The Dynamic Bible

An interview with the researcher and educator Pinchas Polonsky about his radical new approach to Bible commentary.

Pinchas Polonsky is a leading educator in the Russian-speaking Jewish community in Israel and the diaspora. Born to secular Jewish parents in the 1950s and a student of mathematics as a young man, he became committed to Israel and Judaism as a student in the mid-1970s, studying both Hebrew and Torah in clandestine groups. Subsequently he became involved in the samizdat publishing of guides for Jewish observance, including a Passover Haggadah. But his own road to Israel was long. He lived as a refusenik for seven years before being able to immigrate to Israel. Thereafter he shifted his attention from mathematics to Torah and attended several yeshivot, and later Bar-Ilan University, where he studied Jewish philosophy, finishing his formal education with a doctorate in the sociology of religion. During this period, he continued his service to the Russian-speaking Jewish community as a part of the Machanaim educational community.

The arc of Polonsky’s biography is essential to his Torah education. Raised in a secular and scientific world, Polonsky’s commitment is not only to Jewish education but to the modernization of Judaism. He describes himself as part of the radically modernist wing of religious Zionism, understood as the Orthodox modernization of Judaism; an active modernization combined with a strict adherence to an Orthodox Jewish approach to texts and halacha.  He considers this approach to have been initiated by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook and Rabbi Leon Ashkenazi (Manitou), and together with Rabbi Oury Cherki he seeks to extend this project.

Bible Dynamics is the latest in a series of publications by Polonsky that articulate the modernization of Judaism. While many of his previous writings are commentaries on the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Avraham Kook, this work is a commentary on the Torah sources themselves from his modernizing perspective.  First published in Russian and now available in Ukrainian and English translations, the commentary draws heavily from the teachings of Rabbi Leon Ashkenazi and Rabbi Oury Cherki as well as Polonsky’s own insights.  Intrigued by the ambition of his project, I read Bible Dynamics with a core question in mind. What did Polonsky mean by modernizing and how has he accomplished this goal in relation to a text that seems completely outdated to many Israelis?  This interview probes these issues in relation to Polonsky’s biography and experience.

Your new bible commentary is called Bible Dynamics. What do you mean by dynamics?

‘Biblical Dynamics’ means that Torah heroes change in the course of their lives, reconsidering their former views. They therefore shift to a new level of understanding of the Torah text and teach us a very important lesson. Usually, we perceive the heroes of the Torah as whole, integral personalities. Of course, they are different. Each of them has its own character, its own unique features, its own Sefirah, to put it in kabbalistic terms. However, we see each of them, first and foremost, as a whole character. As a general rule, if a character evolves in the Torah, they only improve their existing strengths. Seen from the perspective of Bible Dynamics, the Torah heroes revisited and changed their former views and attitudes. This reflection and revision of their former position is an approach I have never seen before.

For example, seen from this perspective, Abraham did not simply fulfil the divine plan right away. Abraham had a plan of his own, and his plan was in serious conflict with God’s plan, because initially Abraham had very different beliefs. As God and Abraham interact, God consistently motivates Abraham to reconsider his views. Thus, God does not directly improve Abraham or make him stronger, but facilitates Abraham’s change. Or, more precisely, Abraham changes himself in the process of dialogue with God.

Moses, as well. I was struck by how much Moses changed himself, as shown by Manitou. Once, about fifteen years ago, I was invited to a Haredi yeshiva for Shabbat. I had just begun to study this approach to Torah. Despite the fact that I was an outsider—not a Haredi—I was asked to give a lecture as a well-known Torah teacher in the Russian-speaking community. After I told them about the dynamics of Moses and his development, they were shocked. They said: “What you are saying is some kind of heresy, it’s unacceptable. How can you even say that about Moses, that he did not initially understand something, and then understood? Who are you? We don’t want to listen to you, because you must speak about the Patriarchs respectfully, looking up to them, admiring them, not criticizing them. This is unacceptable and contrary to the entire Jewish tradition.” Everyone at that yeshiva said so: both the students and the teachers. This incident showed me once again how new the approach was (which I had just begun to study, and which eventually became the basis for Bible Dynamics) and how completely different it was from everything that had been studied and said about the Patriarchs in Judaism before.

How did you come to this understanding of biblical exegesis and who and which texts are the sources for your commentary?

