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Dreams of Being Eaten Alive: The Literary Core of the Kabbalah Hardcover – April 11, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"The most important thing to say about the Kabbalah is that it is always the wrong idea to clarify it," writes David Rosenberg. This sentence comes near the end of his strange and beautiful book, Dreams of Being Eaten Alive: The Literary Core of the Kabbalah. The book is a brief exploration of sexuality, spirituality, and psychology. It is sufficiently grounded in biblical tradition to be understood by theological conservatives, and sufficiently unconventional in tone to appeal to theological liberals. "Yes, [Kabbalah] offers meanings," Rosenberg concedes, "but, of even more relevance today, it presents a way of searching for meaning. It ranges from dreams to fear and desire, putting aside all boundaries and taboos in the search for what is truly alive." The book begins and ends with essays entitled, "How to Read the Kabbalah" and "How to Receive the Kabbalah," both of which are less instructional than exemplary. Rosenberg describes his own longings for and experiences of epiphanic moments in waking life that have the feverish and all-consuming qualities of the most vivid dreams. Between these essays lies the real meat of the book, Rosenberg's own translation of the Kabbalah. (His previously published translations include The Book of J and The Poet's Bible.) In this rendering, Kabbalah is an urgent and sensuous book, with valuable (if vague) instructions for living faithfully and greatly. Here's just one example of its simultaneously unsettling and comforting lessons: "Now watch closely. A dream must be interpreted, or else it remains an unread letter.... Forget a dream and no enrichment from its interpretation will come to you." --Michael Joseph Gross

From Publishers Weekly

Poet, author and editor Rosenberg is perhaps best known for The Book of J (1991), a controversial bestseller in which he translated part of the Torah and, together with his co-writer, Harold Bloom, claimed that the sacred text's true author was a woman. In this new book, he tackles the Kabbalah, adding to its secret abstruseness the assertions that it is erotic and kin to what he calls "frontier ecology." Rosenberg opens with a hard-to-read section on "How to Read the Kabbalah," followed by his translations of selections from the Zohar, the Kabbalah's canonical book. The third section, "How to Receive the Kabbalah," contains explanations of the Zohar translations. Unlike Judaism's concern with belief and behavior expressed in a social philosophy and a theological framework, the Kabbalah deals with mysticism, myths, emanations, spirituality and dreams, including the cannibal dream that gives Rosenberg's book its title. Primarily, Rosenberg interprets the Kabbalah as a book "obsessed with failed sex." Rosenberg's ruminations range so widely that they are sometimes difficult to follow; alongside allusions to Kafka and Dante, he refers to the television series Touched by an Angel and devotes nearly an entire chapter to the spirituality exhibited on Oprah. Rosenberg struggles valiantly to elucidate what he means by "frontier Kabbalah," "creative Kabbalah" and "practical Kabbalah," but the end result is a muddle.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony; First Edition edition (April 11, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 060960306X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609603062
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,233,234 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Poet-scholar David Rosenberg is co-author of the New York Times bestseller, The Book of J (with Harold Bloom), and the former editor-in-chief of the Jewish Publication Society. A poet of Toronto Coach House, New York School, and Jerusalem Cricket lineage, he has published several volumes of poetry. A Literary Bible presents thirty years of his original translation from ancient Hebrew.

Rosenberg is a survivor of the writing programs at The New School (with Kenneth Koch and Robert Lowell), University of Michigan (with Donald Hall), Syracuse University (with Delmore Schwartz), and University of Essex, England, where he pursued doctoral studies. He taught for several years at York University (Toronto), the City University of New York, and as a Master Poet for the New York State and Connecticut Arts Councils.

At the age of thirty, Rosenberg retired from teaching. For two decades, while working as a literary editor and translator, he studied the origins of ancient Hebrew literature and the Bible, in New York and Israel (with Robert Gordis, Harry Orlinsky, and Chaim Rabin), while his work appeared prominently in Harper's, The New Republic, Hudson Review, Paris Review and elsewhere around the globe (most recently in Chicago Review, Jacket in Australia, and Open Letter in Canada). A Poet's Bible (1991) won the PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Prize, the first major literary award given to a biblical translation in the U.S.

Rosenberg is the author and editor of more than twenty books, including volumes of contemporary writers on the Bible that first raised the question of how Judeo-Christian culture can be newly reinterpreted. During the past decade he has studied the context for ancient biography, leading to a diptych: Abraham: The First Historical Biography (2006) and An Educated Man: A Dual Biography of Moses and Jesus (2010). He continues to publish critical essays on poetry, as well as his long poem, The Lost Book of Paradise (1993) and a literary version of Kabbalah, Dreams of Being Eaten Alive (2000).

