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Publisher's Summary

Cain murders his brother - and walks. God gets angry - millions die in a flood. Jacob robs his brother - and gets away with it. Every weekend in our synagogues and churches, our children are told stories from the Bible - stories of Abraham and Noah, Jacob and Joseph. But what are these stories really about? In this probing, fascinating, and entertaining book, America's leading lawyer looks at the Bible - and in particular at the Book of Genesis - as a tale of justice done, justice undone, and justice in the eyes of the beholder.

What if an angel hadn't stopped Abraham from sacrificing his son Isaac? What does Genesis seem to be telling us about taking revenge? Or what is it saying about capital punishment? Drawing on biblical commentary from throughout the ages and his own actual court battles, Alan Dershowitz shines a brilliant legal light on the stories that comprise the foundation of our society. What he reveals is how our shared tradition has formed our attitude toward modern-day justice - and why we are all engaged in a never-ending quest to separate right from wrong.

©2001 by Alan M. Dershowitz, All Rights Reserved; (P)2001 by Time Warner AudioBooks, a Division of Time Warner Trade Publishing

Critic Reviews

"A thoughtful, provocative book." (New York Times Book Review)
"Stimulating and enriching." (Elie Wiesel, author of Night)
"...should be [heard] by all who are interested in religion, justice, or both." (Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo)

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I Liked It Anyway ...

In my line of work (similar to the author's) the last thing I thought I would want to read or listen to was a book about law, let alone Hebrew Law. But the title sucked me in and, then, before I knew it I was hooked; hooked on the subject matter, hooked on the voice, hooked on the engaging argument and all of this even though I didn't agree with a good part of it. I think this says something about the author/reader's celebrity. Not celebrity in the Paris Hilton sense, but in the literal sense. Whatever I might think of his political views, I have to say he puts a pretty good argument, in an engaging and persuasive way. On top of that, I think he makes his points without discrimination. You don't need to be a lawyer to get into this book. You don't need to be religious and you don't need to be Jewish. You just have to suspend your belief that there is nothing to be said and you'll like it anyway.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Phil O.
  • San Diego, CA, United States
  • 03-23-15

An ambitious book that lives up to its ambitions

The title is a great description of the topics in this book. I underwent a quantum leap in my understanding of Torah/Old Testament, its legal ramifications, and foundations of Jewish thought. I have not followed the life or work of author Alan Dershowitz very closely, and I understand in various ways he is controversial. However, his exegesis here of this ancient document in legalistic terms (and of course crediting other thinkers where appropriate, and there is a long line of them), and relating it to our present justice system, is fantastic. I am making a bit of a comparative study of the Abrahamic religions, and have been helped in this also by some works by Karen Armstrong (also available here) on Christianity and Islam. I think it very important that we try to comprehend these faiths (and the history and thinking of their practitioners) on deep levels. The maintenance of lives of millions as free as possible from violence may come to depend on it. I am utterly satisfied with this book as having (brilliantly) furthered these aims.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A brilliant study.

As a student of the law I found this book truly fascinating. It sounds the intersection between "divine justice" as portrayed by the Book of Genesis and man's justice expressed both in Hallacha (Jewish Law) and the Commonlaw (Anglo-American legal tradition).

Dershowitz is a remarkably controversial figure. Much of this is his fault as he often fails to explain his highly nuanced positions almost inviting misunderstanding. He seems to almost defy both "soundbiting" and reviews which must distill his very complex and subtle arguments into (in this case) 2000 characters. That disclaimer said, he almost places G-d in the dock or at least subjects his rulings to "judicial review." As an appellate lawyer this is a role which Dershowitz is familiar.

This book should be read by three categories of people. 1) Lawyers/law-students will come away with new insights into their profession that will make them better at their trade and help explain many aspects of the law that many people assume are merely arbitrary. 2) Jews. Dershowitz explains aspects of the Jewish Law in a new and novel manner using his unique perspective and a number of the old commentaries. This book raises excellent Talmudic questions and explores different answers. 3) any Old Testimate scholar or person interested in "divine justice".

I recommend this book. Dershowitz's own narration takes some getting used to but is very interesting in its own right.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Ron Dayan
  • Riverdale, NY United States
  • 04-29-06

Brilliant

Brilliant and thought provoking. Highly recommended!

4 of 8 people found this review helpful