The approach to Torah that I am describing here, I learned from the lectures of Rabbi Oury Cherki. In his lectures, Rabbi Cherki systematized Manitou’s ideas and structured them as a commentary on the Torah. Unfortunately, Rabbi Cherki has not yet published his lectures as a book. So, building upon Rabbi Cherki’s lectures, my Russian book Bibleiskai Dinamika (‘Bible Dynamics’) is the first systematic, consistent and complete exposition of the new approach to Torah. It is now being translated and published in English and other languages. However, I hope that eventually Rabbi Cherki himself will turn his approach into a book in Hebrew.

In Bible Dynamics, you claim that your approach departs from that of medieval commentaries about the biblical characters, which consider them faultless. If the Bible lends itself to a reading of the moral and spiritual evolution of the patriarchs – is the medieval tradition wrong? If so, what do we do with it?

I am definitely not claiming that the approach of previous commentators was wrong. Rather, the Torah has many layers of meaning; therefore, in different epochs commentators focused on different layers, those of particular importance for a given epoch.

The approach of the medieval commentators was of great importance for their epoch, but it has lost none of its significance today. The approach that I am describing is intended to complement other commentators, not to challenge or refute them. After all, the Torah is very rich in meaning, and if one commentary contradicts another, it does not mean that one of them is wrong, just that they are different “faces” of the “seventy faces of Torah.”

What is the value for modern readers today in understanding the patriarchs as evolving personalities? Was this not true for earlier generations? And what does this notion of evolution tell us about the biblical view of the human condition?

Today, our understanding of the world is evolutionary, essentially dynamic, which is different from past epochs’ perception of the world as static (this was particularly evident in Maimonides’s idea of the “static God”). However, this does not mean that past epochs were wrong: simply, both perceptions are true. Speaking of Divinity as capable of development and change, Rav Kook argued that in Divinity there is both shlemut, “absolute completeness,” and hishtalmut, “constant development.” It is obvious that logically these concepts contradict each other, but human logic is too limited when approaching Divinity.

Therefore, both wholeness and evolution are important. A major disadvantage of our generation is the lack of evolution. As Rav Kook put it: “The spiritual demands of society have increased. What was appropriate for previous generations is not sufficient for our generation. Not that what was suitable for the past generations has been proved wrong—it remains right and valid in the present. But to have only the heritage of the past in the present is not enough. Therefore, the aspect of evolution must be added to the aspect of wholeness.”

When we place the concept of the evolutionary development of biblical characters at the core of Judaism, we help the entire religious system to evolve. It also means that we can influence this system, because the essence of Jewish religious life is not only the implementation of Torah, but also its development, not only the realization of religious principles, but also their dynamic transformation and improvement. The growing sense that the purpose of religious life is not just to observe the commandments, but to influence the Jewish Tradition itself, is characteristic of our generation. Following Rav Kook, I believe that there is a new higher level of the “spiritual demands” of the people.

As we know, the Jewish Tradition speaks of the ongoing degradation of generations, and many mistakenly understand it as an eventual and inevitable collective degradation of the people. I think this is wrong, because those who have degraded are the people’s teachers. By degrading generations, we should discuss degrading leadership: Moses was above all the prophets, the prophets were above the sages of the Talmud, and the sages of the Talmud are above today’s rabbis. However, parallel to degradation of leadership, with each succeeding generation the progress of the people increasing spiritual demands and the overall rising spiritual level occur. In this sense, the Messianic era is seen as a time when no one would need a teacher but would directly learn from a Divine source within, so the collective spiritual level of the people will rise to that of the teachers. This is possible precisely because we will be “standing on the shoulders of giants,” that is, the entire past generations, not only their leadership. In this sense, spiritual life is seen as evolving rather than static. To reinforce this evolutionary framework, it is important to bring dynamics to the interpretation of Torah.

In addition to moral and spiritual development, there are a few other important themes that arise in your commentary – one is Jewish universalism. You state at one point that the first nation God reveals himself to is Egypt. Tell us a bit about the Jewish view of the universal that you describe in your commentary.

I learned that the first nation that God reveals himself to is Egypt from Manitou. I am only quoting him in my commentary, but it is right there—in the text of the Torah. In general, universalism is an integral part of Judaism, embedded in its very foundation. When I was young and just started studying Judaism in 1970s USSR, the current of spiritual life—the uncontrolled, independent, underground forms of it—was very strong. Some Soviet Jews seeking spirituality divided into two factions: those who converted to Christianity, and those who remained faithful to Judaism and leaned toward Zionism. One of the converts, Alexander Men, rose to prominence and became an influential Russian Orthodox priest who opposed the official Church and Soviet authorities. Once, during an informal discussion, Father Alexander asked the “Zionists,” “Tell me, does the Torah and Judaism in general exist only for the Jews or for all humanity?” The Zionists, whose knowledge of Judaism was, at that time, limited to a few superficial popular books, replied, “Of course, the Torah is only for the Jews.” To which Father Alexander replied, “Then Judaism cannot be a truth, because truth is bound to be universal. A teaching that does not speak to all humanity cannot be a truth by definition.”

