Bible Review 11:4, August 1995

Bible Books

Dramas of Interpretation

Genesis: The Beginning of Desire

Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1995), 456 pp., $34.95

This book defies easy categorization. Neither biblical scholarship, nor literary criticism, nor philosophy nor psychoanalysis, it partakes of all these disciplines, resulting in a series of original, eclectic and occasionally astonishing meditations on each of the parshiyot, the Jewish weekly Torah-reading portions, in the book of Genesis.

Unlike most literary or biblical scholars, Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg makes no attempt to offer a coherent thesis about the book of Genesis or to implement a critical methodology. “To create is precisely not to control,” writes Zornberg in an early discussion of free will and God’s creation of man—a statement that says much about her own highly creative and associative approach to biblical interpretation. More concerned with uncovering the poetry and mystery of this first book of the Pentateuch than with proving an overarching argument, Zornberg looks to “loosen the fixities” of classical readings, to “detect the intimations of disorder” within the seeming order of the Bible and its commentaries.

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