Rabbi Francis Nataf’s “Redeeming Relevance In The Book of Exodus” is the second of a five volume series on the Chumash. Consisting of an introduction and seven in-depth essays that are thematically linked to various episodes in the biblical text, Rabbi Nataf successfully explains the events, locales, and personalities of the Exodus experiences with sophisticated detail that treats the engaged reader with respect.
“The Conversation with G-d,” which introduces this book, published by Urim Publications several years ago, sets the tone. Rabbi Nataf recreates the mindset of the Exodus experience, and the reality of the Egyptian civilization within the historical context of the Jewish people’s spiritual existence.
He considers the impact of Egyptian thought and mores on the Jews’ world view, something that was to play itself out in numerous lapses the Jewish people experienced during the desert journey that were attributed to the pagan influence of Egyptian culture.
Other essays deal with the meaning of Egypt as the crucible and cradle of Jewish nationhood and the influence it had in nurturing Moshe’s leadership skills as the Jewish people evolved from pagan slavery to monotheistic-based freedom.
One very unique chapter in this book deals with the family relationship that Moshe enjoyed with his siblings. This nurturing family experience was in marked contrast to the experiences of the patriarchs Yitzchok, Yaakov, and Yosef, whose sibling hostilities dominated the early chapters of the Bible. This relationship is enhanced by Rabbi Nataf’s treatment of Moshe’s father in-law, Yitro, who had a prominent role in assisting Moshe in his governance of the people. Yitro’s advice was crucial in making Moshe’s leadership effective for the remainder of the most difficult 40 years ahead.
Rabbi Nataf is a Jerusalem-based thinker, writer, and educator, a musmach of Yeshiva University. He is a proud ba’al teshuva, a fact that he deals with at some length in this volume. In a chapter dealing with exile, alienation, and the Jewish mission, he states in rather sharp tones the way that religious Jews regard those who come to religious observance later in life. This segment deserves careful reading by all who hold dear the concept of ahavat Yisrael and achdut Yisrael, for within these two concepts lie the integrity and future of the entire Jewish people.
Rabbi Nataf has delivered in this slim volume an eloquent, traditional, yet modern Bible commentary. He clearly defines and expounds upon the communication between man and G-d as an essential component to our physical and spiritual existence.