved, largely through the activities of members of the *Milhaud and *Cremieux families. In 1829, the Hebrew book by Moses Cremieux Ho’il Moshe Beer was printed in Aix by Francois Gigia.

The census conducted by the Vichy government in May 1941 recorded 33 Jewish families living in Aix. When the Germans entered the unoccupied zone in November 1942, 2,000 Jewish refugees from Germany and Eastern Europe were sent to Aix. Most of them were quartered in the nearby camp of Milles. In May 1943, following the roundup of Jews by the Germans in southern France, almost all the Jews in Aix were arrested and interned at *Drancy. They were subsequently deported to Germany and most perished in the Holocaust.

Modern Times

The community practically disappeared during the years immediately following World War ii. All the archives of the community disappeared during World War II. As the synagogue that was inaugurated in 1840 was no longer used for worship, it was sold in 1952 and became a Protestant church. The prayer books were distributed among several neighboring communities. The synagogues centenary could not be celebrated in 1940, but Darius *Milhaud, a native of Aix and great-grandson of the community’s president when the synagogue was built, composed a cantata for the occasion, Crown of Glory, based on three poems by Ibn *Gabirol and on prayers from the *Comtat Venaissin. The arrival of North African Jews after 1956 created a new community. In 1967 there were about 1,000 Jews living in Aix-en-Provence. As of 1987, the population was said to be 3,000. The rabbi and the rite of the synagogue are North African. The community is administered by a council called the Association Culturelle Israelite, which is affiliated with the Consistoire Cen-trale de France. An attempt was made to torch the synagogue on the afternoon of Yom Kippur, October 9, 2000.


(1902-1974), Russian painter, graphic artist, and stage designer. Aizenberg was born in Moscow. In 1918-24, she studied in Moscow at the High Arts and Technical Workshops (vhutemas). From 1924, she worked as a stage designer for several Moscow theaters. In 1926, Aizenberg became the principal stage-designer for the Blue Robe (Sinyaa Bluza), a propaganda-variety theater, where she developed a novel approach to designing sets and costumes. This approach, based on constructivist theater techniques, made possible quick in set and costume changes through the artful use of basic components in various combinations. In 1928-30, Aizenberg was a member of the Association of Decorative Artists, in 1930-32 she joined October group, which united artists working in the constructivist manner and adherents of "industrial art." In the early 1930s, she was active in the festive design of Moscow’s streets on holidays marking the events of the Revolution. From the mid-1920s through the 1930s, she regularly showed her work at set design and decorative art exhibits in Moscow and Leningrad. In 1938-41, she executed designs for sports parades and rallies. In 1940-50, Aizenberg worked as a set designer for various theaters in Russia and other Soviet republics. She executed a series of landscape paintings in the 1950s. The first and only solo exhibition in her lifetime took place in 1964 in Moscow.


(1869-1922), Russian writer. He studied painting in Odessa and Paris, but in his early thirties turned to literature. Aizman wrote a great deal about the Jewish poor, in a style reminiscent of Maxim *Gorki. In such short stories as "Ob odnom zlodeyanii" ("About a Crime," 1902), "Zemlyaki" ("Fellow-countrymen," 1903), and "Savan" ("The Shroud," 1903) as well as in the play Ternovy kust ("The Blackthorn Bush," 1907), Aizman portrayed revolutionary-minded Jewish intellectuals and their persecution by the Czarist police. His later work bears the imprint of Russian Symbolist prose, e.g., the short story "Utro Anchla" (1906), the novella "Krovavy razliv" ("Bloody Deluge," 1908), and the fantastic dream "Svetly bog" ("The Radiant God," 1914). Although he was very popular in his day – an eight-volume edition of his works was published in Russia in 1911-1919 – Aizman’s stories last appeared in the U.S.S.R. in 1926, and by the second half of the century his name was almost totally forgotten.


Academy founded in Berlin in 1919 for the furtherance of Jewish scholarship and the encouragement of young scholars and the publication of their work. The idea of such an academy had been mooted by Franz *Rosenzweig in his seminal open letter ("Zeit ist’s," 1917; "It is time" in On Jewish Learning (1965)) to his teacher Hermann *Cohen, who took it up enthusiastically. The academy was to be in two parts: an academy in the accepted sense, with members and corresponding members, and a research institute which, by giving grants to younger scholars, would enable them to pursue their work in the various divisions of study, such as Talmud, history, Hebrew literature and language, philosophy, Kabbalah, economics, etc. From the original plan, only the research institute materialized; its first director was E. *Taeubler, who was succeeded by Julius *Guttmann. The academy made itself responsible for a number of publications, such as the continuation of Theodor and Albeck’s edition of Genesis Rabbah (1912-32, repr. 1965), Hermann Cohen’s Juedische Schriften (3 vols., 1924) and his philosophical writings (2 vols., 1928), and a bicentenary edition of the works of Moses *Mendelssohn, which was planned for 16 volumes, but only seven appeared (1929-38). The academy’s Korrespondenzblatt with annual reports appeared from 1919 to 1930. For some time the academy also shared responsibility for the Zeitschrift fuer Demographie und Statistik der Juden. A Festschrift was published in 1929 to celebrate its tenth anniversary. Its work came to an end in 1934.


(18821964), Polish-born Hebrew and Yiddish writer and editor. After the publication of his first story in David Frischmann’s Ha-Dor (1901), Akavya became a steady contributor to the Hebrew press and literary periodicals. He also wrote stories and novels in Yiddish, and translated from Yiddish to Hebrew. Akavya edited several Yiddish weeklies, the Hebrew daily Ha-Boker (with D. Frischmann (1909)), the biweekly for youth Shibbo-lim, and (after World War 1) Ha-Zefirah and Ha-Yom.He devoted many years of research to the Hebrew calendar and published various books on the subject.


