One of the main characters of the movie Footnote is a scholar whose most eminent academic accomplishment was a single complimentary footnote in his teacher’s work. Such recognition indicates that not only has a master in a field read your work, but found your contribution significant enough to disseminate to his larger audience. Aside from earning one’s PhD, this can be the academic equivalent of “getting made.”
The closest I’ve experienced this feeling myself was when I shared a graduate school paper on Ramban / Nachmanides (1194–c. 1270) with my father’s teacher Haham Jose / Yosef Faur in his Netanya house in 2002. In particular, I remember his elated reaction at my discovery that Ramban’s commentary on Deuteronomy 17:11 is nearly identical to the Early Church Father Tertullian’s (c. 160–c. 225 AD) justification of priestly authority. Haham Faur referenced this discovery in his article Anti-Maimonidean Demons p. 28 note 110 in his Horizontal Society (vol 2. p. 188).
I rediscovered the original paper among the same pile of documents as my father’s letter of resignation. I believe I kept the original copy of this paper due to the comments I received from Professor David Berger, which made an indelible impression on me:
This is a very intelligent, well written, vigorously argued but unconvincing, tendentious, one-sided, arbitrary, even biased argument. The suggestion that N.[achmanides] invented a tradition so that he could exercise authority i.e. that he did not believe that there was a Kabbalistic tradition that he had studied is unsupport[ed] and even offensive. I will assign a good grade to this paper because of its stimulating qualities, but what they stimulated in me was a combination of fascination and anger.
Despite Dr. Berger’s personal objections, he gave this paper an A-. There is also much more to be said in comparing Dr. Berger’s affinity towards Ramban and his criticisms of Chabad, but that is for another time. 1
Unsurprisingly, the paper itself could stand to use some editing and a few more revisions. Aside from the typos which should be expected at this point, I can see in hindsight imprecise language if not poor word choices. I suppose one reason to pursue advanced education is precisely to improve such skills. At any rate, for those interested in the subject or Hassidim of Haham Faur who are compelled to collect all related data, I am embedding the paper itself, complete with original typos, mistakes, and comments.
And in case anyone is wondering, despite this being a Revel paper, I did in fact submit the paper on time.
- Haham Faur was a fan of Dr. Berger’s book on Chabad, though in discussing my paper he said, “if he is a fan of Ramban, then his book makes no sense.” ↩