A Highly Original Work Looks at the Pentateuch with the Sensibilities of the Psalms

Reviewing Laurance Wieder’s unusual work After Adam: The Books of Moses, Michal Leibowitz writes:

After Adam is a prosimetrum, a story told in verse and prose. . . . [I]ts subject is the Pentateuch, and each of the book’s 54 chapters corresponds to a single Sabbath Torah portion.

But Wieder’s work is not simply a poet’s retelling of the books of Moses. It is also the work of an anthologist, and much of the text is composed of biblical commentaries—largely, though not exclusively, midrashim—from a vast variety of texts spanning the apocryphal book of Enoch to the philosophical dialogues of Judah Halevi. Following the associative mode of the Nobel laureate S.Y. Agnon in Present at Sinai, Wieder intermixes his commentaries with little regard for their original context or chronology. Like Agnon, he sometimes alters sources—abridging, paraphrasing, even extending—without making his readers aware of his changes. Other times, he offers commentary that is entirely his own.

Wieder’s individualistic approach never degenerates into chaos or mere whim. Rather, his selections are drawn together by a strong guiding vision—one might say a theology—that more than anything, reflects the voice and worldview of . . . the book of Psalms. [It thus] envisions a world in which God listens and responds to the calls of human beings. The varied forms of the psalms—praise, lament, thanksgiving, individual, communal—all rely on the assumption of continued divine love for, and involvement in, the world.

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More about: Hebrew Bible, Midrash, Poetry, Psalms, S. Y. Agnon

 

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror