David R. Slavitt


Le Veau d’Or

By David R. Slavitt

When I was a boy, I was on Moses’ team, which stands to reason. Clearly, our teacher and the rabbi were on his side, too, and my classmates and I were not only distressed but also puzzled that the Jews should set up a golden calf and worship it, just at the time when Moses was up on the mountain getting the commandments from God. What irony! Or at the very least, what impatience!Read More


Temptations of Urbanity

By David R. Slavitt

‘But the people of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord, exceedingly.” This is presented to us (Genesis 13:13) as an aside, an observation to suggest that Lot’s choice of the plain of the Jordan was not, after all, the right one. We had just been told, in Genesis 13:10, that it was a very attractive tract of real estate, well watered, “like the garden of the Lord,” and “like the land of Egypt.” But as we are told, by the curious foreshadowing phrase in the same verse, “before the destruction of Sodom,” bad things are going to happen. Lot “set up his tent” near Sodom, and, as Robert Alter suggests, this represents a change from a semi-nomadic to an urban existence, which may be Lot’s real offense and which brings with it inevitable but unspecified temptations.Read More


The Rock as a Hard Place

By David R. Slavitt

I have always found the story of Moses in the Desert of Zin where there is no water and the well has gone dry (Numbers 20:1-12) to be knotty indeed, and the more one struggles with it, the tighter and the more uncomfortable are its bonds. We all know that Moses was supposed to talk to the rock, but instead of doing that, he hit it with hisRead More


The Incidental Advantage

By David R. Slavitt

Daniel C. Dennett’s recent book, “Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon” (2006), is a fascinating volume, but it is not my purpose here either to review it or even to try to summarize its highly original approach to what one might call the biology of religions — how they grow, develop, adapt and either benefit orRead More


Horror Flicks

By David R. Slavitt

At the start of this portion, we have a continuation of the plagues, with the threat — and then the carrying out of the threat — of locusts. This is already the eighth plague. And as my ex-brother-in-law used to remark, it is much like the early scenes in horror movies, where somebody turns on the faucet in the kitchen and, instead of water,Read More



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