Haim Beʾer is recognized by Hebrew literary criticism as a writer who conducts a profound dialogue between ancient Jewish texts and modern Jewish-Israeli culture. This article offers a critical appraisal of this view. Through a reading of Beʾer’s novel Lifnei ha-makom (Upon a Certain Place, 2007), the article offers a new way of looking at how Beʾer sees the relation between old and new. Instead of mediating between tradition and modernity and translating the old for a generation that has partly severed ties with it, Lifnei ha-makom undermines the very mediation that is so much identified with Beʾer’s work. Beʾer’s novel boldly examines what it means to live a Jewish life almost devoid of books. The role of tradition, in this scheme, is to be present in the world of the new generation without undergoing interpretation. The article links between this attitude and deep processes in contemporary Israeli culture.
This article discusses the concept of zikui harabim (granting merit to the many) and attempts to show how it motivates and animates the religious renewal movements in Judaism (the teshuvah movements). I argue that zikui harabim is produced by “cycles of teshuva” in which the “repentant” person engages in facilitating the “return” of others to religious practice, even before he or she has undertaken the rigorous observance of religious commandments. I suggest that calculating rationality, often considered one of the hallmarks of modernity, is manifest in the teshuvah movement, as many teshuvah clients and entrepreneurs regard commandments, implicitly and explicitly, as a kind of currency they can amass for their own benefit. By so doing, I demonstrate how zikui harabim embeds a modern-capitalist logic, thereby showing how modernity manifests itself in religious revivalism.