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The Beginning of Desire Paperback – September 1, 1996

3.8 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Deserves to be the most widely read book on the Bible in years, perhaps decades.”
Jewish Exponent
 
“Not only is Zornberg’s book leagues removed from popular trivializations, it also does what all successful midrash is meant to do: open up new perspectives on ancient texts.”
 —Commonweal
 
“A sinewy, powerful, and hauntingly beautiful reanimation of the ancient text of early Israel and of their heroes and heroines.”
Publishers Weekly
 
“Spectacular readings . . . A beautiful and arresting exercise in biblical literary criticism; highly recommended.”
Library Journal
 
“Zornberg brings a brilliant mastery of psychology, literature, and Judaismto bear on the Bible . . . This is an extraordinary book.”
The Jerusalem Report

From the Publisher

Turn the Scriptures over to Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg and what do you get? A unique blend of brilliant literary insights and theological wisdom, derived from a lifelong immersion in rabbinic traditions and lore. With amazing literary sensitivity, Zornberg ingeniously breathes new life into Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Rachel, and Joseph. The author's vibrant spirit, charming personality, and infectious enthusiasm for the Bible draw the reader into the search for meaning where real life and the biblical story intersect. The Beginning Of Desire imaginatively interweaves biblical, rabbinic, and literary sources into a colorful tapestry that is both intellectually stimulating and personally uplifting.

One of the Jewish biblical scholars scheduled to appear on the Bill Moyers PBS special on Genesis, Avivah Zornberg employs an amazing repertoire of literary sources to engage the audience and illuminate the text. Delivering her erudition in a pleasantly lyrical style, the author shares her experience of God with the world. It is an intimate, personal, and revealing encounter no one should miss.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Image (September 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385483376
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385483377
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,042,550 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAME on November 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
Aviva Gottlieb Zornberg is one of the remarkable Torah teachers of her generation. All who have attended her lectures in Jerusalem can attest to her great learning, her poetic and intuitive interpretative skill, her effort to read the Biblical text through combining the traditional sources with insights derived from sociological, anthropological and psychological literature. Her radiant and magnetic personality provide a dimension to her lectures inspirationally which the page does, and sometimes does not capture. But her commentary for any one who will take the time and effort to read it carefully yields new insights into the Biblical texts. And again her readings are ones which almost invariably lead us into deeper understanding of the human relationships involved in Tannach.

This commentary should be a part of the library of all those who love the Biblical text.
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Format: Paperback
Zornberg's "dialectical" approach to discussing the weekly readings of Genesis marries the secular approaches of literature and philosophy and traditional Jewish "learning" in an exciting and thought-provoking way. She uses rabbinic exegesis smartly and sensitively to explore the layers of the text's meaning in a way that will appeal to rather than repel scholars of modern literature who are also theologically inclined. I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone interested in Hebrew Bible scholarship.
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Format: Paperback
Aviva Zornberg's , Genesis, The Beginning of Desire, is a deep analysis of the first book of the Bible which utilizes insights from the full gamut of philosophers and authors to illuminate the commentary of Rashi, the most central of the classical medieval Jewish commentaries on the Bible. She is a treasure and her insights are illuminating and occasionally open up an area in ways never before explored. I reccommend it highly for all who are dedicated to seeing the world of the Bible in all its depth and compexity.
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By Fagunwa on November 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is for me one of the most intelligent and beautiful books on Genesis I have ever read. The depth of the book takes several (hundred?) readings to fully grasp its height and breadth. A must have.Ms. Zornberg's grasp of her subject matter is awesome and inspiring.
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Format: Paperback
I've been teaching the book of Genesis at the undergraduate level for several years (I'm a New Testament scholar by background), and include excerpts from this beautiful book in a course pack that contains a wide variety of perspectives. My students have a range of backgrounds and biblical familiarity, but consistently, the pages from this book open up possibilities for them that few other texts do. Gottlieb Zornberg writes beautifully, and her sometimes elliptical style befits the indirection of Genesis perfectly. Her juxtaposition of ancient rabbinic interpretation with modern, psychoanalytic theory and postmodern, literary theory stirs the reader's imagination in a new way on every page.

There are plenty of academic commentaries with which to familiarize oneself with the intricacies of Genesis' language and cultural contexts; read some of those first if you are not trained in Genesis' cadences and narrative forms. But once you've got the basics, turn to this book for a depth-meditation on life unlike few other writers can produce.
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Format: Paperback
This is a book you must relax with and take in slowly, lovingly. Any brief characterization of this exploration of Jewish tradition would probably be oversimplifying, but I'll risk that and say that it's a view of Jewish myth and history as an existential search for peace in a fractured world. Zornberg applies her dual expertise--a deep knowledge of Talmudic scholarship and a love of the vast European literary and philosophical tradition--to making sense of the very messy lives of the characters in the book of Genesis. As a Jewish scholar, she flits about the texts of the ages freely, seeing it as an infinite world in which to wander. And to those reviewers who found the book hard to follow--yes, if you're not used to psychological and metaphysical explorations, the twists and turns are difficult and there were many passages that I reread four or five times. But an understanding of things that lie beyond simple rationality is a struggle to achieve, and if you can make it to the end, Zornberg describes even that.
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