FIVE CITIES OF REFUGE: Weekly Reflections on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy

Lawrence Kushner, Author, David Mamet, Author . Schocken $21 (192p) ISBN 978-0-8052-4220-1

This commentary, reflecting the thoughts of learning partners Rabbi Kushner and Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Mamet on the weekly Torah portion, is insightful and inspiring. For each parasha, or weekly reading, the authors choose a verse or a set of verses that evokes questions or raises difficulties in understanding the text. Yet, instead of sharing the ideas that they pondered and perhaps resolved jointly, their commentaries are presented as two unique and separate entities with little or no connection with one another. As a result, although the book offers valuable explanations and helps elucidate the biblical readings, its format suggests it was simply a convenience to record the opinions of both men and not the result of laborious effort extended by their longstanding mutual Torah study. Kushner's concise one-page analyses sound like shorter versions of the typical rabbinical sermon, questioning incongruities and offering interpretations that are faithful to the text. They will be relatively easy for the novice to understand and learn, reliable and original enough for the Torah scholar to appreciate. Mamet, on the other hand, digresses into contemporary issues and submits commentary that, while fascinating, leaves the lay reader struggling to understand its meaning and its connection to the text. However, those seeking a creative take on the parasha will enjoy this commentary's brevity and intelligence. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 08/04/2003
Release date: 08/01/2003
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