(first century c.e.), member of the Sanhedrin. He engaged in a dispute with *H anina Segan ha-Kohanim and *Dosa b. Harkinas (Neg. 1:4) and the three are mentioned consecutively in Avot de-Rabbi Nathan (Version a, 19-21). Akavyah was offered the position of av bet din on condition that he renounce four of his decisions in which he disagreed with the majority but he declined, declaring: "It is better for me to be called a fool all my days than that I should become even for one hour a wicked man in the sight of God; and that men should say, ‘He withdrew his opinions for the sake of getting power’" (Eduy. 5:6). Three of these dissenting opinions appear in the Mishnah (Neg. 5:3; Nid. 2:6; Bek. 3:4). A fourth, concerning the administration of the water of bitterness to a proselyte or emancipated slave suspected of infidelity to her spouse, indirectly resulted in Akavyah’s excommunication. After testimony had been adduced in the name of Shemaiah and Avtalyon, he scornfully remarked, ‘Degma hishkuha,’ i.e., "they made her drink in simulation only," or, as explained by others, "men who were like her (i.e., proselytes or descendants of proselytes) made her drink" Eduy., ibid.). Although he did not retract his statements before his death, Akavyah admonished his son to accept the opinion of the majority. His son’s entreaty, "Commend me to your colleagues," elicited the reply: "Your own deeds will bring your commendation or your rejection" (Eduy. 5:7). According to the Mishnah Akavyah died while still under the ban of excommunication, and the bet din stoned his coffin (ibid., 6). R. Kahana considered him a "rebellious elder," but he was not executed because he based his opinions on tradition (Sanh. 88a). Judah b. Ilai (Eduy., ibid.) and Judah b. Bathyra (Sif. Num. 105), however, denied that Akavyah was put under a ban. The former declared, "God forbid that (we would think that) Akavyah was excommunicated, for the Temple court was never closed in the face of any man in Israel so great in wisdom and in fear of sin as Akavyah b. Mahalalel." Akvayah’s maxim, "Reflect upon three things and you will not come within the power of sin: know whence you came, whither you are going, and before whom you are destined to give account" (Avot 3:1; cf. arn1, 29), illustrates his own stress on ethical conduct.


(Akbar Abu al-Fath Jalal al-Din Muhammad; 1542-1605), Moghul emperor in India. Akbar’s subjects were permitted a remarkable degree of religious tolerance and freedom. The emperor tried to build a bridge of understanding between Hindus and Muslims and to create a new eclectic religion of pure theism ("tauhid Ilahu" or "Din Ilahi"). He collected translations of the holy books of all faiths, and held regular religious disputations in his palace at Fatehpur Sikri, near Agra. The participants also included Jews, probably from Persia, Afghanistan, or Khurasan, as well as Hindus, Jains, Zoroastrians, and Jesuits. The presence of Jews is reliably reported by Moghul court historians, by the Jesuit traveler A. Monserrate, and by the author of the Dabistan. A synagogue (kenisa) also existed in the Moghul realm according to the English traveler, Sir Thomas Roe (1616). Akbar’s interest in the translation of holy books brought the famous Florentine traveler and scholar Giambattista Vecchietti to Agra. Vecchietti had collected many ancient *Judeo-Persian biblical translations during his journeys in Persia, and while a guest of Akbar, he transliterated the Judeo-Persian manuscript of the Psalms into Persian script.


The poem has been given two musical settings which have become well-known in Ashkenazi synagogues. One of these can claim great antiquity by its psalmodic style of recitation; the simple but expressive declamation suits the narrative character of the poem. Its identity in the Western and Eastern branches of the Ashkenazi rite, and its use for the *Kiddush and other prayers, indicates its age. Another melody is found only in the West, and apparently is of a later date, although its motives were already incorporated in cantorial works of 1744 and 1796. Moreover, this second tune serves as a motto theme of the Feast of Weeks and is applied in the *Hallel, the *Priestly Blessing, and other prayer texts.


(Heb tmp129-66_thumb "Introduction"), opening words of an Aramaic poem by R. Meir b. Isaac Neho-rai. The poem was recited in the synagogue on Shavuot as an introduction to the Aramaic translation (targum) of Exodus 19-20 (the theophany at Mount Sinai). Exodus 19:1 was read aloud in Hebrew, "Akdamut Millin" was then read, followed by the next few verses in the Hebrew, and after that the same verses in Aramaic. The remainder of the reading was finished in the same sequence: two to three verses of the Hebrew text followed by the Aramaic translation of the preceding verses. The recitation of "Akdamut Millin" now generally precedes the Reading of the Torah, in deference to the objections of later halakhic authorities against interrupting the Reading of the Torah (cf. Magen David to Sh. Ar., oh 494), particularly since it is no longer customary to read the Aramaic translation. The poem consists of 90 acrostic lines forming a double alphabet followed by the author’s name. It praises God as creator and lawgiver, expatiates on Israel’s fidelity to God despite all sufferings and temptations, and ends with a description of the apocalyptic events at the end of days and the future glory of Israel. The poem is recited in the Ashkenazi rite only. A similar work by the same author, introducing the reading of the Aramaic version of the Song of Moses (Ex. 15:1-10) on the seventh day of Passover, is found in some medieval manuscripts. "Akdamut Millin" has been translated into English in various prayer books, notably by Joseph Marcus (Silverman, Prayer, 185-8) and Raphael Loewe (Service of the Synagogue, London, 1954, 210). There are also several versions of the "Akdamut" in Hebrew (see Sefer ha-Moadim, 3 (1950), 141-4). A similar poem, "Yeziv Pitgam" is recited on the second day of Shavuot before the reading of the haftarah. In East European folk tradition the origin of the poem is connected with the widespread legend that R. Meir b. Isaac saved the Jewish community of Worms by invoking the help of a miraculous emissary of the Ten Lost Tribes from across the *Sambatyon. In many versions of the legend, extant in manuscripts and still alive in oral tradition, the hero is identified with R. *Meir Ba’al ha-Nes, and the "Akdamut" piyyut celebrates a victory over the Jew-baiters.


