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Permission to Kill

Our first reaction is a benumbed sadness. Seventeen dead in a Florida school, shot by a disturbed young man. Then we search for explanations. The killer suffers from mental illness. Like so many others, he is from a broken home. Guns are too readily available. The media frenzy makes the shooter into . . . . Continue Reading »

Job’s Children

In S. Y. Agnon’s 1939 novel A Guest for the Night, one of the protagonists, Daniel Bach, recounts his loss of faith. Throughout World War I, as a soldier in the trenches, he had been meticulous about donning his tefillin to recite his daily prayers. Until one morning, the tefillin . . . . Continue Reading »

An Imposition of Ashes

Just lately from the forest and after a short time on the savannah, humanity acquired a sense of self. We awakened one morning, so it seems, and if we did not know who we were we at least knew we were not like the animals. We knew we died and the animals did not. We possessed an interior . . . . Continue Reading »

School Shootings and the Book of Job

Last Thursday morning, I was teaching a freshman honors seminar in Newberg, Oregon. We were discussing Genesis 32, that enigmatic passage where Jacob wrestles with God. Just south of us, in Roseburg, Oregon, my students’ counterparts were being murdered in their writing classroom. In another of . . . . Continue Reading »

A Man in the Land of Uz

The book of Job has served as a philosophical Rorschach blot for its most outspoken interpreters, from the Talmudic rabbis and Church Fathers through their medieval philosophical successors and down to modern philosophers, theologians, and creative writers. The individual characters in whose elusive speech the narrative unfolds—God, Satan, Job himself, his three interlocutors, the belated guest Elihu—tend to become stock representatives of philosophical positions or exemplars of religious judgment. Continue Reading »

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