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The Murmuring Deep: Reflections on the Biblical Unconscious Paperback – October 4, 2011

4.8 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1939, just before he died, Freud published Moses and Monotheism, his last creative effort. He applied psychoanalytic insights to the story of Moses. Using a somewhat similar approach, augmented by her skills in literary analysis, Zornberg (The Beginning of Desire), a Jerusalem resident and biblical scholar with a Cambridge Ph.D. in English literature, looks at several figures from the Bible, including Adam, Eve, Noah, Jonah, Esther, Abraham, Rebecca, Isaac, Joseph and Ruth. Unfortunately, Zornberg lacks Freud's ability to write clearly, so her text is dense and studded with such odd words as facticity, dysprovidential, conversive, transferential, problematizes, futural, asymbolia and performative. Also, she displays her impressive erudition by quoting obscure Talmudic, psychological and literary sources. The result is a hard-to-read treatise that will be of interest only to a small group of academics. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

In Praise of The Murmuring Deep

“A book for readers who seek out that rare sensibility capable of explaining, exploring, and deepening our sense of what it means to be a human being of faith in a world as fractured and fragmentary as ours.”
Forward
 
“Zornberg tries to lay bare the process by which biblical characters act as they do, and she shows how the Bible employs not just the intelligible, well-ordered language of conscious speech but also the elusive idiom of the unconscious. [The text] becomes in her hands, yet again, a work of mystery.”
The Wall Street Journal
 
“Zornberg’s breadth of knowledge is awe-inspiring. Because she is steeped in such varied sources of knowledge, she speaks to readers of varied backgrounds and interests. This is a book to be savored. There are gems throughout.”
The Jerusalem Report

“In Zornberg's brilliant new work, we have a heroic reconstruction of the rabbinic canon in ways that seek to make it relevant to contemporary readers, allowing them to use their education to incorporate Jewish texts into their actual lives. By opening up the midrashic traditions, Zornberg has given us the freedom to open up the book of our own psychological lives and to understand how the ancient traditions illuminate who we are and what we can become. If education is the very core value of Judaism, it is by reading books like The Murmuring Deep that we can fulfill the precept of Torah study. Avivah Zornberg has permitted us to witness the greatness of the Jewish sages in a freshly creative and intensely dynamic way. The path of such understanding is not simply to allow us to be more religious, but also to better assert our human ethicality and our place in this vast and complex universe.”
Tikkun

“The effect of each chapter is a humble display of quoted erudition. The art of these readings, like that of collage-making or quilting, resides in the unique coherence of the final assemblage. . . . The trusting reader is rewarded with that deeper, more vivid experience of life that comes from confronting the existential, traumatized self and from finding consolation in the Torah’s prolific elusive meanings.”
Lilith Magazine
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken (October 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080521206X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805212068
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #414,128 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAME on April 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
THE MURMURING DEEP

The great works of Life and Literature are those which are read and reread generation by generation. On occasion the dialogue between the generations takes a dramatic turn and a new way and world are opened up. This is what happens for many readers when they are given the interpretative investigations of Biblical Literature by Avivah Zornberg. In her readings of the texts there are whole new worlds of suggestion and surprise which yoke together what might at first seem the most unlikely and contradictory sources and worlds.

In her previous two book explorations of the Biblical text Avivah Zornberg made use of the traditional framework of weekly Torah (Parsha) readings. In this volume she develops her reading through focusing on and elaborating the stories of individual personalities. She does this with her now familiar yet still strikingly original method of combining traditional Jewish religious sources with challenging contemporary psychoanalytical, anthropological, and most movingly , literary sources.

In the course of this she reveals hidden unconscious meanings, depths in the text which even the most experienced reader will often be startled and inspired by. Zornberg is capable of both great profundity and great poetic feeling. Her associative readings not simply inspire but they are capable of moving us personally, speaking to our own present psychological and emotional situation. It is her capacity to read and inspire the Soul which I believe has more than anything else given her the great following she has among those who seriously read and study Biblical texts.
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If you have never before read Zornberg, any of her work may, at first, be a bit intimidating. Her scholarly background is so far-ranging, references seem to come from every kind of source, and it may feel as if you have stumbled into some cerebral wonderland on a very irregular journey. Put the book down, take a deep breath, and start reading it again. Read slowly, if you need. Savor her insights. Let your own mind travel with hers in the exploration of Bible as you may not have known it before now. Zornberg is not afraid to look into corners, open doors, move from room to room in her thought process. If the Bible - Torah - exists for us mere mortals to understand and use as a guide for life, then we must examine it from every possible angle: historical, psychological, mystical, pedagogical. A great Jewish sage once wrote, 'Turn it and turn it, for everything is contained within.' By Jewish tradition, there are seventy ways of examining every verse! Zornberg leads us through the study of a text that has played an integral role in western civilization using the scholarly developments of that same civilization to unlock message and meaning.
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Format: Paperback
Not a book to simply read through casually. This book, from superb Biblical Scholar Zornberg, will virtually dare you to step up your game and, at certain points, demand you read passages several times before the head scratching stops. Indeed, this is a book that needs to be considered with focused deliberation, a piece at a time with ample breaks to reflect and a good translation of the both the Tanakh & Midrash Rabbah near-by as reference. In fact, I had to force myself not to read "the Murmuring Deep" too late into the evening as my mind would be racing afterwords with thoughts of what I just read...making it hard to sleep (a compliment, by the way)

Unfortunately at times the writing style can be described as the biblical commentators equivalent of a Dennis Miller monologue with numerous, frequently obscure, philosophical/psychological/literary references that only a PhD in the classics could adore.. Although the breadth of resources is dazzling I can't help but wonder if at times it also makes it overwrought, almost unreachable and therefor a bit too difficult to enjoy to all but the most well-read. I found myself frequently using Google to look up people...and their backgrounds...as quoted by Zornberg before a passage could come together for me.

That being said, once I did work my way through the chapters, I came out the other side battered but transformed. My previous understanding of the topics were certainly enriched and expanded. Well worth the ardor of wading through the narratives.

Buy this book, give yourself some time and space to really read...then read it again. You'll be better for it.
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If only read one set of biblical commentaries in your lifetime, Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg's ought to be it. She is a master of midrash who elucidates it's cryptic insights by interweaving them with psychological, philosphical and critical textual analysis. It is difficult reading at times but the result is revelatory.
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Anyone who has sat in on Dr. Avivah Zorenberg's classes will appreciate and enjoy this latest book. Organized by themes of communication both internal and external, Dr. Zorenberg combines classic literature, Midrashic interpretation and psychology to create a complete and complex picture of the heritage created by the forefathers, and places it in a thoroughly modern and engaging context.
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