Holy Moses

Last week reader Ivan Sindell wrote with a comment that quoted from the eminent Yale religion scholar Jaroslav Pelikan. Coincidentally, the forthcoming issue of the Claremont Review of Books that we have been highlighting since last Wednesday carries Pelikan’s excellent review of Robert Alter’s new translation/commentary on the the Torah: “New light on the Torah.”
“When the Almighty himself condescends to address mankind in their own language, His meaning, luminous as it must be, is rendered dim and doubtful by the cloudy medium through which it is communicated.” Thus James Madison, in Federalist 37, reminds the aspiring world of “the necessity of moderating…our expectations and hopes from the efforts of human sagacity.” Even divine laws, it seems, must be “considered as more or less obscure and equivocal, until their meaning be liquidated and ascertained by a series of particular discussions and adjudications….[N]o language is so copious as to supply words and phrases for every complex idea, or so correct as not to include many equivocally denoting different ideas.”
All honor, then, to Robert Alter for his illuminating The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary, on which Pelikan meditates in his review. “It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief” in times of need.
This is the last of the pieces from the new issue of the CRB that we will debut here. Let me take the liberty of repeating what I said last Wednesday. Every three months I announce that the Claremont Review of Books is my favorite magazine — every three months because the magazine is a quarterly. CRB is the flagship publication of the Claremont Institute, the organization whose mission it is to restore the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. The magazine is also popular in the White House; 30 copies of each new issue are shipped out by overnight mail upon publication. If you don’t subscribe, you should.
The summer issue of the CRB is in the mail. I think it’s fair to say that the issue is the magazine’s best yet; it is packed full of outstanding essays and thoughtful reviews of books on mostly political subjects that I believe would be of great interest to our readers.


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