Loss of a Great Scholar of Our Time

Shavuah tov. I just returned home from a wedding and teaching – a day full of joy, love and the promise of goodness in what is often a challenging world. The chatan and kallah (groom and bride) beamed, soaked up the love and joy surrounding them and had a great time. The party is problably still going on at the house. (This chatan and kallah decided that after the formal reception, they would invite people back to her (now their) home and enjoy their out-of-town and in-town friends and family. A wonderful, beautiful, joyous day.

Then, I come home, turn on the computer and look at the New York Times for the first time all day. It is my custom to look at the obituaries and thus I learned of the death of a great scholar and teacher, Rabbi Dr. Nahum Sarna. He was a great man, a learned scholar and one whose mind, writings and teachings opened up worlds for many. Amongst his accomplishments is the Jewish Publication Society translation of the Tanach. What a loss for the world. The New York Times obituary includes the following:

Dr. Sarna’s writings, commentaries and translations sought to bring the meaning of ancient texts closer to today’s lay reader. Some of his most important contributions were made through the Jewish Publication Society, based in Philadelphia, for which he was principal translator and editor of “Torah (New Translation).” First published in 1985, it remains in print.

Some of his other books published by the society were “Genesis: The Traditional Hebrew Text with New JPS Translation” (1989); “JPS: The Americanization of Jewish Culture 1888-1988” (1989); “Exodus: The Traditional Hebrew Text With the New JPS Translation” (1991); and “Studies in Biblical Interpretation” (2000).

Dr. Sarna’s work reflected a 19th-century movement devoted to the scientific study of Jewish civilization and a more accessible, modern approach to the Hebrew Bible. His commentaries sought to shed light on the narrative, give meaning to archeological finds, add historical and cultural background and present the Bible’s teachings in a spiritual and moral context.

Read the entire obituary here.

May his soul be with the Holy One of Blessing.
May G-d comfort his family among all who mourn.

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