(Aqedah; Heb tmp129-67_thumb , lit. "binding (of Isaac)"), the Pentateuchal narrative (Gen. 22:1-19) describing God’s command to *Abraham to offer *Isaac, the son of his old age, as a sacrifice. Obedient to the command, Abraham takes Isaac to the place of sacrifice and binds him (va-yaakod, Gen. 22:9, a word found nowhere else in the Bible in the active, conjugative form) on the altar. The angel of the Lord then bids Abraham to stay his hand and a ram is offered in Isaac’s stead. The Ake-dah became in Jewish thought the supreme example of self-sacrifice in obedience to God’s will and the symbol of Jewish martyrdom throughout the ages.

Critical View

The Akedah narrative is generally attributed to source e (which uses ‘Elohim as the Divine Name) with glosses by the Redactor (r, hence also the use of the Tetragrammaton); or to source J (in which the Divine Name is the Tetragrammaton) which may have made use of e material (Peake’s Commentary on the Bible (1962), 193). The original intent of the narrative has been understood by the critics either as an etiological legend explaining why the custom of child sacrifice was modified in a certain sanctuary by the substitution of a ram (Gunkel), or as a protest against human sacrifice (Skinner, Genesis (1910), 331-2). The name Moriah ("land of Moriah," Gen. 22:2) occurs elsewhere (ii Chron. 3:1) as the name of the Temple site; hence the Jewish tradition that the Temple was built on the spot at which the Akedah took place. There is no further reference to the Akedah in the Bible.

The Akedah influenced both Christian and Islamic thought. In early Christian doctrine, the sacrifice of Isaac is used as a type for the sacrifice of Jesus (see Tertullian, Adver-sus Marcionem, 3:18; Clement of Alexandria, Paedogogica, 1:5, i; Schoeps, in: jbl, 65 (1946), 385-92). In Islam, the Akedah is held up for admiration (Koran 37:97-111), but the more accepted opinion is that it was Ishmael, Abraham’s other son and the progenitor of the Arabs, who was bound on the altar and that the whole episode took place before Isaac’s birth. The Ake-dah has been a favorite theme in religious art for centuries.

In Jewish Life and Literature

In the early rabbinic period, reference was made to Abraham’s sacrifice in prayers of intercession. The Mishnah (Ta’an. 2:4) records that on public fast days the reader recited: "May He that answered Abraham our father on Mount Moriah answer you and hearken to the voice of your crying this day." The Mishnah also states (Ta’an. 2:1) that on fast days, ashes were placed on the Ark and on the heads of the nasi and the av bet din; a later teacher explained (Ta’an. 16a) that this was a reminder of the "ashes of Isaac." In the Zikhronot ("Remembrance") prayers of Rosh Ha-Shanah, there is an appeal to God to remember the Akedah: "Remember unto us, O Lord our God, the covenant and the lovingkindness and the oath which Thou swore unto Abraham our father on Mount Mo-riah: and consider the binding with which Abraham our father bound his son Isaac on the altar, how he suppressed his compassion in order to perform Thy will with a perfect heart. So may Thy compassion overbear Thine anger against us; in Thy great goodness may Thy great wrath turn aside from Thy people, Thy city, and Thine inheritance." One of the explanations given for the sounding of the shofar ("ram’s horn") on Rosh Ha-Shanah is as a reminder of the ram substituted for Isaac (rh 16a). The story of the Akedah is the Pentateuchal reading on the second day of Rosh Ha-Shanah (Meg. 31a). During the Middle Ages, a number of penitential hymns took the Akedah for their theme and indeed a whole style of piyyut is known by this name. Pious Jews recited the Akedah passage daily (Tur., OKI. 1) and, following this custom, the passage is printed in many prayer books as part of the early morning service.

In Rabbinic Literature

The Akedah was spoken of as the last of the ten trials to which Abraham was subjected (Avot 5:3; Ginzberg, Legends, 5 (1925), 218, note 52) and was considered as the prototype of the readiness for martyrdom. "Support me with fires" (homiletical interpretation of Song 2:5) is said to refer to the fire of Abraham and that of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Dan. 3:12-23; PdRK 101b); this particular association is probably due to the fact that both cases illustrate not actual martyrdom but the readiness for it. On the other hand, numerous instances of real martyrdom were also compared to the Akedah, sometimes to the disadvantage of the latter. Thus in the story of the "Woman and her Seven Sons," every one of whom suffered death by torture rather than bow to the idol, the widow enjoins her sons: "Go and tell Father Abraham: Let not your heart swell with pride! You built one altar, but I have built seven altars and on them have offered up my seven sons. What is more: Yours was a trial; mine was an accomplished fact!" (Yal. Deut. 26). In the parallel passage in the Babylonian Talmud (Git. 57b), the widow’s admonition is softened through the omission of the second half of the first sentence and the last sentence.

