Baruch Dayan haEmet

2 11 2010

It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of Emeritus Professor Alan Crown of the University of Sydney. Alan’s feisty remarks and deliberately provocative observations will be missed by all of us at the university. He had a terrific sense of humour and a sharp mind. It was only one month ago that I saw him last, and while he was slow of gait and unclear of speech, his observations at a lecture given by Prof. Sara Japhet demonstrated that he was still as sharp as a tack.

I remember with fondness his classes in my Honours year, during which he declared that Song of Songs was a Judean text. The string of sibilants in the opening verse (shir haShirim asher liShlomo) was apparantly designed to exclude northernors, who ostensibly could not pronounce this particular phoneme (cf: Jud 12:5-6).

On another occasion, he remarked that all Israelites had red hair – his proof being a propensity for redheadedness among Israel’s modern-day Samaritans. And on another, that the simple, “plain-sense” interpretation of Esther was of a cosmic saga involving Persian deities. On every one of these occasions, I am not ashamed to say that I took the bait, and spent much time debating with Alan over what struck me as nonsensical and bizarre. It was some time before I realised that he was only making these observations because of the effect that they were having on me.

A practical joker, but an astute scholar, Alan had well earned his reputation as a leading expert on Samaritan history and culture. His views on Qumran as a halfway house for Jerusalem-bound pilgrims deserve to be given serious consideration. He was both a scholar and a gentleman, and he will be missed by his colleagues, his students and his friends.

יהי זכרו ברוך

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