Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Review of Tzvi Sadan's "The Concealed Light"

In a scene from the second act of the Stephen Sondheim musical Sunday in the Park with George, the aging, wheelchair-bound Marie sits looking up at George Seurat's magnificent painting "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte."  Seurat was Marie's father.  Her mother, Dot, was Seurat's lover during the time he worked on what would become his greatest work.  Thus, Dot is featured prominently in the foreground of the painting.

Standing with Marie looking up at the painting is her grandson, also named George.  He too is an artist, but, unlike his namesake, this George is floundering, struggling to find an expression of his own.

Gazing up at the painting, Marie points to her mother and asks, "Did I ever tell you who that was?"  George replies patiently, "That is your mother."

Almost as if without hearing him, Marie begins pointing at every other woman in the painting.  As she does so, she sings:
Isn't she beautiful?
There she is....there she is...
There she is...there she is...
Mama is everywhere---
He must have loved her so much.

George's response is slightly cold: "Is she really in all those places, Marie?"

In The Concealed Light: Names of Messiah in Jewish Sources, Tzvi Sadan shows us how Jewish commentators through the centuries have stood before the Scriptures and, in a way not unlike Marie before her father's famous painting, seen hints of Messiah in the most unlikely places. Sadan gives his readers glimpses---one hundred different tableaus, if you will---of what they saw, concise summaries organized according to different names assigned to Messiah from Scripture by later rabbinic commentators.

Some of the names Sadan brings out are familiar: Branch, David, Lion, Son of David, Son of Joseph.  Others are obscure: Donkey, Adder.  Still others are even more startling: Pierced, Son of God.  All of the names hold profound resonance for those who cherish the Hebrew Scriptures and who are convinced that Yeshua of Nazareth is the Messiah of whom they speak.

The book is quite engaging on a first reading.  In some cases, the connections are challenging to follow (Vav, Stone) because the original Jewish commentators hung their interpretations on the slightest details of the literal Hebrew wording or even lettering.  However Dr. Sadan deftly navigates these passages, enabling readers of all levels to follow the interpretative leaps and bounds.  And with each entry being only two pages long, the book is easily digested over numerous sittings.  I anticipate returning to it regularly for devotional reading.

On a personal note: when I created this blog, I named it Gathering Sparks partially to represent the idea that I felt that there was much beauty, depth, and light in our Jewish traditions, and that it was our duty as Messianic Jews to gather, admire, and be enlightened by those "sparks."  Dr. Sadan's book is a prototypical example of this kind of gathering effort, and I am deeply grateful to Vine of David for presenting it to us in such a beautiful form.  However, it is not enough simply for Dr. Sadan to write it or Vine of David to publish it.  In order for it to reach its full potential, we have to read it---and be nourished by its contents.

In Israel's Messiah and the People of God, Mark Kinzer makes a "radical and scandalous claim"---namely, "that Yeshua constitutes the true center of Jewish life." (p. 64)  Dr. Kinzer is not the only Messianic Jew who has discovered this to be true.  An ever-growing number of Jewish followers of Yeshua are encountering the Risen One, through the work of God's Spirit, within the pages of our Siddurs and the writings of our sages.  The Concealed Light is a powerful witness to His presence within Judaism---for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.


If what I've written at all intrigues you, inspires you, moves you, or reminds you of your own relationship with the Rabbi of rabbis, I exhort you: buy this book.  Click here to view The Concealed Light for sale online through Vine of David.  This review was written based on a advanced review copy I received.


Netzer Chosid said...

Yahnatan, thanks for the review. I didn't even know this book was in the works.

So, what's the diff between this work and say Patai's, "The Messiah Texts", or other works of this nature. What's the chiddush?

Many thanks

Netzer Chosid said...

Not sure if my comment posted...repost.

Yahnatan, thanks for the review. I didn't even know that this book was in the works.

So, what's the difference between this work and say Patai's, "The Messiah Texts" or other similar works? What's the chiddush?

Many thanks,

msisson said...

Your SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE analogy is very is a spark of genius. It's a very suitable description of Sadan's typological insights. I only wish more were familiar with that musical. Perhaps, we're your help, more people will discover both great works.

Yahnatan said...

Thanks, msisson. Not every day I meet a fellow Sondheim-lover within my MJ circles. Would love to chat more..care to private message me via twitter (@yahnatan)?