It is a personal delight to write this Foreword to Birth and Rebirth through Genesis. I have had the pleasure of knowing Rabbi Dr. Michael Samuel for more than a decade. During this time we have spent dozens of hours discussing Torah together. In particular, I have greatly enjoyed my many conversations with Rabbi Samuel over his manuscript as he was finalizing his commentary and completing his edits. These interactions were always respectful as each would listen to the point being raised by the other. For me, a Christian professor of Hebrew Bible for more than four decades, each discussion with Rabbi Samuel proved stimulating, enlightening and very enriching. Personally, I became invigorated through these discussions as we would exchange exegetical comments, examine parallel passages, and compare and contrast classic and contemporary perspectives on the Torah.
One of the strengths of this commentary is the way it handles difficult and theologically diffuse passages. On most controversial passages, Rabbi Samuel presents alternative ways of understanding the text, thus allowing the reader to evaluate options and choose. In our personal discussions over the manuscript, our mutual respect for each other as well as our joint high regard for the text of Scripture always made these discussions very worthwhile and enjoyable learning experiences to me, as “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17).
I believe that all who carefully read this book are in for a deeply rewarding experience. A study of the text and commentary of Birth and Rebirth through Genesis will contribute greatly to an understanding of the rich and diverse fabric of biblical narrative and provide an appreciation for its creative application to the problems of the modern world. In making the above observation, however, I am reminded there is yet a deeper point to be made, one powerfully illustrated by the following Hasidic story. Once, a relatively young talmid (disciple), with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, came up to his Rebbe. The disciple excitingly exclaimed, “Rebbe, you will be pleased to know that I have gone through the Talmud three times!” Sitting back and stroking his white beard, the Rebbe replied, “My son, the question is not how many times you have gone through the Talmud, but how many times the Talmud has gone through you.” Continue reading “Marvin Wilson’s Foreword to the Birth and Rebirth through Genesis: The Timeless Theological Conversation”