Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Book review: Amudei Hod

Book review:
Amudei Hod - Pages of Glory (Hebrew)
By Amihud Glaser
Feldheim 2008
Reviewed by Shalom Z. Berger

I still recall when someone first showed me a copy of Makbilot ba-Mikrah, a slim volume that simply juxtaposed parallel Biblical texts, highlighting how the same narrative or set of laws showed up in two places with minor differences. While any beginning student knows that there are two versions of the Ten Commandments in the Torah and that the differences between them beg explanation (unless you subscribe to the position taken by the Ibn Ezra that any repeated text was bound to have differences and that in most cases they could be glossed over), seeing so many of such texts placed one next to the other made me realize how even seemingly simple texts in the Torah need to be read and understood within a larger context and framework.

Makbilot ba-Mikrah was first published in the 1960s when the use of different fonts and graphic presentation of texts was barely a twinkle in the eyes of the creative educator. The powerful graphic methods that exist today allow anyone with a simple graphics program to prepare work sheets that emphasize such literary devices in texts as recurring word usage as a leitmotif, chiastic structures and the like. Amihud Glaser, a teacher's teacher in Israel, decided to apply color and schematic designs to the Biblical text of Bereshit and Shemot, and in doing so has succeeded in creating a text that is attractive simply to look at, and upon further examination makes text doubly meaningful to the reader - with barely a word of additional explanation.

Glaser does not offer the entire Biblical texts, he rather chooses key chapters that are broken down in a number of ways, usually offering a page that shows the simple breakdown of a chapter by themes, one that tracks recurring words and one that highlights recurring expressions. Each of these is accompanied by a brief explanation that directs the reader to concepts that can be derived from the parallels, but leaves room for independent, creative thought, as well.

Proverbially, "a picture is worth a thousand words" and nothing that I can share in a review can do this book justice, so I persuaded the author to share some sample pages with Bookjed readers.

These three pages (which the author shared with me in an English version of comments, although the text that is currently available is all in Hebrew) focus on the story of Akedat Yitzhak - the Binding of Isaac - and highlight such things as different names that are used for God, which passage divides the chapter and how the two halves of the chapter parallel each other -
http://www.lookstein.org/resources/glaser_22a.pdf
http://www.lookstein.org/resources/glaser_22b.pdf
http://www.lookstein.org/resources/glaser_22c.pdf

These two pages focus on story of the search for a wife for Yitzhak -
http://www.lookstein.org/resources/glaser_34.pdf
http://www.lookstein.org/resources/glaser_35.pdf

For the non-specialist English speaking educator, there are some challenges in learning the terminology that Glaser takes for granted - even English words that have been Hebraicized will appear unfamiliar to native English speakers. The graphic presentation however, speaks for itself, even if the accompanying notes may present difficulties.

If anything is missing from the book it is an introduction that offers a more detailed explanation of the different symbols that are used to clarify the text. On some level they are intuitive and with use they can be figured out, but especially for people who are unfamiliar with the methodology that is presented, it would ease the transition. The author expressed willingness to make professional development presentations in schools for educators who are interested in the method and how to present it to students.

The book does not yet appear in Feldheim's on-line bookstore, but you can contact the author at amihud@actcom.com for information on purchasing it.

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