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
David Rosenberg warns the reader early on that this isn't a primer on Kabbalah. He isn't kidding: if you have never read anything about Kabbalah, or have only read the most simplistic (and usually misguided) "Kabbalah for Idiots" type of book, save your money and don't buy this book. After you've spent several months reading serious treatments of Kabbalah, then you can come back to this one. As others rating this book have said, Rosenberg presents anything but "what is Kabbalah." His treatment tastes more of a Zen or Sufi master than of most "popular" would-be teachers of Kabbalah.

If you approach Dreams of Being Eaten Alive from that point, disconnect your brain, and open everything else, you can get something from the book. He talks a bit about sex and Kabbalah. Don't get all excited about it. In fact, don't even think about it. Just let it be.

If the book has one shortcoming, it is that he doesn't make clear that his translations of selections from the Zohar are not the complete Zohar. But, then, if you come to the book from a good grounding in Kabbalah, you know that already.

Dreams of Being Eaten Alive is one small piece of the puzzle that is Kabbalah. Keep it in that perspective and you'll gain great benefit from it.
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Format: Hardcover
David Rosenberg book is the first I read which does not explain Kabbalah. Like love, Kabbalah canot be explained.
The reader gets help to FEEL what Kabbalah is. The authors, David Rosenberg and Rhonda Rosenberg, use modern day sensations and ideas, accessible to a contemporary. I include Rhonda Rosenberg as an author, as she contributed to the most important chapter of the book, Part III, "How to receive the Kabbalah"
The lecture of this chapter is a sufficent reason for buying this book. No other spiritual book I read managed to 'click' more precisely that kabbalistic sensitivities, - from the same root as poetry - that any human being alive must have in various incipient stages.
The reader can not be passive. S/he must participate, s/he must execute its own 'applet' (pre-existent computer-program-like soul component)) to respond to that 'click'.
The Rosenbergs describe the reader pre-requirements as follows: "an affinity for play and abstraction, along with a sympathy for the necessity of it..."
In other words, did you ever dream? Then, after waking up, did you wonder what the dream means? Did you ask - one step further - why does one dream? Why don't we sleep solidly all the nights of our lives? If these questions are significant for you, then you MUST read at least part III of this book.
Because "the desire to come upon meanings in disguise is analogous to the wandering of the rabbi companions in Zohar." As we drive cars to work and let the mind wonder for a bit, as we stop a moment to reflect upon anything that happens to us, we realize that that is more to everything we see around us. Someone concealed to our mind meanings.
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Format: Hardcover
If you're looking for a "Kabbalah 101" book, then this is not the book for you. Rosenberg does a wonderful job of explaining why the Kabbalah is, not what it is. This is a book of mystical truths and archetypes. His interpretations are insightful and provocative. A must read for the seeker of the non-traditional genre.
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Format: Hardcover
Dreams of Being Eaten Alive is a personal rendering of selections of the Zohar, the central mystery text of the Kabbalah, written mostly by Moses de Leon but attributed to an earlier author, Rav Shimon bar Yohai. The textual trick of claiming authorship for others mirrors, according to author David Rosenberg (a Bible expert, and coauthor with Harold Bloom of the The Book of J), the technique of the writers of the Old Testament in attributing their writings to others or the Other. This is a highly idiosyncratic book and the most idiosyncratic section, Part III, How to Receive the Kabbalah, with its references to Oprah and defense of Derrida's immersion in reading the individual, the author admits was cowritten with his wife, Rhonda Rosenberg. The multiple authorship cloud of attribution (here real, but in the Kabbalah to imaginary) is reminiscent of the literary trickery of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin or Nabokov's quasi-comical critical glosses. Although hardly exhaustive, there are fascinating teasers in this translation and commentary--such as Rav Abba weeping when he sees a fruit turn into a bird and fly off a tree. This is alleged to be more than a metaphor, as birds due disperse trees so perhaps (in some sped up view of theGarden of Eden, say) there is an ecological reality to what at first seems just fantasy or poetry. (This book does a strange move towards what it considers to be evolutionary ecology, or "frontier ecology," probably because they believe in the possibility there for a convergence of truth and myth.) One gets the feeling in this gloss both of protonovelistic technique in the medieval writers of the Kabbalah and of the attempt to reveal their experience by mystics knowing the superior effectiveness of oblique communiques.Read more ›
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