How to Read the Torah

Sometimes I imagine that if the Torah were to speak to us directly, it would say something like this: “You cannot read me in the way you read any other book. It is not just that I am the product of a divine revelation but that my meaning is too rich for any one person or age to exhaust. So if you want to understand me, you will have to see the art and architecture that I inspired, hear the music, study the religious and political movements, and reflect on the philosophy. If all you do is read the stories and study the laws in isolation, you will be selling me – and yourself – short.”

See Also: Thinking About the Torah (Jewish Publication Society, 2016)

By Kenneth Seeskin
Department of Philosophy and Department of Religious Studies
Northwestern University
Evanston, Illinois
October 2016

Click here for article.

Comments (2)

As one who has taught Bible in Orthodox Jewish settings - from elementary school through university - your article was very refreshing. My only quibble was that you jumped from the Biblical text to Kant and Kierkegaard without mentioning the many Jewish philosophers who followed the trajectory of the text in different ways.
I strongly suggest that you read Rav Kook's explanation of the Akedah in Olat Riyah. I think it's better than Kierkegaard.

#1 - David Derovan - 10/13/2016 - 12:45

You are right: the article jumps quickly from one thing to another because it is a summary. If you look at the book, you'll find ample references to Philo, Rashi, Nachmanides, Spinoza, Cohen, Buber, Rosenzweig, and, of course, Maimonides. There are also discussions of current scholarship in biblical studies. Thanks for the suggestion.

#2 - Kenneth Seeskin - 10/13/2016 - 15:46

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