From Deuteronomy's prophet and saint to Zionism's ""original liberator of the Promised Land"": a lucid, learned (but...



From Deuteronomy's prophet and saint to Zionism's ""original liberator of the Promised Land"": a lucid, learned (but unpedantic) survey of what Jews--and pagan Egyptians and Christians and Muslims--have made of Moses down through the ages. Ultimately Rabbi Silver gives us not just an interesting study in the evolution of religious consciousness, but an illuminating essay on the meaning of Judaism. Silver's book is also an act of homage to his father, Abba Hillel Silver (d. 1963), whose Moses and the Original Torah (1959) tried to determine ""what was the nature of Moses' accomplishment""--which actually meant, his son says, ""In what does Judaism's uniqueness consist?"" The younger Silver's answer to that question is traditional enough: in the absolute centrality of the Torah and the refusal to compromise monotheism by accepting any kind of divine mediator. But, beyond that, Silver takes a consistently liberal approach, arguing that the continuities within Judaism (so essential to the Orthodox) are ""more formal and institutional than doctrinal."" Like all the other great ""words"" of Jewish tradition, the name of Moses is an ""empty vessel"" (a historical blank) ""into which successive generations of believers pour the wine of their convictions."" There have been, as Silver vividly shows, many different versions of Moses: Philo of Alexandria's Hellenistic sage, the Talmudists' Moshe Rabbenu, the medieval Kabbalists' supreme mystic, Ahad Ha-Am's heroic projection of Israel itself, not to mention Gregory of Nyssa's God-intoxicated Moses or Muhammad's ""man of decision."" For adherents of the myth (Silver's term) of Judaism as a ""one-time, for-all-time, all-encompassing revelation,"" the various Jewish images of Moses differ only superficially. For Silver there has been real change within the context of real permanence. Altogether: a fine cross-sectional view of Jewish religious thought.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: Basic Books

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1982