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Five Cities of Refuge: Weekly Reflections on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy Hardcover – August 26, 2003

4.0 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This commentary, reflecting the thoughts of learning partners Rabbi Kushner and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Mamet on the weekly Torah portion, is insightful and inspiring. For each parasha, or weekly reading, the authors choose a verse or a set of verses that evokes questions or raises difficulties in understanding the text. Yet, instead of sharing the ideas that they pondered and perhaps resolved jointly, their commentaries are presented as two unique and separate entities with little or no connection with one another. As a result, although the book offers valuable explanations and helps elucidate the biblical readings, its format suggests it was simply a convenience to record the opinions of both men and not the result of laborious effort extended by their longstanding mutual Torah study. Kushner's concise one-page analyses sound like shorter versions of the typical rabbinical sermon, questioning incongruities and offering interpretations that are faithful to the text. They will be relatively easy for the novice to understand and learn, reliable and original enough for the Torah scholar to appreciate. Mamet, on the other hand, digresses into contemporary issues and submits commentary that, while fascinating, leaves the lay reader struggling to understand its meaning and its connection to the text. However, those seeking a creative take on the parasha will enjoy this commentary's brevity and intelligence.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"When I was a kid, I used to hide comic books behind my copy of the Bible. Having read FIVE CITIES OF REFUGE, I will now keep it behind my copy of the Bible. It is an invaluable midrash on familiar verses, bringing them alive to contemporary readers. Don't go to synagogue without it. Even if the sermon puts you to sleep, this will keep you awake."
-- Alan Dershowitz
Author of The Case for Israel

"If you think everything to be said about the Bible has already been said, pick up this book of weekly reflections. You will find yourself surprised, awed, angry at times, and always engaged. Lawrence Kushner and David Mamet delve into some of the richest and most challenging of biblical texts and come up with original, often unconventional insights. Read it for learning--and for fun."
--Francine Klagsbrun
Author of The Fourth Commandment

"Lawrence Kushner and David Mamet are both study partners and creative spirits who have touched and inspired the lives of thousands during the course of their respective careers. Their collaboration in FIVE CITIES OF REFUGE has produced a work of rare insight, intelligence, and sensibility. Readers of the Bible will be enriched and moved by their reflections. I recommend this book most highly! "
-- David Ellenson, President
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken; Bilingual edition (August 26, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805242201
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805242201
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,607,258 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is the fruit of a "learning partnership" between Professor Lawrence Kushner and playwright David Mamet. Each man reflects independently on a brief reading from the Torah which they have studied together. This is not a call-and-response presentation. On some lessons, the men make similar observations. More often, however, they seem to approach the exact same texts from wildly different perspectives. If you're the kind of person who believes the Bible is a vital, living, ever-transforming thing, this is profoundly encouraging. The Bible is as fresh as the minds that open themselves to it. They are a deep well; it is impossible to drain these sacred texts dry.
The cities of refuge in the book of Numbers were those cities where people suspected of violent crimes could flee to be protected from the blood vengeance of the family and clan members of one's victims. The citizens of these towns guaranteed your safety until your case could be carefully deliberated by wiser and cooler heads. According to Numbers, there were to be six of these cities within the territory of Israel. For the authors, the five "cities" of refuge are the five books of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). In these five masterworks, students can experience the patience and loving kindness of the Creator while reflecting on their blessings, mistakes, desires, and shortcomings. Safety, the authors seem to be saying, is a necessary prerequisite to exploring the fullness of God's mind and human potential.
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Format: Hardcover
This slim volume is the perfect tool for a Torah study class - or just for seeking out two different perspectives on the Torah. Brevity is not a problem here, but the book is not shallow. Kushner and Mamet are quite capable of making you think and making you want to dig deeper.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
They function as incomplete lectures on some aspect of the reading for the select weeks they've chosen. A thought or fragment, meant for inspiration hovering between Jewish exegesis and a koan. They proceed from the notion that the Torah is infinitely perfect and wise, what appear to be flaws in it are in actuality flaws in ourselves: a perfect mirror revealing an imperfect subject. Mamet and Kushner challenge us to have the humility to confront the divine on its own terms and struggle for the blessing, in so doing gain our own portion of the name Israel. Does it work? Who knows? It's too short!
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