I love the Hebrew Bible. It is the template of western literature and the literary DNA of the Jewish people. It is written with all the brilliance of poetry and yet is is also the first proto-novel, a long saga of the Jewish people that moves from the Creator to His Creation and from family to nation. Its stories are told and retold on an ever-increasing scale, while they in turned have spawned remakes of their own. Cain and Abel foreshadows Joseph and his brothers, the tale of Sodom heralds the end of the Book of Judges, Dinah and Shechem one day yielded Romeo and Juliet.
Up until the end of the nineteenth century Biblical characters were familiar guests at the family table. People who read knew their Bible and novelists liberally sprinkled their works with Biblical references. Not so today, where the Bible has fallen into disfavour without anyone really understanding what they have lost.
And so I tell and retell Bible stories to audiences, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, who care to listen to them. In telling these stories I also explain how the Bible is written and what its enduring appeal is. I have done this to audiences of all ages. I have told these stories in synagogues and in universities, to seniors’ groups and gay groups, on stage and for book clubs. Invariably my lectures and performances have met with delight. Audiences have learned and laughed and maybe took my admonition to heart to keep the Bible by their bed for night-time reading because it is far better than anything they can see on television. For Jews especially, even those who go to synagogue every shabbat and hear these stories week after week, these stories need to be told and retold, for indeed the Torah is a tree of life for those who hold fast to it.
The Bible is a thoroughly politically incorrect book. Its tales of unbridled human passions are exquisitely told lessons of the need to rein them in. Its foreign policy advice to Jews, and non-Jews, is invaluable. From parenting to politics the Hebrew Bible offers instruction in what not to do and sublime if perplexing questions about what it means to be holy and act well. And if nothing else, after the horror and the ecstasy, after the laughter and the tears, it offers solace for what can not be changed or undone.
ו וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה, אֶל-קָיִן: לָמָּה חָרָה לָךְ, וְלָמָּה נָפְלוּ. פָנֶיךָ. ז הֲלוֹא אִם-תֵּיטִיב, שְׂאֵת, וְאִם לֹא תֵיטִיב, לַפֶּתַח חַטָּאת רֹבֵץ; וְאֵלֶיךָ, תְּשׁוּקָתוֹ, וְאַתָּה, תִּמְשָׁל-בּוֹ. ח וַיֹּאמֶר קַיִן, אֶל-הֶבֶל אָחִיו; וַיְהִי בִּהְיוֹתָם בַּשָּׂדֶה, וַיָּקָם קַיִן אֶל-הֶבֶל אָחִיו וַיַּהַרְגֵהוּ. ט וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-קַיִן, אֵי הֶבֶל אָחִיךָ; וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא יָדַעְתִּי, הֲשֹׁמֵר אָחִי אָנֹכִי
6 And the LORD said unto Cain: 'Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? 7 If thou doest well, shall it not be lifted up? and if thou doest not well, sin coucheth at the door; and unto thee is its desire, but thou mayest rule over it. 8 And Cain spoke unto Abel his brother. And it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. 9 And the LORD said unto Cain: 'Where is Abel thy brother?' And he said: 'I know not; am I my brother's keeper?'
.נא דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם: כִּי אַתֶּם עֹבְרִים אֶת-הַיַּרְדֵּן, אֶל-אֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן. נב וְהוֹרַשְׁתֶּם אֶת-כָּל-יֹשְׁבֵי הָאָרֶץ, מִפְּנֵיכֶם, וְאִבַּדְתֶּם, אֵת כָּל-מַשְׂכִּיֹּתָם; וְאֵת כָּל-צַלְמֵי מַסֵּכֹתָם תְּאַבֵּדוּ, וְאֵת כָּל-בָּמוֹתָם תַּשְׁמִידוּ. נג וְהוֹרַשְׁתֶּם אֶת-הָאָרֶץ, וִישַׁבְתֶּם-בָּהּ: כִּי לָכֶם נָתַתִּי אֶת-הָאָרֶץ, לָרֶשֶׁת אֹתָהּ
50 And the LORD spoke unto Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, saying: 51 'Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them: When ye pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 52 then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their figured stones, and destroy all their molten images, and demolish all their high places. 53 And ye shall drive out the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein; for unto you have I given the land to possess it.
No one tells BIble stories as I do. I can do so in a series, in a one-time performance/lecture, in a weekend shabbaton format or in a theatre setting. One things is for sure: have stories, will travel, and all at a reasonable cost. Please use the contact button to invite me.
In the meantime you will find in this section my book, In The Beginning, which is my rewritten version of the Torah, an eloquent and accessible rendition of the beloved Pentateuch for the modern reader. This is not a translation, nor is it a reproduction of all the injunctions and stories of the Torah. Rather it offers a moving and condensed remake of what I consider to be the essence of this wonderful scroll. If you like it you will certainly like the original, for the original, believe it or not, is in the copy.
You will also find every week my commentary on the Torah portion (Drash). So succinctly is the Torah written and so explosive are its stories, that one can comment differently on these sections year after year and never exhaust the material. These commentaries (or drashes) will also give you an idea of how I approach the Hebrew Bible and how you too can begin to read it for yourself. I am not a professional Bible scholar and you need not be one either. All that is required is a careful reading of the text and an inquisitive mind to discover the many delights this text holds and reveals. After all, the book that opens with the creation of difference follows quickly with the injunction to observe. And what after all is revelation but observing the difference without which nothing exists?