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'Boiling a Kid': Reflections on a New Bible Commentary

- Abstract

“IT IS a tree of life to those who lay hold of it,” the book of Proverbs says-not of the Torah but of the vaguer concept of “Wisdom.” Most Jews who know this verse are more familiar with it from the synagogue, where it is recited-sung, in many congregations-as part of the prayer that accom- panies the return of the Torah scroll to its ark after the weekly reading from the Pentateuch.

Etz Hayim, “Tree of Life,” is therefore an apt name for the new commentary on the Pentateuch, or Five Books of Moses, that was published over a year ago by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and its Rabbinical Assembly.* Prepared by a committee of eminent Conservative rabbis and scholars, it appears in a handsome oversize volume together with the biblical text in Hebrew and Eng- lish-the latter in the 1985 translation of the Jew- ish Publication Society (JPS).

About the Author

Hillel Halkin is a columnist for the New York Sun and a veteran contributor to COMMENTARY. Portions of the present essay were delivered at Northwestern University in March as the Klutznick Lecture in Jewish Civilization.