Prof. Nahum M. Sarna, z"l

March 27, 1923-June 23, 2005

Ha'Aretz, July 13, 2005


Opener of a Window of Refreshing Reflection on the Bible:

Dr. Nahum Sarna, Bible Scholar, Author of Understanding Genesis, 1923-2005

Nahum Sarna, one of the leaders among Bible scholars in our generation, inherited his love of books from his father Jacob, a native of Konin in Poland, where he was known for his public Jewish library. When his father moved to London, he became responsible for the Judaica department at the famous bookstore "Foyles."

Nahum studies at the University of London and received rabbinic ordination from Jews College in London. During the Second World War, he served as a fireman, and from the roofs of the houses, he watched during the Blitz as the capital went up in flames. For years, he did no speak about this, until after the attack on the Twin Towers these memories suddenly returned to terrify him. His son, Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish History, wrote in the newspaper The Forward, that in 1949, his father made aliyah in order to realize his Zionist dreams and his desire to earn a doctorate at the Hebrew University. But the university, that was just beginning to come to itself after its uprooting from Mt. Scopus, was not accepting students for doctorates. He therefore travelled to America and wrote his doctorate on Job at Dropsie College in Philadelphia.

In 1957 he moved to the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, where he wrote his well known book Understanding Genesis that served as a fundamental text for generations of students and opened a window to refreshing reflection on the Bible. From 1965, he taught at Brandeis University, and his students subsequently served as the heralds of Jewish Studies in American universities. His great work during those years was the publication of a new English edition with commentary of the Bible with the Jewish Publication Society. In the end of his days, he was working on a book, that he was not able to complete, about Cyrus and the return to Zion.