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Posted March 16, 2009
Things of Excellence are Difficult as They are Rare
THE MURMURING DEEP
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 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.
. The twelve essays in this volume are divided into three sections, The first focuses on relations 'Between God and Self' (Seduced into Eden: The Beginning of Desire (Adam) Despondent Intoxication( Noah) Jonah:A Fantasy of Flight) Esther "Mere Anarchy is Loosed upon the World.) The second focuses on 'The Stranger Within' ( In the Vale of Soul- Making Abraham's Journey) Abraham Bound and Unbound: The Akedah) Her own Foreigner Rebecca's Pregnancy ) Blindness and Blessing: Isaac Trembles Twice) The third focuses on relations Between Self and Other (And I Did Not Know.. The Secret of Prayer) The Pit and the Rope Recovering Joseph) 'What if Joseph Hates Us? Closing the 'Book) (Law and Narrative in the Book of Ruth).
In the first section of the work she describes what she calls 'complex issues of communication' involving 'the human desire to know and control the Other, to evade uncertainty and affirm mastery.''But acknowledging God means acknowledging the Other within oneself, as well as the enigmatic human other.' In the second section 'Abraham, Isaac and Rebecca live through moments when consciousness brushes against its limits.' In the third section 'Jacob, Joseph and Ruth seek to affirm connections with others across minefields of betrayal and abjection.'
Each of the chapters is a challenge and demands not simply reading, but rereading for full understanding. This is not a book to be read through as a whole swiftly but rather to be taken chapter by chapter and then reread again. In this sense it mirrors the whole Midrashic interpretative - literature choice selections of which it so richly incorporates. It is not necessary to agree with each of the interpretations but rather to open oneself to them, be challenged by them, learn from them, argue with them perhaps, and also be inspired by them.
Like the Yaakov whose vale of struggle for soul- making she so tellingly depicts Zornberg gives us a sense of struggling for meaning line- by- line, of trying to find and make in each sentence a kind of meaning which will resonate in more than one dimension for its readers.
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Posted February 18, 2010
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