In the ancient Jewish practice of the kavannah (a meditation designed to focus one’s heart on its spiritual goal), Lawrence Kushner and David Mamet offer their own reactions to key verses from each week’s Torah portion, opening the biblical text to new layers of understanding.
Here is a fascinating glimpse into two great minds, as each author approaches the text from his unique perspective, each seeking an understanding of the Bible’s personalities and commandments, paradoxes and ambiguities. Kushner offers his words of Torah with a conversational enthusiasm that ranges from family dynamics to the Kabbalah; Mamet challenges the reader, often beginning his comment far afield—with Freud or the American judiciary—before returning to a text now wholly reinterpreted.
In the tradition of Israel as a people who wrestle with God, Kushner and Mamet grapple with the biblical text, succumbing neither to apologetics nor parochialism, asking questions without fear of the answers they may find. Over the course of a year of weekly readings, they comment on all aspects of the Bible: its richness of theme and language, its contradictions, its commandments, and its often unfathomable demands. If you are already familiar with the Bible, this book will draw you back to the text for a deeper look. If you have not yet explored the Bible in depth, Kushner and Mamet are guides of unparalleled wisdom and discernment. Five Cities of Refuge is easily accessible yet powerfully illuminating. Each week’s comments can be read in a few minutes, but they will give you something to think about all week long.
Lawrence Kushner teaches and writes as the Emanu-El Scholar at The Congregation Emanu-El of San Francisco. He has taught at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City and served for twenty-eight years as rabbi of Congregation Beth El in Sudbury, Massachusetts. A frequent lecturer, he is also the author of more than a dozen books on Jewish spirituality and mysticism. He lives in San Francisco.
David Mamet is a Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright. He is the author of Glengarry Glen Ross, The Cryptogram, and Boston Marriage, among other plays. He has also published three novels and many screenplays, children's books, and essay collections.
About the Author
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner is one of the most widely read authors by people of all faiths on Jewish spiritual life. He is the best-selling author of such books as Invisible Lines of Connection: Sacred Stories of the Ordinary; God Was in This Place & I, i Did Not Know: Finding Self, Spirituality and Ultimate Meaning; Honey from the Rock: An Introduction to Jewish Mysticism; The Book of Letters: A Mystical Hebrew Alphabet; The Book of Miracles: A Young Person's Guide to Jewish Spiritual Awareness; The Book of Words: Talking Spiritual Life, Living Spiritual Talk; Eyes Remade for Wonder: A Lawrence Kushner Reader; I'm God, You're Not: Observations on Organized Religion and Other Disguises of the Ego; Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christians; The River of Light: Jewish Mystical Awareness; The Way Into Jewish Mystical Tradition and coauthor of Because Nothing Looks Like God; How Does God Make Things Happen?; Where Is God?; What Does God Look Like? and In God's Hands (all Jewish Lights). He is the Emanu-El Scholar at San Francisco's Congregation Emanu-El and an adjunct professor of Jewish mysticism and spirituality at Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion.Rabbi Lawrence Kushner is available to speak on the following topics: Jewish Mystical ImaginationRymanover's Silent Aleph: What Really Happened on SinaiZohar on Romance and RevelationWhat Makes Kabbalah KabbalahSacred Stories of the Ordinary: When God Makes a Surprise Appearance in Everyday Life
David Mamet 's "Glengarry Glen Ross" won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1984. He is also the author of "Writing in Restaurants" and "On Directing Film", both available from Penguin.
"When I was a kid, I used to hide comic books behind my copy of the Bible. Having read FIVE CITIES OF REFUGE, I will now keep it behind my copy of the Bible. It is an invaluable midrash on familiar verses, bringing them alive to contemporary readers. Don't go to synagogue without it. Even if the sermon puts you to sleep, this will keep you awake."
-- Alan Dershowitz
Author of The Case for Israel
"If you think everything to be said about the Bible has already been said, pick up this book of weekly reflections. You will find yourself surprised, awed, angry at times, and always engaged. Lawrence Kushner and David Mamet delve into some of the richest and most challenging of biblical texts and come up with original, often unconventional insights. Read it for learning--and for fun."
Author of The Fourth Commandment
"Lawrence Kushner and David Mamet are both study partners and creative spirits who have touched and inspired the lives of thousands during the course of their respective careers. Their collaboration in FIVE CITIES OF REFUGE has produced a work of rare insight, intelligence, and sensibility. Readers of the Bible will be enriched and moved by their reflections. I recommend this book most highly! "
-- David Ellenson, President
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion