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Five Books Of Miriam: A Woman's Commentary on the Torah Paperback – December 29, 1997


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Five Books Of Miriam: A Woman's Commentary on the Torah + The Women's Torah Commentary: New Insights from Women Rabbis on the 54 Weekly Torah Portions
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (December 29, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006063037X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060630379
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #313,772 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In this wonderfully imaginative book, Frankel (The Classic Tales, Aronson, 1995), the editor-in-chief of the Jewish Publication Society, presents a chorus of women's voices?from Miriam "the problem," Leah "the namer," Lilith "the rebel," and Eve to "our daughters" ("today's Jewish women and the women of the generations yet to come"), our mothers, and our bubbes ("those who have lived long and seen it all"). The voices speculate and give valuable historical background on the Five Books of Moses as they are presented in the normal order of synagogue readings. What a lively and revelatory exchange it is, and how refreshing it is to hear the points of view of the usually silent women of tradition and the Old Testament. Highly recommended for Judaica collections.?Marcia G. Welsh, Guilford Free Lib., Ct.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

One of the great contemporary knocks against the Bible is that it is filtered through a masculine lens--both the writings and the interpretations. Frankel attempts to remedy this situation by offering biblical commentary from a female perspective. Her framework is a bit gimmicky: she introduces her cast of characters, everyone from Lilith, the first woman, and Hager, the servant woman who bore Abraham's son and mothered the Arab nation, through various commentators, including ancient and contemporary rabbis. After each character or group states its point of view in the first person, the five books of Moses (here renamed Miriam) are presented in portions, as they are read weekly in Jewish houses of worship, and commented upon by the various characters. Important questions are asked, and thoughtful answers supplied from differing perspectives. Why did Abraham pretend Sarah was his sister and offer her to Pharaoh? Why are menstruating women considered unclean? Each portion is short enough so as not to overwhelm the reader, but the commentary gives plenty to think about and reminds us how fully human the people of the Bible were. An excellent addition to public library religion collections. Ilene Cooper --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I recommend it to everyone with an interest in Torah (or Old Testament!)
tzefirah
My friend and I only were able to begin Leviticus together before she passed away but I've recently started to read the book for my own pleasure.
Pam Brinkmeyer
Frankel does a good job of commentating on the Torah from a woman's perspective.
Lee Haas

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Richard Grant on December 20, 1997
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As the title states this is a commentary from a woman's point of view. It is not a feminist manifesto. Although the author is knowledgeable this is not a traditional, learned Torah commentary. The author has created various female characters (named for biblical or other traditional women) to create her commentary as a form of dialogue, almost talmudic at times. The flavor is modern but there is little use of external texts. It is a very personnal work compared to more standard modern commentaries such as Plaut or JPS's own excellent 5 volume commentary. The text of the torah itself isn't included but there are summaries of each section.
The author's pleasure in writing this book comes through on every page. It can be a good source for a Bat Mitzvah girl who needs to do a dvar torah and is looking for some non standard ideas that won't be offensive to anyone who doesn't find a Bat Mitzvah itself offensive.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By tzefirah on November 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed every page of this book of commentary on the 5 books of Moses. I even tried the recipe for red lentils that was offered as the meal that Jacob might have fed to Esau in exchange for his father's birthright.
Ms. Frankel is a noted Jewish scholar, and this book should not be taken lightly, or as a pure exercise of fiction. She is trying to find the voices of Jewish women that were lost in history, whether sad, bitter, or even humorous.
Reading this book, which is broken out into the individual Torah portions, with encapsulations of the Biblical texts, was a wonderful treat. It not only gives its own differing perspectives, but encourages one to think for onesself, to go a different road if that's where your thoughts take you.
This book is well written and lots of fun. I recommend it to everyone with an interest in Torah (or Old Testament!) studies.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. Miller on July 1, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a creative approach to analyzing the Torah with a unique concern for the ways the texts speak to the experiences of women. Frankel, Ph.D., has concocted a playlist of biblical characters (and a few extra-biblical characters) who then essentially read the Torah together and discuss it.

The conversation rolls along dialogically, with various characters proposing various interpretations and discussing the text. It is a wide departure from most exegetical books which attempt to "tell" the reader what the text says. Frankel invites the reader to be a participant in the interpretation, siding with or disagreeing with the various participants. The strongest advantage of the book is not the empowerment of women but the empowerment of students of the Bible.

As a woman's commentary, it is interesting though perhaps a bit obvious. They protest the things you expect the caricatured feminist reader to protest. Their internal disagreements are not so widely divergent as modern feminist writers'. There is, to my mind, no particularly new or creative contributions to the women's movement or egalitarianism. On the other hand, there is nothing here to find particularly offensive, either.

Cryptic is the hermeneutic that Frankel, Ph.D. uses. Somehow "Lillith the Rebel," an apparent alternative to Eve, is given a voice equivalent to Miriam's. From where she chooses her authorities (or dialogue partners) is vague. There are both more and less extreme voices she could have chosen. Similarly, God is called, among other things, "Ha-Rahaman, the Womb-of-the-World" (p. 59), an uncited neologism. I presume this is just Frankel's attempt to be creative, although it feels awkward when she's through.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 4, 1998
Format: Paperback
I have read and re-read this book and find that each reading prompts me to return to different parts of the Tenach. These women invite me to look at different perspectives and make weekly portions review exciting. This work is not meant to be a Rashi commentary and shouldn't be selected as such
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Judith Brocklehurst on November 3, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is an intriguing, enjoyable and sometimes moving read. Not for the biblical scholar or the historian, but great for the lay person. It was not what I expected: I'm a lay preacher and bought it hoping for useful sermon material. I have always approached the Torah seriously, with awe and puzzlement (and sometimes frustration); this book showed me joy and fun and poetry.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By grozny on August 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is an extraordinarilly well-written book by someone whose knowledge in depth and breadth is full enough for the subject! I bought it expecting a feminist commentary. Instead I found a women's commentary. This book may show you the difference. Her technique allows different views to be presented (e.g., both Sarah and Hagar have voices; the rabbies, "our mothers," and "modern sages" have their say). She also engages in delightful touches, such as giving the recipe for the infamous bowl of porridge for which Esau sold his birthright.

Dr.Frankel has great credentials. My only disappointments are that there was no sequal and that there were no citation notes for the rabbinical stories until the end of the book. These are not criticisms; only a reflection of how well she leaves you wanting more. There are, however, citations for each Torah verse discussed on the page of the verse.

Highly recommended, except for the most closed minded. Readers may also want to know that the author previously published a book of 4000 years of Jewish tales. The same positive comments apply.
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