The Navi Journey
By Rabbi Ilan Ginian
Feldheim Publishers, 2010, 376 pages
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - December 9, 2010
There are multiple methods of interpreting Scripture. Jewish tradition speaks of seventy ways. It uses seventy to indicate a large number, such as when it states that the ancient Israelites offered sacrifices for the seventy nations.
Rabbi Ginian's view of Judges is the approach of Jews who say that God is involved in the daily life of humanity, he manipulates lives to accomplish his purpose, he punishes people if they do wrong, and he may discipline an entire family or nation for the wrongs committed by individuals because they should have stopped the person from doing the wrong. While some may read Judges as a book that occasionally portrays Israelite leaders in an unfavorable light, such as the famous story of Samson, Rabbi Ginian sees God working through the devout Samson to accomplish His purpose. He ends his book by saying that the difficulty that some people have in maintaining faith is that although God is constantly involved in all that occurs in this world, He is invisible.
The following are some of his interpretation: While the Bible states that the Israelites "did evil in the eyes of God" during the age of the judges, "the clear inference is that this was evil only in the eyes of Hashem (God). Had we seen these people with our own eyes, we would not have perceived any evil." Yet, since the Israelites "underwent a general decline, sinking below the spiritual level expected of them…Hashem placed them under the domination of the small Plishti (Philistine) nation for forty years, something that in natural terms would never have happened."
After years of battles, Samson fell victim to the Philistines because his father doubted the words of the angel who predicted Samson's birth. Ginian calls Samson's death "far-reaching effects of errors." Samson never intended to tell Delilah about his hair, but God made him do it. Samson's father was a reincarnation of the biblical Noah and Samson of the patriarch Isaac's son Esau or, according to another view, a reincarnation of Moses' brother Aaron's son Nadav. The reincarnation afforded the souls of the deceased an opportunity to repair past errors and be purified.
Although unstated in the Bible, Samson did not sin by marrying a Philistine girl: the marriage was decreed in heaven, the girl converted, and the pair went through a Jewish wedding ceremony. God wanted Samson to marry this woman to begin Samson's war against the Philistines. However, his wife was unfaithful to him and had an affair with one of the Philistines at their wedding ceremony.
Rabbi Ginian includes moral lessons that readers should learn from the biblical narratives. Thus, for example, people should realize from the Samson story that all marriages are from heaven, and "it is not advisable to uproot what Hashem brings together, and it is improper to mistreat Hashem's gift."
In short, while many understand Judges literally, it is interesting to read this biblical book from Rabbi Ginian's perspective, a perspective that others share with him.