Aviva Zornberg

Dr. Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg is considered one of the greatest Torah Scholars and critical thinkers of our time.

Born in London and raised in Glasgow , as part of a famous rabbinic family, Zornberg whose home is Jerusalem, holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from Cambridge University, and degrees from Gateshead Seminary Jerusalem seminaries.

She taught English Literature at the Hebrew University from 1969 to 1976. Since 1980, she has taught Torah to classes in Jerusalem and lectures widely in the U.S., Canada and Great Britain .

She holds a Visiting Lectureship at The London School of Jewish Studies, an associate institution of the University of London .

A leader amongst her contemporaries, women of scholarship, Zornberg is a lioness as a thinker, yet speaks with an enchanting dulcimer voice. Incredibly modest, and quite shy socially, one of the most respected scholars and thinkers of our time

Her first book, Genesis: the Beginning of Desire was published in 1995.

It won the National Jewish Book Award for non-fiction, and then appeared in paperback, published by Doubleday, in 1996.

Other publications include essays: ‘The Concealed Alternative,' in Reading Ruth : Contemporary Women Reclaim a Sacred Story; ‘Cries and Whispers: The Death of Sarah,' in Beginning Anew : A Woman's Companion to the High Holy Days.


Her new book The Particulars of Rapture : Reflections on Exodus was published in 2001 and in paperback last year (Random House Australia) and is available for purchase.

The Washington Post described, The Particulars of Rapture, Refections on Exodus, as quite simply a masterpiece”.

Paul William Roberts, the reviewer said that he knew of

no other book that presents the enormous subtleties and complexities of rabbinic Biblical interpretation with such skill, intelligence, literary flair and sheer elegance of style.

Zornberg's dazzlingly eclectic erudition
would be oppressive in the hands of a lesser writer, but such is thebeauty and succinctness of her writing that her references to Thomas Mann, Wordsworth, Isaiah Berlin, Wallace Stevens, Susan Sontag and Freud, to name but a few, seem more like the illuminated letters in medieval manuscripts, heightening both beauty and meaning”.

Zornberg supports the proposition of Gerald Bruns, the hermeneutics scholar that “ It follows that the words of interpretation cannot be isolated in any rigorously analytical way from the words of Torah itself.”

She says that is what makes the Torah a living text, endlessly relevant to the present, not just the past .

For her examination of Exodus, Zornberg adopts the psychoanalytic model, suggesting that the plain meaning of the text functions as the conscious layer of meaning, while the midrashic commentaries intimate unconscious layers, encrypted traces of more complex meaning.

The public, overt, triumphal narrative of redemption is therefore diffracted into multiple, contradictory, unofficial stories.

The result, as Zornberg writes, "is a plethora of possible stories of redemption.

Some of these will be attributed to 'the enemy': they are false, adversarial narratives, Egyptian narratives, narratives of obtuse misunderstanding.

These counternarratives, the demonized expression of unthinkable thoughts, construct the official Israelite history of the Exodus as incomplete, inflated, or mythic invention."

It is suggested to readers that “Those who feel that the Bible is no longer relevant, or is indeed simply nonsense, would be well advised to read Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg's extraordinarily brilliant book in conjunction with the biblical text.

In fact, it cannot be understood without the aid of the various commentators -- few of whom possess anything like the penetrating insight of Zornberg, let alone her unique ability to open up a door into the esoteric worlds below the surface of the text that, once opened, stays open.

Zornberg has here provided a very significant tool for both the layman and the scholar to use in their readings of not just the Bible but any other mystical text in the Jewish tradition. We owe her an enormous debt of gratitude.

To the Particulars of Rapture , Avivah Zornberg has bought a vast range of classical Jewish interpretations and Midrashic sources, literary allusions, and ideas from philosophy and psychology. 

Her quest in this book, as she writes in the Introduction is "to find those who will hear me a particular idiom of redemption," who will hear "within the particulars of rapture... what cannot be expressed."

Zornberg's previous book, The Beginning of Desire: Reflections on Genesis , won the National Jewish Book Award for nonfiction in 1995 and has become a classic among readers of all religions. 

The Particulars of Rapture will enhance Zornberg's reputation as one of today's most original and compelling interpreters of the biblical and rabbinic traditions.
Dr. Avivah Zornberg will make her first visit to Sydney as the guest of honour at the Shalom Institute, Melton Graduation for one lecture only December 7.
The topic is “I DON'T KNOW: the secret of prayer”

She will then be in Melbourne for a few days.
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