Secular Zionist Revision ofTsene U'r'ene:Reading David Cohen's Homilies
Updated: Apr 12
Read the full article [in Hebrew] here.
The current study describes the secular Zionist movement's addition to the derash
literature through the writings of David Cohen )1894—1976(. I wish to argue that his writings
conflate his socialist secular milieu with his religious upbringing. This fusion informed
his homilies on the weekly Torah portion, Which were published locally on his kibbutz.
The paper opens with a brief description of the derash literature and how it was affected
by modernity, Followed by a presentation of relevant theoretical hermeneutical paradigms,
including the translation of canonical texts for a modern audience.
The main section deals with the writings of David Cohen, who was known as "the father
of HaNoar HaOved". It shows how Cohen devoted his life to working with underprivileged
youth, while writing homilies in a mixed style that combined Histadrut ideology, Hassidic
lore, and the Tsene U'r'ene format.
Gad Opaz's premise that the Shedemot group had to break through a screen of silence
and repression reflects a misconception of Cohen's generation's engagement with a
secular Jewish outlook. The current study sheds new light on this matter and suggests
that Opaz's premise may have been too general.