Breaking Free | Sojourners

Breaking Free

To me as someone who has been teaching the Bible for decades, the new volume Freedom Journeys: The Tale of Exodus and Wilderness across Millennia felt very much like a treasure trove, full of gifts and surprises. Written by two rabbis who share marriage and long-term, faith-based activism, Arthur Waskow and Phyllis Berman, this book is itself a journey through ancient stories with vital relevance for our world today.

Freedom Journeys: The Tale of Exodus and Wilderness across Millennia is as important for its style as for its contents. Don't expect the typical "biblical commentary" that we Christians are used to. Far from a precise and orderly verse-by-verse analysis rife with heavy scholarship and intellectualism, Waskow and Berman are doing modern midrash, which means entering deeply into the story, undertaking a sustained dialogue with the story, playing with it, arguing with it, teasing out strands of meaning. They read beneath the words, between the lines, attuned to what the ancient rabbis called "the white fire" of the blank spaces as well as "the black fire" of the words. Their text brims with delight and passion, wonder and concern. They bring in the voices of the Talmudic rabbis and modern climate scientists, their own children and contemporary activists. They move between millennia, offering a variety of angles on the story from different epochs and different communities in the throes of struggle. And, in a particularly important opening for Christian Bible readers, they are attuned to the brilliant wordplay in Torah, offering fascinating insights from the nuances of Hebrew words and phrases, and seeing verbal clues that suggest astonishing connections between different parts of the story.

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