Covenant & Conversation – Genesis: The Book of Beginnings

The Sacrifice of Abraham, 1635 (oil on canvas) by Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (1606-69) Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia/The Bridgeman Art Library / Nationality Dutch/copyright status: out of copyright.

Many things have been said, preached and written about the book of Genesis. One of the best descriptions appears on the inside cover of the dust jacket of a book titled Genesis: The Book of Beginnings by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks:

It is ” (A) … foundational work, a philosophy of the human condition under the sovereignty of God. It is less about God than about human beings and their relationship with God. The theology is almost always implicit rather than explicit. What Genesis is in fact, is philosophy written in a deliberately non-philosophical way. It deals with all the central questions of philosophy: what exists, what can we know, are we free, and how we should behave. But it does so in a way quite unlike the philosophical classics; philosophy is truth as system, Genesis is truth as story. We learn about what exists by way of a story about creation. We learn about knowledge through a tangled tale of the first man, the first woman, a serpent and a tree. We begin to understand human freedom and its abuse through the story of Cain. We learn how to behave through the lives of Abraham and Sarah and their children. Th protagonists of Genesis are astonishingly human; a world away from the heroes and heroines of myth. They are not mighty warriors or miracle workers, nor rulers commanding armies and wining legendary victories. They are ordinary people made extraordinary by their willingness to follow God.

In this book Rabbi Sacks seeks to make the point as stated above that Genesis is ” …a philosophy of the human condition under the sovereignty of God.” He does this in twelve chapters whose names and topics follow the prescribed sections of the weekly Torah readings used in the Jewish liturgy referred to as the Parashat ha-Shavua , or popularly just parasha.

Rabbi Steven Weil describes the book as “An intellectual and philosophical journey through the underpinnings of our faith and the origins of our people”.

The Covenant & Conversation group will be reading and discussing Rabbi Sacks book beginning on October 17. We will meet each Thursday morning and our discussions will begin at nine o’clock a.m. in the library of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Columbia, South Carolina following, for those so inclined, the saying of the Morning Office in Seibels Chapel at eight thirty a.m.

We hope that our reading and discussions will also be “An intellectual and philosophical journey through the underpinnings of our faith. If you live in the Columbia area please feel free to join us as all are welcome.