In legal literature, the Akedah served as a paradigm for the right of a prophet to demand the temporal suspension of a law. Isaac obeyed his father and made ready to become the victim of what would normally have been considered a murder, but Abraham, as an established prophet, could be relied upon that this was really God’s will (Sanh. 89b). The opinion is found in the Midrash (Gen. R. 56:8) that Isaac was 37 years old at the time of the Akedah. Abraham *Ibn Ezra (commentary on Gen. 22:4) rejects this as contrary to the plain meaning of the narrative in which Isaac is old enough to carry the wood but young enough to be docile. Ibn Ezra (commentary on Gen. 22:19) also quotes an opinion that Abraham actually did kill Isaac (hence there is no reference to Isaac returning home with his father), and he was later resurrected from the dead. Ibn Ezra rejects this as completely contrary to the biblical text. Shalom *Spiegel has demonstrated, however, that such views enjoyed a wide circulation and occasionally found expression in medieval writings, possibly in order to deny that the sacrifice of Isaac was in any way less than that of Jesus; or as a reflection of actual conditions in the Middle Ages when the real martyrdom of Jewish communities demanded a more tragic model than that of a mere intended sacrifice. It was known in those days for parents to kill their children, and then themselves, when threatened by the Crusaders. Geiger (jzwl, 10 (1872), 166ff.) suggests that interpretations of Isaac’s sacrifice as a means of atonement for his descendants were influenced by Christian doctrine. In rabbinic literature, tensions can be generally observed between the need to emphasize the significance of the Akedah and, at the same time, to preserve the prophetic protest against human sacrifice. Thus, on Jeremiah 19:5 the comment is made: "which I commanded not" – this refers to the sacrifice of the son of Mesha, the king of Moab (ii Kings 3:27); "nor spake it" – this refers to the daughter of Jephthah (Judg. 11:31); "neither came it to my mind" – this refers to the sacrifice of Isaac, the son of Abraham (Ta’an. 4a).

In Religious Thought

A theme of such dramatic power as the Akedah has attracted a rich variety of comment. Philo (De Abrahamo, 177-99) defends the greatness of Abraham against hostile criticism that would belittle his achievement. These critics point out that many others in the history of mankind have offered themselves and their children for a cause in which they believed -the barbarians, for instance, whose Moloch worship was explicitly forbidden by Moses, and Indian women who gladly practice Suttee. Philo argues, however, that Abraham’s sacrifice was unprecedented in that he was not governed by motives of custom, honor, or fear, but solely by the love of God. Philo (ibid., 200-7) also gives an allegorical interpretation of the incident: Isaac means "laughter"; and the devout soul feels a duty to offer up its joy which belongs to God. God, however, in His mercy, refuses to allow the surrender to be complete and allows the soul to retain its joy. Worship is the most perfect expression of that joy.

Medieval thinkers were disturbed at the idea of God’s testing Abraham, as if the purpose of the Akedah were to provide God with information He did not previously possess. According to Maimonides (Guide 3:24), the words "God tested Abraham" do not mean that God put him through a test but that He made the example of Abraham serve as a test case of the extreme limits of the love and fear of God. "For now I know that you fear God" (Gen. 22:12) means that God has made known to all men how far man is obliged to go in fearing Him. According to Nahmanides (ed. by C.B. Chavel, 1 (1959), 125-6), the Akedah focuses on the problem of reconciling God’s foreknowledge with human free will. God knew how Abraham would behave, but from Abraham’s point of view, the test was real since he had to be rewarded not only for his potential willingness to obey, but for actually complying. *Sforno’s elaboration of this thought (commentary to Gen. 22:1) is that Abraham had to transcend his own love of God by converting it from the potential to the actual, in order to resemble God whose goodness is always actual, the aim of creation being that man imitates his Creator.

The mystics add their own ideas to the Akedah theme. In the Zohar (Gen. 119b), the patriarchs on earth represent the various potencies (sefirot) in the divine realm: Abraham the Divine Lovingkindness, Isaac the Divine Power, and Jacob the Harmonizing Principle. Abraham is obliged to display severity in being willing to sacrifice his son, contrary to his own special nature as the "pillar of lovingkindness," and thus set in motion the process by which fire is united with water, mercy with judgment, so that the way can be paved for the emergence of complete harmony between the two in Jacob. This mirrors the processes in the divine realm by which God’s mercy is united with His judgment so that the world can endure. The H asidim read various subtleties of their own into the ancient story. One version states that Abraham and Isaac knew, in their heart of hearts, that the actual sacrifice would not be demanded but they went through the motions to demonstrate that they would have obeyed had it been God’s will (*Elimelech of Lyzhansk, Noam Elimelech on Gen. 22:7). The true lover of God carries out even those religious obligations which are personally pleasant to him solely out of the love of God. Abraham obeyed the second command not to kill Isaac solely for this and for no other reason (Levi Isaac b. Meir, Ke-dushat Levi on Gen. 22:6). Another version is that when God wishes to test a man, He must first remove from him the light of full comprehension of the Divine, otherwise the trial will be incomplete. Abraham was ready to obey even in this state of "dryness of soul" (Israel b. Shabbetai of Kozienice, Avo-dat Yisrael on Gen. 22:14). The lesser Divine Name Elohim is, therefore, used at the beginning of the narrative, and not the Tetragrammaton, to denote that the vision in which the command was given was lacking in clarity. Abraham’s greatness consisted in his refusal to allow his natural love for his son to permit him to interpret the ambiguous command as other than a command to sacrifice (Mordecai Joseph b. Jacob Leiner of Izbica, Mei ha-Shiloah on Gen. 22:7).

To the moralists (ba’alei ha-musar) the Akedah was a fertile text for the inculcation of religious and ethical values. For Isaiah *Horowitz (Shenei Luhot ha-Berit, Va-Yera, end), the Akedah teaches that everything must be sacrificed to God, if needs be; how much more, then, must man be willing to give up his lusts for God. Moreover, whenever man has an opportunity of doing good, or refraining from evil, he should reflect that perhaps God is testing him at that moment as He tested Abraham.

