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The Beginning of Desire Paperback – September 1, 1996
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“Deserves to be the most widely read book on the Bible in years, perhaps decades.”
“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.”
“A sinewy, powerful, and hauntingly beautiful reanimation of the ancient text of early Israel and of their heroes and heroines.”
“Spectacular readings . . . A beautiful and arresting exercise in biblical literary criticism; highly recommended.”
“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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Top customer reviews
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.
This commentary should be a part of the library of all those who love the Biblical text.
Each chapter has a theme, and all the writing within that chapter is bent on supporting that theme, no matter how far Zornberg has to go to find support for it. This, in itself, is not necessarily a problem. However, many of her references are not self evident, and presuppose a knowledge of Talumudic and other textual references. For example, she talks about the source midrash for a particular understanding of Jacob's desire to settle down, but doesn't describe the actual midrash or place it within the text. Yet in other chapters, she does.
Another annoying practice is to reference events that take place after the particular Torah portion, in support of the chapter's thesis. This would be less annoying if the chapter was not supposedly written about a particular Torah portion, rather than an entire story line. This was particularly evident in her writings about Joseph being sold into slavery by (possibly) his brothers. The Torah portion ends with his sale, but the chapter talks at length about Joseph's re-encounter with his brothers which happens late in the next portion.
Yet, I'm not sorry I'm reading this, particularly in the company of 9 others. It is a very substantive book, and I would probably have thrown up my hands in frustration and not continued, without the companions.