Man and Beast

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9 Responses

  1. dr. william gewirtz says:

    Chiastic structures whether in the Bible or l’havdil secular works often convey what chazal might term remez or sod. Following a variety of patterns, analagous to but often more global in scope than typically more localized at-bash, they are a mainstay of modern literary analysis. R. Leibtag uses them on occassion in his weekly chumash shiur on the har etzion website.

    Chiastic structures indeed demonstrate a unitary text, but offer minimal implication of whether that text was redacted or written, with or without Divine inspiration. Attempts to demonstrate what are beliefs, like that of a single Author, are often counter-productive. I assume you might agree, but your opening paragraph and the connection to the hedge fund manager’s question might be misconstrued.

  2. Neil Epstein says:

    “For two hours, he held us transfixed as he showed repeating ideational patterns in Bereishis…The parallel chiasms from story to story (and there are many of them) are the Torah’s way of conveying great depth of meaning in a particularly concise form. But once revealed, they also form compelling proof of the Torah’s unitary authorship.”

    Many who doubt this belief focus on how the events after matan Torah or Moshe Rabbeinu’s death and question.

    Though I have no doubt that Rabbi Fohrman’s presentation was spectacular and I look forward to reading the Rabbi’s book, how can an examination of only part of the Torah be a convincing proof of unitary authorship?

  3. mb says:


    The use of chiasmi do nothing to promote the idea of a single or divine author any more than the Bible codes do.It was literary form used extensively in antiquity.
    Now if you really want something special to peruse, take a look at the chiasmi in the Siddur. It is replete with examples.

  4. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Does this kind of similarity prove single authorship, or just authorship in the same literary tradition? Would you be able to find similar similarities between Judges and Kings, for example?

  5. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “Attempts to demonstrate what are beliefs, like that of a single Author, are often counter-productive”

    I would guess that it depends on the person and on their amount of exposure to anti-Torah sources; depending on the person, they would either benefit, or not benefit from a particular approach. Some would need to build up the other side of an argument to a greater extent than others, so I can see room for individuality. The same could apply in a different way to inspirational speakers and mussar derashos; I myself respond to some speakers and presentations better than to other.

    The book itself sounds like a great one to share with both frum and secular Jews becuase of its in depth commentary; Rav Dessler writes of how comprehending Torah in depth leads to greater conviction of its Divine design(MME Vol III, pg 177), and this type of commentary can be used by those without more advanced textual skills.

  6. Jewish Observer says:

    “how can an examination of only part of the Torah be a convincing proof of unitary authorship?”

    – think of it as an indication, not a proof

  7. Ahron says:

    I’ve been to several of R. Forhman’s lectures, discussion groups and online classes. They indeed tend to be as revealing, and mind-opening, as Jonathan indicates.

    R. Fohrman’s goal in these explorations–and the ones I have attended were structured very much as joint explorations, upon which R. Fohrman and his listeners embark together–is not to “prove” anything. Whether it be unitary authorship or some or another message of religious or sectarian content; efforts at “proof”, apologetics, or religious inducement play frankly no role in the type of study, thought and analytics that comprise these encounters.

    To the contrary, the goal is to allow the text to speak for itself–and in it’s own language–in the simplest and most human terms available. The Torah text and its message is the main protagonist. Assumptions, wishes and projections have little place in these explorations. Human experience, and the existential questions that such experience raises for every thinking person, plays a large role.

    To me his talks have always been interwoven with a profoundly experiential element for precisely that reason. They are deeply intellectual without succumbing to the siren songs of academicism; instead carrying and fostering a linkage of deep conceptual analysis, lexical/verbal awareness and a broad sensitivity to human experience, I continually reencounter a deep and surprising relevance springing up to greet me in the middle of each study. This mixture of presence, prescience and connection is the happy opposite of what one is subjected to by academic productions.

    A particularly meaningful characteristic of his work–and I find this in contrast to many other contemporary shiurim, particularly those that claim to “engage” the modern world–is his declination of any attempt to try and force the Torah’s text to justify itself on anything other than its own terms and the terms of its intended audience: human beings tasked with undertaking an often perplexing mission in this world.

