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Breath of Life: God as Spirit in Judaism (Paraclete Guide) Paperback – September 23, 2011

4.8 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Rabbi Rachel Tinoner has given us a wonderful little book. In easy but deceptively profound language, she deftly savors the essential unknowability of God, the ubiquity of Torah and the mystery of redemption. Much more than one of those little "one religion" for people of "another religion," books, Timoner gives us an immensely literate and serious, contemporary Jewish theology. Breath of Life, despite its brevity, is a spiritual tour de force." --Rabbi Lawrence Kushner is the Emanu-El Scholar in residence at Congregation Emanu-El of San Francisco and the author several books including Kabbalah: A Love Story

About the Author

Drawn to the rabbinate by her connection to God as spirit as well as a passion for social justice, Rabbi Rachel Timoner was ordained by Hebrew Union College in 2009, where she received the Rubin Prize for Writing, the Stanley Givertz Award for Bible, and the Wexner Graduate Fellowship. She has a B.A. from Yale University. She serves as Assistant Rabbi at Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles, where she lives with her family.

Product Details

  • Series: Paraclete Guide
  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Paraclete Press (September 23, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557257043
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557257048
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 5.1 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #996,166 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
It's true that the Spirit is present in the Hebrew Bible, sometimes seemingly incognito, but many Christians have this sense that the Spirit really wasn't very active until Pentecost. I've found myself, in some of my own writings on the Holy Spirit, making that claim. But, perhaps there is more to the story than many Christians have realized. Having a Jewish guide to this topic would be helpful, and help has arrived. I will confess that I've never really read anything specifically Jewish on this topic until I took up Rabbi Rachel Timoner's new book from Paraclete Press -- Breath of Life. And what a breath of fresh air this book is.

I've read a lot of books on the Holy Spirit, including another recent contribution on the Holy Spirit published by Paraclete Press, Amos Yong's excellent "Who Is the Holy Spirit?" (2011). While many of these books are helpful and contribute to my understanding of the nature and function of the Holy Spirit, rarely do I see something really new and refreshing. Breath of Life offered me something new and even revolutionary. Timoner writes as a Jew, knowing that much of her audience for this book likely will be Christians (Paraclete Press is, after all, a Christian publishing company). I wasn't sure what to expect, though I wasn't expecting to learn anything all that new and revolutionary, and yet I found it that truly opened my eyes to new ways of looking at the Spirit, recognizing that the Spirit didn't just come and go, but the Spirit was and is present and active in all of life's experiences.

The starting point of this discussion of the Spirit involves definitions. Timoner notes that most Christians think of the Spirit in terms of the Trinity, a theological construct that is foreign to Judaism.
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By Bookish on January 12, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Thought provoking and inspiring. Timoner helped me understand more about Judaism as well as the importance of the Hebrew Scripture. I especially recommend this book to the following:
--those who struggle how to reconcile their belief in science with a belief in God
--those who wonder if the Hebrew Scripture/Old Testament is relevant to today
--those who seek answers to the eternal questions of why we exist and why our existence matters.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This is the third book I've read of the six that have been published by Paraclete Press in a series on the subject of the Holy Spirit in various faith traditions (see here and here for reviews on other titles I have read). I have intentions of reading and reviewing all of them eventually, but at this juncture, I can report that I am greatly impressed with the series thus far. Each of the three titles I have read are very scholarly, but not difficult to read and respectfully objective with regard to viewpoints outside the particular tradition they are written.

As the subtitle reads, Breath of Life is written from the Jewish perspective. My history and tradition is of the Christian persuasion, so I wasn't sure what to expect when I began Breath of Life. What I did find, was not only refreshing, but in many ways revolutionary, even to the point that some of my theology concerning the doctrine of the Holy Spirit (pneumatology) has been changed. Perhaps it might be better stated instead of revolutionary, I rephrase my new awareness as evolutionary.

Why the change?

What was it that brought me new awareness that would change my thinking about the Holy Spirit? I think a general understanding of what is meant by "spirit" from the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) was very influential. Rabbi Timoner shares much in the introduction that helps to shed light on some of the translation issues we encounter; this was enlightening to me. Another influential point was the Rabbi's writing in Part One - Creation: Breath of Life; specifically the chapters two through four were very poetic and extremely moving to me. My intellect, my emotion, and my spirit were all equally moved as I read and learned things I had not considered before about the movement and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
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Format: Paperback
As a somewhat disgruntled (wounded) charismatic and committed evangelical, I am always searching for an intelligible depiction of life in the Spirit; however I have never read a book exploring the Spirit of God in the Judaic tradition (despite having an M.Div with an emphasis in the Old Testament). Rabbi Rachel Timoner does a fine job of illuminating the role of the Spirit in the Hebrew Scriptures and the Rabbinical tradition. She writes of the Spirit in hopes to speak meaningfully to both Jews and Christians. Certainly as a Christian I affirm the Trinity and have a different list of religious authorities to appeal to than Timoner does; still there is much here that is fruitful for Christians to grasp and grapple with if we are to do justice to our shared scriptures and lay hold of the gift of God's spirit (through out this review I will try to respect Timoner's lowercase usage of spirit to denote it as God's possession rather than triune person; that I believe more in this regard, does not mean I don't respect her integrity to her tradition and think that it has something to teach us).

Timoner received her B.A. from Yale University, was ordained at Hebrew Union College, has won several awards, is an advocate of justice and the Assistant Rabbi at Leo Boeck Temple in L.A. She grew up as a synagogue-drop-out with no particular interest in God or religion. That was until she began to pay attention to life and had the growing sense of the transcendent, a reality she names as God. The Hebrew words for spirit, ruach and neshamah, name God's immanence and transcendence. Timoner traces the role of the spirit of God through the Hebrew Bible and Jewish tradition exploring three themes which correspond to the parts of this book: Creation, Revelation & Redemption.
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