Mussar and Polemics in the Historiographical Trilogy of Rabbi Ya'akov Halevi Lifshitz

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This thesis explains how Zikhron Ya’akov by Rabbi Ya’akov Halevi Lifshitz (1838 -1921) represents not simply a memoir of a deceased Rabbi, but avant-garde counter-history as well as mussar literature. Defining Zikhron Ya’akov as a counter-history involves accepting that Lifshitz himself wrote extensively, but not as a demure marginal autobiographer recounting his story in a modest memoir. Rather, it involves accepting that Lifshitz wrote as a radical historiographer, attempting to focus on his own self and effectively identifying as a creator of a controversial new system of thinking. Writing under rapidly changing historical circumstances, Lifshitz neither writes a history, nor does he identify as a historian. As a polemicist and a rhetorical writer whose work is now classed in the complex system of mussar literature, Lifshitz creates a historiography for posterity linked closely with his own legacy. The translations included in the appendix help guide the reader through material covered by the thesis.