February 6, 2023

Kirkus Reviews “A thoughtful elucidation of a common practice of Judaism”

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Richard W. Golden Mosaica Press (216 pp.) hardcover
ISBN: 9781957579337 November 14, 2022


In this work of religious scholarship, Golden explores ways that biblical passages are paired in Jewish religious practice.

According to millennia of Jewish tradition, the weekly reading from the Torah is followed by the haftarah, or a recitation from Prophets. The origins of the haftarah, however, are not well understood, nor is it known how (or why) each haftarah was paired with its parsha, or its portion of the Torah. With a dearth of external evidence available, Golden turns to the texts themselves to try to untangle this ancient mystery and “identify what each haftarah recited on the Shabbos tells us about its parsha.” For example, Golden examines how the first six chapters of Genesis are informed by chapters 42 and 43 of Isaiah; the first discusses the Creation of the world and the story of Adam and Eve, while the second also references God’s Creation before moving on to what God will bring to Israel as punishment for faithlessness. In addition to the mirrored language of Creation, Golden draws a parallel between the faithlessness of Israel and that of Adam and Eve, who defied God’s instructions not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. By excavating the texts side by side, the author discovers new layers of meaning and new insights into the minds of the ancient teachers who helped to shape the Jewish religion. Golden’s prose is sharp, and, though often dry, it displays a contagious admiration for the ancient wisdom: “We see in connection with this parsha and haftarah a remarkable continuity of thought over hundreds of years and great distances,” he notes, writing on the books of Leviticus and Ezekiel. This is primarily a book for those interested in the Old Testament, and Jewish interpretations of it, specifically; however, Golden does not include the texts themselves, so interested readers should keep their Tanakh handy.

A thoughtful elucidation of a common practice of Judaism.