Ask Now of the Days that are Past

Written for a general audience, the essays collected here present refreshing and often humorous glimpses of various topics in Jewish history and traditional religious literature. Inspired by the diversity of Jewish thought, author and scholar Eliezer Segal sheds light on the social and political forces that have brought the Jewish community together in the past and still speak with familiarity to a modern western culture.

Enlightening and entertaining, Professor Segal's writing is a rare blend of scholarship and wit, highlighting contemporary experiences that bring the rich heritage of Jewish civilization to life for the everyday reader. With an extensive and broad knowledge of ancient and medieval Jewish social and religious traditions, Segal deftly crafts anecdotes and explanations that address the tribulations of contemporary life.

From topics as diverse as panhandling, tennis, vampires, and the history of the tomato to themes as universal as weddings, charity, and taxation, the essays presented here, some for the first time in English, all include detailed notes on sources for further reading.

Equally suited to those after a light-hearted romp or those on a serious quest for knowledge, Ask Now of the Days that Are Past is sure to satisfy anyone who has ever wondered how the past still influences us today.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Cover 1
Title page 4
Contents 6
Introduction 10
Scribes and Scholarship 14
1. People of the Book 16
2. How to Start a Jewish newspaper 22
3. The European Genizah 28
4. The Crown of Aleppo 34
Holiness and Heresy 42
5. Where Seldom is Heard a Mystical Word 44
6. A Dubious Blessing 50
7. Hiwi the Heretic 56
Encounters and Enlightenings 62
8. Rabbi in the Abbey 64
9. Thou Shall Not Kill 72
10. On the Other Hand 78
Babies, Brides and Burials 82
11. Birth Rites 84
12. May the Best Man Win 90
13. Beauty Versus Virtue: An Age-Old Argument 96
14. Who Was Rembrandt's Jewish Bride? 100
15. Beneath the Stars 106
16. All Cows Go To Heaven 114
Congregation and Community 120
17. Trimming the Guest List 122
18. Service Interruption 126
19. Buddy Can You Spare a Dime? 132
Policy and Piety 138
20. Taking Leave of Our Census 140
21. The Wagers of Sin 146
22. Affairs of the State 152
23. Prophets, Protests, and Pepper Spray 158
24. The Vice-President of Grenada 164
25. Majority Rules 172
26. Baldness, Bears, and Bottled Water 178
Economics and Ethics 184
27. Minimizing Your Assets 186
28. Not All that Glisters 190
29. You Can Bank On It 196
30. Ransom Note 202
31. The Price Is Right 208
Buildings and Blessings 216
32. Rabbi, Watch Out For That Beam 218
33. Beam Me Up 224
34. The Walls Have Ears 228
35. Preparing For A Prophet 234
Life and Leisure 240
36. Healthy Advice From The Top Authorities 242
37. Tennis, Anyone? 248
38. Keeping The Ball In Play 254
39. Push Torah 260
Creatures and Curiosities 266
40. The Siren's Song 268
40. The Power of the Human Voice 274
42. The Love Apple 278
43. Horse Sense 282
44. The Right Vampire 288
45. Going to the Ants 294
Glossary 298
Index 314
Back Cover 326