Freedom Journeys: The Tale of Exodus and Wilderness across Millennia


How does the story of the Exodus echo in our own generation and in our own lives?

"For us to hear the Oneness of God, we must grow into a place where the cosmic and the political are deeply the same truth."
—from Part V

The story Jews retell on Passover is about rising up against tyranny, about the triumph of the God who sides with the despised against a resplendent emperor. Exploring how this tale applies to our own time enriches the ancient ...

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How does the story of the Exodus echo in our own generation and in our own lives?

"For us to hear the Oneness of God, we must grow into a place where the cosmic and the political are deeply the same truth."
—from Part V

The story Jews retell on Passover is about rising up against tyranny, about the triumph of the God who sides with the despised against a resplendent emperor. Exploring how this tale applies to our own time enriches the ancient account—and it expands and transforms the community for which Exodus is a collective family story.

Exodus is not only the saga of the escape from slavery, but also a story of courage, celebration, rebirth and community from which people of all faith traditions have learned and can continue to learn. Calling us to relearn and rethink the Passover story, Rabbi Arthur O. Waskow and Rabbi Phyllis O. Berman share:

The enduring spiritual resonance of the Hebrews' journey for our own time
Social justice, ecological and feminist perspectives on the Exodus
How the Passover story has been adapted and used by African American as well as Christian and Muslim communities to provide insight and inspiration.

With contributions by

Dr. Vincent Harding: “Exodus in African America: A Great Camp Meeting”

Dr. S. Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana: “Exodus in the Qur’an: Mercy, Compassion, and Forgiveness”

Ched Myers and Russell Powell: “Exodus in the Life and Death of Jesus”

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"It was the Exodus story that undergirded the civil rights movement; but as Arthur Waskow and Phyllis Berman demonstrate in this fascinating book, even Martin Luther King didn't plumb the entire story, which we need now more than ever."
Bill McKibben, author, Eaarth; founder,

“A powerful retracing of the Exodus story that reminds us all of our obligation to move against oppression and toward freedom in our own lives and in our own time. Waskow and Berman bring the iconic Jewish journey into our time, making the fights against evil and the searches for food, for health, for justice and for peace a part of what it means to be a Jew in the twenty-first century. Study is important, the sages say, because it leads to action; this book tells us why and how to put the teachings of our Torah to work building community and creating greater democracy. Waskow and Berman remind us that we are all on our own Freedom Journey. They look into our history and use it as a mirror to reflect on the issues of our day, noting the work of many in the twentieth century who led fights for freedom and suggesting how we should be picking up the challenge.”
Ruth W. Messinger, president, American Jewish World Service

“Arthur Waskow and Phyllis Berman are among the most creative interpreters of Torah in the past forty years, and Freedom Journeys is one of the most exciting interpretations of Exodus in contemporary Jewish literature. Combining very personal takes on the text with a profound rereading of traditional commentaries, Waskow and Berman have created a book that should be used at every Seder and in every synagogue in America.”
Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor, Tikkun Magazine,

“The story of Moses, Pharaoh, and the Exodus is familiar to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, but the familiarity is often superficial. Freedom Journeys encourages us to consider the deeper meanings of this story, and challenges us to apply the understanding we gain to transform and heal our broken relationships with each other and with the rest of creation.”
Sheila Musaji, editor, The American Muslim

“Many of the Hasidim saw the world as God, wrapped in robes of God so as to seem material. Yet they knew that God’s Own Self was fractured in the world we live in, and so both world and God need our acts of healing. Today, a new paradigm of a Judaism is emerging that is in harmony with tikkun olam and will help heal that brokenness for all humanity and all our planet. Freedom Journeys helps us to bring to birth a new world as God and our forebears did in the Exodus so long ago.”
Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, co-author, Jewish with Feeling and A Heart Afire

“This collection is a lush tapestry of visionary, incisive, and inspiring reflections on the Exodus and Wilderness stories. May Arthur’s and Phyllis’s inspired writing move many to work together for liberation from oppressive structures of our own day, both globally and locally.”
Rabbi Amy Eilberg, Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning; first woman ordained by The Jewish Theological Seminary

“With fresh, bold, insightful interpretations on the well-known Exodus texts, Freedom Journeys, written by two of this generation’s most compelling prophetic voices, eloquently invites us to remember and to rethink how our ancient mission addresses the most urgent crises humanity faces today.”
Rabbi David Saperstein, director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

