Genesis: The Beginning of Desire

By Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg | Go to book overview

LEKH LEKHA


Travails of Faith

That is no country for old men. The young
In one anothers' arms, birds in the trees
-- Those dying generations -- at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect

Monuments of unageing intellect.
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing. . . .

-- W. B. Yeats, "Sailing to Byzantium


The starting point

The story of Abraham is both beginning and end. Here begins the drama of the central family-nation of the Torah; here ends the prehistory, the rough drafts of God's intent. One such essay in creation had ended in exile ( Adam driven from the Garden), the second in destruction (the Flood).

The first important phase of his life is introduced by God's command: "Go forth from your native land, from your birthplace, and from your father's house to the land that I will show you" ( Genesis 12:1). There is no indication of circumstance, of previous encounter. Only a short preface, in which family context is sketched out:

When Terah had lived 70 years, he begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Now this is the line of Terah: Terah: begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran;

-72-

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Genesis: The Beginning of Desire
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • The Pivoting Point 3
  • Kindness and Ecstasy 37
  • Travails of Faith 72
  • Language and Silence 97
  • Vertigo -- the Residue of the Akedah 123
  • Sincerity and Authenticity 144
  • Dispersions 180
  • The Quest for Wholeness 216
  • Re-Membering the Dismembered 243
  • The Absence of the Imagination 284
  • The Pit and the Rope 314
  • The Beginning of Desire 352
  • Index of Sources 431
  • General Index 441
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