web analytics
August 30, 2014 / 4 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



A Chumash For All Times

The Rav  (Photos courtesy of Yeshiva University)

The Rav (Photos courtesy of Yeshiva University)

The Rav’s midrashic acumen was phenomenal but he also maintained an acute sensitivity to peshat. In itself, this is not particularly unusual. Many great Torah scholars are capable of switching from one mode of study to another, in this case from peshat to midrash. The Rav, however, distinguished himself by basing important philosophical concepts on peshat. Peshat serves to uncover the simple meaning of the Bible but midrash is the traditional language of rabbinic wisdom. The Rav utilized both but he sometimes based critical philosophical ideas on the simple, albeit brilliant, peshat.

Some of the Rav’s most famous insights are based on Bereishis, making this volume of the series so rich. Perhaps most famous among the Rav’s commentaries is his distinction between Adam I and Adam II, which formed the basis of The Lonely Man of Faith. In the first chapter of Bereishis, Adam is described as emerging at the same time as Eve while in the second chapter, the story is told with more detail, explaining that Adam was created first and then Eve. The Rav explained (2:22, all citations are to commentaries in the Chumash):

Adam the first exists in society, in community with others. He is a social being, gregarious, communicative, emphasizing the artistic aspect in life and giving priority to form over content, to practical accomplishments over inner motivation…. Adam the second, on the other hand, is lonely, as he becomes aware of his uniqueness and exclusiveness. No external achievement, such as belonging to a natural work community, can reclaim Adam the second from this state. He is a citizen of a new world, but he has no companion with whom to communicate.

Noting other differences in the stories, the Rav builds two types of personalities. Adam I is social, creative, political, constructive. Adam II is contemplative, spiritual, personally connected to God. These two aspects of human nature are complementary. Rather than contradicting each other, as Bible critics claim, the two narratives of Creation provide insight into man’s multifaceted nature and mission.

The Rav with students, in the early 1970s.

The Rav with students, in the early 1970s.

In the landmark essay Confrontation, the Rav lay down his policy for interfaith dialogue in four points: 1) We are an independent faith community, not a satellite of Christianity nor part of a tradition of faiths. 2) We may not debate matters of faith but only discuss and act on a “human ethical level.” 3) We may not ask other religions to change their rituals or texts. 4) We may not even hint that we are prepared to change our historical attitudes. These policies, and the specific guidance the Rav provided the Rabbinical Council of America over the years, have served as guidelines for all responsible Orthodox interfaith dialogue. In contrast, we have seen over the past few decades how non-Orthodox representatives fell into the traps the Rav cautioned against.

The Rav based his essay in the text of Bereishis. He showed the multiple aspects of humanity as described in the progressive process of Creation, beginning with man as a part of nature and culminating in God’s norm, the Divine command (2:16):

With the birth of the norm, man becomes aware of his singularly human existence which expresses itself in the dichotomous experience of being unfree, restricted, imperfect and unredeemed. At the same time, man is potentially powerful, uniquely endowed and capable of rising far above his environment in response to the divine moral challenge. Man attains his unique identity when he grasps the incommensurability of what he is and what he is destined to be, after having been enlightened by God that he is not only a commanded person but also a free person, endowed with power to implement his commitment.

The Rav also ends Confrontation with an explanation of a passage in Bereishis, this time with a very different emphasis. When Jacob fearfully approached Esau after their long separation, he sent messengers to his brother and instructed them in detail. These instructions serve as an excellent guide to navigating the modern world as a faithful Jew. The Rav explains (32:14):

My brother Esau, Jacob told his agents, will ask you three questions. “To whom do you belong?” To whom do you as a metaphysical being, as a soul, as a spiritual being belong? “Where are you going?” To whom is your historical destiny committed? To whom have you consecrated your future? What is your ultimate goal, your final objective? Who is your God and what is your way of life? These two inquiries are related to your identity as members of a covenantal community.

