Abravanel’s World of Torah: A Structured Interpretation—Bereshit: Theory of Moral Evolution

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abravanelAbravanel’s World of Torah: A Structured Interpretation—Bereshit: Theory of Moral Evolution
By Zev Bar Eitan
Renaissance Torah Press
Drexel Hill, PA, 2012
582 pages

Rabbi Yitzchak Abarbanel (Abravanel) lived at the end of the time of the Spanish Rishonim and his books reflect his end-of-an-era status. He dutifully surveys the opinions of his predecessors before critiquing them and offering his own brilliantly creative interpretations. Like many Spanish Torah scholars, the Abarbanel had a sustained interest in philosophy, language and the literal meaning of the Bible. Therefore, his Torah commentary in particular is an adventure in Medieval thought, with the Abarbanel mediating a battle between the greatest minds and offering his own substantial contributions. However, while his expansive commentaries are fascinating reading, they are often too long and too technical for the average reader.

Zev Bar Eitan has devised a creative way to redeem Abarbanel for the masses. With ample literary talent, Bar Eitan retells the story of the Book of Genesis based on the Abarbanel’s commentary. A careful reader will find many hidden interpretations in the simple prose, the fine details of the story as understood by the Abarbanel. Additionally, Bar Eitan offers tastes of the dramatic philosophical debates that the Abarbanel conducts, replacing the lengthy proofs with a summary accessible to contemporary readers. The result is a unique and exciting trip through Bereishit and its Medieval commentators.

This article was featured in Jewish Action Summer 2013.

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