The Murmuring Deep: Reflections on the Biblical Unconscious

Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg’s book, The Murmuring Deep: Reflections on the Biblical Unconscious.

This is another heavy-weight examination of biblical themes–challenging and incredibly insightful.

Our past studies of Zornberg’s work have yielded astonishing results, greatly increasing our understanding of the Bible. This one promises to be no less amazing.

For centuries scholars and rabbis have wrestled with the biblical narrative, attempting to answer the questions that arise from a plain reading of the text. In The Murmuring Deep, Avivah Zornberg informs her literary analysis of the text with concepts drawn from Freud, Winnicott, Laplanche, and other psychoanalytic thinkers to give us a new understanding of the desires and motivations of the men and women whose stories form the basis of the Bible. Through close readings of the biblical and midrashic texts, Zornberg makes a powerful argument for the idea that the creators of the midrashic commentary, the med­ieval rabbinic commentators, and the Hassidic commentators were themselves on some level aware of the complex interplay between conscious and unconscious levels of experience and used this knowledge in their interpretations.

In her analysis of the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, Jonah, Abraham, Rebecca, Isaac, Joseph, and his brothers, Ruth, and Esther–how they communicated with the world around them, with God, and with the various parts of their selves–Zornberg offers fascinating insights into the interaction between consciousness and unconsciousness. In discussing why God has to “seduce” Adam into entering the Garden of Eden or why Jonah thinks he can hide from God by getting on a ship, Zornberg enhances our appreciation of the Bible as the foundational text in our quest to understand what it means to be human.

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