Moses: A Stranger Among Us and From Plagues to Miracles

From Plagues to Miracles book coverMoses: A Stranger Among Us
Maurice Harris

Cascade Books, 2012

From Plagues to Miracles
Robert Rosenthal

Hay House, 2012

Here are two books that provide us with insightful interpretations of Torah—one focused on Moses, the other on “the transformational journey of Exodus, from the slavery of ego to the promised land of spirit.” Maurice Harris is a Reconstructionist rabbi, and his close readings of the text and the latest secondary materials are integrated into a lively discussion of some of the critical issues of spiritual interpretation. Instead of explaining away contradictions in the text or assigning them to different authors, Harris attributes them to the wisdom of Torah redactors who understood that consecutive and conflicting accounts in Torah are “commenting on the contradictory and logic-defying nature of the intense human-Divine encounter.” Spiritual experiences, he argues, do not need to make logical sense: “The nature of some aspects of Reality may be nonlinear … with contradictory elements sitting alongside each other and creating a paradoxical tension that may be part of the truth of our own encounters with the Divine in our lives.” Accepting this as a way to read the Moses story, Harris concludes that, despite the prophet’s flaws, Moses is a “great mythic iconoclast and advocate for the downtrodden … [who] represents the possibility of radical transformation and the triumph of justice in human affairs.”

Robert Rosenthal, on the other hand, seems less familiar with liberation theology’s interpretive tradition and the approach of Hasidism, and more familiar with the insights of Helen Schucman’s book A Course in Miracles. Nevertheless, he comes up with insights that are not only consistent with Hasidism and liberation theology, but also deepen their insights. In Rosenthal’s view, Moses and Pharaoh are dueling aspects of the human mind. Rosenthal is far from being reductive or New-Agey—he is a sophisticated psychiatrist, and this book provides a provocative and spiritually insightful reading that will enrich any Torah study you do in your own life.

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