June 7, 2015
By Shmuel Ben-Gad, AJL Reviews
This book is written from a Modern Orthodox point of view and is aimed at “discerning traditional readers.” As the subtitle indicates, it deals with six discrete topics. Some chapters are drier than others. I imagine the part that will be of most interest to readers is the author’s argument that a modern, religiously motivated, scientific study of the Tanakh—using recent archaeological discoveries and the recovery of ancient languages related to Hebrew, for example—is in accordance with the methods of the mediaeval exegetes even if it sometimes leads to different conclusions. The discussion and comparison of eight exegetes is also quite enlightening. Dr. Sokolow of Yeshiva University is evidently a lover of the Tanakh but I cannot say that this book, for all its information and argumentation, conveys the actual atmosphere of the text. I suppose it might be argued that this can only be experienced by diving into the Tanakh itself, something which this book certainly encourages.
March 17, 2015
Sokolow, a professor at the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, has crafted a masterful and thorough volume of Torah scholarship that raises multiple questions inherent in Tanakh and provides cogent and articulate explanations and responses to them. His work, which takes a Jewish Orthodox viewpoint, includes segments on who penned the various portions of Tanakh (an acronym for Torah, Neviim, and Ketuvim); historic and rabbinic sources for inclusion in the canon; anomalies in the foundational Masoretic text; attitude toward narrative material (Aggadah); the history of, and insights into, eight prominent exegetes, including Rashi and Nahmanides; rebuttals to the arguments of biblical critics about textual origin, and principles for developing Tanakh curricula in yeshiva day schools. Sokolow’s erudition is evident as he addresses the issues from all angles and offers rational proofs for his claims. Detailed footnotes provide much additional useful and fascinating information for further study. Hebrew text, which is always translated, is woven into the manual when Sokolow quotes original material so that readers can see firsthand the sources. Serious students of Torah will learn much from this important, comprehensive work.
This review originally appeared on Publishers Weekly
December 18, 2014
By Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom
The Tanach is that Book of Books which we claim as our legacy to the world. For multiple reasons, the in-depth study of the 24 books of Torah, Nevi’im and Ketuvim had been effectively removed from the Jewish curriculum for the past several hundred years. Thankfully, the rigorous and creative disciplines associated with the mastery of these Divine treasures have been revived in the last two generations.
The New School of Orthodox Tanach study owes much of its energy and direction to the pioneering work of R. Mordechai Breuer, zt”l, and to his many students in Israel and abroad. These teachers have incorporated many of the disciplines developed in the world of academia to enhance and deepen our understanding of Tanach.
This school is not really new. Teachers from Bar-Ilan University and Yeshivat Har Etzion – to name two of the proving grounds of in-depth Tanach study – utilize traditional sources, such as Talmud and Midrash, to bring their new observations to light.
The exciting and explosive growth of serious Tanach study can easily be seen every summer, where close to 10,000 students attend a five-day Bible seminar at the Herzog College in Alon Shvut. This yearly event, in its third decade, has grown from a two-day gathering of fewer than a 100 students. The lecturers are, to a one, enthusiastic in shedding new light on ancient texts through the introduction of archeology, literary theory, ancient new eastern texts and much more – and that enthusiasm is contagious as the many thousands of attendees will attest.
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