Redeeming Relevance featured in The Jewish Star’s Kosher Bookworm

September 8, 2016
RedeemingDevWeb1

Buy Now

Redemption and Relevance for Today’s Jew

by Alan Jay Gerber

“Redeeming Relevance: In the Book of Deuteronomy — Explorations in Text and Meaning” (Urim Publishers, 2016) details some of the little-known themes in Devorim. The following teachings by Rabbi Nataf will hopefully motivate you to obtain and read the full text for a better understanding of what motivated Moshe in his last days of leadership of our people.Among the most gifted commentators on the Chumash in Israel today is Rabbi Francis Nataf, a longtime associate of the noted Jewish theologian and thinker, Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopez Cardozo of Jerusalem. Recently Rabbi Nataf finished his long-awaited commentary on Devarim, the Book of Deuteronomy, which will be the focus of this week’s essay.

“Most readers are aware that the book of Devarim is significantly different from the other books of the Torah,” writes Rabbi Nataf in an introduction entitled “Moshe’s Torah.”

“For instance, words and expressions that don’t appear anywhere else in the Torah suddenly appear here. This is especially pronounced when we encounter a new word or phrase that describes the very same object or concept referred to by different terms on other books.”

Further on, the author is more specific:

“Moreover, entire stories and commandments from the four previous books are now given completely different treatments. Moshe’s new rendition of the incident of the spies that we already know from the book of Bemidbar is the most famous. Many other stories, such as the appointment of administrative judges, and to a lesser extent the actual giving of the Torah, are recounted from a new vantage point as well.

“Yet the most significant change is that Moshe generally now speaks in the first person, often telling us that “God told me…” as opposed to the more common narrative wherein we are told “God spoke to Moshe…” The most obvious reason for this is that the majority of the book of Devarim records a series of Moshe’s speeches given to the Israelites at the end of his life, a time which, significantly, coincides with the end of their journey.”

Continue reading the article here.


Excerpt from Redeeming Relevance in the Book of Numbers

July 20, 2016

Redeeming Relevance in the book of numbers Chapter Six

The Daughters of Tzelofchad and the Elders of Menashe – Identity, Interests, and Differentiation

The first two chapters of Redeeming Relevance in the Book of Genesis discussed the Bible’s interest in teaching us about real-life trade-offs. We already know from our own lives that we truly cannot “have our cake and eat it too.” And because we would prefer to ignore this truth, the Torah makes a point of frequently repeating the notion that we must make choices about what is the most valuable – or alternatively, the least undesirable – course of action. This means that biblical characters rarely live “happily ever after.” They make difficult choices and have to live with the resultant consequences.(1) Yet, had it been otherwise, the Bible would have been a book of fairy tales that would not have had the tremendous transformative and inspirational power that it has had for so much of human history. In the book of Bemidbar, the theme of trade-offs is examined again with the petition of the five daughters of Tzelofchad from the tribe of Menashe and the subsequent counter-petition of that tribe’s elders. These fatherless, brotherless sisters come out of nowhere,(2) questioning an assumed status quo that their late father’s portion in the Land of Israel will go to the male next of kin. They are successful in their petition, and God reveals that the assumption was actually faulty and that it is, truly, daughters who are next in line in such a situation. Several chapters later, the tribal leaders from Menashe challenge the new status quo with their own concern: that if these women marry men from another tribe, their birth tribe will end up losing part of its inheritance. They too are successful, and the women appear to be commanded to marry only within their tribe. But whether this is an actual commandment or not,(3) the story goes on to tell us that the daughters of Tzelofchad do indeed follow God’s preference and marry within their own tribe.

To continue reading this excerpt, click here.

1 See Redeeming Relevance in Genesis, Chap. 2.
2 Their story appears in Bemidbar 27:1–11. The first we hear of the existence of the sisters and the fact that they did not have brothers is in Bemidbar 26:33, in a general genealogical list.

Redeeming Relevance in the Book of Numbers, written by Rabbi Francis Nataf and published by Urim Publications in 2014.

This chapter was excerpted with permission by the author.