The best-known treatment of the Akedah theme in general literature is that of Soren Kierkegaard (Fear and Trembling). Kierkegaard sees Abraham as the "knight of faith" who differs from the "ethical man"; for the latter the moral law is universal and it has a categorical claim to obedience; the "knight of faith," however, knows also of the higher obligation laid upon him as a free individual in his relationship to his God and this may involve him in a "teleological suspension of the ethical." Abraham is called upon to renounce for God all that he holds precious, including the ethical ideal to which he subscribes and which he has constantly taught. Consequently, Abraham did not know what duty had been imposed on him: to obey God’s command or his ethical obligation? According to Kierkegaard, this tension between these two conflicting obligations is what characterized Abraham as a "knight of faith." Kierkegaard was the first thinker to posit the believer’s doubts as the characteristic of religious life itself. Kierkegaard’s position has been criticized by various Jewish thinkers.

Milton *Steinberg (Anatomy of Faith (1960), 147), rejected Kierkegaard’s view as "unmitigated sacrilege. Which indeed is the true point of the Akedah, missed so perversely by Kierkegaard. While it was a merit in Abraham to be willing to sacrifice his only son to his God, it was God’s nature and merit that He would not accept an immoral tribute. And it was His purpose, among other things, to establish that truth." Other thinkers such as J.B. Soloveitchik have found the Kierkegaard-ian insights fully compatible with Judaism. Ernst Simon (in Conservative Judaism, 12 (spring 1958), 15-19) believes that a middle position between the two is possible. Judaism is an ethical religion and would never in fact demand a teleologi-cal suspension of the ethical. Abraham is, therefore, ordered to stay his hand. The original command to sacrifice Isaac is a warning against too complete an identification of religion with naturalistic ethics.

Y. *Leibowitz went further than Kierkegaard by suggesting that the believer has the obligation to overcome his ethical duty and unconditionally obey the divine command. Leibow-itz thus regarded the Akedah as a paradigm of religious life, a position unusual in Jewish thought, which generally maintains that the divine command is not opposed to ethical duty.

Kalonymus Shapira, the rabbi of Piaseczno, maintained that the meaning of the Akedah is that the divine command itself determines morality, thus adopting the "divine command morality" prevalent in Christian literature. He wrote:

The nations of the world, even the best of them, think that the truth is a thing in itself, and that God commanded truth because the truth is intrinsically True.. Not so Israel, who say "You God are truth"… and we have no truth beside Him, and all the truth found in the world is there only because God wished it and commanded it.Stealing is forbidden because the God of truth has commanded it. When God ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, it was true to sacrifice him and, had God not said later "neither do anything to him" it would have been true to slaughter him. (K. Shapira, Esh Kodesh, Jerusalem, 1960, 68) Shapira’s unusual position is an attempt to deal with the problem of theodicy in light of the horrors of the *Shoah. His exceptional treatment of the Akedah thus demonstrates that Jewish thought generally did not incorporate the theory of "divine command morality." The Akedah thus became a basis for justifying sacrifice and devotion, but because of the centrality of morality to Jewish tradition in general, and specifically to halakhah, it was only with Soloveitchik and Lei-bowitz that the Akedah became a paradigm of religious life itself.

In Israeli Culture

The akedah myth is used by Israeli society to understand itself. Moshe Shamir, a leading writer from the founders’ generation called the akedah "the story of our generation" (Be-Kulmus Mahir ("Quick Notes"), 1960, p. 332). Changes in the attitudes to this myth point to shifts in the ways Israeli society approaches the meaning of its existence.

Two basic attitudes can be discerned in relation to the akedah. Whereas the first views the akedah as the deepest symbol of modern Israeli existence, epitomizing the Zionist revolution and the sacrifices it exacted, the second rejects both the myth and its implications.

The akedah myth has been sanctified by many Israeli writers. Uri Zevi Greenberg writes: "Let that day come./ when my father will rise from his grave with the resurrection of the dead/ and God will command him as the people commanded Abraham./ To bind his only son: to be an offering – /. let that day come in my life! I believe it will."( Uri Zevi Greenberg, "Korban Shaharit" ("Morning Offering"), in: Sulam 1972 (13), pp. 145-147).

When speaking of the Zionist experience, Abraham Shlonsky writes, "Father/ take off your tallit and tefillin today/. and take your son on a distant lane/ to mount Moriah" ("Hulin" ("Worldliness"), in: A. Shlonsky, Ketavim [Writings], vol. 2, (1954), p. 136). Hayyim Gouri writes of Isaac’s descendants being "born with a knife in their hearts." (H. Gouri, "Yerushah" ("Heritage"), in: Shoshanat Ha-Ruhot ("Compass-Rose"), 1966). The relationship between Abraham and Isaac is also transformed in modern Hebrew literature. Contrary to the passive figure of the biblical story, the Isaac of Israeli literature is an active hero who initiates the akedah. Modern literature also lays greater emphasis than the biblical text on intergenerational cooperation, as if no rift divided the fathers offering the sacrifice from their sons. Isaac becomes the paradigmatic Zionist pioneer, representing an entire generation: rather than being passive victims, the modern Isaacs assume responsibility for their destiny and sacrifice themselves on the altar of national renaissance.

