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Peter Ochs

How to Read the Torah

A new translation and commentary.

After the Shoah—and after modern secularism's fall from privilege—it is time for Jews to return to reading the Torah as God's guiding word to them. It is time for Christians, too, to reconnect to the roots and thus the Jewishness of their own scriptural heritage. And it is time for biblical scholars, in particular, to recover the Torah as their subject matter: the Torah, that is, as sign of the living word of the living God rather than as static literary document of some religion of the past. Richard Elliott Friedman's new translation and commentary on the Torah provides profound routes of return for scholars and laypersons, Jews and Christians alike.

Friedman's translation offers crisp clear English that guides the reader to the text of Torah as entrée, at once, to the "plain sense" of the biblical text, to traces of the text's 2,000-year life as guide to Jewish understanding and practice, and to the text as guide to active Jewish life today. In one sense, Friedman fits the model of the sort of historical-critical scholar who has defined the modern academy's style of biblical studies for the past 100 years: a student of Frank Cross at Harvard and a scholarly technician attentive to philology and of the academic art of reading texts by pulling them apart into their possibly antecedent sources, pjde and such. But as readers of his earlier works already know, Friedman is a new breed of academic. In books such as The Hidden Face of God and (my own favorite) Who Wrote the Bible? and now in this commentary, Friedman contributes to biblical scholarship all the resources of academic techne. But, like a highly trained conventional physician who has also mastered complementary medicine, Friedman situates his scholarship within a holistic practice that is attuned both to the Bible as a whole word and to the biblical reader as a whole person.

Friedman introduces his work as the academic scholar's means of recovering the tradition of Rashi, the medieval exegete par excellence, who ...

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