When I heard this—I was about eighteen or nineteen years old then—I was keenly aware that Father Alexander was right. Indeed, how could the Divine truth not be universal, open to all humanity? I, of course, remained within the framework of Judaism, but I was eager to look beyond those popular books arguing that Judaism appealed exclusively to the Jews; therefore, I was looking for its universal components. Due to the lack of relevant literature in the USSR, only in Israel have I discovered and been able to study Rav Kook’s ideas on universalism in Torah and the Jewish tradition.

Studying Rav Kook and eventually moving on to study with Rabbi Oury Cherki, I saw that on the one hand, universalism is immanent to Judaism, however, on the one hand, much of it has been purged from Jewish tradition in the diaspora. Rav Kook explains it this way: “The diasporic Judaism is in the katnut, ‘smallness,’ stage, because the task of Judaism in the diaspora is to survive.” To assure survival, Judaism had to shrink, so both the national and universal aspects of it have been suspended, while what we call the traditional, orthodox aspects of Judaism remained and have been emphasized. In the orthodox view, after the destruction of the Temple, in exile, “God has nothing in this world but the four cubits of the Law [i.e., halacha],” as the Talmudic sages put it. So, survival was prioritized, while national revival was seen as a matter of the distant future—the Mashiach [Messiah] will come and take care of everything; and as a concern for future generations—we are waiting for the Mashiach every day, but we are only waiting and do nothing ourselves. So, in order to survive in the harsh conditions of the diaspora, the national goals of the Jewish people were downplayed in Judaism and the people’s universal mission was almost abandoned.

For this reason, at the end of the nineteenth century and especially in the twentieth century, when the Jewish people began their return to the land of Israel and to the stage of gadlut, “greatness” (as opposed to “smallness” in the Diaspora), both the Jewish nationalist and universalist movements took shape outside the religious framework of Judaism as two currents, opposing each other and both opposing traditional Judaism. However, already then Rav Kook believed that “in fact, this [division] is a temporary phenomenon. In order for Judaism to be complete, both the national and the universal aspects must be integrated [within the religious framework], and only then will Judaism find its wholeness.”

Over the past century, religious Zionism has integrated Judaism with national Jewish values. This is what we call religious Zionism today. However, the integration of Judaism with universal values has not yet been achieved, and I think that this process has only started recently. There are two main movements in today’s religious Zionism: Hardal—Haredi religious Zionists, and liberals, that is, universalists. I also think that in the future, on the next level of development, a new movement—universal religious Zionism—will emerge parallel to the existing religious Zionism. This new movement will accomplish the integration of universal humanitarian values with Jewish national and religious orthodox values, thus realizing Rav Kook’s vision—the wholeness of Judaism.

Another theme in the commentary is that of the Jew of the diaspora and the Jew of the land of Israel, since the Bible includes archetypes of both. Tell us about those archetypes and about their meanings.

I have actually already talked about this: Manitou calls the Jew of the Diaspora a Yehudi, “a Jew,” defined by Judaism and belonging to the community, and the Jew of the Land of Israel—Ivri, “a Hebrew,” defined by country/land and belonging to the nation. Manitou sees the return to the Land of Israel as a transition from Yehudi to Ivri on the individual level, and the revival of Ivri-ness in exchange for Yehudi-ness on the collective, national level.

What for you is the most controversial claim of Bible Dynamics for the secular or even more generally modern reader, and what interpretation in Bible Dynamics do you think is most counterintuitive for the secular reader?

Honestly, I don’t know how to answer these questions. I never thought about any of my arguments in the book as “controversial” or “counterintuitive.” However, often, after reading my books, people will ask me questions that I did not imagine being asked when I wrote them. I think that it’s normal and that such questions should naturally come out in dialogue with readers. Generally speaking, I don’t see my book as a message of truth to be accepted without question. Instead, I see it as the starting point of a dialogue. I am very glad to be asked questions, and often in response to difficult questions I myself begin to think and listen more to what my readers have to say. Let them speak, and we will talk.

