This is very interesting reading. Slate writer David Plotz, who describes himself as never a terribly observant Jew, is reading through the Bible and posting his thoughts and reactions online:
So, what can I possibly do? My goal is pretty simple. I want to find out what happens when an ignorant person actually reads the book on which his religion is based. I think I’m in the same position as many other lazy but faithful people (Christians, Jews, Moslems, Hindus). I love Judaism; I love (most of) the lessons it has taught me about how to live in the world; and yet I realized I am fundamentally ignorant about its foundation, its essential document. So, what will happen if I approach my Bible empty, unmediated by teachers or rabbis or parents? What will delight and horrify me? How will the Bible relate to the religion I practice, and the lessons I thought I learned in synagogue and Hebrew School?
His insights, without the benefit of commentaries and interpretations, are quite fascinating:
Until reading this, I never knew why, when Jews bless our sons on Shabbat, we bless them in the name of Ephraim and Manasseh. It turns out we are following Jacob’s instructions: “By you shall Israel invoke blessings, saying: God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.”… The religious practices Genesis describes are animal sacrifices, altar-building, idol-burying–things that have absolutely nothing to do with my life in 2006. This blessing is the first moment that the Torah intersects with my actual religious life–where its instructions are still living and followed (by me).
So far, he’s plowed through Genesis (“Maybe it was unfair for me to call Lot’s daughters Judea’s Hilton sisters.”) and has reached Exodus 12 (“How stupid is that Pharaoh?”). I eagerly await the rest of his writing. I’m hooked.