Excerpt from Redeeming Relevance in the Book of Exodus

January 7, 2016

Redeeming Relevance in the Book of ExodusChapter 3

Exile, Alienation and the Jewish Mission

When a man is in his place, everyone knows him, and respects him according to his worth and according to the rank of his forbears. He, too, is familiar with his surroundings, knowing what he should say and what he should not say, what he should do and what he should not do. Once uprooted from his landscape, a man is at a loss, bewildered and perplexed.  (Haim Sabato, Aleppo Tales)

In the last chapter, we explored the unusual self-awareness that Moshe brought into his first set of interviews with God. Of course, this perspective did not appear in a vacuum – as with everyone, Moshe was shaped by his life experience. In this chapter we will look at part of this experience, which will both resemble and yet be at variance with many other Biblical Jewish leaders. Looking at Moshe’s early life, we find a fascinating paradox: The greatest Jew to walk the face of the earth spent his childhood and youth in a completely non-Jewish culture. This forges the great irony that, as opposed to all the other Jews whom the Midrash praises for preserving their Jewish identities through keeping their Israelite names, language and dress, (1) young Moshe’s name, (2) language and certainly mode of dress were all Egyptian.

Read the rest of this entry »


Excerpt from Redeeming Relevance in the Book of Genesis

October 19, 2015

Chapter 1RedeemingRelevance 9657108942

Redeeming Our Souls: Avraham’s Ninth Test

Biblical Heroes

We are not always sure what to think of our Biblical ancestors. Sometimes their feats appear superhuman, and at other times their mistakes are too painfully clear. For the inexperienced student, this creates a certain cognitive dissonance, which may lead to hasty and forced interpretations aimed at creating more homogeneous characters. As a student becomes more experienced and sophisticated, he will likely become more comfortable with this lack of uniformity, realizing that rather than a weakness, the Torah’s nuanced portrayal of our ancestors is quite true to real life. Thus, if the Torah is trying to teach us about the lives of real people, we should not expect to read about artificially one-dimensional characters, as this is not the nature of actual men and women. While appropriately sophisticated, this realistic complexity still creates some confusion as we attempt to find a proper perspective on the Torah’s great figures.  Read the rest of this entry »


Review of Redeeming Relevance in the Book of Numbers

June 21, 2015

By Rabbi Ari KahnRedeeming Relevance in the book of numbers

In the third volume of his series of books on the Torah, Rabbi Francis Nataf delves into the book of Bamidbar. As the title indicates, the premise for the entire series is that the Torah has relevance for modern life – relevance that must be redeemed. The book is not a commentary, at least not in the classic sense: It contains seven chapters, leaving entire parshiot untreated. Rather than offer a running commentary or verse-by-verse elucidation of the text, Redeeming Relevance paints with broad strokes, articulating major themes in the book of Bamidbar – clearly, articulately, with elegance and wisdom. Read the rest of this entry »


Review of Redeeming Relevance in the Book of Numbers

May 10, 2015

by Dov Peretz Elkins Redeeming Relevance in the book of numbers

Continuing Rabbi Francis Nataf’s innovative analysis of the Bible’s first five books, this volume focuses on some of the text’s most perplexing stories in the Book of Numbers. It weaves them into discussions about the individual and the community, religious leadership and its abuse, and about communication and disappointment. Taking a new look at Judaism’s most basic text, Rabbi Nataf reads the Bible in ways that make it more accessible and more exciting to study. The remarkable insights in Redeeming Relevance in the Book of Numbers opens up completely new possibilities in the biblical text.

Rabbi Francis Nataf is a Jerusalem-based educator, writer and thinker, and the author of Redeeming Relevance in the Book of Genesis (Urim, 2006) and Redeeming Relevance in the Book of Exodus (Urim, 2010). He has also published numerous articles concerning Jewish education, Bible and Jewish thought. Rabbi Nataf received rabbinic ordination at Yeshiva University and holds degrees in Jewish history and international affairs.


Lecture this Wednesday in Jerusalem

January 8, 2015

The public is invited to attend theRedeeming Relevance in the book of numbers

Jerusalem Lecture Series on Jewish Philosophy 5775/2014-5

RABBI FRANCIS NATAF

 Will be speaking on

Why Jews should Continue to Ignore the Bible Critics – The Path from Chazal to Stanley Fish

Wednesday January 14, 2015 at 8pm

Yad Harav Nissim Auditorium

44 Jabotinsky Street, Jerusalem (entrance from Molcho St.)

 

Free admission | Refreshments served | Lecture in English

For more information contact Avital Macales: 054-768-5849 amacales@cardozoacademy.org

DCA Academy can be contacted at 02-642-7272 * Visit us at www.cardozoacademy.org