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Wise Men and Their Tales

Wise Men and Their Tales

Product no.: 0-8052-1120-9
In Wise Men and Their Tales, a master teacher gives us his fascinating insights into the lives of a wide range of biblical figures, Talmudic scholars, and Hasidic rabbis.

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Publisher's Synopsis

The matriarch Sarah, fiercely guarding her son, Isaac, against the negative influence of his half-brother Ishmael; Samson, the solitary hero and protector of his people, whose singular weakness brought about his tragic end; Isaiah, caught in the middle of the struggle between God and man, his messages of anger and sorrow counterbalanced by his timeless, eloquent vision of a world at peace; the saintly Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, who by virtue of a lifetime of good deeds was permitted to enter heaven while still alive and who tried to ensure a similar fate for all humanity by stealing the sword of the Angel of Death.

Elie Wiesel tells the stories of these and other men and women who have been sent by God to help us find the godliness within our own lives. And what interests him most about these people is their humanity, in all its glorious complexity. They get angry - at God for demanding so much, and at people, for doing so little. They make mistakes. They get frustrated. But through it all one constant remains - their love for the people they have been charged to teach and their devotion to the Supreme Being who has sent them.

In these tales of battles won and lost, of exile and redemption, of despair and renewal, we learn not only by listening to what they have come to tell us, but by watching as they live lives that are both grounded in earthly reality and that soar upward to the heavens.


"...It is a soft but also a demanding book, as Wiesel insists upon justice for both the characters traditional Jewish interpretation favors and those it maligns. So, Abraham was wrong to send away Hagar and their son Ishmael, for brothers Ishmael and Isaac ought to have been treated equally ('Would today's tragedies have been avoided?' Wiesel asks). Lot's wife was justified, even right, to look back upon Sodom: better to run the risk of turning into salt than to risk turning into ice in the face of total destruction. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi of the Talmud was misguided in his strong desire to meet the Messiah, hoping to bypass death because 'death is still around. And its sword is being used in too many places.'

God is also very much on trial here, as so often in Wiesel's work. Why did God initially make Sarah barren? Why couldn't God have saved the people of Gomorrah, or at least inspired their repentance? Why did God push Saul into kingship, only to cut him off? Why didn't God save Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron who tried to serve with fire only to be consumed by fire? Invoking a tone of near desperation, Wiesel asks:

'Why didn't the God of love spare so many descendants of Moses and Aaron?'

'To bring them closer to him, he tore them from our midst.'


'Vayidom Aharon. And Aaron the father held his peace. Like God. For God.'

Wiesel's strength lies in his utter earnestness. At the end of the day, he is not a hagiographer, but a storyteller turned commentator haunted by the figures that have molded him. 'To comment on a given text means first of all to establish between oneself and the text a relationship of intimacy,' he writes. Here, as in his earlier books, he embraces canonical Jewish texts and famous Jewish teachers as shapers of his particular past, but fashions them into interlocutors for humanity's future. The inheritor of a tradition emerges again as a creator of traditions."         ~New York Times Book Review

Author Wiesel, Elie
Book Type Trade Paperback
Page Count 368 pp.
Publisher Schocken Books 2005
Browse these categories as well: Torah, Talmud and Midrash, Judaism: Prophets and Patriarchs, Noteworthy Releases 2005

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