What would Genesis be without the letter E?
Initial Instructions is a fresh rendering of the Bible’s beginning with an unusual twist: It uses only 25 letters of the English alphabet.
Initial Instructions strikes words like “the,” “beginning”, “created,” “heavens,” and “earth” from its lexicon. Instead, Rabbi Joseph Prouser finds original ways to render ancient meanings, revealing The Book of Genesis in a new way.
Why undertake this exercise?
For Rabbi Prouser, a lipogram — a text that avoids a particular letter — offers the virtues of discipine and restraint.
“Clichés must be interpreted,” he explains in his introduction. “That which one would ordinarily express in a manner dictated by habit becomes a fresh, carefully crafted statement reflecting heightened consciousness.”
God’s initial act in His constantly unfolding work of cosmogony was formation of our world and its sky. All was, at that point, without form, and chaotic. It was profoundly dark, with God’s Spirit floating in a cosmic limbo. God said: “Now for light!” And it was light!! God saw how good His light was, distinguishing light from dark. God’s light was known as “day.” Dark was known as “night.” Following nightfall was morning. A first day!!
“Amid countless Biblical translations, Initial Instructions stands out for its originality, depth, and grace.”
—Rabbi Jonathan Rosenbaum, Ph.D., president emeritus, Gratz College
“Rabbi Prouser breathes fresh life into familiar texts and allows us to take a step back and admire the artistry of the Scriptures.”
—Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, secretary, Orthodox Church in America
“A delightful translation! The freshness of this translation inspires the reader to see the stories anew. The words of the Bible escape from the confines of the familiar and commonplace and become vivid and stirring. This is a translation to savor, to read and re-read for years to come.”
—Rabbi Pamela Barmash, Ph.D., professor of Hebrew Bible and Bibical Hebrew, Washington University in St. Louis
“I was particularly intrigued with the foundational message of the lipogram, that through discipline (and often through correction), we gain freedom. Rabbi Prouser talks about how discipline and demands often result in beauty, creativity and freedom.”
—Charles W. Dahlquist II, former Young Men general president, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon)
“This fresh translation invites us to newly hear and reconsider our ‘first instructions.’”
—Dr. Charles Flynn, president of the College of Mount Saint Vincent.