Prof. Eric Lawee of Bar-Ilan University’s Zalman Shamir Bible Department is the finalist in the prestigious Jordan Schnitzer Book Award competition of the Association for Jewish Studies for 2021. Prof. Lawee’s book “Rashi’s Commentary on the Torah: Canonization and Resistance in the Reception of a Jewish Classic” (Oxford University Press) is being recognized in the Medieval and Early Modern Jewish History and Culture category.
Prof. Lawee’s book sheds light on the great 11th-century Jewish Bible commentator, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki – known by his Hebrew acronym “Rashi” – who has influenced more than any other commentator the way Jews understand the Torah for nearly a thousand years.
Although Rashi’s exegetical classic has been extensively researched, few studies have dealt with the reception of this most important commentary, let alone with the surprisingly fierce resistance to its canonization that Prof. Lawee uncovered. Prof. Lawee’s book uniquely explores these issues, presenting diverse outlooks on Judaism that emerged from the encounter between various commentators and thinkers and Rashi’s commentary on the Torah.
In 2019, Prof. Lawee received a National Jewish Book Award in the Scholarship category for the same volume, which this year appeared in paperback.
“Rashi’s Commentary may have shaped Judaism and the Jewish people more than any other work except the Bible and the Talmud,” says Prof. Lawee. “It has been a fascinating journey across countless dimensions of Jewish thought, literature, history, and education to discover how this work achieved its supremely influential status.”
The incumbent of the Asher Weiser Chair for Research into Medieval Jewish Biblical Interpretation, Prof. Lawee directs Bar-Ilan’s Institute for Jewish Bible Interpretation. He previously was a faculty member at York University in Toronto and Stanford University in California and was Shoshana Shier Distinguished Visiting Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto in 2018.
The Jordan Schnitzer Book Award was established by the Association of Jewish Studies in 2007 to recognize and promote outstanding scholarship in the field of Jewish studies and to honor scholars whose work embodies the best in the field with innovative research, excellent writing, and sophisticated methodology. Awards are given in eight categories of Judaic scholarship, four areas per year. In each category, there is a first prize and finalist prize.
The Award will be presented in a ceremony in Chicago on December 20 at the annual conference of the Association for Jewish Studies.