A Review of Biblical Seductions: Six Stories Retold Based on Talmud and Midrash

 biblicaleddby Evelyn Pockrass

Although the title of her book may seem provocative, Sandra E. Rapoport, an attorney who spent twelve years litigating sexual harassment cases, provides serious, methodical analyses of the stories of six women in the Hebrew Bible. These women found themselves in what we recognize as disturbing relationships with men. The tales involve seduction, rape, incest, murder, fratricide, and loss, but also triumph and the birth of sons whose descendents became well known to future generations. Rapoport notes that God did not condemn these women (although some commentators have).

Rapoport is fascinated with the women and the men in their lives – Dinah and Shechem, Tamar and Judah, Batsheva and David, Amnon and Tamar, Ruth and Boaz, and the daughters of Lot. She translated portions of the Hebrew Bible and examines them in detail, explaining the derivation and meaning of names, places, words, and phrases. She parses rabbinic literature (Talmud and Midrash) and more current writings to fill in gaps in the biblical narrative.

More than a hundred pages are devoted to notes, an extensive bibliography, a source index, and a general index. Well researched, occasionally repetitive, but always thoughtful and compelling, Rapoport’s work is recommended for Bible study and women’s groups.

 This review first appeared in Congregational Libraries Today

Review of Between the Lines of the Bible by Yitzchak Etshalom

by Ben Zion Katz

Between the Lines of the Bible: Exodus: A study from the new school of Orthodox Torah Commentary, by Yitzchak Etshalom (Urim/OU Press, NY 2012) is a thought-provoking look at the second book of the Torah. One can tell that its author, a Rabbi and Tanakh educator in North America, is a dynamic teacher, because the book is quite engaging. The “new school” of the book’s subtitle seems to refer to a mainly literary approach to Torah, familiar to those who study midrash, and popularized by figures such as Robert Alter, beginning with the Art of Biblical Narrative (Basic Books, NY 1981). Etshalom also seems to be clearly in the “modern” Orthodox camp, as he is not afraid to criticize the patriarchs (eg Jacob for his lack of parenting skills [p. 29], or Joseph indirectly leading to the enslavement of the Israelites [p. 31]), to say that the Bible needs to be interpreted in the context of its time (p. 139) or to be unhappy with an explanation of Rashi and offer his own (chapter 13).

The book begins with Continue reading “Review of Between the Lines of the Bible by Yitzchak Etshalom”