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The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on…

The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodus

by Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg

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Zornberg's beautifully written reading of Exodus is at the same time a reading of reading, a reading of writing, and a remarkably effective engagement with both midrashic and psychoanalytic traditions. It is likely to prove a challenging introduction for general readers, drawing as it does on a spectacular array of literary sources, centuries of interpretation, and a complex biblical text that, like Zornberg, delights in playing with fire; but readers who take up the challenge will be richly rewarded. Readers who appreciate the creative fire at the heart of poetic language will find much to savor here—and they may be startled by the lyrical power of the familiar text on which Zornberg's meditation is based. They will come away with a better understanding of Exodus, certainly, but also of midrash, of psychoanalytic contributions to the study of language and narrative, and of a tradition of Jewish mysticism that is unsurpassed in its appreciation of the creative power to see (in an image borrowed, like Zornberg's title, from Wallace Stevens) "nothing that is not there and the nothing that is."
  stevenschroeder | Jul 31, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385491530, Paperback)

The Particulars of Rapture is Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg's literary and theological exploration of the book of Exodus. Zornberg, the daughter of a rabbi, is a scholar of English literature who has become a popular teacher of religion in Israel, North America, and England. Her approach to Exodus is midrashic--a rabbinic tradition of creative, interpretive, even fanciful study of the Bible that often involves "the telling of stories that fill in gaps in the written biblical text." The Particulars of Rapture gathers many such stories that Zornberg has told and also discusses the process by which she created these stories--a process that she describes with reference to a wide range of psychological, philosophical, and literary works. If this all sounds complicated, that's because it is. "In my approach," she explains, "the biblical text is not allowed to stand alone, but has its boundaries blurred by later commentaries and by a persistent intertextuality that makes it impossible to imagine that meaning is somehow transparently present in the isolated text." She imagines interpretation to be part of the text itself, and not a second- order process that is derived from the text. It's a wise and receptive way of reading, and those willing to follow Zornberg's sometimes knotty prose will find, from time to time, clear bright observations about the way believers continue to experience Israel's slavery, freedom, and redemption even today. --Michael Joseph Gross

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:17 -0400)

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