Monday, January 11, 2010

Josh Berman: A God-fearing Scholar and Gentleman

I don't think it's possible to avoid being aware of the incremental penetration of Biblical Criticism into Orthodox religious discourse. The academic study of Bible, and its dangers, have been the elephant in the Religious Jewish Room since Wellhausen. Now, the increasing number of religiously observant students and faculty involved in Academic Bible; together with the theories of the late Rabbi Mordekhai Breuer ז"ל, have placed the methodological and theological challenges raised by Biblical Criticism at the center of the contemporary Orthodox agenda.

One person whose love affair with Tanakh has led him to create books that have enriched all who read them, is my friend and colleague, Rabbi Dr. Josh Berman. His latest book Created Equal is a singular tour de force that sets forth the revolutionary aspects of Biblical Thought, in contrast with the so-called advanced civilizations which surrounded Biblical Israel.

What I like about his work, though, goes beyond his specific researches. Dr. Berman is a God-fearing Jew, who doesn't march lock-step with the 'conventional wisdom' as to the authorship of the Torah. He struggles with his Emunah, as in 'שרית עם אלהים ועם אנשים ותוכל." This aspect of his work, and his personna, was recently set forth in a piece he published on the Seforim Blog, and in an interview he gave to SOY's Kol ha-Mevaser.

In the past few years, I've increasingly encountered students of Bible who've gone over to 'Orthopraxy,' dropped religion altogether, or live fundamentally compartmentalized lives. Josh holds out the possibility of learning how to deal; to live with a question in the certainty that there is an acceptable answer.


Anonymous said...

that kol ha-mevaser interview was really impressive. berman really is tsu gut un tsu leit.

Pierre Sogol said...

I absolutely loved this book (and I'm glad to see someone else posting on it!), and thought it dovetailed very nicely with certain sections of Hoffmeier's "Israel At Sinai". on the inroads of BibCrit in Orthodoxy, I've tried to accumulate recent Orthodox "addressers" of it over several posts on my blog Harherem.