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Moses Preview
November 22, 2016
224 P., 5 3/4 x 8 1/4
9780300209624

Moses: A Human Life

by Avivah Zornberg

No figure looms larger in Jewish culture than Moses, and few have stories more compelling or enigmatic. Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, internationally acclaimed for her many books on Jewish thought, turns her attention to Moses in this remarkably rich, evocative book.

Drawing on a broad range of sources—literary as well as psychoanalytic, a wealth of classical Jewish texts alongside the likes of George Eliot, W. G. Sebald, and Werner Herzog—Zornberg offers a vivid and original portrait of the biblical Moses. Moses’ complex personality, his uncertain origins, and his turbulent relations with his own people are acutely explored by Zornberg, who sees this story, told and retold, as crucial not only to the biblical past but also to the future of Jewish history.

As Zornberg writes in Moses: A Human Life, “Paradoxically, Moses has always been largely unknown to his people, and to us, his readers. But the sense of his opaqueness, of his hidden life, is precisely what gives him verisimilitude. . . . Bearer of a traumatic history, he comes to enact the unconscious history of his people. Here is another paradox: at his most singular, in his speechlessness, in his unknownness, Moses functions as a living metaphor for a people in exile from itself.”

Feature Review: 

"A rich, erudite study of Moses... Readers are introduced to nuanced yet eye-opening new views and interpretations of otherwise familiar texts.... A meaty, worthwhile biography by a great interpreter of Jewish texts."—Kirkus Review, Starred Review

"A celebrated biblical scholar, keen on weaving together traditional Jewish exegesis, psychoanalysis and postmodern criticism, Zornberg always displays minute attention to the psychological subtext of the Scriptures....Bringing together copious, diverse and sometimes dissonant references (spanning Hasidic masters, George Eliot, Zizek and Beckett, among others), Zornberg gives a new tour of the life of Moses."—Clemence Boulouque, New York Times Book Review

"A rich, erudite study of Moses... Readers are introduced to nuanced yet eye-opening new views and interpretations of otherwise familiar texts.... A meaty, worthwhile biography by a great interpreter of Jewish texts."—Kirkus Review, Starred Review

“Only Avivah Zornberg could tell the story of Moses in such a way as to situate him on the very cusp of the sacred and the human while showing how completely he participates in both. Only Zornberg has the prodigious scholarship to draw out from her sources the uniquely anguished and creative energy of Moses’ life. In doing so she makes a plea for a Jewish ethics grounded in the outsider, the one who stutters and falls, while at the same time returning Moses as a fully modern prophet to the modern world.”—Jacqueline Rose, author of The Last Resistance and Women in Dark Times

“The author has perfected a distinctive approach to the biblical text that is both traditional and post-modern, playful and profound, imaginative but also truthful.”—Steven Weitzman, author of Solomon: The Lure of Wisdom

Moses: A Human Life challenges readers to see Moses in an original and thought-provoking way — not as a leader or a prophet, but as a man whose disabilities and conflicts make him uniquely qualified to speak for God and to achieve God’s purpose.... Zornberg illustrates a touching picture of a man whose speech is limited but reaches his people — God’s chosen people — and others as well." —Maron L. Waxman, Jewish Book Council

Avivah Zornberg

Avivah Zornberg
Joan Roth

Dr. Zornberg is the author of Genesis: The Beginning of Desire, for which she won the National Jewish Book Award; The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodus; and The Murmuring Deep: Reflections on the Biblical Unconscious . She lives in Jerusalem and lectures throughout the world, in Jewish, academic and psychoanalytic settings.