Bible Dynamics is the most recent in a large corpus of writing. Is it a departure for you, and if so, how? If not, how does it connect to an underlying theme in your writing?

Since my aliyah to Israel, I have been studying the intellectual heritage of Rav Kook, so Rav Kook and, in particular, his ideas of the modernization of Judaism, has been and currently is the principal focus of my studies and the “underlying theme” in my writings. There are three main books, or rather sub-themes that I continue to develop. The first is Rav Kook’s contribution to Judaism, his teaching as a whole. I published a large monograph on this in Russian, some of which has been translated and published in English and Hebrew. The Hebrew publication has received very positive reviews from the world’s leading experts on Rav Kook. The second is the modernization of Judaism in a broad sense; that is, I approach it not only as a religion or theology, but as a civilization. I discuss this in my Russian book Israel and Humanity, based on the lectures of Rabbi Oury Cherki. The third is Bible Dynamics—a discussion of the modernization of Judaism in the form of commentary on the Torah.

Currently, I am working on a book on the history of and contemporary developments in religious Zionism. I hope to have it published in a few months in Russian, and eventually translated into English.

I am also working on a number of books tackling the essential ideas of Kabbalah from the perspective of Rav Kook’s teachings. So, in short, this whole corpus—both the teachings of Rav Kook and the modernization of Judaism—is the main subject of my studies and writing.

Thinking about dynamics, tell us a little about your evolution from a secular Moscovite Jew to one of the most prolific and active Torah teachers in the Russian language in Israel, Russia, and the Russian Jewish Diaspora (USA especially).

My evolution from a secular Jew, to a religious Jew, to a Torah teacher took place in the Soviet Union. First, I became a Zionist, and since I was a Zionist, I began to study Hebrew, Israel’s official language. Additionally, I wanted to learn about the national culture, so I began to study Judaism and eventually became religious. However, Zionism remains the core of my complex personal Jewishness. In 1981, I started to write books for underground, samizdat publications. My first book was about the Passover Seder. My friends—both religious and non-religious Jews—and I wanted to have a seder. It was possible in the underground circles to obtain a Russian translation of the Passover Haggadah. However, it wasn’t clear how to convey the story to people long detached from Jewish tradition in an engaging, interesting way. Thus, my first book included the Passover Haggadah with a translation and my own commentary, aiming to reconnect the readers with the story of the Exodus and its meaning. In 1987, when the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev started Perestroika, among the first things he did was to allow the “refuseniks” to leave the USSR, so I was finally able to emigrate to Israel. However, during the six years from 1981-1987 when I was still living in the Soviet Union, I published a series of books on the Jewish holidays, a series of commentaries on Genesis, and a few brochures on various topics. All of these books were published underground and were distributed as photocopies.

When I came to Israel and formally established Machanaim (a grassroots Moscow Jewish group also formally established in Israel, aimed at providing traditional Jewish education to Russian-speaking Jews in the USSR and Israel) in a free country, not in the Soviet underground, I became the editor-in-chief of the group’s publications. Initially, we planned to republish our series of books on the Jewish holidays, on a new, more professional level and including new material. In addition, we published the Sidur She’arei Tefilah (a prayer book, ‘The Gates of Prayer’) with commentary and the Machzor Shearei Teshuvah  (a holiday prayer book ‘The Gates of Repentance’) on the Days of Awe with commentary. I also began to study Rav Kook and published books on his teachings. At that time, I did not revisit my Torah commentaries written in Moscow for republication because it was unclear whether or not I could say anything new. After all, the commentary written in Moscow heavily relied on the Art Scroll edition of the Bible and the editions prepared by Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik and other famous authors. After thirteen years in Israel, around the year 2000, I met Rabbi Oury Cherki and started to study his – that is, the Manitou’s – approach to Torah. Only then did I see a whole new field of work. At the time, however, I was only able to republish a short commentary on the first chapters of Genesis, based primarily on Rabbi Soloveitchik’s writings, and was not confident enough to attempt a new commentary of my own.

However, studying with Rabbi Cherki, I learned a lot of new material and eventually resumed my work on biblical commentary. In 2006, when my book on Rav Kook was completed, I started seriously working on Bible Dynamics and published a commentary in Russian on a certain part of the Torah every year. Thus, by 2020 I finished the first stage of the Bible Dynamics project.

Currently, I am editing and even partially rewriting the Russian version of Bible Dynamics to make it more consistent, because the commentary on Genesis, written fifteen years ago, in many ways differs from the commentaries on the other books of the Torah written later. To be sure, during those fifteen years, my approach has also changed.

