“The Exodus” by Richard Elliott Friedman”— Explaining the Exodus

Freidman, Richard Elliott. “The Exodus”, HarperOne, 2017.

Explaining the Exodus

Amos Lassen

The Exodus is a core tradition of Western civilization. It is part of the Judeo-Christian writings and we revisit it every year yet we have no proof that it ever happened. I believe that one of the reasons that so many are drawn to it is that we have not had any physical evidence to prove that it happened. Could it be that this is simply a story? If we learn that this is the case, what are the ramifications for organized religion? Just as those challenge the exodus there are those who defend by maintaining that the holy writings were written by God and if it is in the bible, then it must have occurred.

Now we have Richard Elliott Friedman who passes by the serious studies and the wild theories with some new findings. — merging new findings with new insight.  Examining many disciplines, using state-of-the-art archeological breakthroughs and fresh discoveries within scripture, he gives us evidence of a historical basis for the exodus. In other words, he gives us the history behind the event and maintains that the exodus is not myth or story but it might be an exaggeration.

He shares with us just how much the exodus matters as well as its implications. Friedman maintains that it was the exodus that began the idea of monotheism and this idea is the main basis of the Jewish religion, Islam and Christianity. He further states that the foundational idea of loving one’s neighbor and loving ourselves comes from the exodus. Friedman claims that “the actual exodus was the cradle of global values of compassion and equal rights today”.

The book comes just at the right time for me. Lately I have been thinking about the exodus a great deal after remembering a conversation with a rabbi I had in Little Rock, Arkansas a few years ago. He told me about a series of three sermons presented by Rabbi David Wolpe in California in which he questioned the exodus. I am not sure what that just set off in me but I found the sermons and have been going through them sentence by sentence. It was then that I heard of this new study and my mind has been working over time taking all of this in. Wolpe had examined current research about the exodus and came to the conclusion that the way the bible describes it is not the way it happened. He shocked many with this and arguments ensued everywhere and the rabbi made the front page of the Los Angeles Times. Wolpe explained that his purpose was that there are many millions of Jews who doubt the veracity of what is in the stories from the bible and he simply wanted to show that even doubting Jews can remain faithful. One of the basic tenets of Judaism is sustaining faith by seeking the truth and the search for the truth is the highest form of Jewish learning.

In this book Friedman shines new light on old ideas and shows us that the exodus is not only an argument for the reality behind the Exodus story, but is itself a revelation. I believe that this book gives us the most compelling answer to questions about those forty years in the desert.

To me, it makes no difference whether there was an exodus or not. The importance is what is learned by the experience and not the experience itself.




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