“The stories of the Israelites’ journey to freedom have inspired Jews, Christians, and Muslims throughout the centuries. Waskow and Berman retell the tales yet again, weaving in the voices of fellow travellers, ancient and contemporary, from among the children of Abraham. The result testifies to the incredible enduring power of these narratives, their connection to the lives of men and women confronting the challenges of their own times. The authors answer the question 'Study or action?’ with a resounding ‘Yes!’”
Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer, associate professor and director of Multifaith Studies and Initiatives, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

“Rabbi Arthur Waskow has spent a lifetime showing, through study and action, how the biblical tradition calls us to a way of living marked by care for the neighbor and care for the earth.In this wonderful little book, he—along with Rabbi Phyllis Berman and several Christian and Muslim colleagues—invites us ‘to relearn and rethink’ the Exodus story in order to grasp its essence as a journey of freedom.In this way, we see the text’s immediate relevance to the pharaohs and plagues of our era.”
Michael Kinnamon, general secretary, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA

“A deep meditation on the timeless—and timely—relevance of the Exodus narrative. In the grand tradition of mystical exegesis, Waskow and Berman reflect upon Exodus not only as an event that happened ‘then’ and ‘there,’ but a paradigm of movement that is happening here and in the now, for all of us, Jew and Muslim, Black and White, male and female. A joyous, wondrous, and profound classic.”
Omid Safi, professor of Islamic studies, University of North Carolina; author, Memories of Muhammad

“Provides those who wish to embrace or encounter a liberal reading of the Exodus story the book they have been seeking. In their inimitable words as well as the essays they have collected from Christian, African American, and Muslim writers, Arthur and Phyllis have created a repository of exegesis and interpretation that will offer inventive, very liberal, and innovative pathways to understanding the narratives and midrashim that have been a part of this ongoing and changing story for the past two thousand years.”
Rabbi Steve Gutow, president and CEO, Jewish Council for Public Affairs

“The Exodus is one of the most powerful stories in the Bible, telling of a people’s liberation from captivity to freedom. Waskow and Berman, gifted storytellers in their own right, also show how others see it as an archetype for similar stories in Christianity, Islam, and the southern freedom movement. Freedom Journeys is a book that will be informative and inspiring for those involved in current movements for justice.”
Jim Wallis, president, Sojourners; author, Rediscovering Values

“It is educational to learn of Freedom Journeys of the past, but awe-inspiring when these authors show how they can be experienced by people of all faiths today.”
Laleh Bakhtiar, PhD, first woman translator of the Qur’an

“Brings the Exodus story freshly and powerfully into our contemporary lives, offering a moving Torah of transformation that will undoubtedly impact many hearts and minds alike.”
Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, author, Surprised by God: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Religion; editor, The Passionate Torah: Sex and Judaism

“A prophetic book for the challenges we face in today’s troubled world. Chapter after chapter contains the biblical foundation for addressing poverty, care of the earth and living in peace together on this fragile planet as brothers and sisters. I recommend this book of universal wisdom to people of all faith traditions.”
Bob Edgar, president, Common Cause; former general secretary, National Council of Churches; former president, Claremont School of Theology; former member, United States House of Representatives

“Opens the way to fresh, rich, and challenging readings of biblical tales of exodus and exile, return and reconsecration. Join these wise guides on this spiritual journey and experience the text renewed and illuminated by their brilliant interpretations and deep immersion in stories that cross boundaries and bring together all who value and seek freedom. You will be richly rewarded.”
Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell, PhD, union rabbi and worship specialist, Union for Reform Judaism

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781580234450
  • Publisher: Jewish Lights Publishing
  • Publication date: 2/1/2011
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 1,217,890
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Rabbi Arthur O. Waskow is recognized as one of the leading thinkers of the Jewish renewal movement. He has been at the forefront of creating Jewish renewal theory, practice and institutions. He founded and directs The Shalom Center, and is a Pathfinder of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, an international network. He is founder and editor of the journal New Menorah, and helped found the Fabrangen Cheder and the National Havurah Committee. His previous books include Godwrestling; Godwrestling—Round 2: Ancient Wisdom, Future Paths, which was named "Best Religion Book of the Year"; The Freedom Seder; Seasons of Our Joy; Freedom Journeys: The Tale of Exodus and Wilderness across Millennia; Torah of the Earth: Exploring 4,000 Years of Ecology in Jewish Thought, Vol. 1: Biblical Israel and Rabbinic Judaism; Torah of the Earth: Exploring 4,000 Years of Ecology in Jewish Thought, Vol. 2: Zionism and Eco-Judaism; and Down-to-Earth Judaism. He is the co-editor of Trees, Earth, Torah: A Tu B'Shvat Anthology (Jewish Publication Society).

