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The Beginning of Desire: Reflections on Genesis

4.49  ·  Rating details ·  163 ratings  ·  14 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 456 pages
Published September 1st 1996 by Image (first published 1995)
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Feb 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is the best book I've read in years, and easily the best biblical commentary I've read in my life. Zornberg writes in an approachable manner that clearly shows her immense breadth knowledge while at the same time remaining spiritual. I have read a number of commentaries cover to cover, I'm just that kind of person. I've never read anything like this.

Broken down into the traditional weekly readings from Bereshit/Genesis, Zornberg takes the reader on a journey through the stories you likely
Andy Oram
Mar 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
This is a book you must relax with and take in slowly, lovingly. Any brief characterization of this exploration of Jewish tradition would probably be oversimplifying, but I'll risk that and say that it's a view of Jewish myth and history as an existential search for peace in a fractured world. Zornberg applies her dual expertise--a deep knowledge of Talmudic scholarship and a love of the vast European literary and philosophical tradition--to making sense of the very messy lives of the characters ...more
Jan 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This provides extra-biblical Jewish commentary on the book of Genesis. Extremely insightful and scholarly.

As a Christian, I'd never been exposed to the Midrash or Jewish mystical sources. It caused me to dust off my copy of Strong's and examine several modern literal translations in order to check the verity and plausibility of the Jewish commentators, like Rashi.

As a result, the Bible has become illuminated. I now see broader, meta-messages in the text. Preconceived, nar
I heard an ON BEING podcast with Avivah Gottleib Zornberg and was impressed with her breadth of knowledge of midrash. In her book, she starts with Rashi as any traditional commentator would but also weaves in more modern understandings of Torah stories which makes her commentary and interpretation, for the most part, engaging.

Her approach to guiding the reader through the first book of the Torah, Genesis, also is reflected in how she views Rashi's commentary. "...Rashi usually writes in s
Bonnie Buckner
Jan 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
She is AMAZING! This book is one of the best Torah commentaries I've read. She is also amazing to hear speak.
John Adams
An occasionally interesting but dense isegesis on the narratives in Genesis.
Oct 29, 2016 rated it liked it
This book was rewarding, but really tough to get through. Read it slowly.
Sep 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: judaism
Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg is a master teacher! I saw her speak in Portland one spring after reading several of her books.

Dr. Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg was born in London in 1944 and grew up in Glasgow, Scotland. Her father was Dayyan Dr. Wolf Gottlieb, Av Beth Din (Head of the Rabbinical Court) of Glasgow; he was also her most important teacher. She holds a Ph.D. in English Literature fro
Jun 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Three years ago I checked out from the public library her book on Exodus and skimmed it for use in my Exodus sermon series. This year, coming round to Genesis again in the lectionary, I ordered this volume because I wanted some new approaches to Genesis, having used commentaries by Armstrong and Brueggemann to structure previous sermons series.

Though this volume was not as amazing to me as the one on Exodus, I still find her readings fascinatingly multi-layered. She opens up the brea
Nancy Moffett
Jun 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! So full of insights and understanding. This is a stimulating commentary on genesis. I will read it again.
Aug 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Discovering Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg was the most important thing I got out of watching Bill Moyers' show on Genesis. She has an amazing mind.
Evans McGowan
Dec 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Superb, poetic yet very grounded discussion of Genesis and all its interwoven themes. great introduction and use to midrash.
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