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Several friends were gracious enough to read the first draft of the manuscript, including my wife, Susan Cahill, John E. Becker, Michael D. Coogan (whose polymath precision and uncommon generosity were indispensable), Neil Gillman, Herman Gollob, Jack Miles, Gary B. Ostrower, Ora Horn Prouser, Burton Visotzky, Robert J. White, and Yair Zakovitch. To them all I am most grateful, for they saved me from not a few errors and misjudgments. But I hasten to add that what errors and imbalances remain are mine alone.

Never was an editor more essential to a book than was my editor and publisher, Nan A. Talese, who sent me back to my desk to write what I only thought I had written. The people of Doubleday could not have been more supportive, and I thank especially Arlene Friedman, Jacqueline Everly, and the inventive, death-defying publicity and marketing team of Marly Rusoff and Sandee Yuen. For the beauty of this book, as of the previous one in the series, I am much in the debt of Marysarah Quinn, who designed the pages, and Kathy Kikkert, who designed the jacket. Alicia Brooks has been of incalculable assistance in many matters, especially in helping me to improve the accuracy of the text. Within Bantam, Doubleday, Dell, Jack Hoeft, William G. Barry, Katherine Trager, and Paula Breen all deserve special praise. No author could hope for a better sales force than BDD’s. To them all, as to my dexterous agent, Lynn Nesbit, I am most grateful.

As I look back over the route that brought me to this study, I find I owe debts of gratitude to friends both old and new in two cities, Jerusalem and New York. In Jerusalem, I was welcomed by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz and his assistant, Rabbi Thomas Eli Nisell, of the Israel Institute for Talmudic Publications. Their conversationserved as high inspiration, as did the warm and welcoming household of Avigdor Shinan and his wife, Rachel. Dr. Shinan’s gracious willingness to introduce me to his colleagues at the Hebrew University was also most helpful. Nor can I forget the generous friendship of Sami Taha. Just beyond the borders of Israel lies Sinai, where it was my good fortune to have as my guide Ahmed Yehia, who showed me many things I would otherwise have missed and enabled me to sojourn among the noble Bedouin. In New York, I was able to study the Bible at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in an atmosphere of such beauty, friendship, and peace that its nooks and crannies will always seem like home to me. By everyone, from then provost Dr. Menahem Schmelzer through the dedicated faculty and staff to the rawest first-year rabbinical student, I was made to feel completely welcome and sumptuously comfortable. There will never be any way I can repay the intuitive help I received throughout my studies from Dr. Burton Visotzky—Burt, a man with a genius for friendship and a razor-sharp mind worthy of all his forebears. I close these acknowledgments by paying special tribute to my Hebrew class, both to my fellow students, as lively and engaged as any I have ever studied among, and to our relentless but always nurturing teacher, Dr. Zahava Flatto. To me, she is , the valiant woman whom Proverbs extols. To them all,

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