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Shadal on Genesis

Samuel David Luzzatto's Interpretation of the Book of Bereshit

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Samuel David Luzzatto (1800-1865), known by his Hebrew acronym Shadal, was the leading Italian Jewish scholar of the 19th century. A linguist, educator, and religious thinker, he devoted his talents above all to the interpretation of the Bible. As a master of Hebrew grammar and usage, he focused on the plain meaning of the text. Although he was a devout believer in the divinity, unity, and antiquity of the Torah, Shadal approached the text in a remarkably free spirit of inquiry, drawing upon a wide variety of sources, ancient and contemporary, Jewish and non-Jewish. As a result, his interpretations may strike even the modern reader as fresh and novel.

Shadal sets the tone with his very first comment on the Book of Genesis (Bereshit):
“The wise understand that the intent of the Torah is not to teach of the natural sciences, but that the Torah was given only to direct humankind on the path of righteousness and justice….  Therefore it is not proper for the Torah scholar to force the Scriptures from their literal meaning to make them conform with the natural sciences, nor is it proper for the critic to deny the Divine origin of the Torah if he finds things in its stories that do not conform with scientific research.”
Shadal’s treatment of Genesis, as well as the other books of the Torah, consisted of his Italian translation of the text and his Hebrew-language commentary.  Here is an all-English version of both the text translation and the commentary, first published in 1998 but now revised and updated to reflect new and newly available sources of information and the latest Shadal-related scholarship.
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