A unique examination of Moses.In her latest book, National Jewish Book Award winner Zornberg (Bewilderments: Reflections on the Book of Numbers, 2015, etc.) presents a rich, erudite study of Moses. This is a true readers' biography, drawing on a full range of commentators and writers, including the great ancient rabbis, more modern scholars and philosophers, and secular writers ranging from George Eliot to W.G. Sebald. The author seeks to find the human Moses behind the great biblical legend; this is not the same as seeking a "historical Moses" but instead, a discovery of the humanity behind the great leader of Israel. To do so, Zornberg painstakingly excavates seemingly familiar passages for hidden nuances and signs of Moses' own trials. She finds, among other things, a man of two cultures and two peoples yet comfortable in and accepted by neither. She finds a man lacking the confidence to address his people directly yet willing to make demands and complaints to God himself. She finds a man who encounters his people both veiled, and thus cryptic and unknowable, and also unveiled as a vulnerable leader. Finally, she finds in Moses a man who wrote his own story. What we know of Moses we know through the books of Moses. He is his own biographer. With the help of the many thinkers Zornberg cites, readers are introduced to nuanced yet eye-opening new views and interpretations of otherwise familiar texts. For instance, at the Burning Bush, God tells Moses, "they will listen to your voice," but Moses eventually argues, "they will not listen to my voice." God then delegates Aaron to do the speaking, but Zornberg asks if God's plans might have been more readily fulfilled had Moses himself believed in the promise and spoken for God as originally planned. A meaty, worthwhile biography by a great interpreter of Jewish texts.
A recent response to Avivah's lecture to students: Dear Avivah, I'm reading over our summer seminar feedback and am in the question asking fellows about the 3 speakers, sessions, or experiences that were most impactful. I'm only reading the second submission and already you've been mentioned twice. I wanted to share this one with you. We are so grateful to have you teach our fellows. Thank you. The last speaker we met with, Avivah Zornberg, did something strange and beautiful in her session with us: she made Moses human in a way that I did not know was possible. She connected Torah to the outside world fearlessly, quoting from literature and language of cultures around the world, designing a narrative of loss and humanity that somehow connected the whole summer into a perfect last thought. She brought the purpose of the Torah back to human life, to understanding the deep desires of every human and the sacrifices and balances that must be made for the benefit of a community. Moses' grief, his pleading, was brought into the room, and I have found myself discussing her thoughts with a variety of people in my life ... she really did something for me, bringing emotional intelligence and value into a conversation that seemed for most of the summer to dominated by religious law and often fearful tradition.
Kirkus Review: “This is not a simple retelling of Numbers but rather a Talmudic commentary of a high order based on artful Hebrew prose and poetry….Zornberg displays her own superior hermeneutic skills as she calls on the teachings of vaunted rabbinic authority, Midrashic tradition and the homilies of Hasidic masters…. A powerful, important textual deconstruction of the mystical fourth book of the Old Testament.”
“Zornberg’s grasp of the rabbinic interpretations of the text (as well as of Jewish philosophy generally) is masterful, and the meat of her work is in relating these interpretations to the spiritual and psychological questions, or bewilderments, evoked by the book of Numbers.” —Publishers Weekly
See her BIO page above for a list of further publications.
New Photo courtesy of Joan Roth 2014
On October 9 9am she will give special lectures for MATAN.
After Succoth at MATAN, Thursdays 11:30am. Classes will run until 23.3.17. + a few more in June. There will be classes at the Israel Center Thursdays at 9 am and Tuesdays at 7.30 pm.
Her next American lecture tour is from April 25 to May 27, 2017. See below for details.
Granddaughter Zohar Leviah on Purim
Itinerary April-May 2017 April 25 JCC New York April 26-27 Atlanta April 30 Boston Ma'ayan May 1-3 San Francisco The Kitchen May 4 Los Altos May 7 Berkeley May 8 Santa Barbara Congregation Bnai Brith May 9 LA Stephen Wise May 10 LA UCLA Hillel May 11-14 Toronto May 15 NSCI Glencoe, Chicago May 16 TLC Northbrook, Chicago May 19-20 Greenwich May 23 NYC Skirball
2016 Lecture topics: 2017 topics will be listed by January
Lech lecha: Becoming Abraham We will discuss Abraham as traveler and teacher. Midrashic material offers us a wealth of imagery - from burning castles to vials of perfume to drops of dew - that help us to engage with Abram's quest. What does it mean to become Abraham?
Is redemption possible? Of Women and Mirrors The Egyptian exile is described in mystical sources as the Exile of the Word. If the Israelites are to be released from Egypt, an inner process of recovery will be necessary. Can the traumatic constrictions of a personal world find a new language that will open up larger possibilities?
The Murmuring Deep We will discuss Moses’ speech inhibition as a pivotal issue in the Exodus narrative. What is the nature of this ‘impediment’? We will look at midrashic and hassidic sources, as well as philosophical and psychoanalytic thinking on the role of voice in communication.
‘Axe for the frozen sea within us:’ law and violence After the Revelation at Sinai, civil laws are given – many of them in the form of short narratives that describe how the violence of human aggression is to be met by the violence of the law. We will explore midrashic, hassidic and psychoanalytic sources that deal with the problem of integrating aggression and empathy.
Moses Veiled and Unveiled The anticlimax to the narrative of revelation at Mount Sinai is the catastrophic episode of the Golden Calf. We will explore Moses’ role in this episode: Why does his face radiate light at the end of the narrative?
'Let me see that good land:' The Story of a Human Life
'Moses fails to enter Canaan not because his life is too short but because it is a human life.' (Kafka) Moses' fundamental sense of himself as 'not a man of words' comes to a poignant consummation in the long speeches he makes to the people before he dies. What is his purpose in these speeches, and particularly in his narrative about his desire to 'cross over to the other side'(of the Jordan)?
< >7,. Ruth is a stranger in more senses than one. Who is this unknown woman who is destined to become mother of royalty? What is the process by which she finds her way into a foreign and unwelcoming culture and religious tradition? How does destiny come about?