Like most Bible scholars, I’m often asked how I came to devote my life to me study and teaching of the Hebrew Bible. It’s not an easy question to answer. I suppose the way was paved for me at quite a tender age. Among my earliest, and most agreeable, recollections is my father reading to me every shabbat, with unfailing regularity, from a little two-volumed work entitled Bible Readings With My Children by a “Mrs. Philip Cohen.” I am not certain, but I believe I was about three years old when this regimen began. It continued for a few years.
When I entered elementary school in London, I was considered to be the class “expert” in the daily Scripture lessons, and was regularly called upon to demonstrate my “erudition” before the other pupils. One problem I had was that I would invariably pronounce personal and place names according to the Hebrew rather than the accepted English usage, which I did not know. I would refer to Mosheh instead of Moses, and Mitsrayim instead of Egypt. This “deficiency” much puzzled and irritated the teachers.