Genesis: The Book of Beginnings
Covenant & Conversation: A Weekly Reading of the Jewish Bible

Publication date: 1 September 2009

This collection makes Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ brilliant essays on the weekly Torah portion available in book form for the first time. Rabbi Sacks fuses Jewish tradition, Western philosophy and literature to present a highly developed understanding of the human condition under God’s sovereignty.

This is the first volume in the original five-volume series. It contains several concise essays for each portion of Genesis.

The Torah is an encounter between past and present, moment and eternity, that frames Jewish consciousness. In this first volume of a five-volume collection of parashat hashavua, Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks explores these intersections as they relate to universal concerns of freedom, love, responsibility, identity and destiny. Rabbi Sacks fuses Jewish tradition, Western philosophy and literature to present a highly developed understanding of the human condition under God s sovereignty. Erudite and eloquent, Covenant & Conversation allows us to experience Rabbi Sacks’ sophisticated approach to life lived in an ongoing dialogue with the Torah.

As he writes in the introduction: “Genesis is Judaism’s foundational work, a philosophy of the human condition under the sovereignty of God. It is less about God, than about human beings and their relationship with God. The theology is almost always implicit rather than explicit. What Genesis is, in fact, is philosophy written in a deliberately non-philosophical way. It deals with all the central questions of philosophy: what exists, what can we know, are we free, and how we should behave. But it does so in a way quite unlike the philosophical classics; philosophy is truth as system, Genesis is truth as story. We learn about what exists by way of a story about creation. We learn about knowledge through a tangled tale of the first man, the first woman, a serpent and a tree. We begin to understand human freedom and its abuse through the story of Cain. We learn how to behave through the lives of Abraham and Sarah and their children. The protagonists of Genesis are astonishingly human; a world away from the heroes and heroines of myth. They are not mighty warriors or miracle workers, nor rulers commanding armies and winning legendary victories. They are ordinary people made extraordinary by their willingness to follow God…”

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  • Winner, National Jewish Book Awards
Rabbi Sacks’ gift to his readers is his lucid explanations that make use of stories from the Jewish tradition, scholarly explanations, and personal philosophies in a humane and kind tone that illustrates his intense love and knowledge of his topic and a deep respect for the reader… a fresh look at the text and original contribution to the ongoing conversation of our tradition.
Jewish Book World
Concise yet profound, these frequently poetic ruminations make for perfect reading for the lay person or scholar.
Rabbinical Council of America
A great scholar and a great communicator, Rabbi Sacks has done a superb job in crafting commentary that is erudite and accessible to the average reader.
The Jewish Standard
Powerfully interwoven themes transform years of careful reflection into the fresh insights of a moment… Jonathan Sacks at his philosophical, exegetical best.
The Jewish Chronicle