cover image Beginnings: Reflections on the Bible's Intriguing Firsts

Beginnings: Reflections on the Bible's Intriguing Firsts

Meir Shalev, Harmony, $25 (304p) ISBN 978-0-307-71718-4

In this innovative and skillfully woven analysis of biblical firsts, Shalev (A Pigeon and a Boy), an Israeli columnist, probes the significance and underlying stories associated with 11 of the Bible's "firsts." He investigates the meaning of the first laugh, explains how the first Jewish monarchy arose, and explores the tragic story of the first loving woman, all from a firmly secular perspective. Shalev's vast biblical knowledge is evident, and he does not hesitate to offer his own take on a given subject, a perspective that often differs from traditional rabbinic understanding—a point he proudly makes throughout his work. His scrutiny of all aspects relating to a particular theme, his colorful descriptions of hallowed biblical figures, and his smooth pen enhance this biblical narrative, but some may find his frequent derision of traditional analysis distasteful and his sometimes casual writing distracting. Readers, either familiar or unacquainted with the biblical text, will enjoy this accessible and authentic excursion into the ancient world of Jewish life. (Mar.)