January 7, 2016
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.
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October 22, 2015
The resurgence of the study of Tanakh in Israel – in dati-leumi circles, in particular – has been justly welcomed as a most positive development. Constituting both an expansion of the horizons of Talmud Torah and an expression of bonding with the cradle of most of Tanakh within the context of shivat Zion, this renascence has unquestionably enriched and enhanced the spiritual life of a revitalized community.
Unfortunately, however, this enterprise has, at times, been accompanied by negative elements, as well. Perhaps most regrettable has been the tendency on the part of some scholars, students, or observers to constrict the content, scope and significance of much of Tanakh. Familiarity with the text, in one sense, has, in some circles, bred familiarity with the Scriptural narrative and the events and their protagonists presented therein, in another. The sense of reverential awe and the awareness of heroic stature may become jaded and replaced by what is cried up as “eye-level Tanakh study.”
To read more from Rabbi Dr. Aharon Lichtenstein click here.
This excerpt was taken from Redeeming Relevance in the Book of Genesis by Rabbi Francis Nataf with permission by the author.
October 19, 2015
Redeeming Our Souls: Avraham’s Ninth Test
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 »
June 21, 2015
By Rabbi Ari Kahn
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 »
May 10, 2015
by Dov Peretz Elkins
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.
October 28, 2014
Rabbi Francis Nataf, author of Redeeming Relevance in the Book of Numbers, was interviewed on Voice of Israel.
Rabbi Nataf shares his personal journey with Eve Harow. Deeply intelligent and thoughtful, his insights are profound.
You can listen to the interview here.