Book Review: 'Rashi' by Elie Wiesel

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Sunday, August 16, 2009


By Elie Wiesel

Schocken. 107 pp. $22

New Atheists write bestsellers, but who wants to read "God Is Not Great" in a concentration camp? Elie Wiesel, author of the immortal Holocaust memoir "Night," offers a miniature biography of 11th-century French Talmudic scholar Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac (aka Rashi). The book is also a profession of Wiesel's sorely tested faith. While offering arcane commentary on Rashi's extensive exploration of the Torah, Wiesel reminds us that, though religious conflicts are born of myths, those myths endure because they bring people together. "Rashi's concern for the individual Jew is naturally matched by his concept of what makes a community vibrant and enduring . . . the idea of remaining attached to the Law of Moses."

Part of Schocken Books' Jewish Encounters series, "Rashi" is not for the uninitiated or anyone uninterested in why Yahweh used the plural possessive when making man "in our image" or whether Abraham's concubine Hagar was actually a pharaoh's daughter. But if the Prophets' trials and tribulations seem arcane, Wiesel's great respect for their long-lived stories reminds us that, though we may value Christopher Hitchens, it's unlikely that we will debate his every nay-saying syllable 1,000 years hence.

-- Justin Moyer

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