A Small Glimmer of Light: Reflections on the Book of Genesis

Article excerpt

A Small Glimmer of Light: Reflections on the Book of Genesis. By Steven Saltzman. Hoboken: KTAV, 1996, xix + 202 pp., $25.00.

Saltzman has shared his reflections on the synagogue readings of the book of Genesis, probably based on his comments on the Sabbath Pareshah readings. His particular topics relate to themes Bible characters faced in their day but that also affect deeply everyday problems of hurting individuals, dysfunctional families, the pain of loss of loved ones, the tears people shed over misunderstanding between family and friends and so on. Saltzman deals with these problems with sympathy, wisdom, wit and sometimes outright scorn and even at times taking a stand against HaShem, the name used of God to express his uniqueness and ultimate oneness, particularly when justice and compassion are lacking in the unanswerable problems of life.

Some examples provide an interesting understanding of the text: The tower of Babel decision to build a city and tower "to throw off the yoke of HaShem's presence and usher in an age . . . to the glory of humanity," is regarded as "the confinement of their own self-imposed space" and this unity "is not founded on a person's right to stand before his creator in a relationship of mutual respect" (pp. 27-28). In an exquisite analysis of the relationship of Ya'akov with his wives, Lea and Rahel, Saltzman describes Lea as unloved by her husband who only cared for Rahel. Lea tries through the birth of her children to win her husband's love, only to be rebuffed, and finally, with the birth of Yehudah, she says "I will praise HaShem" (p. 94) and with that acknowledgement, although she cannot change Ya'akov, she still can thank HaShem and "was the first person to ever offer a prayer of thanksgiving to HaShem" (p. 95). When analyzing Ya'akov's response after the misuse of Dinah and condemnation of Shim'on, Saltzman describes the patriarch at his worst. …