web analytics
July 4, 2015 / 17 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


Simple Yet Profound


book-Mikra-Meaning

Title: Mikra and Meaning: Studies in Bible and Its Interpretation
Author: Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot
Publisher: Maggid

 

 

Accompanying the return of the Jewish people to its homeland is the return of the Jewish people to the Tanach, its central book. While Solomon complained that “of making books, there is no end” (Ecc. 12:12), with regard to Tanach, this growing number of works is only a blessing. Both the number of Israeli scholars and the quality of their scholarship has blossomed. And just as Isaiah predicted, “Ki mitzion tetzei Torah – Torah will come forth from Zion” (2:4). Not only are many works written in Hebrew are now translated and accessible to the English reading public, most importantly, former students who learned their craft in Israeli yeshivot are now teachers in North America, publishing in English.

Among the burgeoning number of books on Tanach in English filling the shelves, however, only very few can be considered essential. Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot’s work Mikra and Meaning is one of those books. Fewer people are more qualified to write about Tanach; not only is Rabbi Helfgot the head of the Tanach department at YCT Rabbinical School but also the founder and organizer of its yearly Yemei Iyun in Tanach that attracts hundreds of people to hear scholars of the highest caliber from both North America and Israel discuss their findings.

   Mikra and Meaning contains 18 close readings of various texts ranging from Genesis to Jeremiah. However, the central portion of the book focuses on the book of Numbers, and these studies alone are worth the cover price. Serious scholarship on the experiences of the Jewish people in the desert has been a wasteland, and these essays fill an important gap. They combine both textual and thematic readings, dealing with both larger issues such as the leadership provided by Moshe and how even great people fail, as well as unflinchingly confront the ethical issues regarding Saul and the command to kill Amalek. Several times Rabbi Helfgot demonstrates how the order in Torah presents halachic sections contains literary significance.

Perhaps his most valuable contributions, however, are his careful readings of the episodes of the people in the fortieth year, as they slowly but surely move towards the land of Israel. Carefully and painstakingly, Rabbi Helfgot demonstrates how the Torah uses similar wording and literary parallels to connect these episodes with the experiences of the people in their first year in the wilderness. Just as the Egyptians posed a threat to the first generation of freed Israelites, Balak looms over the second generation.

In retrospect, we are not surprised to discover connections between the devastating episodes of Golden Calf and the Spies from the first generation with the parallel episodes of ba’al pe’or and the complaints of Reuben and Gad in the second generation. Sometimes, though, it is precisely this feeling, of “why didn’t I think of that, it’s so obvious and simple” that is the distinguishing mark of a great scholar.

The studies alone make this work an essential acquisition, but in addition, this work contains three important essays on the essential questions of modern religious Tanach study. The first two are introductions from Rabbis Aharon Lichtenstein and Yoel bin Nun of Yeshivat Har Etzion, and their influence is palable throughout the book.

Most significant, however, is the masterful overview by Rabbi Helfgot himself, which not only outlines the methodology he will apply in his studies, but concisely and honestly, without apologetics, confronts the challenges of learning Tanach in our generation. He describes the desperate need we face for textually grounded study that addresses all facets of limudei kodesh – both intellectual and spiritual.

About the Author: Rabbi Yaakov Beasley is the co-editor of the Torah Me-Etzion: New Readings in Tanakh series published by Yeshivat Har Eztion. He is a noted educator and author and resides with his family in Alon Shvut, Israel.


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.

No Responses to “Simple Yet Profound”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid.
Opposition MK Yair Lapid to Save Israeli Gas Deal?
Latest Sections Stories
South-Florida-logo

Orlando was once a place where people came only to visit and vacation. Now it is home to a burgeoning Torah community, a place Jewish families can be proud to call home.

South-Florida-logo

The smuggler’s life has been changed forever. He is faced with a major criminal charge. He will probably be sent to prison.

South-Florida-logo

“Thanks to a local philanthropist who shares our core mission, we now are able to connect more Jewish teens to Israel than ever before,” said Todd Cohn, executive director of Southern NCSY.

In September 2013 he was appointed head rabbi of the IDF Central Command and is currently in charge of special projects for the IDF chief rabbinate.

Last month we outlined how a few years after Judah Touro’s death a public movement was inaugurated by the citizens of New Orleans to erect a monument to his memory, and that opposition to this tribute came from a number of rabbis throughout the country who claimed that Judaism forbade the erection of any graven […]

Marceau suggested a dark reason for his wordless art: “The people who came back from the [concentration] camps were never able to talk about it…. My name is Mangel. I am Jewish. Perhaps that, unconsciously, contributed towards my choice of silence.”

Anna Henriques, who hopes to one day head back to Jamaica, says, “Rabbi Raskin must be willing to respect what exists in Jamaica. The way to the future is to gently bring in the traditions of the past and at the same time embrace the idiosyncrasies of the Jamaican people.”

The Silver Platter has it all: gorgeous photography, oodles of useful tips and, more importantly, incredible recipes that you will find yourself making again and again.

It may be that seeking to connect with the past is rooted in the impermanence and impersonality of modern life.

It is very hard to build a healthy marriage when you do not have good role models.

My best book is one that hasn’t been published yet.

We tend to justify and idealize this division with pride attributing these tendencies as demonstrating a higher level of kedushah.

More Articles from Rabbi Yaakov Beasley
book-Mikra-Meaning

This work contains three important essays on the essential questions of modern religious Tanach study.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/books/book-reviews/simple-yet-profound/2014/08/01/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: