return to front page

Read Praise

Table of Contents
  1. The Hebrew Bible: Glimpses of Immortality
  2. Early Post-Biblical Literature: Gateways to Heaven and Hell
  3. The Mishnah: Who Will Merit the World to Come?
  4. The Talmud: What Happens in the Next World?
  5. Medieval Jewish Philosophy: Faith and Reason
  6. Mysticism: Reincarnation in Kabbalah
  7. Modernity: What Do We Believe?
  8. The Messiah: The Eternal Thread of Hope

Buy the Book
  From the Publisher
  From Amazon
  From Barnes & Noble
  Find an Independent Bookstore
Journey to Heaven: Exploring Jewish Views of the Afterlife

Publisher: Urim Publications
Pub date: June 7, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-9655240474

What happens when we die? Does the soul die with the body? Is there a possibility of life after death? Throughout human history, every civilization and probably every individual has asked these questions. In this fascinating and accessible volume, Dr. Leila Leah Bronner explores Judaism's teachings about the afterlife.

Journey to Heaven invites readers to rediscover some of the basic tenets of Jewish belief concerning the hereafter: resurrection, immortality, judgment, messianism, and the World to Come. Starting with the Bible's references to Sheol and allusions to resurrection, this comprehensive survey explores immortality and bodily resurrection in Second Temple literature; the Mishnah's discussions of olam ha-ba, the World to Come, and how to merit entering it; and the Talmud's depictions of Gan Eden (paradise), Gehinnom (hell), and the soul's journey through these metaphysical landscapes. Bronner also explores the views of medieval scholars such as Maimonides and Nahmanides, Jewish mystical teachings about reincarnation, and modern views of faith and belief. A separate chapter is devoted to views of the Messiah over the course of Jewish history.

Bronner demonstrates that the afterlife is indeed a vital part of Judaism, as she reveals how generations of Jews, from biblical times to the present, have grappled with its core ideas and beliefs about the hereafter.

Read An Excerpt

Read Praise

Table of Contents
  1. The First Mothers
  2. Mothers of a Budding Nation
  3. Wise Women and Queen Mothers
  4. Mothers and Daughters
  5. Metaphorical Mothers
  6. Unconventional Mothers
  7. The Motherly Role of God
Buy the Book
  From the Publisher
  From Amazon
  From Barnes & Noble
  Find an Independent Bookstore

Stories of Biblical Mothers: Maternal Power in the Hebrew Bible

Publisher: University Press of America
Pub. Date: May 2004
ISBN-13: 9780761828297

For much of my academic life I have taken a keen interest in faith issues that pertain to women. The subjects of my books and articles have ranged from studies of particular female figures to specific issues that have an on-going effect on the lives of Jewish women today. My most recent book zeroes in on the mother-figure of the Bible. The book, Stories of Biblical Mothers: Maternal Power in the Hebrew Bible, represents the culmination of my work on the role of the biblical mother. I look at nearly every biological mother of the Bible and examine various women who have played "motherly" roles in their respective settings.

Stories of Biblical Mothers deals specifically with the influence mother-figures had in biblical society. I call this influence "unassigned power," and attempt to explain how these biblical women greatly impacted their families and nation, even within the patriarchal milieu of their world. Although women in biblical times had admittedly limited power, the women of the Bible were able to obtain domestic and public influence through their status as mothers. As I studied the texts, I found that these remarkable mothers emerged not merely as family leaders, but also as social and national leaders.

I have sought to make my book as readable and accessible as possible, even to a lay audience. My work takes a narrative and thematic approach. I analyzed each story of the Bible separately, pulling from these trajectories key themes that inform the role of women in the Bible. My book reassesses the position of the biblical woman, and recognizes that while marginalized, nevertheless as a mother she is both honored and powerful. My hope is that the book will add to the on-going conversation about the role and place of women in the Bible, and inspire further reflection on an often over-looked individual: the biblical mother.

