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Reading the Book

Making the Bible a Timeless Text

Authored by Rabbi Burton L. Visotsky Ph.D.

Publication Year: 2010

For many people the Bible is a dusty old book with little relevance to their lives. But for Vistozky the Bible is a living entity that can offer endless insights for its readers if they enter into dialogue with it in the manner of the ancient rabbis, whose midrash, or commentary, has accompanied it almost from its beginning. Focusing on themes in key biblical texts - good and evil, sexuality, parent-child relations, sibling rivalry, faith, and creation - Reading the Book demonstrates the ingenuity and richness of this traditional Jewish approach. It then shows how readers of any religion can create their own midrashim and develop living relationships with the text.

Published by: Jewish Publication Society

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Foreword

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pp. vii-xii

When Umberto Eco wrote The Name of the Rose, he called his work palimpsest." That is, a text written over another text. I can think of no keener designation for midrash, which is written-if we may imagine a heavenly copy of the Torah (Written and Oral)-between the lines of the written text, betwixt each word, around each ...

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One - "Princess Di Delivers Two-headed Monster": Scripture and its Interpretation

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pp. 1-20

It just sits there on the shelf. Perhaps you got it for your bar mitzvah or christening, perhaps it was a wedding gift. Maybe you actually lifted it from a hotel room and took it home with you. Perhaps you even bought it with the best of intentions. It could be leather-bound with gilt letters, doth-bound, or even a paperback. It might be the Hebrew Bible, the Torah ...

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Two - God Dictates, Moses Composes

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pp. 21-39

he Rabbis were not fundamentalists-they didn't even watch cable television. This is about the only sure generalization we can make about so broad a grouping of individuals, who lived during the four-hundred-year period from the late first through the fifth centuries of the Common Era. The literatures that preserve their writings span an even longer ...

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Three - Rabbis as Readers

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pp. 40-56

he long, slow ascent of the elevator in the classroom building of the Jewish Theological Seminary gave rise to an occasion in my theological education. I was witness to a confrontation between an otherworldly, bookish, pious professor and a senior rabbinical student about to be unleashed on an unsuspecting Jewish community. This student had a ...

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Four - Father Abraham, Teacher of Faith

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pp. 57-75

Picture a grade B boilerplate spy movie. There's desert, famine, a dangerous border crossing. The hero turns to his stunningly gorgeous wife and tells her, "My dearest, you are very beautiful. If they see you and find out you are my wife, they will kill me but keep you alive. So that I may remain alive, tell them you are my sister." Up till now the male lead ...

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Five - Binding Isaac

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pp. 76-99

"Call me Isaac." Some years ago--never mind how long ago precisely-he took to introducing himself that way to everyone he met. He led with his name, laughter in his voice, to distance himself from his splenetic, grim-mouthed half brother. That other was a wild man. his hand against every one. knocking people's hats off in the street. The brothers could not circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath ...

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Six - Jacob and Sons

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pp. 100-120

Isaac, bound upon the altar at Mount Moriah, looked wide-eyed at the cleaver in his father's hand. At that moment, high in heaven, the angels cried and beseeched God to have mercy on those unfortunate creatures, for as the Psalmist says, God should have mercy on human and animal alike. Their eyes ...

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Seven - Joseph's Bones

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pp. 121-140

~en Jacob finished charging his sons he gathered his legs into the bed and died, so he was gathered unto his people. . . . Joseph spoke to the house of Pharaoh . . . "My father adjured me to bury him in the gravesite he acquired in Canaan, may I now go and bury my father, then I shall return. OJ Pharaoh spoke, •• Ascend, ...

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Eight - Dying

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pp. 141-159

At the recent funeral of the great rabbinic leader Wolfe Kelman, his friend Rabbi Morton Leifman eulogized him with this story: When Wolfe was a small boy his family crossed the Atlantic from Europe to Canada. His father, a well-known Old World rabbi, decided after lengthy consideration to enroll him in public school to hasten his ...

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Nine - Siblings

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pp. 160-182

Moses died alone, bereft of human companionship, having outlived his generation. Only God accompanied that old man to his grave, for Moses had lived long enough not only to see the promised land, but to see his friends, colleagues and family die before him. No one was left with whom he could ...

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Ten - Adam and Eve Back Together Again

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pp. 183-203

God was lonely. Five and a half days had been enough to create a beautiful universe, but there was no one but God to look at it and say, Hey, that's good. The animals had seemed like a fine idea at the time, but they turned out to be largely inarticulate. There was, let's face it, little satisfaction for God ...

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Eleven - The Architecture of the Universe

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pp. 204-224

The first word of the Bible has an error of grammar. As the medieval authorities record it, and as seemingly all the ancient translations and midrashim attest. the Book of Genesis opens with a very knotty passage. In order to interpret it intelligently, we need to be reminded a bit about how Hebrew works. Earlier we mentioned the fact that while Hebrew has ...

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Twelve - Reading the Book

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pp. 225-240

This aphorism is attributed to an otherwise unknown sage with the unlikely name of Ben Bag Bag. The lyrics of his ditty lucidly capture rabbinic faith in the power of scriptural exegesis. The Rabbis and their disciples made the Bible a timeless text precisely because they believed that if they turned it and returned to it, if they engaged it in dialogue, the ...


E-ISBN-13: 9780827610545
Print-ISBN-13: 9780827607866

Publication Year: 2010