Schneider Aviel

Freestyle Exchange of Ideas

A free exchange of ideas is part of truly studying and understanding the Bible in the Holy Land

Bible study in the desert. Photo: Gershon Elinson/Flash90

Shalom dear readers!

When it comes to our thoughts, “freestyle” is certainly not easy for us. I noticed that recently during a group discussion. We all have a ready-made worldview that corresponds to our ideas, insights, feelings and our upbringing. We have been influenced by our environment, our language, culture and the people around us. All of this also shapes our faith and our notion of God.

We all read the same Bible, but often come to different thoughts and conclusions that give us different interpretations of the biblical text and stories. Not for nothing does it say in Judaism that the “Bible has seventy faces.” As we read and understand the Bible for ourselves, its words are hidden inside us like a treasure. If we then present those understandings to others, we can teach one another. Things then get exciting as strange ideas and thoughts shed new light on something that was previously overlooked in the Bible. It has often happened to me personally, for example when debating with friends, colleagues, my wife Anat and my children. Often the text comes to life and creates a deeper insight. Even if I don’t always agree with all of the ideas, they give me new insights. This happened to me recently after I had racked my brain as to why the biblical text uses the Hebrew word for “kill” to describe the first murder when the 10 Commandments states “You shall not murder.” But more on that another time!

Many people often refuse to hear new thoughts, ideas and suggestions, especially when they just don’t make sense to them. The biblical exchange of ideas in freestyle, on the other hand, is part of genuine Bible study in the Holy Land. In the Torah schools you always study the Bible in pairs, because you enrich one another with ideas and insights. When I recently translated a verse from the Hebrew Bible in Switzerland, which says “Noah was righteous and naive in his generation and Noah walked with God,” I had some difficulties. This imagery did not fit with the audience’s view of Noah, who they see as a savior and hero. In the New Testament he is mentioned as a “preacher of righteousness.” Nevertheless, the word “naive” appears in the Hebrew text. We can’t ignore that it’s there. Naive does not necessarily have to be negative, by the way, the patriarchs are also described as “naive.”

Such dialogues and discussions move us! They bring words to life. This is Israel Today. This is who we are and this is the way we write and talk, in our articles, our online video lectures and in everyday life.

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