My two-part commentary on the books of Genesis, and my commentary of Exodus has recently been published in English. Currently, I am working on publishing a restructured and amended English commentary on the Book of Genesis, and an English translation on the books of Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Leviticus.

The two volumes of the Genesis commentary and that of Exodus have been published in English. The Genesis commentary is being reprinted to include the first chapters, which were not included previously, and in one volume instead of two. A translation of the Book of Numbers is also available. Then Deuteronomy and Leviticus will follow.

During this evolution, my perspective has changed. I became more aware of the universal approach to the development of Judaism. Initially, I adopted it but did not fully grasp it. Eventually, studying the ideas of the Manitou and working on my commentary, I was able to understand and articulate it. I now hope to keep moving in this direction, particularly in my books on history and the contemporary development of religious Zionism.

You are part of a community of Russian Jews who became observant and adopted a national-religious perspective. Tell me a little about your relationship with your Israeli children as a community? Are they also your students?

The community of Russian-speaking Jews who have adopted a national-religious point of view is by no means homogeneous. Likewise, religious Zionism in Israel is not a unified political platform and not a uniform movement: there are Haredi and modernist streams. In this sense, I represent only one segment of this community, not all Russian-speaking Jews in Israel, not all religious Zionists, and definitely not all Russian-speaking religious Zionists. My goal is to promote the modernist platform within religious Zionism in the Russian-speaking community in Israel, and hopefully, eventually, in the English and Hebrew-speaking communities as well.

As for my children, they are essentially Israeli, not Russian by culture, even those who speak some Russian. For them (except for the oldest kids, who came to the country at a more mature age) Russian is just a linguistic means used to connect—in conversation—with their parents and other Russian speakers, often with no more than a few words. They are not my students and each of them follows their own path in life framed by their Israeli perspective. I must add that I do not want to create my own school; I aspire to make my own individual contribution to society, and then, building upon this contribution, anyone can hopefully find their own way and synthesize their own ideas.

I was also wondering about your personal relationship with the broader community of Russian immigrants and their children in Israel, but also more generally between religious Zionist Russian Jews and others who might identify as secular and even increasingly anti-Zionist.

I do not have an answer to this question. There are always different kinds of relationships. I have friendships with some people and not with others. Whenever it’s possible, I try to maintain friendly relationships with people of different views, but no more than that…

As for my work with Machanaim and its relationship within the Russian-speaking community in Israel, it is part of one stream of the Russian-Jewish community made up of three diverse groups: those who are not interested in religion at all, those who are interested in religion and share the modernizing or Zionist platforms, and those who are interested in religion and share the Haredi platform. Interest in religion does not imply intense religiosity or even basic observance. One does not need to be very religious in order to share the Haredi, that is, ultra-Orthodox platform.  However, the perception of religion is of great importance here and it is the main factor that divides the Russian-speaking community in Israel. Some believe that religion should not change and should remain the same as it has been many centuries ago; others believe that religion could be changed and should be modernized. The contacts between the three groups, especially on the institutional level, are minimal, although there is personal contact between individuals.

On a different note – what about growing up in Russia has most influenced not only Bible Dynamics but your work more broadly?

I think that what shaped me is not that I grew up in Russia, but that I studied in a physics and math school (Fizmat, by its Russian acronym). That school was a special place where they did not just teach you advanced math, but also a unique, critical approach to everything, including social phenomena. It is no coincidence that the main core of Machanaim is made up of former Fizmat students.

In terms of Bible Dynamics, my main goal is to reach out not only to Russian Jews, but, for example, to Christians. I consider the dialogue with Christianity the most important thing. The Ukrainian translation of Bible Dynamics, which is now being published in Ukraine, is not intended for Ukrainian Jews but rather for Ukrainian Christians. It is translated by a Protestant and includes two prefaces: one by a Catholic priest and another by an Orthodox priest.

The English translation of Bible Dynamics is perhaps first and foremost for English-speaking Jews, but my second priority as readers are Christians interested in the study of the Bible. They could be Evangelical Protestants, Neocatechumenal Catholics, and virtually anyone interested in the Bible in general.

To me, making an impact on all of these groups seems far more important than making an impact on the Russian-Jewish community. This is a dying community, for the simple reason that for the most part, the children of Russian-speaking Jews are no longer Russian-speaking. In the next generation, we will not have a Russian-Jewish community any longer. The Russian heritage is likely to remain, but it will be framed and expressed mainly in English. Therefore, I do not aim at creating any special Russian-Jewish institutions—this is only necessary now, at this transitional stage, that I myself belong to. However, in the future I very much hope that my books will have an impact on Russian Christians, Hebrew-speaking Jews, and English-speaking Jews and Christians.

