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The Book of Words

Talking Spiritual Life, Living Spiritual Talk

Lawrence Kushner

6 x 9, 160 pp, Paperback, 978-1-58023-020-9

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“According to the Hebrew Bible, God made the world with words. God just spoke and the world became reality. (The Aramaic for ‘I create as I speak’ is avara k’davara, or in magician’s language, abracadabra.) . . . This does not protect words from the numbing effects of overuse in any religious tradition. . . . We need to dust off the words, shake away the accretions, wonder again about what they originally might have meant and enable ourselves to live in the word.”      
—from the Introduction
With creativity and poetry (and occasional heresy) Kushner dusts off thirty classical Hebrew words, shakes them free of the effects of generations of overuse, “re-translates” them, and liberates their ancient holy power. The result is a contemporary spiritual guide for your personal religious life.
According to the Hebrew Bible, God made the world with words. God just spoke and the world came into being. Words therefore are not merely sounds signifying something else; they are instruments of creation, primary reality itself. They need only to be read, spoken, and interpreted. And to know them is to know reality itself.
Kushner has designed the book himself, seamlessly blending graphics and content. In doing so he evokes the aesthetics of an ancient manuscript and a vision of our power to shape the future.
Each finely crafted chapter begins with a Hebrew word and Kushner’s provocative English translation. At the bottom of the page is a transliteration of the Hebrew along with its more customary English rendering. In addition to his own intriguing definition, he includes a biblical citation anchoring the word, along with a more recent text showing the word’s evolution. Finally, we are offered a personal, meditative exercise designed to enable you to “live in the word.”
“What a delightful wholeness of intellectual vigor and meditative playfulness, and all in a tone of gentleness that speaks to this gentile.”
Rt. Rev. Krister Stendahl, Formerly Dean of Harvard Divinity School,
Bishop Emeritus of Stockholm
“It is wonderful! A surprise at every page. His translations and elaborations provoke and stimulate the religious imagination.”
Rabbi Neil Gillman, chair, department of Jewish philosophy,
Jewish Theological Seminary
“Lifts the spirit from the mundane, through the vast expanse of tradition, to the face of God and then, quite miraculously, returns the spirit to daily life. . . much more than a book of words; it is a way of faithful living.”
The Rev. Dr. Richard Valantasis, Assistant Professor of theological studies,
St. Louis University
“We have another Buber here, a Heschel . . . Kushner expresses the truly profound with joy, lightness and humor.”  
Father M. Basil Pennington, St. Joseph’s Abbey
“Breathes new life into a vocabulary that many may have thought to be irrelevant or outdated. Kushner is one of the great spiritual teachers of our time. He once again succeeds in offering us wisdom and inspiration.”
Dr. Ellen M. Umansky, Co-editor, Four Centuries of Jewish Women’s Spirituality
“To bring new light to old words is the gift that a wise person gives to us. For that reason we are all deeply in debt to Rabbi Lawrence Kushner.”
Dr. Lawrence S. Cunningham, chairman, department of theology, Notre Dame
“Provides wonderfully easy access to the riches of Jewish spiritual tradition. . . . He is a seeker who blazes a trail for others to joyously journey.”
Dr. David A. Teutsch, president, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College


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978-1-893361-80-5 Alphabet of Paradise: An A-Z of Spirituality for Everyday Life
978-1-879045-00-2 Book of Letters: A Mystical Hebrew Alphabet—Popular Hardcover Edition


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