About the Author: Rabbi Gil Student writes frequently on Jewish issues and serves as editor-in-chief of TorahMusings.com. Rabbi Student previously served as managing editor of OU Press and still maintains a connection to the publisher but did not work on this book in any way.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “A Chumash For All Times”

  1. Uws IH says:

    I followed 3 Parshiyot before giving up on the book. I recommend a read of the commentary on ויתרוצצו הבנים בקרבה on p. 187 to see if it is your cup of tea.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
US Marines walk a city street in Fallujah, heavily damaged by the fighting. (2004)
Netanyahu Says Making Gaza ‘Israel’s Fallujah’ Was Too High a Price
Latest Sections Stories
LBJ-082914

What better proof do we need than the recent war with Hamas in Gaza, dubbed “Operation Protective Edge,” that transformed the pain and suffering of three families into a sense of unparalleled unity and outpouring of love of the entire nation of Israel?

Katzman-082914

So many families are mourning, and all along we mourned with them.

Astaire-082914

In addition to his great erudition, Rabi Akiva was known for his optimism.

Kupfer-082914-Chuppah

She told me that she was busy and that he could sit in his wet clothes for the rest of the day. It would teach him to be more careful.

What can we do to help him stop feeling so sad all the time?

Children with dyslexia or dysgraphia frequently have problems in social relationships.

Israel’s neighbors engaged in hostilities from the onset. The War of Independence was a hard-won battle. Aggression and enmity has followed for 66 years.

The contest will include student-created sculpture, computer graphic design, collage, videography, PowerPoint and painting.

David, an 8-year-old boy on the autism spectrum, recently attended a Friendship Circle event. As he entered he told his Dad, “I love coming to the FC programs ‘cause everyone loves each other.”

Goldsmith himself went on his own “voyage of discovery” to the places where his grandfather and uncle landed and were sent.

Frank proclaimed himself Zvi’s successor and the reincarnation of King David.

Almost immediately the audience began singing and clapping and continued almost without stop throughout the rest of the concert.

As of late, vintage has definitely been in vogue in the Orthodox community.

Stroll through formal gardens, ride mountain bikes, or go rock climbing.

More Articles from Rabbi Gil Student
We are always in His presence

If we can learn to fear the surveillance of the Internet, we can learn to fear God’s constant watching.

Rabbi Gil Student

Traditional Jewish texts clearly discuss men and women as categories – as distinct groups – even though individual men and women vary.

There must be an Orthodox presence and an Orthodox refusal to attend Limmud NY.

I am from the generation that never saw or heard the Rav but lived in his shadow, feeling his recently departed presence in his students’ lectures. My poverty in this sense pales in comparison to that of the next generation, who have only a distant notion of who this great man was and his sprawling impact.

The Internet is a medium that has made its way in its short existence all the way to the center of contemporary life. Many of our daily tasks are now tied to it, and will be more so in the future.

In light of all the attention that the recent Internet Asifa garnered, we thought it wise to offer this analysis on the subject by Rabbi Gil Student, founder of TorahMusings.com and former managing editor of OU Publications.

Israel is a Jewish country – but can it continue to be so when Judaism threatens to destroy the state?

The unfair longstanding attacks on Israel’s legitimacy are a permanent stain on the international community. For over 60 years, Israel has valiantly grown under hostile conditions while fighting lies and half-truths in the international arena. Israel suffers doubly, however, when its very essence, its Jewish character, supports its opponents’ narrative.

There are two types of people in the world – those who are inspired by Mussar and those who are turned off by it.

Mussar is a school of study that teaches religious self-improvement. Traditional Mussar, as practiced in many yeshivas to this day, has a rabbi exhorting his listeners, often yelling at them, to be more careful in their actions and attitudes. This is frequently accompanied with a Torah insight and maybe even a good parable. But it can be scary: fire, brimstone, judgment day – all the horrible implications of religious failure, in graphic detail.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/books/book-reviews/a-chumash-for-all-times/2013/11/21/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: