“Cardozo on the Parashah— B’reshit” by Rabbi Nathan Lopez Cardozo— In the Beginning

Cardozo, Nathan Lopez. “Cardozo on the Parashah— B’reshit”,  Kasva Press, 2019.

In The Beginning

Amos Lassen

What a great surprise to receive a collection of Torah commentaries on the book of Genesis (which I proudly admit is my favorite of the Five Books of Moses and the book that I wrestle with more than others).

I have learned over the years that biblical interpretation can be very personal because so much of how we read something depends upon how we see the overall picture of divinity and the Jewish people. Interpretation is not just knowing how to express what we read in the holy books, it often involves giving and/or finding deeper meaning to the text and the beauty here is that each of us can find different deeper meanings. There is no right or wrong (although there are those who might argue that) and there is always something new, something we did not notice before.

We are simply unable to take Biblical texts as we do others. We do not know who wrote the Bible or when and we see that the text becomes the author of the Jewish people. We see the Bible as a covenant between us and God and that we became who we are as a result of the text. When we read interpretively we find the essence and the nature of who we are and that we struggle with what God has commanded and with life.

Rabbi Cardozo’s essays present us with new ways for looking at old texts and we view them philosophically, educatively and as a means of self-improvement. After each essays there are discussion questions that can give us even more to think about.

Now I am quite sure that the way I approached this book is  a bit different that others might. Instead of starting at the very beginning, I jumped first to Parashat Vayera. For the last ten years I have given the dvar Torah on Rosh Hashanah on the Akeda, an integral part of this Torah portion and so far I have been very lucky as to not repeat myself and to find a different approach every year but I am also aware that I am running out of ideas. I always look there first to seek some enlightenment and sure enough, Rabbi Cardozo did not let me down. I see that we both share the same issue of wondering how God who dare to tell his servant to murder his son. We never really get an answer to this but we do get a great deal to think about. I might not agree with what Rabbi Cardozo has to say but it is certainly worth thinking about. Of course, this is how I feel about all Torah commentators but that is what makes reading them both important and fun.

I read all of the commentaries here on the book of Genesis and in some cases I feel that I am reading Genesis for the first time. There is a lot to be absorbed and a lot to be question giving us yet another way to look at the Torah.

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