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By Shai Cherry / Jewish Publication Society / 2007
Every commentator, from the classical rabbi to the modern-day scholar, has brought his or her own worldview, with all of its assumptions, to bear on the reading of holy text. This relationship between the text itself and the reader's interpretation is the subject of Torah Through Time. Shai Cherry traces the development of Jewish Bible commentary through three pivotal periods in Jewish history: the rabbinic, medieval, and modern periods. The result is a fascinating and accessible guide to how some of the world's leading Jewish commentators read the Bible.
Torah Through Time focuses on specific narrative sections of the Torah: the creation of humanity, the rivalry between Cain and Abel, Korah's rebellion, the claim of the daughters of Zelophechad, and legal matters concerning Hebrew slavery. Cherry closely examines several different commentaries for each of these source texts, and in so doing he analyzes how each commentator resolves questions raised by the texts and asks if and how the commentator's own historical frame of reference — his own time and place — contributes to the resolution. A chart at the end of each chapter provides a visual summary that helps the reader understand the many different elements at play.
Cherry shows how the Torah functions as literature that is fluid, compelling, and persistently generative of new meanings.
Shai Cherry is a lecturer in Jewish Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, and at American Jewish University, where he teaches Judaism, Darwinism, and Jewish Biblical Commentary. He holds a B. A. (magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa) in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from Claremont McKenna College, and received his Ph. D. in Jewish Thought from Brandeis University. As Dr. Cherry pursued his doctorate, he served as family educator at a Reform temple in the Boston area and taught Rabbinics and Modern Jewish Thought at Hebrew College. He taught Jewish Thought at Vanderbilt from 2001–2005. He is also studying for rabbinic ordination at the Ziegler School for Rabbinic Studies. Professor Cherry has received several awards for his work in community education and continues to teach across the United States and in Israel.