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The Burning Word: A Christian Encounter with Jewish Midrash
Paraclete Press / 2006 / Paperback
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Kunst invites us to apply the ancient and vibrant approach of midrash to reading the Bible---to view Scripture as one side of a conversation where every letter and word has divine purpose, and to "wrestle" with what's unfamiliar and unclear. Features brief exercises to help readers translate Jewish ideas into their own faith language and practice. 151 pages, softcover from Paraclete.
Midrash is a Hebrew word meaning "to search out." This ancient, Jewish method for interpreting the Bible searches not for what is familiar but for what is unfamiliar, not for what's clear but for what's unclear, and then wrestles with the text, passionately, playfully, and reverently. Midrash views the Bible as one side of a conversation, started by God, containing an implicit invitation to keep the conversation going. Kunst invites the reader to explore Midrash for the first time through a conversation, at times humorous, reflective and poetic, offering practical suggestions for personal Midrash-making along the way.
Jewish Midrash is conversation with the Bible; dialoging, questioning, arguing, for "When the Torah was given at Sinai it came with thirteen methods of interpretation, and forty-nine arguments proving each item is correct and forty-nine arguements proving that it is not" (p. 41).
To write or speak a midrash one:
1. chooses a text
2. finds a question to ask
3. creates an imaginative answer
4. argues, expands, changes; in other words, edits
The Burning Word explores midrash as one way to playfully interpret, understand and use scripture in our daily lives. In Kunst's discovery of the power of the midrash, she writes of intimacy, reverence, curiosity, community, suffering, attention, imagination, creation, repetition, revelation, and truth.
I encourage church educators and ministers to read the chapter on curiosity: Moses and the burning bush and the importance of questions as a way of encountering God.
Children (all of us) ask questions because they are curious. Moses was caring for his sheep when he saw the burning bush and asked, "Why isn't the bush consumed?" Curiosity stopped him and he turned aside to look, to stand on holy ground and in so doing, God began a relationship with Moses.
I found much in Judith Kunst's The Burning Word to turn me aside to look and stand on holy ground, and in so doing, encounter Elohim, 'Our God of Creative Power." Church Educator November 1, 2007
Written with a poet's love of the word and a believer's love of God and God revealed in the word, the book is punctuated with simple assignments to nudge the reader to put down her book and pick up the Bible.
Kay Campbell The Huntsville Times July 21, 2006
This book is an excellent tool for anyone actively engaged in Scripture or who has a poet's heart and loves language. I found the use of personal vinettes an excellent way in which to mirror the word of God in everyday life. Allan F. Wright The Monitor June 29, 2006 <hr>
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