Read An Excerpt

Read Praise

Table of Contents:
  1. "She Shall be Called 'Woman'
  2. Aggadic Attitudes Towards Women
  3. Eve's Estate
  4. Serah bat Asher
  5. The Regime of Modesty
  6. "Remember Thy Handmaid"
  7. "The King's Daughter is All Glorious Within"
  8. Hope for the Harlot
  9. "Deborah, Say Your Song"
  10. Complexity and Contradiction
Buy the Book
  From the Publisher
  From Amazon
  From Barnes & Noble
  Find an Independent Bookstore

From Eve to Esther: Rabbinic Reconstructions of Biblical Women

Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press
Pub. Date: November 1994
ISBN-13: 9780664255428
winner of a Literary Achievement Award from the B'nai Zion Western Region

This book focuses on female biblical figures in the ancient rabbinic writings of midrash and Talmud. I employ primary rabbinic sources to bring new life and insight into the stories of Eve, Deborah, Hannah, Serah bat Asher, and others. As women and men today attempt to reevaluate past historical models, it serves us well to understand the values and inner workings of rabbinic thinking. The examination of what the sources actually say, and not what others would like them to have said, enable reinterpretation of womenís role to proceed on an honest and authentic basis. Biblical women, reclaimed with contemporary midrash, can become paradigms for our modern lives.

Understanding rabbinic perspectives on biblical women provides a fresh supplement to the numerous studies that have been undertaken on biblical women. It serves two purposes: biblical female figures, interpreted, embellished and stereotyped throughout the generations, have exerted enormous influence on Western Culture and have greatly affected the way women have been viewed and treated. It is important to get as full as possible a picture of the why and the how of women's inherited roles and status in society. Secondly, inasmuch as the Bible and Midrash will continue to have great impact on the values of their readers into future generations, it seems important to catalogue the material in a way that clearly imparts new messages as well as old. This book provides an excellent study of the ambivalent rabbinic views of biblical women in Talmud and midrash. It is full of fascinating details, insights, and not a few surprises.

Biblical Personalities and Archaeology

Read an Excerpt

Table of Contents

  1. Abraham and His Age
  2. Moses: The Eisodus and Exodus
  3. Joshua: Canaanite Culture and Conquest
  4. David: The Way of Kings
  5. Elijah: The Struggle Against the Baal cult
  6. Isaiah: The Assyrian Advance
  7. Jeremiah: The Fall of Judah
  8. Nehemiah: The Restoration of Judah
Buy the Book
Biblical Personalities and Archaeology

Publisher: Keter Pub. House Jerusalem
ISBN-10: 0706514211
ISBN-13: 978-0706514216

Every year brings new discoveries from the lands of the Bible, thanks to the work of archaeologists and historians. Whereas the archaeologist gives the facts only, it is the task of the Biblical scholar to interpret the archaeological finds in their relation to Biblical studies. While there are already many excellent books on archaeology and the Bible, each discovery calls for a closer investigation and reinterpretation.

This book tries to give the teacher, student, and interested layman an idea of what the facts have revealed. It follows the sequence of Biblical history, and concentrates on some of the most important personalities who have left their imprint on the saga of Israel. It is based on a study of the publications of past archaeologists, and the personal impressions the author received from her frequent visits to digs in the land of Israel, and archaeological collections to be found both there and in other parts of the world.

The background of figures such as Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah and others sheds light on the world in which they lived and helps us to understand their actions and motivations. In discussing these figures, my desire is not really to prove or disprove the Bible. The scholar knows that the primary purpose of Biblical archaeology is not to prove but to discover. The vast majority of archaeological digs neither prove nor disprove; rather, they fill in the background and provide a setting for the story. My hope is that this book will better illuminate for the reader the life and customs of the people of the Bible.

Read an Excerpt

Table of Contents
  1. The Origin of Religious Separatism
  2. The Nazirite
  3. The Pietists
  4. The Early Hasidim
  5. The Haburah
  6. The Pharisees
  7. The Essenes
  8. The Minor Factions
  9. The Qumran Community (The Dead Sea Sect)
  10. Rabbinical Attitude to Separatist Trends
Sources for out-of-print books
Sects and Separatism During the Second Jewish Commonwealth

Bloch Pub. Co.

Religious Separatism between a Jew and his fellow Jew, played a very significant role in the daily life of the Jewish nation during the history of the Second Commonwealth. One might even style the history of the period as the "Age of Separatism," for Sectarianism is but an exaggerated form of Separatism.

In this study, we have endeavored to trace the origin and subsequent development of this religious tendency: the practice of separating not only from the heathen, but from the non-observant and assimilated Jew, as well.

The "Doctrine of the Election of Israel" that pervades the history and theology of the Pentateuch, enjoined Israel to live a religious and holy life, they were commanded to separate from the surrounding heathen nations and from their abominable ways. This doctrine was put into practice by Ezra and his zealous followers. However, they expanded the original meaning of the this doctrine, and demanded separation from the heathen and from the Jew who lapsed into heathen ways and customs. Thenceforth, the practice of separating from the lax and non-observant Jew became a living reality and a dominant factor in the religion of the Jewish community.

