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October 23, 1981 - Image 23

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1981-10-23

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Friday, October 23, 1961

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS



Fishbane's Torah Commentary Is Viewed as a Small Masterpiece

By PROF. ARNOLD AGES

TORONTO — They say
that good things come in
small packages. The maxim
is currently validated in a
slim volume that has es-
caped notice from most of
the book columnists in the
North American 'Jewish
press — "Text and Texture:

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Close Readings of Selected
Biblical Texts" by Michael
Fishbane (Shocken).
It's a great pity because
Fishbane's essays on
themes from the Torah is
one of the most exciting, in-
structive and valuable
series of essays on Bible
themes which I have had
the pleasure to read in
years.
The author, holder of the
Lane Chair in Jewish His-
tory at Brandeis Univer-
sity, brings to his work a
command of biblical sources
which is awesome and a
mastery of the English lan-
guages which constitutes a
happy companion to his
learning.
Fishbane approaches
the Hebrew Bible as the
rescued speech of the
encounters between God
and man and subjects
that speech to a sensitive
monitoring process in
which he utilizes linguis-
tic analyses, literary
criticism and a host of
other exegetical ap-
proaches, all of which he
has honed to near perfec-
tion.
Rabbis, teachers, scholars
and ordinary balabatim will
profit enormously from
Fist-thane's investigations
into the majestic unique-
ness of Genesis, his
thoughts on the Garden of
Eden episode, his penetrat-
ing scrutinizing of the Cain
and Abel story.

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Thursday, November 5, 1981

Guest Speaker
Phyllis Eliasberg

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In the environment
where the search for the
hidush (the innovative in-
terpretation) is eagerlfFr-
sued, Prof.- Fishbane has
scored some impressive
points. His observations on
the world being "worded
forth" in Genesis are fas-
cinating. The pyramidal
structure of the six days of
Creation is ingeniously de-
scribed by the author.
Writing of the Sabbath,
the author comments,
"Most of all, the rest of the
Sabbath day stands out
against the dark silence of
the primordial void. Be-
tween the stillness of the
prologue and the calm of the
epilogue there is a world of
difference. The first silence
precedes time, the second
sanctifies it."
Utilizing midrashic and
other sources, Prof.
Fishbane ranges far and
wide in ellucidating the
Hebrew text. The crea-
tion of man is offered to
the reader as a kind of
symbiosis; he, unlike
other aspects of Creation,
was a combination of
both the heavenly and
earthly spheres.
The author also has re-
course to symmetrical pat-
terning in showing the
unique arrangement of the
Creation cycle.
With regard to the Adam
and Eve story in Genesis;
and the vexing problem of
the introduction of sin into
mankind, Fishbane's ex-
planation is superb: "The
serpent represents that part
of the world and man resis-
tant to a fixed order. It ap-
pears to be outside of man,
stimulating his desires. But
it is also a primordial ser-
pentine chaos coiled in the
well of being. The serpentis
with us in the world, with-
out us in the world and

within us in the world."
Perhaps the most original
insights (of many) in
Fishbane's volume are
those which deal with the
broad sweep of Torah in
which the author attempts
to trace imagery across the
vast expanse of Scripture.
His analysis of the role
of mountain imagery is
especially appealing in
this regard. He is among
the first scholars (to my
knowledge) to remark on
the fact that the major
events of Genesis are tied
to the heights.
The Garden of Eden rests
on a mountain. Noah brings
redemption to mankind
after finding respite on a
mountain. The builders of
the tower of Babel want to
construct their own moun-
tain. The same imagery re-
peats itself like a musical
leitmotif in the other bibli-
cal texts ( Moses on the
mountain).
The author is also the
first commentator to use the
registry of geography to
make some powerful points
regarding the cyclical na-
ture of the Pentateuch:
and Eve are
Adam
banished to a place east of
Eden; so is Cain. Abraham
reverses the trajectory and
the destiny of the Jewish
people by treking westward.
The same incisive and
penetrating comments on

Exodus are to be found in
this volume.Especially
intriguing is the interpre-
tation of one of the most
vexing passages in the
Hebrew Bible, Exodus
4:24-26, "the bridegroom
of blood" verse. Fishbane
offers an explanation of
these difficult words that
is both logical and appe-
aling.
The preceding are small
Michael
samples
of

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Fishbane's excellence as a
Bible scholar. In the years
to come he will undoubtedly
emerge as one of this conti-
nent's outstanding ex-
positors of Jewish litera-
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TAU Publishes
Strategic Reports

TEL AVIV — A series of
strategic papers is being
published by Tel Aviv Uni-
versity's Center for
Strategic Studies this fall.
Topics of the series in-
clude: "The Middle East
Balance of Power," "The
Strategic Significance of the
Mediterranean Sea," "Polit-
ical and Strategic Implica-
tions of a Palestinian
State," "Cooperation Be-
tween Israel and Egypt:
Positions and Trends,"
"U.S. Interests and Israeli
Security: New Perceptions,"
"Deterrence in Lebanon,"
and "America and the
Palestinians."

BB Women Cite
Beverly Sills

WASHINGTON — Opera
star Beverly Sills will re-
ceive the Bnai Brith Women
Perlman Award for Human
Advancement at the organ-
ization's convention here in
February.
The Perlman Award is
given to an individual who
has made an "outstanding
contribution to human ad-
vancement, through the
furthering of equal justice
and human rights."

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