In the 1967 Six-Day War, when for the first time the generation of founders were too old to fight, and the post-independence generation of their children fought in their place, the akedah remained a powerful symbol, at least for some. The post-war collection of interviews, The Seventh Day: Soldiers Talk About the Six-Day War (Hebrew: Siah Lohamim, 1967; English, 1970) records a father who said: "We do knowingly bring our boys up to volunteer for combat units.. These are moments when a man is given a greater insight into Isaac’s sacrifice. Kierkegaard asked what Abraham did that night. What did he think about? . He had a whole night to think.. It’s a question that touches on the very meaning of human existence. The Bible says nothing about it. For us, that night lasted six days" (p. 202).

Conversely, doubts about the akedah myth already began to surface soon after independence. In the central work about the War of Independence, by S. Yizhar, we read: "There is no evading the akedah. I hate our father Abraham, who binds Isaac. What right does he have over Isaac? Let him bind himself. I hate the God who sent him and closed all paths, leaving only that of the akedah. I hate the fact that Isaac serves merely as a test between Abraham and his God. ( S. Yizhar, Yemei Ziklag ("The Days of Ziklag"), 1958, vol. 2, p. 804).

After the Six-Day War, a gradual change in attitude towards the akedah evolved. In 1968, about 10 years after the publication of Yizhar’s novel, Habimah Theater staged a play by Yigal Mossinsohn where Shimshon, a blinded officer, thinks of his life in terms of an akedah ( Yigal Mossinsohn, Shim-shon Katsin be-Zahal, O Requiem le-Erez Pelishtim ("Samson the idf officer, or Requiem to the Land of the Philistines)). Mossinsohn states his wish to be released from this "grand" myth. In his view, fathers and sons are jointly responsible for the akedah, which must end. In its place, Mossinsohn-Shim-shon expects to lead a normal life when "my children. will no longer know war."

In May 1970, Habimah Theater staged a play by Ha-noch Levin. ("Malkat Ha-Ambatyah" ("Queen of the Bath"), in: H. Levin, Mah Ikhpat la-Zippor ("What Does it Matter to the Bird?"), 1987). The play deals with the sons’ profound contempt for their parents and, in a passage called "Akedah" Abraham and Isaac engage in a rather mundane and sarcastic dialogue, conveying deep disdain for the parents who believe that they, rather than their sons, are the victims of the sacrifice. In the poem "Dear father, when you stand on my grave," which follows the "Akedah" dialogue, Levin writes, "And do not say that you’ve brought a sacrifice,/ because I was the one who brought the sacrifice,/. dear father, when you stand on my grave/ old and weary and very lonesome,/ and when you see how they lay my body to rest – / ask for my forgiveness, father" (p. 92).

The weariness and pain of the akedah come to the fore after the Yom Kippur war. Thus, for instance, Menahem Heyd writes: "And there was no ram – / and Isaac in the thicket.// And the angel did not say lay not/ and we – / our son, our only son, Isaac." ("Yizhak Halakh le-Har Moriah" ("Isaac Went to Mount Moriah"), Yedi’oth Aharonot, December 28, 1973.) The pain is particularly intense because no ram came to replace Isaac. Many poets report this feeling – the miracle failed.

In Yariv Ben Aharon’s roman a clef – Peleg (1993) about the sons’ generation, the akedah becomes the litmus test of the relations between fathers and sons: the fathers will not be satisfied with less than the sons’ sacrifice (p. 116). The covenant of secular Zionists with their land forced the actual sacrifice of their children, and the akedah no longer symbolized an act of faith but an expression of the deep bond with the land. Ben Aharon blames the parents for the secular distortion of the religious symbol and desires to restore its religious connotations. He thereby seeks to bring about a quasi-religious renaissance, in the tradition of A.D. Gordon, and rejects the prevalent secular overtones of Zionist culture, where the akedah served to justify the death of the sons.

Protests against the akedah myth gained strength after the Lebanon War. Yehudah Amihai speaks of a plot to sacrifice the sons: "The true hero of the akedah was the ram" (Y. Amihai, "Ha-Gibor ha-Amiti shel Ha-Akedah" ("The True Hero of the Sacrifice"), in: Sheat Hesed [("The Hour of Grace") 1983). Replacing the two heroic figures, Abraham and Isaac, with an antihero – the ram – is part of a trend seeking to moderate the dramatic overtones characteristic of Israeli life. The hero is not the one involved in purposeful action, but rather the one confronted with a tragic situation and unable to understand the forces that have led to it.

A poem by Yitzhak Laor offers the most poignant expression of this protest: "To pity the offering?. To trust a father like that? Let him kill him first. Let him slam his father/ his only father Abraham/ in jail in the poorhouse in the cellar of the house just so/ he will not slay./ Remember what your father did to your brother Ishmael (Y. Laor, "Ha-Metumtam ha-Zeh Yizhak" ("This Fool, Isaac"), in: Rak ha-Guf Zokher ("Only the Body Remembers"; 1985), p. 70).

Yizhar had adopted the akedah story but had pointed an accusing finger at the fathers, while Mossinsohn longed for release from its oppressive weight. Laor now blames the sons’ compliance, their willingness to die rather than refuse. He rejects the narrative: the sons should have remembered the cruelty of the founding fathers, father Abraham, and their immoral behavior toward Ishmael, the Arabs. This poem exposes a deep breach between fathers and sons, between founders and followers. To a large extent, it also entails a rejection of the entire Zionist ethos.

