Covenant and Con­ver­sa­tion, A Week­ly Read­ing of the Jew­ish Bible, Gen­e­sis: The Book of Beginnings

Chief Rab­bi Lord Sacks
  • Review
By – August 26, 2011

Jew­ish time is both cycli­cal and lin­ear,” Rab­bi Sacks writes in the intro­duc­tion, and it is an idea he pur­sues through­out the 51 indi­vid­ual essays that com­prise this book. Cycli­cal time accounts for the recur­ring themes in Gen­e­sis, such as the rela­tion­ships among par­ents, sib­lings, spous­es, and chil­dren. Lin­ear time, on the oth­er hand, accounts for those parts of the book that focus our atten­tion on a non-repeat­ing sequence” of his­tor­i­cal events. There is even a nexus between the two time zones, in an essay on Vayehi enti­tled The Future of the Past.” 

The chal­lenge in read­ing Rab­bi Sacks is his sub­lime fusion of form and sub­stance. One can be so enrap­tured by the enchant­i­ng prose of his essays that one neglects to plumb their intel­lec­tu­al depths, lend­ing them the mis­lead­ing appear­ance of pos­sess­ing only super­fi­cial lit­er­ary beau­ty. We live life for­ward,” he writes in that essay on Vayehi, but we under­stand it back­wards.” Try that on for size. Covenant & Con­ver­sa­tion is the 2009 Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award win­ner in Mod­ern Jew­ish Thought and Experience.

Moshe Sokolow, Ph.D., is the Fanya Gottes­feld-Heller Pro­fes­sor of Jew­ish Edu­ca­tion at the Azrieli Grad­u­ate School, Yeshi­va University.

Discussion Questions