Transformative Language in the Desert, a review of Moses: A Human Life, by Avivah Gottleib Zornberg

Reading Avivah Zornberg’s books requires some effort, and her new book, Moses: A Human Life, is no exception.  Zornberg’s books are well worth some effort, because she ultimately speaks to the complexities of the transformative process, both of individuals and of social movements, of leaders as well as the led—all compelling issues for readers of Tikkun.  She writes in her own unique style, her words enhanced by frequent references to poets, psychoanalysts, philosophers, Chassidic and Midrashic commentaries, especially those of Rashi, Rambam, and Nachman.  In this book, she presents a unique view of Moses. We often think of the biblical legendary Moses, Moshe Rabbenu, our teacher, as “the most perfect human being”, in the words of Maimonides.  Zornberg, however, departs from the iconic presentation, and reveals a Moses far from perfect, a very human man, riddled with insecurities, anxieties, and uncertainty in his faith in the God who has called upon him to lead the Jewish people out of bondage in Egypt.

Zornberg shows us Moses, born into a world of genocide, cast out into the river, and then shuttled between two mothers and two cultures, one of power and one of helplessness. He suffers from “a confusion of tongues” from these early life conditions, with a split in his identity—is he a prince or a slave?


The text above was just an excerpt. The web versions of our print articles are now hosted by Duke University Press, Tikkun’s publisher. Click here to read an HTML version of the article, or click here to read a PDF version of the full article.

Tikkun 2017 Volume 32, Number 3:65-66

Martha Sonnenberg, MD, is a former chief medical officer, a certified physician executive, and an infectious disease specialist. She is currently a consultant in issues of quality and safety within hospitals, and in developing medical leaders.
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