My Pocket Bible
At the time, it seemed so imaginative an exegesis that I thought of doing something fictional with it. In the end, nothing came of it. The other night, though, I found myself reading the parshah of Vayera. That’s the fourth Torah reading of Genesis, the one that tells about the binding of Isaac. Although I rarely go to synagogue, there was a time when I regularly kept up with the weekly Torah readings at home: on Saturday mornings I would sit down with my edition of Mikra’ot G’dolot and go through the week’s parshah with the Aramaic of Onkelos and the medieval commentaries of Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and Nahmanides. In recent years the habit has lapsed, but I still keep a little Bible by my bed that I sometimes open before falling asleep.
It’s the same Bible I was given at the ceremony that ended two months of basic training for new immigrants after my induction into the Israeli army in 1974. The ceremony was held at the Western Wall with floodlights, flags, and all the rest, but the part I remember best was the soldier standing next to me. He was a Russian who spoke little Hebrew, and when, asked to swear to defend the state of Israel, we raised our Bibles and exclaimed ani nishba, ani nishba, ani nishba, “I swear, I swear, I swear,” he shouted anyi nishbar, anyi nishbar, anyi nishbar—“I can’t take it any more, I can’t take it any more, I can’t take it any more.”
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.