He and his wife, Phyllis Berman, who is also a leader of Jewish renewal, often join to speak, teach new forms of prayer and lead retreats and workshops in many Jewish and interreligious settings. Together they wrote Tales of Tikkun: New Jewish Stories to Heal the Wounded World.

Waskow lives in the Philadelphia area. He has two grown children of his own, is "associate parent" for two others and has one son-in-law and one daughter-in-law.
Rabbi Arthur O. Waskow is available to speak on the following topics:

  • Freedom Journeys across Millennia
  • Jewish Wisdom on the Earth and Human Earthlings
  • Praying with Our Legs: Social Action Rooted in Spiritual Commitment
  • Transformative Judaism
  • The Flow of Jewish Time

Click here to contact the author.

Rabbi Phyllis O. Berman is co-author, with Rabbi Waskow, of A Time for Every Purpose Under Heaven: The Jewish Life-Spiral as a Spiritual Path. Rabbi Berman is the program director of Elat Chayyim, a Jewish retreat center for healing, and coauthor of Tales of Tikkun: New Jewish Stories to Heal the Wounded World. Berman founded in 1978 and now directs the Riverside Language
Program, an intensive English-language school for adult immigrants and refugees from around the world. With her husband, Arthur Ocean Waskow, she lives in Philadelphia, and she shares four grown children, one son-in-law, and one daughter-in-law.

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Table of Contents

Preface: Why Should We Relearn the Story? xv

Part I From Nomadic Freedom to Imperial Slavery 1

1 Entering the Tight and Narrow Place 3

2 Controlling the Family 7

3 Controlling the Realm 11

Part II Midwives and Moses 15

4 From Benevolent Despot to Vindictive Tyrant 19

5 Giving Birth to Freedom 22

6 Drawn Forth, Drawing Forth 32

7 The Fiery Voice at the Burning Bush 36

8 Toward Freedom-or Toward Death? 45

Part III From the Palace to the Sea 53

9 Facing Pharaoh 55

10 Who Hardened Pharaohs Heart? 60

11 Brickmakers' Union Number One 65

12 Recalling the Past, Transforming the Future 69

13 The Sea of Ending and Beginning 72

Part IV From the Sea to Sinai 75

14 The Taste of Freedom 77

15 Before the Sinai Marriage 82

16 The Wordless Torah of the Wordless Mountains 86

17 Sinai: The Universe Says "I" 88

Part V Encountering Wilderness, Creating Community 93

18 Carrying the Sacred Space 95

19 The Green Menorah 101

20 Sacred Time: The Seventh Day 103

21 Sacred Time: The Seventh Year 111

22 Transforming Our Festivals and Our Lives 117

23 In the Dangerous Doorways 121

24 Sacred Clothing, Holy Body, Naked Torah 124

25 Two Kinds of Holy Light 127

26 Food, Our Innards, and God's Inwardness 130

27 Strange Fire, All-Consuming Commitment 132

28 The Emerging Torah of Same-Sex Sexuality 134

Part VI Death, Rebellion, and War 139

29 Into the Earth 141

30 Staring Death in the Face 144

31 Meeting Brings Disaster, and a Cure 147

32 To Remember, to Blot Out 152

33 From Genocide to Purification 157

34 Dying Leader, Dying Generation 162

Part VII Across the River 167

35 Living on the Edge 169

36 Wind, Rain, Sun, Soil, Seed Are One 173

37 The Land Shall Not Become Mitzrayyim 177

38 Soldier, Go Home! 180

39 Moses as Prophetic Model 183

40 Joshua Meets God's General 185

Part VIII Across Millennia 187

41 The Rabbis Cross Their Own Red Sea 189

42 The Rabbis Climb Their Own Mount Sinai 195

43 The Rabbis Sing the Song of Songs: Love as Freedom 198

44 Exodus in the Life and Death of Jesus Ched Myers Russell Powell 203

45 Exodus in the Qur'an: Mercy, Compassion, and Forgiveness S. Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana 210

46 Exodus in African America: A Great Camp Meeting Vincent Harding 217

47 Freedom Journey for the Planet? 225

Acknowledgments 237

Notes 239

Suggestions for Further Reading 240

About the Authors 244

About the Contributors 247

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