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A meaty, worthwhile biography by a great interpreter of Jewish texts.

A unique examination of Moses.

In her latest book, National Jewish Book Award winner Zornberg (Bewilderments: Reflections on the Book of Numbers, 2015, etc.) presents a rich, erudite study of Moses. This is a true readers’ biography, drawing on a full range of commentators and writers, including the great ancient rabbis, more modern scholars and philosophers, and secular writers ranging from George Eliot to W.G. Sebald. The author seeks to find the human Moses behind the great biblical legend; this is not the same as seeking a “historical Moses” but instead, a discovery of the humanity behind the great leader of Israel. To do so, Zornberg painstakingly excavates seemingly familiar passages for hidden nuances and signs of Moses’ own trials. She finds, among other things, a man of two cultures and two peoples yet comfortable in and accepted by neither. She finds a man lacking the confidence to address his people directly yet willing to make demands and complaints to God himself. She finds a man who encounters his people both veiled, and thus cryptic and unknowable, and also unveiled as a vulnerable leader. Finally, she finds in Moses a man who wrote his own story. What we know of Moses we know through the books of Moses. He is his own biographer. With the help of the many thinkers Zornberg cites, readers are introduced to nuanced yet eye-opening new views and interpretations of otherwise familiar texts. For instance, at the Burning Bush, God tells Moses, “they will listen to your voice,” but Moses eventually argues, “they will not listen to my voice.” God then delegates Aaron to do the speaking, but Zornberg asks if God’s plans might have been more readily fulfilled had Moses himself believed in the promise and spoken for God as originally planned.

A meaty, worthwhile biography by a great interpreter of Jewish texts.

Pub Date: Nov. 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-300-20962-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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