Thursday, December 11, 2008

Review: Five Biblical Portraits

One aspect of the bible that I've always thought lent it credibility was how insistent it was on recording the flaws of its players. I mean, seriously, if you were going to record the life of a people's first king would it include his becoming delusional, falling out of favor with G-d, and committing suicide (which is way not Kosher)? It just seems like there would be a natural tendency to leave those details out. Yet, the Bible consistently goes there.

Elie Wiesel tackles just this topic by diving into the biographies of Joshua, Elijah, Saul, Jeremiah and Jonah. All of these characters have flaws, and Wiesel digs into them to help us understand and reconcile the good and bad of their lives and behavior.

The book is remarkably readable, and I found myself not being able to put it down. At 150 pages, it's a quick read. Wiesel's approach of asking more questions than he can answer really does work here.

I have to admit, I also found the book very educational. While the 5 books of Moses are a regular staple at shul, I don't often dig very thoroughly into other books and characters featured in the full Bible. This was a fun way to get a flavor for these persons, and I look forward to going back to the source text to learn more.

If you have even a passing interest of the Bible (or have a thing for flawed people), it's worth picking the book up. You'll see a depth and complexity of character that can easily be overlooked. I give the book a 9/10 for being just an all around great read.

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