cover image Moses: A Human Life

Moses: A Human Life

Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg. Yale Univ., $25 (240p) ISBN 978-0-300-20962-4

In this slim volume, acclaimed scholar and lecturer Zornberg (Bewilderments: Reflections on the Book of Numbers) offers another richly textured and nuanced biblical study. Early on she sets an academic tone, writing of Moses that “he exists in a metonymic relation to the relation to the people who are, at first, both his and not his.” That kind of language will be a barrier to some, but those who persist will find Zornberg’s illuminating use of both midrash and literary sources, such as George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda and W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz, worth the effort. She gives her commentary immediacy not usually found in similar titles by opening with an anecdote about her affecting experience during a rabbinical retreat, where she envisioned Moses pleading with God to allow him to enter the promised land. That blend of the personal and scholarly supports her ultimate argument about the biblical figure’s enduring significance: “Veiled and unveiled, he remains lodged in the Jewish imagination where in his uncompleted humanity he comes to represent the yet-unattained but attainable messianic future.” For those wishing to engage the legacy of Moses more deeply, this is a must-read. [em](Nov.) [/em]