Friday, December 6, 2013

Letters to President Clinton


There are a number of adoption stories in the Bible. Moses' name was given to him by his adoptive mother, the daughter of Pharoah who "drew him out of the water." The Bible doesn't say what his Hebrew name was, but according to the Midrash it was Tuvia. He kept his Egyptian name even after he knew he was a Hebrew. Rabbi Genack writes that as an Egyptian royal and not a Hebrew slave he asserted the then-unknown principle of the freedom and dignity of man. "It is therefore, Moses the Egyptian, and not Tuvia the Hebrew, who is destined to be the giver of the Law and the "father of Prophets" who will mouth the Divine imperative", (Deut. 16:20) "Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord you God is giving you." p. 12, Letters to President Clinton, (Sterling Ethos, 2013)

This book recommendation might surprise you, but hear me out. "Letters to President Clinton; Biblical lessons on faith and leadership," edited by Rabbi Menachem Genack, Sterling Ethos, 2013. Bill Clinton was a Southern Baptist who became friends with Rabbi Genack in 1992; they began a written dialogue that continues to the present. Genack also recruited other Jewish friends to join in the Biblical  reflections/commentary. These have been compiled and edited by him with comments dealing with the context and setting. Each essay is only a page or two, easily finished in one reading and organized by general topic, the largest probably being "Leadership," but also including "Sin and Repentance," "Creation," "Community," "Faith," "Dreams and Vision," and "Holidays." Protestants tend to cherry pick slections of the Old Testament to fit either "end times," or their denomination's teaching on Jesus. This is a fresh and delightful look at how Jews see those same stories and passages, along with the scholarship they've developed over thousands of years.

Rabbi Genack is rabbinic administrator and CEO of the Orthodox Union's Kosher Division, overseeing the certification program of some 7,000 food-production facilities in 80 countries. OU is America's oldest Orthodox Jewish communal organization, embracing over 400 synagogues across North America (from publicist). Whether you buy it or get it from your library, you'll enjoy this book (just don't expect to agree with everything, but that should be the case with all books about the Bible).

Letters to President Clinton: Biblical Lessons on Faith and Leadership Edited by Rabbi Menachem Genack, Sterling Ethos/OU Press, New York, 2013. 288 pages, ISBN 978-1-4549-0791-6

This would be an excellent Christmas gift, Christian or Jew, Democrat or Republican.


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