    Indeed if R. Fohrman did try to stew the text into an illusory “relevance”–or try to cajole it into bolstering some or another claim of religious doctrine–he would not be able to deal seriously with the big and fundamental questions. (And this is indeed why so many contemporary shiurim, frankly, are unable to grapple deeply with fundamental questions). But he does deal with those questions, and does so in a manner that is quite powerful. It is simply and frankly Torah li’shmah. Take it or leave it.

    From this perspective R. Fohrman ends up acting mainly as a translator, sent along to accompany and help decrypt an important message that is just arriving from a long trip. I think the enjoyment and admiration expressed above by R’ Rosenblum are an indication of just how satisfying–and surprisingly fun–it is to dive into an experience where fundamental questions in the Torah, and therefore life, are truthfully confronted.

    While they do not try to bolster any particular doctrinal assertions, R. Fohrman’s talks do reveal a far reaching and surprisingly deep thematic and grammatical unity undergirding broad swaths of the Torah. I cannot really overemphasize how deeply unexpected the discovery of this unity is, or just how broadly it sweeps.

    The picture is an emergent one, but it emerges rather rapidly once you can recognize the footholds and signposts you are already staring at. The emergent structure sensitively and almost playfully urges us forward on a path, begging us to discover just how deeply its many branches and tributaries intersect with each other. Like a “magic eye” image, a shifting of perspective and expectations suddenly reveals a depth and structure previously unimagined.

    As the study progresses it becomes apparent–well, at least to me–that the window of likely authors who could have woven together so integrated and multidimensional and fundamentally whole-some a text grows continually smaller until there seem to be virtually no remaining candidates. It is around this point that each person will have to ask him- or herself what the most likely source of such a sophisticated creation was. R. Fohrman, happily and deliciously, does not directly address it.

    And why should he? The Torah he learns with us is speaking for itself.

  8. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “…It is around this point that each person will have to ask him- or herself what the most likely source of such a sophisticated creation was. R. Fohrman, happily and deliciously, does not directly address it. And why should he? The Torah he learns with us is speaking for itself.”

    Thanks for the clarification regarding R Forhman’s shiurim. This sounds like precisely what R Dessler meant, regarding in-depth comprehension of Torah leading to greater emunah(belief), and if so, The Beast that Crouches at the Door is very relevant to people of different backgrounds, as I mentioned.

    I still maintain that regarding the subject of “proofs”, in general, (which as you indicate is not the point of the lectures, but which others mentioned), there is an element of individuality, and to be effective, one also needs to respond to a person based on their specific mindset, knowledge, or readings.

  9. David Fohrman says:

    Hi there; its David Fohrman here — the author of the work cited in Jonathan Rosenblum’s review here. I thought I would just clarify something which the review mentioned obliquely, but didn’t flesh out all that much, as it seems to have led to some confusion.

    The presentation on Sefer Bereishit which Jonathan Rosenblum saw, dealt with intersecting patterns in Bereishit. Its hard to explain without actually seeing the presentation yourself, but in short, the presentation forcuses on the intersection between two different methodologies:

    A) “Repeating” stories in Bereishit
    B) chiastic structures.

    The intersection between the two works like this: Every once in a while, a narrative will appear in the Torah which seems to intentionally quote, point after point, from a previous narrative in the Torah. What I think I’ve found in Sefer Bereishit is a very extensive series of sections of text, which quote, point by point, from earlier sections of text. But along the way, there are chiasms in each of the parallel sections — at precisely parallel spots. And what’s more, the centers of the opposing chiasms invariably mirror each other.

    This sounds abstract — but if you see it in practice, I think you’ll see what I mean. For those wishing to see the presentation, it is available at, in the “online class archive”. The name of the series is “A Brief History of the World”, and its follow up series is “Abrahama’s Journey”. The series is comprised of about twelve lectures, and is accompanied by powerpoint presentations. Those interested in reviewing the material can contact me for the passcodes necessary to enter the site. I can be reached at [email protected].

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