Noting that rabbinic literature describes God as a teacher, Bradley Shavit Artson’s Passing Life’s Tests encourages us to approach Bible stories by asking “what aspect of holiness, what cluster of insight, they mean to transmit, to symbolize, to embody just beneath the surface.” Rabbi Artson, dean of rabbinical studies at the American Jewish University, shows how a wide variety of lessons can be learned from the near-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham. Among other things, he argues, the near-sacrifice reveals a transformation of God, as God realizes that one should not test love: “God retreats from the demand of full or exclusive devotion. . . . There are limits to what one can demand of others, no matter how close they may be.” Artson’s creative book is filled with insights about life and God. This openhearted and psycho-spiritually sensitive reading of the Bible’s stories is a...

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