Avivah Zornberg — The Genesis of Desire
October 6, 2011

What may one of the great literary teachers of Torah and midrash — the Jewish tradition of reading between the lines of the Bible to uncover hidden layers of meaning — teach us about our own human longings? Hear what happens when she takes on Noah and the Flood, and Adam and Eve in the garden.

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In the Room with Avivah Zornberg

From Avivah Zornberg's home in the Old Katamon neighborhood of Jerusalem, watch our unedited interview with the Torah teacher.

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Comments

I downloaded and listened to The Genesis of Desire and was struck by the sheer, almost breath-taking lack of substance. One might have asked the guest to talk about "ego" qua such rather than "desire." What of the Jewish desire to be exceptional in their mythos? Lastly - "God?" Prithee, whose God? For it seems to me that the Cosmic Dieties are on record as saying widely differing things.

I think it would have been helpful if Professor Zornberg had explained how a midrashic commentary comes into existence. There is always something strange about the text to generate the midrash.

For example, Zornberg cited Rashi's midrash on Genesis 2:15, "the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden." Rashi explains "took" as "seduced him with words." Normal people listening would think Rashi was just making something up out of whole cloth. The two concepts (to take, to seduce) don't look as though they connect. What Zornberg left out is that the Hebrew verb for "to take," is "laqach," used many times elsewhere in the Bible for "to marry." That is why one of the questions you always hear in Biblical interpretation is "what's bothering Rashi?"

What ambiguity is there about the text that generates his felt need for a re-interpretation?

On Being has been a life changing experience for me. I feel warm inside when I listen to this series. It's like the first time I experienced a John Coltrane solo in his experimental period. I have been in church all day and feel very good and this tops off my Sunday. I feel a warm glow inside.

What intellectually dishonest nonsense! I normally think only of Christian apologists as sources of pseudo-intellectual pap to explain the irrationality and inconsistency of holy texts. This is the same sort of ridiculous mysticism, packaged slightly differently. To paraphrase: "Our limited human brains cannot possibly understand God.....but here is my very specific, very subjective interpretation of the sacred texts that uncovers its 'true' meaning." Utter bullshit. This charlatan does not deserve airtime.

On Being has been a life changing experience for me. I feel warm inside when I listen to this series. It's like the first time I experienced a John Coltrane solo in his experimental period. I have been in church all day and feel very good and this tops off my Sunday. I feel a warm glow inside.

I think it would have been helpful if Prof. Zornberg had explained how a midrashic commentary comes into existence. There is always something strange about the text to generate the midrash. For example, Zornberg cited Rashi's midrash on Genesis 2:15, "the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden": Rashi explains "took" as "seduced him with words." Normal people listening would think Rashi was just making something up out of whole cloth. The two concepts (to take, to seduce) don't look as though they connect. What Zornberg left out is that the Hebrew verb for "to take," *laqach*, is used many times elsewhere in the Bible for "to marry." That is why one of the questions you always hear in Biblical interpretation is "what's bothering Rashi?": what ambiguity is there about the text that generates his felt need for a re-interpretation.

I downloaded and listened to "The Genesis of Desire" and was struck by the sheer, almost breath-taking lack of substance. One might have asked the guest to talk about 'ego' qua such rather than 'desire.' What of the Jewish desire to be exceptional in their mythos? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabbalah#Perception_of_non-Jews Lastly - 'God'? Prithee, whose God? For it seems to me that the Cosmic Dieties are on record as saying widely differing things.

I am a newcomer to On Being, having recently heard Zornberg in Boulder. Deeply grateful for these most compelling and refreshing midrash. SHe is a lyricist in imagery and explanation. Thru her eyes and poetic, scholarly voice I am moved to study the Torah's narrative and the deep questioning it brings timelessly to all ages. Aviva's writings and insights are exquisitely inspiring... Thank you Krista, for these programs.

Voices on the Radio

Zornberg is a celebrated literary teacher of Torah. Her books include The Murmuring Deep: Reflections on the Biblical Unconscious and The Beginning of Desire: Reflections on Genesis.

Production Credits

Host/Producer: Krista Tippett

Executive Producer: Kate Moos

Senior Editor: Trent Gilliss

Producer: Chris Heagle

Producer: Susan Leem

Producer: Nancy Rosenbaum