Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sefer Ha-Bloggadah!

Sefer Ha-Aggadah (The Book of Legends), the collection of thousands of stories from the Talmud and rabbinic literature compiled by the Hebrew poet Hayim Nachman Bialik and the editor/publisher Yehoshua Ravnitsky, was first published in 1908, and is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. In celebration, people around the world will be reading and discussing Sefer Ha-Aggadah from start to finish, beginning in just a few weeks and completing it in two years.

Everyone is invited to participate! All you have to do is obtain a copy of Sefer Ha-Aggadah in Hebrew or English, and follow along each day with the schedule. It’s about a page or two each day. You can join the email list to keep up with administrative announcements.

We’ll be discussing each day’s reading on the blog, Sefer Ha-Bloggadah. We have an amazing and diverse team of bloggers who will be blogging each day, and all are invited to join the discussion in the comments. In addition to the blog, in-person discussion groups are being organized in some cities, and you’re invited to organize one in your area.

The Sefer Ha-Aggadah project will formally kick off on Shabbat afternoon, August 16 (Tu Be’Av), at the National Havurah Committee Summer Institute, and then the schedule begins on Monday, August 25.

We look forward to creating Torah with you!

On a personal note, I'll be using the copy of Sefer Ha-Aggadah that belonged to my grandfather, Rabbi A. Stanley Dreyfus z"l, and dedicating my learning in his memory. One of the many things we found in the apartment was a collection of papers that he had written as an undergraduate at the Hebrew Union College (which used to have a joint undergrad program with the University of Cincinnati). Among these, he had translated a chapter of Sefer Ha-Aggadah into English. (This was in 1939, long before any English translation had been published.) I looked at the schedule to see when we would be reaching that chapter (the one about the destruction of the Second Temple, including the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza), and fortuitously, it turns out that it will be the week of his birthday. So we'll have an opportunity to remember him then, and perhaps compare his translation to the published edition.


  1. Will any copies be available at Institute, or are we on our own with that?

  2. There will be copies for sale at Institute, but not enough people indicated interest for us to get a bulk discount.