With the Greek conquest of Palestine, the threat of assimilation began more and more to loom in the forefront, and the pietistic elements began to regard "Separation" from the Hellenizing Jews, as the only way of arresting the danger of assimilation and thus safeguarding the Jewish heritage. Separation became from then onwards the order of the times. Sectarianism sprang from this idea, but it was carried to its most exaggerated point by the Sectarians who demanded absolute and complete segregation from people and elements, which they considered to be profane and impure. This they achieved by withdrawing from society to serve God in separate communities in the solitude of the desert.

It shall be shown that the institution of the Nazirite also guided and inspired the separatist tendencies of the sects, but it continued to flourish side by side with the sects and never merged with them.

Thus the separatist and sectarian trends that flourished during the Second Commonwealth received their practical impetus from Ezra and his separatist followers. Each sect applied these doctrines and practices to their daily lives in accordance with their own religious feelings and aspirations. The permanent factor to emerge from all these separatist trends was ñ Pharisaic Rabbinic Judaism, that became normative Judaism, and guided Jewish life henceforth.

Read an Excerpt

Table of Contents
  • The Spiritual Clash Between Israel and Canaan
  • In the Days of Ahab and Jezebel
  • Elijah and Elisha
  • Baal and the Ugaritic Pantheon
  • The Motifs: The Rain-Group & The Life Group
  • Motifs Continued
  • The Ascent Motif
  • The River Motif
  • Miscellaneous Motifs
Sources for out-of-print books
The Stories of Elijah and Elisha
Publisher: E. J. Brill
ASIN: B0006CMJ06

The stories of Elijah and Elisha have been studied and analyzed by many scholars. In this book we offer a new approach to the understanding and appreciation of these narratives. That these chapters present a clash between yhwh and Baal has been clear to all who concerned themselves with their perusal. But the miracles connected with these two men of God baffled the students of Scripture. There was a tendency either to rationalize the marvelous in them, or to state that they were legends added to the original kernel of historical fact contained in these stories. The reason for these embellishments was usually explained as a means of adding prestige to these prophets, and magnifying them in the eyes of their contemporaries, and of later generations. Thus Kittel wrote:

The history of Elijah is enveloped with miracles and is at the same time drawn from good and ancient sources. To interpret it rationalistically, as Hitzig does, is an offence both against good taste and against the spirit of the Hebrew religion. We must take it - so far as it is well attested - as it is, and be aware that Elijah is a prophet of yhwh, of grand originality, all afire with zeal for his God, and conscious of the divine power which works in him. Even one with a scrupulous historical conscience will not for a moment allow himself to doubt that Elijah was, as a matter of fact, a marvelous man, who did many marvelous things; a strong, commanding character, before whom all willingly bent, and who had at his disposal certain extraordinary forces and secret powers. To this we have to add his strange appearance, the lightning-like suddenness of his emergence and disappearance, and not least, his bold religious idealism. Nothing was easier than that, to the admiring eyes of the people, everything that Elijah did and all that happened to him, should in consequence appear extraordinary. What was more natural than that, in the popular accounts of his actions, legendary traits should be added on to what he actually did? It is impossible now perfectly to separate these two elements (Kittel, History of the Hebrews).

Or as Pfeiffer said: "It is true Elijah was a real historical character, that the dreadful famine in the time of Ahab actually occurred (see Menander of Ephesus in Josephus, Antiquities 8:13) and that the conflict between yhwh and Baal, which furnished the pretext for Jehu's successful revolution, was epoch-making in the religion of Israel. Even Obadiah (18:13-16). Maybe a historical character-Nevertheless, what marks the Elijah stories as legends is the supernatural background manifested in numerous miracles (17:2-7, 8-16, 17-24; 18:38; 19:5-8), in Obadiah's belief that the prophet might be carried into distant places by the spirit of yhwh (18:12), and in the divine presence at the prophet's side" (Pfeiffer, Introduction to the Old Testament).

As the two quoted passages illustrate scholars dealing with periscopes of Elijah and Elisha never envisaged that these wonder tales were important weapons employed by the narrator of these cycles to expose the incompetence of Baal, and the numerous functions that the myths ascribed to him. A more comprehensive appreciation for the many-sided significance of these stories was made possible with the discovery of the Ugaritic texts.