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The Beginning of Desire [Paperback]

By Avivah Zornberg (Author)
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Item description for The Beginning of Desire by Avivah Zornberg...

Turn the Scriptures over to Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg and what do you get? A unique blend of brilliant literary insights and theological wisdom, derived from a lifelong immersion in rabbinic traditions and lore. With amazing literary sensitivity, Zornberg ingeniously breathes new life into Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Rachel, and Joseph. The author's vibrant spirit, charming personality, and infectious enthusiasm for the Bible draw the reader into the search for meaning where real life and the biblical story intersect. The Beginning Of Desire imaginatively interweaves biblical, rabbinic, and literary sources into a colorful tapestry that is both intellectually stimulating and personally uplifting.

One of the Jewish biblical scholars scheduled to appear on the Bill Moyers PBS special on Genesis, Avivah Zornberg employs an amazing repertoire of literary sources to engage the audience and illuminate the text. Delivering her erudition in a pleasantly lyrical style, the author shares her experience of God with the world. It is an intimate, personal, and revealing encounter no one should miss.
“Deserves to be the most widely read book on the Bible in years, perhaps decades.”
Jewish Exponent
“Not only is Zornberg’s book leagues removed from popular trivializations, it also does what all successful midrash is meant to do: open up new perspectives on ancient texts.”
“A sinewy, powerful, and hauntingly beautiful reanimation of the ancient text of early Israel and of their heroes and heroines.”
Publishers Weekly
“Spectacular readings . . . A beautiful and arresting exercise in biblical literary criticism; highly recommended.”
Library Journal
“Zornberg brings a brilliant mastery of psychology, literature, and Judaismto bear on the Bible . . . This is an extraordinary book.”
The Jerusalem Report

AVIVAH GOTTLIEB ZORNBERG is the author of The Begginning of Desire: Reflections on Genesis (and winner of the National Jewish Book Award), The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodus, and The Murmuring Deep: Reflections on the Biblical Unconscious. She lectures widely in Israel, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. She lives in Jerusalem.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Image
Pages   480
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.23" Width: 6.19" Height: 1.32"
Weight:   1.15 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Sep 30, 1996
Publisher   Image
ISBN  0385483376  
ISBN13  9780385483377  

Availability  0 units.

More About Avivah Zornberg

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg is the author of The Beginning of Desire: Reflections on Genesis (a National Jewish Book Award winner), The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodus, and The Murmuring Deep: Reflections on the Biblical Unconscious (a National Jewish Book Award finalist). She was born in London and received a PhD in English literature from Cambridge University. She lectures widely in Israel, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Jewish Lives (Hardcover)

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Bible & Other Sacred Texts > Bible > Old Testament
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Commentaries > Old Testament
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > General
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Topical
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality > Inspirational

Christian Product Categories
Books > Christian Living > Practical Life > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Beginning of Desire?

Genesis is Still Mysterious  May 8, 2008
Zornberg, Aviva Gottleib. "The Beginning of Desire: Reflections on Genesis", Image, 1995.

Genesis Is Still Mysterious

Amos Lassen

There is something about reading the book of Genesis in the Old Testament that never stops thrilling me. There is so much to read there and so much to interpret and understand that the book is one of the great mysteries of religion and literature. In "The Beginning of Desire", Aviva Zornberg gives the reader some insights but she unfortunately does so in quite a boring style. The book primarily is about understanding the subtleties of Genesis and what they mean for everyday life in the modern age. Zornberg looks at and comments on various portions of Genesis and she relies on early Jewish literature which is not very original. She does add some psychological considerations which dome readers may find new. She presents her interpretations as alternatives and a way to fill in some of the gaps that they feel.
There are things to be learned here but there is little focus and a lot of rambling with no direction. Zornberg seems to write in the stream of consciousness style which really does not work with Biblical texts, I found the book to be an exercise in both futility and humility. The book humbled me by the sheer nature of the undertaking but I found following Zornberg to be an exercise in futility.
Each chapter follows a certain theme and in supporting the themes, the author supposes that the reader is well steeped in Biblical study and has a basic knowledge of Talmud and other early Hebrew texts. The book simply does not do what it sets out to do and leaves more questions than it answers. Perhaps with better organization would have helped. I have read reviews that praise this book so maybe I am a bit critical but I do think that "The Beginning of Desire" does do one important thing. It brings together modern literary and philosophical thought and the book of Genesis. It just does not say what to do with this union.
Humility and Futility  Jan 9, 2007
Reading this book is an exercise in humility, and sometimes futility. Ten adults are reading a chapter a week, tied to the Torah portion of the week, in an effort to understand it together. Zornberg definitely takes us to places we had not considered, incorporates the metaphysical, and appears to be focused on the vertigo we experience when our understanding of the world does not match our experiences. However, she doesn't make it easy to follow, and sometimes we just throw our hands up in futility.

Each chapter has a theme, and all the writing within that chapter is bent on supporting that theme, no matter how far Zornberg has to go to find support for it. This, in itself, is not necessarily a problem. However, many of her references are not self evident, and presuppose a knowledge of Talumudic and other textual references. For example, she talks about the source midrash for a particular understanding of Jacob's desire to settle down, but doesn't describe the actual midrash or place it within the text. Yet in other chapters, she does.

Another annoying practice is to reference events that take place after the particular Torah portion, in support of the chapter's thesis. This would be less annoying if the chapter was not supposedly written about a particular Torah portion, rather than an entire story line. This was particularly evident in her writings about Joseph being sold into slavery by (possibly) his brothers. The Torah portion ends with his sale, but the chapter talks at length about Joseph's re-encounter with his brothers which happens late in the next portion.

Yet, I'm not sorry I'm reading this, particularly in the company of 9 others. It is a very substantive book, and I would probably have thrown up my hands in frustration and not continued, without the companions.

A deep and beautiful commentary   Nov 4, 2004
Aviva Gottlieb Zornberg is one of the remarkable Torah teachers of her generation. All who have attended her lectures in Jerusalem can attest to her great learning, her poetic and intuitive interpretative skill, her effort to read the Biblical text through combining the traditional sources with insights derived from sociological, anthropological and psychological literature. Her radiant and magnetic personality provide a dimension to her lectures inspirationally which the page does, and sometimes does not capture. But her commentary for any one who will take the time and effort to read it carefully yields new insights into the Biblical texts. And again her readings are ones which almost invariably lead us into deeper understanding of the human relationships involved in Tannach.
This commentary should be a part of the library of all those who love the Biblical text.
Zornberg Wanders Aimlessly Through Genesis  Aug 24, 2003
Zornberg's book on Genesis had much promise for me, but the book failed to live up to this promise. The author is certainly well versed in the rabbinic commentaries on the Genesis text, but her writing style is so disorganized, and her intellectual leaps so large that following her arguments often take more time than they are worth. If you are searching for a contemporary analysis of the first book of the Bible, I would recommend Dennis Shulman's Genius of Genesis. This latter book was time much better spent.
Early Jewish Interpretations of Genesis  Jun 15, 2003
This book is primarily about understanding the subtleties of Genesis and its meanings for everyday people. Various parsha are considered and commented upon. The author relies heavily upon early Jewish literature and not much is original. However, many English readers will most likely find some considerations of the psychological nature that they may not have considered before. Alternative understandings are presented to most of the beloved stories in Genesis. These interpretations were not presented as a matter of fact, which I appreciated, but were presented as alternative understandings to fill some holes in the complexities of the literal translations.

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