Masking and Unmasking Ourselves: Interpreting Biblical Texts on Clothing & Identity

Overview

Our clothes conceal our naked bodies but what do they reveal about our souls?

"Clothes assume a primary importance as a vehicle that suggests character, provides insights into a person's identity and even governs it…. But the problem is that if Oscar Wilde is correct that 'if you give a man a mask, he will tell you the truth,’ then what exactly conveys the truth? Is it the person him or herself or is it the mask, the clothing that he or she wears, that reveals deeper images of ...

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Masking and Unmasking Ourselves: Interpreting Biblical Texts on Clothing & Identity

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Overview

Our clothes conceal our naked bodies but what do they reveal about our souls?

"Clothes assume a primary importance as a vehicle that suggests character, provides insights into a person's identity and even governs it…. But the problem is that if Oscar Wilde is correct that 'if you give a man a mask, he will tell you the truth,’ then what exactly conveys the truth? Is it the person him or herself or is it the mask, the clothing that he or she wears, that reveals deeper images of self?"
—from the Introduction

In this highly engaging look at clothing and identity in the Bible, renowned teacher and scholar Norman Cohen presents ten Bible stories that involve clothing in an essential way, as a means of learning about the text, its characters and their interactions. But he also shows us how these stories help us confront our own life dramas, our own stories, ourselves. In doing so, he once again presents the Bible as a mirror, reflecting back to us our own personalities, ambivalences, struggles and potential for growth. By helping us uncover the garments of the Bible, Cohen shows us how to shed our own layers of insulation to reveal our authentic selves.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"With eye-popping surprises on almost every page, Cohen invites us to reconsider our own disguises (and any visit to the tailor)!"
Lawrence Kushner, Emanu-El Scholar, Congregation Emanu-El of San Francisco; author, I'm God; You're Not: Observations on Organized Religion and Other Disguises of the Ego

"A compassionate meditation on the human condition … Cohen again demonstrates that Torah is the appropriate dressing to cure the ailment of Adam’s mortality."
Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky, Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies, The Jewish Theological Seminary; author, Sage Tales: Wisdom and Wonder from the Rabbis of the Talmud

“Long have we waited for an illuminating study of the biblical mystique of clothes. Thanks now to the lively and thoughtful prose of Cohen, we wait no more.”
Phyllis Trible, Baldwin Professor of Sacred Literature, Emerita, Union Theological Seminary

“Brilliantly informative…. Holds up a mirror and prompts us to reflect on whether the world sees us as we see ourselves.”
Peter J. Rubinstein, senior rabbi, Central Synagogue, New York City

“From Scripture to Shakespeare, Cohen weaves an extended creative midrash ... covering and uncovering layers of meaning in ancient texts.”
Rabbi Judith Z. Abrams, author, The Other Talmud—The Yerushalmi: Unlocking the Secrets of The Talmud of Israel for Judaism Today

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781580234610
  • Publisher: Jewish Lights Publishing
  • Publication date: 2/1/2012
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Norman J. Cohen renowned for his expertise in Torah study and midrash, lectures frequently to audiences of many faiths. He is a rabbi, former provost of Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, and professor of midrash. He is the author of Self, Struggle & Change: Family Conflict Stories in Genesis and Their Healing Insights for Our Lives; Moses and the Journey to Leadership: Timeless Lessons of Effective Management from the Bible and Today's Leaders (both Jewish Lights); and other books.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction
1 Divine Garments of Creation Concealing Our Nakedness, Revealing Our Inner Core (GENESIS 3)
2 Noah's Garments after the Flood Ensuring Protection or Covering Shame? (GENESIS 9)
3 The Garments of Disguise—Am I Jacob or Esau? Revealing and Concealing Identity (GENESIS 27)
4 Stripping Joseph of His Special Coat A Symbol of Power and Status, a Source of Pain and Isolation (GENESIS 37)
5 Tamar Confronts Judah Masks Can Reveal More Than They Conceal about Us (GENESIS 38)
6 Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife Uncovering True Identity (GENESIS 39)
7 Aaron’s Death and the Symbolism of the Priestly Garments Vehicles of Holiness and Transformation (NUMBERS 20)
8 David Dons Saul’s Armor Wearing Our Garments, Embracing Our Own Identity (1 AND 2 SAMUEL) 9 Elijah and Elisha—Transferring the Prophet’s Mantle Passing on Authority, Wearing It in Individual Ways (1 AND 2 KINGS)
10 Esther, Mordechai, and Haman Change of Garments; Change of Identity (THE BOOK OF ESTHER) Epilogue
Acknowledgments
Notes
Suggested Further Readings

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