It might surprise some to learn that I have more in common with Nehemia Gordon than not. After all, I spend a lot of time talking about why I believe he is wrong about the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton. It’s truly not a feud that I have with him personally, since I would agree with the great majority of his stances on biblical issues (as far as I’ve understood them). In this post, I want to enumerate the ways in which I agree with Nehemia Gordon so that people don’t think that I oppose everything he has to say.
- We both made aliyah to Israel. He immigrated to Israel in 1993, and I did the same in 2007. I believe that Israel is the home for every Jew, and that we should at least consider moving to that homeland and upholding the Zionist ideal—that Israel will be our home and protection against anti-Semitism and prejudice.
- We both speak and study the Hebrew language. As he has a Master’s degree in Biblical Studies, I’m absolutely convinced that Hebrew is something that he takes seriously. I know that he reads the Bible in Hebrew, and he does so well. I have no doubt that he generally knows Hebrew as well as any immigrant to Israel who came after his high school years. I’ve also been in Israel for 13 years and hold Hebrew as one of my highest passions. There are many scholars of Hebrew that cannot speak the language, and that’s a problem that I think needs to be resolved. I’m very glad that Mr. Gordon made the effort to learn to speak Hebrew, whereas many who live even thirty years in Jerusalem do not do so—because they are so many English speakers who live there, and it’s easy to surround yourself with people who speak English and never really learn Hebrew.
- We both reject the idea of the Oral Torah as a binding authority. He has adopted the term Karaite to describe himself. I simply think that the Bible takes authority over the Talmud or any other work of Oral Torah. The latter should be used only as a collection of information on how Jews lived in previous times, not as a rule for how we must live today. Where the Talmud goes beyond the Bible, it is within our right to reject it and to choose otherwise.
- We both think that people should not be prohibited from using the Name of God in regular speech. The Bible shows that people used the name in their daily exchanges, and we should not hold to superstitions that say that the Name should not be spoken. If Boaz could use it in the fields with his workers, we can use it with our friends and family.
I’m actually sure that there are many ways in which we hold similar views about life in general. I’m convinced that he would be a great guy to meet for coffee or for a stroll in the old city of Jerusalem. I just disagree with his certainty in proclaiming that יהוה should be read as Yəhōvâ, and I’m afraid that he is too invested in this claim (because of the popular following he’s amassed) to ever be allowed to change his mind.