I am interested in Christian readers, because I think that together, Judaism and Christianity represent a common Biblical framework of humanity. It is important to me to modernize and to promote this framework. By Christianity here, I mean all Christians, not only those in the West but also in the East—in Korea, for instance, and everywhere in the world. Parts of Bible Dynamics are now being translated not only into English, but also Spanish. Eventually, I hope to have it translated into many other languages. I definitely welcome all kinds of readers, including non-religious ones, but in general I think that interest in the Bible among religious readers is much higher, so I see them as my most important audience.

After WWII, we speak in France of the Ecole de Paris, forged by the experience of the Holocaust and the marriage between the scholarly tools of the university and the commitment to Jewish tradition as a source of meaning. Is there a Russian-Jewish equivalent, or are there other Russian-Jewish teachers and scholars you feel your work belongs with? If not, where would you place your work?

The early 1970s were my formative years in the Soviet Union. As I mentioned, my high school years at the Fizmat school were most impactful. Many of my school friends were Jewish, born to families who were planning to emigrate to Israel or were dissidents. There were all kinds of Jewish and dissident literature going around in our environment. In general, this was the time when the Jewish and dissident movements in the Soviet Union were on the rise, and this influenced me greatly.

As a result, by the end of high school I had already firmly decided that I had to leave the Soviet Union and that I belonged in Israel. When I started studying Judaism, I was not alone; we had a large group of people of my generation from Fizmat schools and universities. We sought to learn from the sources which we called “Judaism for the intelligent reader.” From the outset, we believed that true Judaism was best represented by its modernizing trend. In particular, the ideas of Rabbi Soloveitchik, who integrated Judaism and the modern university, were most appealing to me at the time. Rabbi Soloveitchik’s writing style and modern Western vocabulary made his books accessible and very important to me. On the other hand, I had heard a lot about Rav Kook, but could not grasp his ideas because the literature that could be obtained clandestinely in the USSR did not adequately explain Rav Kook’s teachings, nor his approach to Torah.

As soon as I arrived in Israel, I began to study Rav Kook’s teachings. It was the time when a large aliya (immigration) from the Soviet Union was arriving, and one of our (i.e., Machanaim’s) tasks was to try to engage at least some of these new olim (immigrants) with Judaism. That is, with the modernizing trend in Judaism, based on our vision developed earlier in Moscow. So, if you put me in some context, it is the context of the Jewish underground, dissident, and refusenik movements of the 1970s-1980s USSR. And I should add a few words about the refusenik movement; among the refuseniks, the role of the group to which I belonged was to bring Judaism to secular Jews who did not want to become religious but sought to embrace Jewish culture. Here, too, the concept of the modernization of Judaism, in my view, was indispensable.

The Jewish underground, dissident, and refusenik movements in the USSR, and Rav Kook’s school in Israel, are the two main components that have shaped me as an intellectual, scholar, and teacher. Later, at Rav Kook’s school, I met Rabbi Cherki and studied with him. This encounter shaped my current position—the most radical one within the generally moderate modernist position of Rav Kook’s school.

I would like to end with a question about further work, what for you is the next frontier in Jewish learning?

At this point, I plan to continue working on the publication of the revised Russian edition of Bible Dynamics and its translation into other languages. My first priority is the promotion of Bible Dynamics, because it is not enough to write and publish a book – it still needs to be promoted, which is no less important than the writing. Using the metaphor of the Tree of Life—a kabbalistic diagram of the Sefirot tree—I would compare the levels of Chochma, Binah, and Da‘at to the conception of a book; Chesed, Gevurah, and Tif’eret—to the writing of a book, and Netzach, Hod, and Yesod—to the promotion of a book. Therefore, I plan to put a great deal of effort into the promotion. As for new books that I plan to write, I am thinking of such topics as the philosophy of religious Zionism, and the modernization of Judaism in the contemporary world. If I have the time and energy—if the Almighty gives such a gift to me—I would be very interested in expanding the approach of Bible Dynamics and writing a commentary on the Books of Prophets, especially Nevi‘im Rishonim, the Former Prophets. But this is the next stage, for the distant future, after the work on the promotion of Bible Dynamics and on writing about the modernization of Judaism is completed.

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