In the Arts

Among Christian writers and artists the biblical account of Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice Isaac was interpreted as a foretelling of the crucifixion of Jesus. A parallel was drawn between the two stories: Abraham was God the Father sacrificing his "only begotten son"; Isaac himself carrying the wood to the altar was Jesus bearing his cross; while the ram actually sacrificed represented the crucified savior. In Western literature the episode occurs from the Middle Ages onward in various dramatic forms and in different countries. It figures in all the important English miracle play cycles and in an early work of the Eastern Church, the Cretan Sacrifice of Abraham (1159), where God’s design is revealed, but the ram escapes slaughter. An example of the Italian sacre rappresen-tazioni is Feo Belcari’s Abramo e Isacco (1449), while there is a more austere treatment in the 16th-century Spanish Auto del sacrificio de Abraham. The theme enjoyed special popularity among Protestants. Theodore de Beza (Beza), the French humanist and reformer who was a close associate of Calvin in Geneva, gave his drama Abraham sacrifiant (1550) the conventional form of a mystery. It was notable for some revolutionary undertones, however, Abraham appearing as a stern Huguenot, humanized by love for his son. This play was widely translated and often reprinted. In the 17th century, the German dramatist Christian Weise wrote the play Die OpferungIsaacs (1680). Among the strict Protestants of the 18th century there were two Swiss German authors who dealt with the episode. Johann Jacob Bodmer wrote Abraham (1778), and Johann Kas-par Lavater the religious drama Abraham und Isaak (1776). Adele Wiseman’s The Sacrifice (1956) transposes the story to a modern Canadian setting.

Jewish artists portrayed the Akedah in some synagogues of the early centuries of the current era, notably at *Dura-Eu-ropos (third century) and *Bet Alfa (sixth century). In both cases the hand of God was depicted as stretching forth to restrain Abraham from sacrificing his son. This is in direct conflict with the biblical text (Gen. 22:11), which states that he was restrained by the voice of an angel. Later Jewish sources are French and German Hebrew Bibles of the late 13th century, the 14th-century Spanish Sarajevo Haggadah, and a 15th-century Italian mahzor, which contains pictures illustrating the Aramaic piyyutim on the Ten Commandments recited on the festival of Shavuot. The illustration of the sacrifice of Isaac accompanies the fifth Commandment, and Isaac’s willingness to follow his father is seen as an example of filial piety. There are early Christian representations of the story in the third-century Roman catacomb of Priscilla, in the Vatican grottos, and in glass, ivory, and jewels. Later examples have been found in the cathedrals of Chartres and Verona, and in churches elsewhere. During the early Renaissance, Donatello and Ghiberti produced work on the theme, as did Andrea del Sarto, Sodoma, Titian, Beccafumi, and Cranach later in the 16th century. Caravaggio gave it emotionally realistic treatment, and *Rembrandt depicted the angel’s intervention in a painting of 1635 and in an etching in which the angel grips Abraham’s arm with one hand and protects Isaac’s face with the other. Guardi and Tiepolo treated the subject with the 18th-century lightness.

The melody of the Judeo-German Akedah poem, which was used for liturgical, religious, and historical songs in both Hebrew and German, is shown by the indication be-niggun Akedah (i.e., to be sung "to the Akedah tune"). The melody is first mentioned by Jacob *Moellin (Sefer Maharil, 49b). Another similar indication – be-niggun "Juedischer Stamm" – refers to the same tune. No notation of this time has been found so far, but A.Z. Idelsohn suggested that it was identical with the liturgical Akedot of the old west-Ashkenazi tradition. In European music there are at least 50 works on the sacrifice of Isaac, mostly oratorios. As in literature and art, the Akedah is often linked with the Crucifixion, Metastasio have stated this explicitly in the textbook title of his libretto Isacco, figura del Redentore (1740). The Viennese court oratorio owes its inception and style to the Emperor Leopold i’s "sepolcro" Il sacrificio d’Abramo (1660), which was performed in the court church during Passion Week. Many eminent i8th-century musicians composed settings for Metastasio’s libretto which was originally written for the Viennese court. Popular German oratorios include J.H. Rolle’s Abraham auf Moria (1776) and M. Blumner’s Abraham (1859-60). In Poland the biblical story inspired an opera by Chopin’s teacher, Ks. J. Elsner (1827), and an oratorio by W. Sownski (1805-1880). In Abraham *Goldfaden’s Yiddish "biblical operetta" Akeydas Yitsk-hok (1897), the Akedah itself figures only near the end of the work. Hugo Adler wrote an Akedah (1938), based on the Bu-ber-Rosenzweig German translation of the Bible and on selections from the Midrash and Akedot piyyutim, which was modeled on the classical oratorio. Igor Stravinsky’s Akedat Yizhak (Abraham and Isaac), a "sacred ballad" for baritone and chamber orchestra set to a Hebrew text, was first performed in Jerusalem in 1964.

After receiving his doctorate, Akerlof joined the Economics Department of the University of California, Berkeley, where he began work on his landmark study "The Market for ‘Lemons,’" for which he would later win the Nobel Prize for economics (in 2001), though it was initially rejected for publication by academic journals. In 1967 and 1968 he was a visiting professor at the Indian Statistical Institute in New Delhi, and then returned to Berkeley. From 1978 to 1980 he was Cassel Professor of Economics with Respect to Money and Banking at the London School of Economics. He subsequently served as Koshland Professor of Economics at Berkeley.

"The Market for ‘Lemons’: Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism" was published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics in 1970. In this study of the role of asymmetric information in the market, Akerlof demonstrates how markets malfunction when buyers and sellers operate under different information, as in the example of used cars commonly called "lemons." The work had applications in other areas, such as health insurance, employment contracts, and financial markets. In Efficiency Wage Models of the Labor Market (1986), co-authored with his wife, Janet Yellen, Akerlof and Yellen propose rationales for the efficiency wage hypothesis, in which employers pay more than the market-clearing wage, contradicting neoclassical economic theory. Yellen later served as chair of the U.S. Council of Economic Advisors under President Bill Clinton.

