“Moses: A Human Life” by Aviva Gottleib Zornberg— Meet Moses Anew


Zornberg, Aviva Gottleib. “Moses: A Human Life”, (Jewish Lives), Yale University Press, 2016.

Meet Moses Anew

Amos Lassen

I am a huge Aviva Zornberg fan and have been lucky enough to study with her twice here in Boston. She has opened my eyes to so much of what I have missed in Torah and I eagerly await my next study session with her. Zornberg’s new book is a look at Moses and his inner world and a look at his perplexing character as well. Of all of the characters in the Hebrew bible, none is as large or important as is Moses…. and not just in the bible but it Jewish culture as well.

To look at Moses in a new light, writer and scholar Zornberg looks at both literary and psychoanalytic sources and many Jewish texts that she places alongside such writings by George Eliot, W. G. Sebald, and Werner Herzog. What develops out of this is an original portrait of Moshe Rabenu. His personality has always been enigmatic; we know little about from whence he came or his relationships with others. This is where Zornberg focuses and where she truly shines. She sees his story as one that has been told and retold for generations and it is still as crucial to not only to the biblical past but also to the future of Jewish history. She sees him as on the threshold of the “sacred and the human” and he is part of and participates in both. We are aware of his creativity and we learn about his anguish ultimately seeing that each depends on the other. He was the ultimate insider having direct access to God yet he was also an outsider because of his physical disability. There is indeed something to be learned here about being an outsider who becomes close the Supreme and we see that Moses, even with his disability, is a prophet who is fully realized and still important to the modern world of today. After reading what Zornberg has to say, Moses moves into our lives some 3000 years after he led his people from slavery to freedom and in freeing them, he freed himself to be with the divine who created him for his job.

Zornberg, by using the traditional and the postmodern approach to Moses, introduces us to a man who was and remains a leader of the Jewish people. It is important for us to look at him in profundity and in playfulness, imaginatively and honestly. Since many of us cannot do by ourselves, Avivah Zornberg takes us by the hand and leads us to Moses.



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