Friday, November 14, 2003

ELIE WIESEL'S NEW BOOK, Wise Men and Their Tales : Portraits of Biblical, Talmudic, and Hasidic Masters is reviewed by Avigail Schwartz in the Jerusalem Post. Excerpt:

Wise Men and Their Tales; Portraits of Biblical, Talmudic and Hasidic Masters is devoted mainly to turning the spare prose of the Bible into accessible, sympathetic stories. Later, briefer sections are comprised of character studies of talmudic sages and retellings of hassidic legends.

The commentary, in a rather modern fashion, exposes heroes, and creates a sympathetic case for the underdog. Our forefathers, priests, and prophets were not saints, suggests Wiesel, and the motives of characters such as Hagar, Ishmael, and Esau have been misunderstood. We can learn lessons from the former group's failures, he seems to claim, and perhaps, in the quest to understand the latter set, gain some compassion.

While he is not the first modern commentator to offer this perspective, the book is peppered with interesting new hiddushim (insights). Wiesel adds texture to these by drawing upon both his religious and secular educations.

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