Akerlof served as senior staff economist with the Council of Economic Advisors in 1973 and 1974 and was visiting research economist for the Federal Reserve System Board of Governors from 1977 to 1978. A member of the board of editors of the Quarterly Journal of Economics in 1983 and of the American Economic Review from 1983 to 1990, he was named a senior fellow of the Brookings Institution in 1994 and served on the board of directors of the National Bureau of Economic Research in 1997. In 2001 Akerlof shared the Nobel Prize for economics with A. Michael Spence and Joseph E. Stiglitz for their contributions to analyses of markets with asymmetric information.


(1940- ), U.S. economist, Nobel Prize laureate. Born in New Haven, Connecticut, where his father was a member of the Yale faculty, Akerlof earned his bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 1962 and his doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1966. Akerlof’s father, who was born in Sweden, was a chemist; his mother’s family was of German-Jewish descent. His materbara), village in Upper Galilee possibly mentioned in the inscriptions relating to the campaigns of Tiglath-pilesar iii (eighth century b.c.e.) near the line of fortifications erected by Josephus in 66 c.e. (Jos., Wars, 2:573; idem, Life, 37, 188). Eleazar, son of Simeon b. Yoh ai, died there, and when the people of Biri proposed removing his body to Meron, the inhabitants of Akhbarei objected (bm 84b). The amoraim Hananiah b. Akbari and Yose b. Avin lived there and Rabbi Yannai established a bet midrash with his pupils supporting themselves from agriculture. According to tradition the burial places of Yannai, Nehorai, and Dostai were pointed out at the site (Kaf-tor va-Ferah, 11, 47a). According to one source (Eccles. R. 2:8) pheasants were raised there. A Jewish community still existed in Akhbarei in the 11th century, but in 1522 the Jewish traveler Moses Bassola found its synagogue – referred to in Arabic by the locals as "el-kenisah" – in ruins. The remains of the synagogue were identified by Z. Ilan and subsequently partly excavated by E. Damati in 1988. Walls of houses, tombs, cisterns, and oil presses are also known from the site. It is identified with the Arab village of Akbara (now deserted), situated on a high cliff 3 mi. (5 km.) south of Safed, which used to cultivate olives, fruit, and tobacco.


(Amenophis iv; c. 13671350 B.c.E. or 1350-1334), Egyptian pharaoh. Son of *Ameno-phis ill and one of the most controversial figures in Egyptian history, Akhenaton has been credited, with justification, as the earliest monotheist in history. When Akhenaton came to the throne, after the wars of the 18th-dynasty kings in Asia had ceased, the most important and most powerful deity in Egypt was Amun-Re, and his was the most powerful priesthood. Second to Amun was the cult of the sun god Re in his various manifestations. Amun-Re had given victory to Egypt’s pharaohs. They, in turn, showed their gratitude with wealth and endowments to the Amun-Re priesthood. Fostering the cult of a minor manifestation of the sun god Aton, Akhenaton made a complete break with the Amun cult, eventually going so far as to ban it and persecute its adherents. He abandoned his given name Amenophis, "Amun-is-satisfied," for Akhenaton, "He-who-is-useful to the sun-disc," or "Glorified-spirit-of-the-sun-disk." Although the king’s actions had social and economic ramifications, and clearly weakened the Amun-Re priestshood as well as the priesthoods and cults of the other gods, it would be inaccurate to see his religious revolution as a pretext. Akhenaton broke sharply with the past, suppressed the cults of all the ancient gods, and championed a dehisto-ricized god of light and time. His solar deity was the creator of what would later be called "the universe," its sustainer and the mirror image of pharaonic monarchy. Akhenaton’s icono-clasm extended beyond the elimination of images of deity and ridding the cult of myth. He even had the hieroglyphic script purged of its anthropomorphisms and theriomorphisms (images of gods in animal form) and did away with the world of The Beyond. Akhenaton’s iconography reduced the sun to a solar disk, the Aton/Aten. Some scholars point to the fact that only Akhenaton and his wife worshipped the Aton, while the king himself was worshipped by the people, as proof that that the teachings of the king did not amount to true monotheism. But it might be more productive to compare Akhenaton’s role to that of Jesus as the door to the Father in Christianity (Ephesians 3:4) and to a lesser extent, to that of the *Zaddik as the mediator between God and humanity in H asidism. As the army sided with the king, Akhenaton’s revolution temporarily succeeded. The capital was transferred from Thebes to Akhetaton (modern El-Amarna), Amun-Re was suppressed, and the Aton became the paramount deity of Egypt. After Akhenaton’s death, the old religious order triumphed and Atonism was vigorously stamped out.

Akhenaton’s capital at Amarna was not only the center of a vigorous naturalistic art that broke with tradition in subject matter, though not in form or canon, but was also the site where the Amarna tablets, some 380 cuneiform texts, mostly letters, representing a portion of the foreign archives of the Egyptian court, were found. When first studied, these texts, the most important contemporary sources for Egypt’s foreign policy toward Palestine and Syria, presented a picture of the empire’s decline due to Akhenaton’s indolence and pacificism. The threat of a Hittite invasion, the raids of *Habiru nomads, and treason on the part of the Egyptian vassals all seemed to be ignored by the Egyptian court. This was not the case, however. Egypt’s main interest was to keep the trade routes to Mesopotamia open, and only incidentally to keep the tenuous peace. When Egyptian interests were really threatened, action was taken. There is even evidence in the Amarna Letters that Akhenaton was planning a campaign in Asia at the time of his death (see also *Tell el-Amarna). Forty years later the only mention of him in an Egyptian text is as "that criminal of Akhenaton."

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