From the richly colored cover to the diminutive size of the book, to its informal style, this book aims to be accessible, contemporary, and relevant. Its essays on six Biblical books (Song of Songs, Ruth, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Jonah, and Job) advance Ostriker’s thesis that the Bible is not a monolithic work but contains various streams of theology, style, authorship, and content, particularly in these later Writings. “A purely coherent and consistent Bible would never have been able to command the millennia of loyalty that the Bible has commanded… We need the layering, the tension, even the absurdity of scripture.” Through her self-proclaimed left-wing, feminist lens she discerns themes of universality, sexual liberation, women’s empowerment, existentialism, postmodernism, and social consciousness. At times (Song of Songs) it seems that she imposes her agenda on the text, but usually her insights bring new life and context to the texts (Ecclesiastes’s contradictions as natural products of stream of consciousness; Jonah’s self-righteousness as a warning not to demonize political or national rivals). A scholarly reader might find the first person tone and personal vignettes intrusive, though others might see in them an invitation to explore their own relationship to God and Bible. For a professor of English and self-proclaimed midrashist, the citation of secondary rather than primary sources and errors in the Hebrew are shocking. Overall, however, this is an easily digestible and thought-provoking little book with appeal to a wide range of readers.
Miriam C. Berkowitz holds a B.A. in International Relations Magna cum Laude from Harvard University and an M.A. and Rabbinic Ordination from the Schechter Institute in Jerusalem. A widely published writer, her teshuvah on mikveh was recently accepted by the Committee of Jewish Laws and Standards, and she was appointed to serve on the Committee for a five-year term.